EDITORIAL: Fresno Unified must expand health care career pathways

Industry plays major role in the Valley's economy.

July 3, 2013 

Gov. Jerry Brown's and the Legislature's overhaul of public school funding will be of great benefit to Fresno Unified School District.

With extra money coming to the district specifically to help students overcome the hurdles of poverty and learning English as a second language, the community has a right to expect that Fresno Unified will significantly raise its graduation and college admission rates.

The additional funding also should enable the district to expand its Career Technical Education offerings and, indeed, better prepare graduates not looking to college to succeed in the workplace.

One of the shortcomings that has hurt Fresno Unified students is the district's tendency to try and reinvent the wheel instead of expanding upon what is working. For example, when it was apparent years ago that Duncan Polytechnical High School was a success, the trustees should have ordered a replication of that curriculum at one or more other high schools.

Another success story is the Sunnyside High School Doctors Academy. Here is what Anthony Evaristo, a Doctors Academy graduate, wrote in a Bee commentary two years ago: "The Academy builds self-confidence, teaches students how to study, and prepares them for the academic requirements of college and health professions. It certainly was critical to my own success.

"Imagine if those graduates went on to college and then returned home -- now as skilled health professionals -- to provide care for the very people who raised and supported them."

But there is a problem with the Doctors Academy. It is too small to admit every student who wants to enroll.

The Bee's Tim Sheehan, citing a Brookings Institution study, reported on Tuesday that one-third of new jobs in Fresno are in health care and that the industry is leading our region out of the recession. Moreover, implementation of the Affordable Care Act combined with the aging of Baby Boomers will further increase demand for health care workers.

This summer, Fresno Unified leaders -- Superintendent Michael Hanson, trustees and newly appointed district CTE director Sally Fowler -- should focus on offering students at every high school a pathway into medicine -- as aides, technicians, nurses and doctors.

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