But Limited Course Offerings Disappoint Some Educators : Post-Prop. 13 Surge in Summer School Expected
The beginnings of a summer school revival may start in the next few weeks as the largest number of students since the 1978 approval of Proposition 13 are expected to attend six-week sessions at schools in Los Angeles County.
But even with more money and more students, some school administrators say the depth and breadth of course offerings still falls short of summer school programs of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“It’s going to take time to rebuild the programs to where they were before,” said Ted Kimbrough, superintendent of the Compton Unified School District. “People think that just because we have a little of the money back the quality of the programs have returned too. But local school districts are a long way off from where they once were.”
School districts expecting post-Proposition 13 enrollment highs include the Los Angeles school district, which is predicting 50,000 to 65,000 students. Before the passage of the property tax-cutting initiative, Los Angeles city schools traditionally had a summer school enrollment of 300,000.
In 1976, the Long Beach Unified School District had its highest summer school enrollment with 9,265 students. After passage of Proposition 13, Long Beach eliminated summer school. This year district officials expect 7,000 students to attend summer sessions.
Most school districts are concentrating summer school efforts on junior and senior highs. Only a few districts, such as the Alhambra City and High School Districts, have enough money to run summer elementary school programs.
And the types and quality of courses being offered vary greatly. The El Monte Union High School District is trying to attract more advanced and gifted students this year by offering courses such as “Critical Thinking” and “Academic Decathlon Preparation.” The Compton Unified School District is emphasizing basic English, math, science and history courses while the Hacienda-La Puente Unified School District plans to expand its art, music and performing arts offerings.
A lack of junior high academic courses in the Los Angeles school district has Andy Anderson, principal of Parkman Junior High School in Woodland Hills, worried. Because of additional academic requirements for graduation, most junior high students have little to no chance to take electives such as music, art, shop or journalism.
Anderson says that while some art and music courses are being offered during the summer, most junior high students would prefer to take an academic course in six weeks so they can spend more time in an elective class during the regular school year.
“The state knows a lot about education, but it doesn’t know anything about kids,” Anderson said.
After passage of Proposition 13, school districts, which traditionally raised most of their revenues from property taxes, scrambled to cut their budgets. Eliminating summer school was a fast and easy way to reduce expenditures.
By 1980 state funds were allocated for summer programs, but the money was limited to classes for students who had failed courses during the regular school year or who needed remedial help in basic subjects. The only alternative for most students who wanted to take electives or advanced courses was a few small, privately funded summer academies.
Last year, money from SB 813, the state’s education reform act, allowed local school districts to increase academic course offerings and reopen summer school doors to a wider range of students.
At the time, there were predictions that summer school enrollment would double and the number of students who wanted classes would exceed the number of classroom spaces.
Enrollment fell short of predictions last year because the Olympics forced changes in summer school schedules. In addition, some districts had problems in publicizing expansion of their programs.
“This year there are no outside factors in the summer school equation,” said a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Office of Education. “We are working with a clean slate and should get a good idea if we can meet the demand.”