Powell’s Generosity Leaves Questions

Everyone look out your window, a new hero is here! Larry Powell is not a superhero, but his generous sacrifice of his own income (in total, around $800,000) to give back to schools certainly was heroic.

Powell, who is Superintendent of Fresno County’s schools, gave up his salary of $235,000 a year for a much lower $31,020 a year. The money the county saves will be set aside for programs focused on younger students, such as anti-bullying and arts. Powell manages about 375 schools throughout Fresno County and his leadership impacts 195,000 students.

Powell’s gift is generous, but many students still have questions. Will investments in younger minds really help with the educational problems that are happening today? Will Powell’s generous act motivate others to take similar action for their own school’s education?

Budget Cuts Bring Students Down

Many high school students are unhappy with budget cuts. They are angered about how budget cuts eliminate popular, career-specific classes. This causes students to resort to another class or school to satisfy their educational needs. Sometimes the lack of classes keep students from graduating on time. Isn’t one of the goals of the education system to prevent dropouts and have more students graduate?

Teachers are affected by cuts, too. Teachers are the most important aspect of students’ learning. Often times, it seems like the good teachers are let go because of budget cuts, but teachers that aren’t as good get to keep their jobs. Good teachers who are excited about what they teach give students a better education and should be the ones who keep their jobs.

Some of us at The Know are college students or seniors getting ready for college. We’re concerned that we won’t have the classes needed to fully prepare us for college. We know that the money Powell is giving to Fresno schools will help young kids, but we think it could also help prepare students like us for college.  The sad fact is that $800,000 won’t fix the many problems in Fresno County’s schools. An enormous sacrifice on Powell’s part will not solve the even larger problems.

An Example For Others?

Will other educational leaders see Powell’s action and attempt to follow his example by taking a pay cut to help out their own school system?

This may seem like a good idea, but it’s no secret that most teachers and administrators are under paid. It is unrealistic for most teachers to follow Powell’s lead.

But some administrators can afford to do what Powell did. A good example is John Welty, president of Fresno State.

College students at Fresno State and other state colleges have to pay higher and higher fees for classes. Many students have to drop out of college because fees are so high. One would think that someone like President Welty, who as of 2009, made $299,000 a year (about $60,000 more than Powell), would be willing to sacrifice a little, too. Nope. When Fresno State students asked him to give up a portion of his salary, he refused. Welty could learn from Powell’s example.

Overall, we are happy that there are selfless people like Larry Powell in our Valley. We hope that his actions will inspire many others to give and do what they can to make our schools better.

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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