Letter: Regarding Jim Kelly Guest Opinion

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Board of Education member Jim Kelly argues that school enrollment has not declined due to students leaving the district and going to private schools. Yes, Californians have left the state due to overtaxation, unaffordable housing, and excessive government regulation and overreach.

California has lost so many people that for the first time in its history the state lost a U.S. House seat.  However, school enrollment has also declined as students transfer to private and home schools. Kelly mentions “the cost of living in Laguna Beach is not scaled for young families” however this is a deceptive statement. Due to the difficulties of living and building in Laguna Beach with better education elsewhere, wealthy families choose to live in other cities such as Irvine. Kelly states he moved into Woods Cove in 1994 from Tennessee about the time I was putting on a Navy uniform to defend our community.

Kelly mentions he “cannot see anyone moving to Tennessee for their schools.” Yet, Tennessee ranks as the 17th most popular state where Californians have moved per U.S. Census data. Neighboring states such as Nevada and Arizona are the No. 2 and No. 3 most popular destinations for Californians leaving the state and have high schools in the top 10 of the U.S. In a recent National Bureau of Economic Research report on the states’ education response to COVID-19 California is ranked dead last. As a parent this is unacceptable.

Kelly states his number one priority of our school system is the mental well-being of students and staff. Rightfully so, as an emergency physician I am well aware through the medical literature and professional experience our children are suffering due to the pandemic.

However, the co-number one priority should be our children’s education. We must be transparent about our children’s education and return to the basics without the distraction of trendy issues. Every child must be given an exceptional education without exception. The people of Laguna Beach demand and deserve a great school system. A great school system helps increase property values which benefits all citizens equally. Laguna Beach Unified School District does have great financial backing. I am a member of SchoolPower and know firsthand its financial prowess. I believe the teachers are all exceptionally talented and motivated. The facilities are well done.

However, Laguna Beach High School is ranked No. 130 in the state and No. 935 in the U.S., per US News & World Report.

So why is Laguna Beach Unified School District not ranked higher? Perhaps it’s the school board members who are too complacent with the status quo and “do not believe you will find a better school district in the U.S.” while clearly that is not the case per respected sources.

William R. Dodge II, Laguna Beach

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