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Ueberroth Says Schools Must Alter Methods : Education: In an Anaheim address to the National School Boards Assn., he emphasizes ESL and vocational programs.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Schools must change the way they educate children in order for California to successfully compete for jobs and industry in a global economy, businessman Peter V. Ueberroth said Monday at a gathering of several thousand school board members from across the country.

In his speech to the National School Boards Assn., Ueberroth said that school systems should place extra emphasis on educating children with marginal English skills when they are still very young and should create vocational training programs with the help of private corporations for students who decide not to go to college.

“We must invest so those youngsters have a chance to be taxpayers and consumers,” said Ueberroth, who serves as co-chairman of Rebuild L.A., a group created to help restore Los Angeles in the aftermath of the rioting last April.

More than half the students in California schools speak no English or use English as their second language, Ueberroth said at the school board association meeting, held at the Anaheim Convention Center. For that reason, he said, language skills should be taught to these children when they are 3 to 5 years old.

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Older students who decide that college is not for them should be trained for jobs through programs that are developed and partly funded by private corporations, he said. And those students should be guaranteed jobs after graduation.

“All the other developed countries have those (job) tracks,” Ueberroth said. “California must concentrate and put education as the very first item on the agenda, and then live and breathe it.”

William Soult, the newly elected president of the school board association, noted that the group has long backed the kind of vocational programs Ueberroth called for. But he added that working with small corporations to make such things happen is not an easy task.

“I thought perhaps he was a little bit oversimplifying the ability to work with many of the small business enterprises,” Soult said after Ueberroth’s speech. “I don’t think he understands the magnitude of effort that it will take to do that efficiently. It’s not nearly as simple a task as asking them.”

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Educating students from different ethnic backgrounds is one of the top concerns for school districts across the country, said Soult, who is a member of the St. Vrain Valley School Board of Longmont, Colo., about 40 miles north of Denver. “Nationwide, that is one of the three or four highest priorities.”

The ability to compete in a global economy is a topic of particular concern to Ueberroth, who previously served as commissioner of baseball and was the organizer of the 1984 Olympics. He is also chairman of Gov. Pete Wilson’s Council on California Competitiveness.

The council last April criticized the public education system as too expensive and failing to train workers. As part of an overall package of reforms, the council called for longer school years and parental choice of children’s schools.

During his speech Monday, Ueberroth noted that the state continues to grow by about 700,000 people a year, yet the number of jobs has decreased and many of the remaining jobs pay less money.

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“We have less money and more people to educate,” Ueberroth said. “If we don’t fund education better, we’re throwing away our future.”


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