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Opinion: President Lyndon Johnson's Impact on Newport-Mesa

Sandy Asper talks about the importance of Title I and Title IX of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

It's weird to think of a connection between President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. Seemingly they have nothing in common.

I doubt that President Johnson ever stepped foot in Newport-Mesa considering that it is such a bastion of Republicanism. But there is a thread that is really more like a tanker's chain that connects these two. The connection is the hundreds of Newport-Mesa children that have had brilliant educations in this district because of Johnson's War on Poverty, the most well-known of which is Title I.  

In its original conception, Title I under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was designed by President Johnson to close the skill gap in reading, writing and mathematics between children from low-income households who attend urban or rural school systems and children from the middle-class who attend suburban school systems.

Not only was his dedication to education an inspiration, but even here in the midst of Newport Beach, one of the country's wealthiest cities, the impact was great. It may come as a surprise to some of you, but N-MUSD is a district divided, and so it was in 1965. Let's face it, N-MUSD has always provided more for the Newport/CDM side of the district. When this argument has been proposed throughout the years, the district has always replied that Westside Costa Mesa has received considerable benefits from Title I, ostensibly making them equal. It's true those schools did have benefits, however, never coming close to Newport or Corona del Mar.

So, sitting in the tin-roofed one room schoolhouse with Kate Deadrich "Miss Kate" his teacher, President Lyndon Johnson signed ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) into law on April 14,1965. This law has migrated to other less exciting and less impactful laws like NCLB (No Child Left Behind) which is a story for another day, and it's not pretty.

However the impact from President Johnson's The War on Poverty was stunning! By 1969, high school graduation rates climbed to 32.5 percent from 24.6 percent in 1964 . In the same period, African American graduation rates jumped 50 percent from 13.8 percent to 20.7 percent.

And then there was the Higher Education Act. Before the HEA, college education was a luxury few could afford, in spite of the GI Bill passed by FDR in 1944, which allowed GI's to go to college. The key title in HEA was Title IV which put college within reach for those who couldn't afford it by offering student grants, low interest loans and work-study options. The grants were initially given to specific colleges and now have become the Pell Grants which are transferable. Many of these grants and loans have been utilized by N-MUSD students.

From 1960 to 1970, the number of Americans attending four or more years of college grew by 39 percent, constituting 10.7 percent of the population, up from 7.7 percent.

Also as a direct result of the Higher Education Act of 1965, Title IX was born in 1972 which allowed Newport-Mesa women athletes to be treated equally and to also have the opportunity to not only go to college, but to receive athletic scholarships. Some of whom are: Misty May (NHHS), April Ross(NHHS), Wendy Rush (NHHS), Carrie Rush (NHHS), Jenny Evans (NHHS) (Olympian), Andrea Redick (CD,M), Tracy Heims EHS, Annie McCray (NHHS), Suzanne Huffman (NHHS), Kirsten Conklin (NHHS), Tracy Krueger (NHHS), Brooke Harrington (CDM), and Lara Asper (NHHS).

Just Sayin...

Bill. Nunan July 17, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Sandy, did you purposely leave out the young ladies from the Costa Mesa high schools who earned athletic scholarships too ? Bill Nunan
Sandy Asper July 18, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Hi Bill...no, I was in a hurry and actually just used the names that I happen to know...volleyball women and Tracy Heims from Estancia. I would say "my bad", but I hate that ...however the athletes that I mentioned were some of the hundreds of girls who were the lucky lucky lucky recipients of the benefits of TItle IX...which involve way more than scholarships...gym time, coaching, focus on women's sports, night games, buses, inclusion of some sports etc... Thanks for giving me a chance to apologize to all the girls in Costa Mesa who didn't get mentioned...So again..thanks President Johnson...

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