By her own description, Banks, 38, graduated high school "functionally illiterate." Next came stints in the Army Reserve, a failed marriage, and a string of jobs such as manager of an apartment complex.
As try after try at community college proved futile, she ultimately came to see herself as stupid. Then came a profound discovery: PCC counselors told her she had dyslexia, a reading disorder. They also showed her new ways to study, such as by reading along with books recorded on tape. They linked her up with a volunteer mentor on the counseling staff, "someone who takes the time to hear me."
Now, after all the false starts, a miracle seemingly beckons: Banks is on course to get her associate of arts degree next year and pursue her goal of studying hotel management at Cal Poly Pomona.
But her dreams don't end as a mere employee toiling for somebody else. At PCC she has had a glimpse into a new world of possibilities, and she is aiming high. The plan is not "to manage a hotel," Banks explains firmly. "It's to own one."
State of the State
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State of the State: Education
SKILLS: About half of California adults lack the reading and mathematics skills demanded by modern society, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Education.
EDUCATION: Despite the budget squeeze, the state's system of higher education and training remains enormous, with 1.3 million students attending California's community colleges alone.
ECONOMY: The precise link between worker skills and economic growth remains in dispute, but scholars agree that people without post-high school training face shrinking career options.
"Schools, students and middle-class families have shouldered too much of the pain from Pete Wilson's budgetary mismanagement. It's robbing our economic future, and our children will be the ones who have to pay."
"Today, at the exact moment when we most desperately need a smart work force, our school system is failing us and we are failing our school system."
"California's economic future is dependent on preparing California workers for the high-skill, high-wage jobs that will form the foundation of our 21st-Century economy."
"California's economic competitiveness is inextricably linked to our ability to ensure that our work force is adequately prepared."
"Economic revitalization isn't just a business issue. It's an education issue. It's a children's issue. It's the California issue on which all others turn."
"We need to forge a new partnership between business and schools, a partnership which can bring private resources, internships and job training into the public classroom."
Freeze tuition for at least a year in the community college and university systems.
Create a school-to-work curriculum in high schools, allowing students to choose between college preparation courses and workplace preparation or a combination of both.
Consolidate the 23 employment and training programs into one accessible system of work force development, and develop training standards set by industry.
Establish a comprehensive school-to-career system in California, helping students make the transition to private industry by revamping high school programs, with input from the private sector.
Develop an integrated employment and training system, after hearing recommendations of the state Job Training Coordinating Council in April, 1995.