Beyond the Bay Area Bubble: Kid Competitors Win Big for California; Lose Out to Budget Ax Anyway

Rachael Myrow here, host of the California Report, with an AM post from somewhere else in California. We’re in this Golden State together. Right?

In case you missed it, over the weekend, Granada Hills Charter High School won the Annual California Academic Decathlon Competition – again.

Granada Hills will represent California next month at the national decathlon in Albuquerque. You can bet the other states are quaking in their boots. California has won the last nine national titles.

You just have to look at the state finalists to realize to what extent the Los Angeles Unified School District dominates this event. The LA Times notes LA Unified schools claimed five of the top 10 spots Sunday in Sacramento, out of 65 teams. El Camino Real came in second, and Marshall (profiled by the California Report Friday) took third.

Hearing those Marshall kids on Friday, memories flooded back for me of the late 1980s, when my sisters competed for Marshall in Mock Trial. They also competed at the national level, and it was everything you think it would be: insanely hard work, a blast, and yes, a major point of pride for a public school beleaguered on so many other fronts.

One listener e-mailed to tell us the Marshall profile brought back memories for her, too. Bernice Romero wrote “I was a ‘Decathlete’ for Fresno’s Roosevelt High School back in 1984, and it was one of the most important experiences of my adolescent life.”

Did I mention how much hard work goes into a win? Many teams start practicing the year before the year they compete. The kids take 10 tests on 10 topics, including math, science, music, language and literature, economics and art. i.e. whatever your strengths, you’ll be asked to move beyond them. That’s true in a larger sense for the teams, too: by design, they include three A students, three B students and three C students.

It should come as no surprise in California, but LA Unified teams are consistently notable for their racial diversity, too. Just consider the names on Granada’s team: Lev Tauz, Sean Wejebe, Hamidah Mahmud, Christian Koguchi, Priscilla Liu, Kimberly Ly, Jimmy Wu, Stella Lee and Julia Wall.

We all win in so many ways when they win, but California’s biggest public school district has suffered big budget cuts in recent years, and there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles left to cut. Last week, the district’s board approved a  preliminary, worst-case budget that axes Academic Decathlon’s funding.

So for want of about $400,000 (the cost of the program in the current fiscal year) there goes California’s MVP in the Academic Decathlon.

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  • Joshua G

    what about Bay Area schools in Academic Decathlon that get no funding? I’m a decathlete from Solano County from Vanden High School and we were able to place 26th in the state with zero funding from our school distict. No one ever cares about us.

Author

Rachael Myrow

From KQED’s Bureau in San Jose, Rachael Myrow’s mandate is to cover politics, economics, technology and culture in a region that stretches from Burlingame to Edenvale to Fremont. She also covers food and blogs for Bay Area Bites. Her posting as Silicon Valley Correspondent follows more than seven years as the daily host of KQED's California Report, broadcast on NPR affiliates throughout the state. She continues to guest host The California Report Magazine and Forum, and files as a freelancer for NPR and PRI’s The World. Before KQED, she worked for Marketplace and KPCC in Los Angeles.

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