KQED’s Scott Shafer speaks to students about California’s issues

 Scott Shafer speaks in the Skyline´s main theater, April 5. ()

Scott Shafer speaks in the Skyline´s main theater, April 5. ()

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On April 5, Scott Shafer of KQED came to Skyline’s main theater to ask Skyline students to think about issues that they may not think about all the time: issues in California involving health care, education and housing.

“What I want to talk about today are some of the changes that have happened in California in the last 40 years,” Shafer said. “I want to sort of sketch a picture of California: how it’s changed, how it continues to change. Hopefully by the time we’re done this afternoon, you’ll begin to see how so many of these issues which may seem disconnected from one another…are, one way or another, interrelated and how each of these issues affects us in a very real way.”

“California Dreamin'”, the title of the presentation, was named for the song made famous by the Mamas and the Papas. While people were filing into their seats in the main theater, the song played lightly in the background.

“In 1963, the year the song ‘California Dreamin” was written was a time of great growth in California,” Shafer said, “there were 16 million people living in California. Today, there are nearly twice as many.” Shafer also says that one quarter of California’s population came from another country, and that this rate has tripled since 1963.

Shafer says that a lot of people come to California because it is a pleasant place to live.

“California, to this day, seems to attract not just ordinary people, but extraordinary people, people who have vision, who have a spark about them, an entrepreneur spirit, the idea that they want to come to this place and take advantage of everything it has to offer.”

Shafer speaks out on the quality of education in this state. “When you look at California schools today, what’s happening?” He explains that there are many places that are doing well, but schools in urban places such as San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Sacramento, kids are having a harder time. According to Shafer, in the Oakland school district, less than half of the students graduate. Parents are getting discouraged with the school districts and more and more parents are pulling their kids out and putting them in private schools. The students remaining in the public schools are often at a disadvantage; they may be poor or not speak the language very well. Shafer says that parents may feel that they have solved their own problems by pulling their kids out of school.

“I would argue that that’s not the case, because what if the mechanic working on your airplane for your take off doesn’t have a good education. Do you think that might affect you? What about the person that works in your doctor’s office?”

Shafer says that all these people are a product of our education system, and whether or not they graduated, they still live in our community.

California is currently facing a $15 billion deficit, and it ranks 40th in the country for how much we pay for education. According to Shafer, our only options around this are to raise money or to cut programs.

The other issue Shafer discussed was health care. “We live in a state where 1 out of 5 people in California do not have health insurance,” Shafer said. Out of these people, most of them are working, but their employers, for one reason or another, aren’t paying their health insurance. This remains a huge problem for working people holding down several jobs and then still not getting health care. Individuals who don’t have health care may use the emergency room when they should be seeing a doctor, thus overcrowding the emergency room.

“(The lack of health insurance) is a crisis in California because health care is such a basic thing,” Shafer said.

He explained that almost all industrialized countries’ governments have a health care system in place that provides health care for everyone.

“The way politics works is that, no matter what the issue is, whether it’s education, health care or transportation, is you’ve got these big groups that have lots of money and lots of political say who wind up on the sides of these issues.”

“There are great things happening in California,” Shafer concluded. “We have some challenges, obviously. The good news is that because California is the kind of place that it is, we attract an extraordinary (range) of talented people like yourselves and people who are big-hearted and can bring different religions and cultures to enrich our lives and we have ideas big ideas that can now make our lives better. So I encourage you to take in the education that you are getting here, and to be one of those folks that make a difference.”