The committee hosted Orange County Superintendent Bill Habermehl of the Department of Education. Mr. Habermehl began the presentation with his assessment of the LEA Initiative and how it has proven to be a grand success in Orange County by empowering parents to take charge of their child’s education.
Mr. Habermehl used this analogy to discuss the latest racial and ethnic developments in Orange County schools based on the new census information on Orange County students. The Hispanic community has increased dramatically to 44.7%. Within five years, Mr. Habermehl believes the population will be well 50%.
The drop-out rate in Orange County continues to increase between grades 9 through 12 which is why the LEA Initiative program is so important. Class sizes are still too large and with the impending budget cuts the Department of Education is working to maintain levels to the best of their ability for each individual school district.
One primary concern for Mr. Habermehl is the scores in language arts. As students get older the Department of Education is finding that the students are doing worse in language arts then they are in mathematics. Students are doing better in mathematics because it is not language based; however, as students enter into upper grade levels, the lack of language skills is negatively impacting math skills.
Mr. Habermehl recommended expanding LEA by working with parents in the service industries, hotel workers, custodial, etc. and partnering with our member businesses to build the program and prepare our students.
Finally, Mr. Habermehl discussed the importance of comprehensive pre-school. There are typically three kinds of child care for children under the age of five:
- Family daycare
Unless a child is in comprehensive pre-school, children are at risk for not knowing their colors, numbers or the alphabet. Language skills from birth to three is usually very high, but if a parent or parents don’t speak English, the skills begin to wane significantly as children progress in age and grade succession.
Mr. Habermehl ended the presentation with one sobering statistic: 600,000 of the 3 million Orange County residents are K-12 students. That is larger than 21 states. We have the obligation to educate these students to the best of our ability to enter into the workforce upon graduation.