The latest craze making its way through the California public university system is the growing use of online education.

Recently, Gov. Brown budgeted millions of dollars to the California State University system to advance online instruction in lower-level classes. The rationale from the governor has been to increase course offerings to students who need remedial and general education classes to expedite the completion of their bachelor's degree.

Online may be a great option for universities, but transforming California's high schools that service millions every year may present even bigger challenges.

Three challenges need to be addressed if online instruction is to become a sustainable model in California high schools:

  • Lack of student resources;
  • Declining school budgets; and
  • An emerging teacher shortage with the requisite skills.

    Students in California public high schools come from a range of income levels and family situations.

    According to a recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California Poverty (PICP), poverty has spiked to 16 percent among all California households, and among Latino and African-American populations, a high percentage of whom attend public schools across California, poverty rates are higher (22.8 percent and 22.1 percent, respectively).

    The realities of high poverty rates, particularly within large urban districts, may lead to a lack of resources in many households to purchase the basic technology to take advantage of online courses from home.

    While many public school families may be struggling from the aftermath of the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, public school districts have had to make tough choices to maintain core programs in the midst of declining enrollment and shrinking budgets.

    The Los Angeles Times reported in an April 29 article ("Gov. Brown as Robin Hood"), that many districts across the state have cut their budgets as much as 20 percent at the height of the recession. Despite an increase in tax receipts of $4.5 billion that Gov. Brown promises to give to struggling districts, this will not come close to shoring up budget shortfalls that have pained districts since 2008.

    As school districts are still reeling from budget cuts and having to rely on the good graces of political leaders and altruistic voters to receive extra funding, it is unlikely that many school districts will have the funds to purchase the technology that can carry out online instruction in any sustainable way.

    As school districts juggle tough budgeting choices - laying off teaching staff, creating crushing working conditions for remaining teachers with increased class sizes - a state report has rung the alarm that California is facing an emerging teacher shortage.

    Newly minted, tech-savvy college graduates with the needed skills to bring an aging teacher corps into the 21st century are avoiding the teaching profession all together. The state report points out that the number of teachers earning a credential this year dropped by 12 percent, which is the eighth straight annual decline. The report also cites that increased government oversight and standardized testing are overwhelming young teachers, prompting nearly 30 percent of teachers to quit in the first seven years.

    The wave of the future is online instruction, but California public high schools have mounting challenges to ride it out.

    Without bold leadership from Sacramento and organized efforts from voters, California public high schools will remain out of sync with the state's college system that continues to add more classes online every year.

    Ali M. Hangan is an economics teacher at Pomona High School.