Gilbert Olivares, a counselor at Salinas High School in California, pleaded not guilty this week to a host of sexual crimes – making sex tapes of students, touching the buttocks of a 14-year-old (identified as “John Doe” in court documents), possessing child pornography.
It is but the latest scandal involving a California public school employee.
Just last week, an unnamed teacher at Haydock Intermediate School in Oxnard was placed on paid administrative leave as school district officials investigated whether she had been moonlighting as a porn actress.
The week before that, John Eaton Cromwell, a teacher at Maple Creek Elementary School in Fresno, was given a criminal citation after agents with the California Department of Justice found some 3,880 marijuana plants at a property he owns and $387,000 in cash at his primary residence.
California’s public school system is broken beyond repair. And if the state’s powers-that-be truly cared about the state’s school-aged children, they would create a voucher program that gives parents a choice in where their kids are educated – rather than have that decision dictated by the public school system.
Of course, vouchers are vehemently opposed by teachers unions, none more so than the powerful California Teachers Association. They argue that tax dollars absolutely should not pay for vouchers that could be used at private or parochial schools.
But California, like every other state, provides taxpayer-funded student grants, loans and scholarships that can be used not only at the state’s public colleges and universities, but also private and even religious-based schools.
What is acceptable for the state’s higher education system should also be acceptable for K-to-12 education.
Indeed, the reason classrooms remain full at California’s Salinas High, Haydock Intermediate and Maple Creek Elementary, despite scandals involving a pedofile, a porn actress and a marijuana kingpin, is because the state’s K-to-12 public schools enjoy an undeserved monopoly.
Because the majority of California families lack the means to enroll their children in private or parochial schools, their kids are trapped in the public school to which they are signed.
It doesn’t matter if the public school is one of the 180 the state Department of Education identifies as the state’s “lowest achieving.” It doesn’t matter if a child is one of the nine out of ten attending a public school with reported incidents that results in disciplinary actions for violence, physical injuries or weapons.
That public school student isn’t going anywhere.
Gov. Jerry Brown promised “a better future for our students.” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson promised “to return California’s educational system to among the top rank in the country.”
Those promises won’t be fulfilled any time soon. That is, unless the state creates a school voucher program.