Wednesday, November 25 , 2015, 4:43 pm | Fair 59º

Lou Segal: Parcel-Tax Measures W and X Won’t Improve Our Schools

Without fundamental reform, no amount of money will fix long-standing problems

By Lou Segal |

I know many of the readers of this wonderful online newspaper have never heard the counter-argument for voting for parcel-tax Measures W and X to raise our property taxes to provide additional funds to our Santa Barbara schools.

Proponents tell us that without this additional new money our schools will be unable to educate our youth. We hear about the critical budgetary problems our state is having, and if voters vote down Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative next November that our schools will suffer disproportionately. I know the voters are bombarded with pleas to approve these measures and are told of all the terrible consequences if they vote no.

However, I am going to tell you to ignore these voices and to focus on the one reason — which gets short shrift in the media — these measures will fail to improve our schools. The reason is simple: Without fundamental reform, no amount of money is going to cure the long-standing problems crippling our schools.

What kinds of reforms am I talking about that don’t require additional money? The most important is to overhaul the antiquated and ineffective tenure and seniority system imbedded in all our public schools. How preposterous is it that an ineffective teacher is given lifetime security and can be paid much more than a far better teacher in the same school? A policy of last-in-first-out (lifo) automatically eliminates the jobs of the most recent hires when teaching positions need to be cut at a school. How foolish is it to eliminate teaching positions using an arbitrary system that totally ignores performance?

A few years ago, a teacher from one of the Santa Ynez schools who was awarded Teacher of the Year lost her position because of this misguided policy.

A series of articles in the Los Angeles Times has documented how costly and tortuous it is to dismiss ineffective teachers. It also highlighted the difficulty of firing the growing number of teachers accused of sexual and/or physical abuse of children. Because of the byzantine laws and collective bargaining rules, they are still collecting paychecks insofar as it is virtually impossible to terminate any teacher.

In Los Angeles, less than one-10th of 1 percent of teachers are dismissed because of performance-related reasons. This is true for most other cities as well. I would also challenge anyone to defend the system of paying teachers based on seniority. Not rewarding great teachers with merit pay or having them paid the same or less than far less effective teachers is nonsensical. Although there have been many attempts to change the rules, the teacher unions have spent prodigious amounts of money to frustrate all efforts to initiate any reform in the evaluation, hiring and firing of teachers.

It is not rocket science how we could improve our public schools without throwing new money at the same old problems. One way is to make the people who run the public schools accountable. Principals should be told that their job security is dependent on the school’s performance as measured by various quantitative and qualitative benchmarks. Of course, it would be unfair to impose this burden on our principals if we didn’t grant them the power to hire and fire teachers, as well to make curriculum changes to improve student performance. All principals and superintendents would be given the necessary powers and a specific period of time to meet the goals as outlined for them by school boards and parents.

Although some might say these methods are unusually harsh or even too simplistic, sometimes the answers to our most intractable problems are not all that complicated — if the will is there to impose the necessary changes.

The curriculum in our schools also needs to be overhauled. We have too many kids leaving our elementary schools unable to write a coherent sentence or perform basic math. Far too little time is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals, which is the lynchpin for all further learning.

Children need to write every day. Teachers need to drill in grammar and syntax while editing their work. Not nearly enough time is spent on such activities.

In addition, we are medicating our children in alarming numbers because of the rote teaching of mind-numbing facts and the regurgitation of this information on too many tests. Our students are increasingly tuning out the teachers and, consequently, diagnosed with the all-too-common attention deficit disorder syndrome. I would challenge parents to sit through these insipid and incredibly boring classes throughout a school day. You might need medication, too, to get through the day.

We need to think outside the box and develop a curriculum that challenges our children and promotes an active learning style that encourages critical thinking skills. There is no reason why education can’t be fun and effective. To learn more about the erosive effects of our antiquated educational system, please see this video by Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation.

I also think it is inherently unfair that all seniors who are 65 years of age and renters are exempt from the parcel taxes, although renters should not be surprised if their rents are adjusted to reflect the increased taxes. The greatest household wealth or median net worth is actually concentrated in the 65-or-older age group. Their median net worth has increased 42 percent in the past 25 years. What happened to the notion of shared sacrifice?

So why do I oppose parcel-tax Measures W and X? Because they enable our school bureaucracy to continue with the status quo and acquiesce to the powerful teacher unions. Until we change the culture in our public schools, they will continue to fail our children. We need to say no to the educational establishment and deny them any more money until these reforms are enacted. It is time for the voters to let the powers that be know that they are tired of waiting for these critical reforms and will not fund a failing public school system with more of their hard earned tax dollars. No reform, no money.

— Lou Segal is a Santa Barbara resident.

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» on 05.16.12 @ 07:38 PM

The Democrats want you to forget that you are still paying off several parcel taxes in the past, it never works.

The Democrats are terrible managers of your money.

The Democrats will never have enough of your hard earned money, and when the do con you into another tax they will foolishly spend it on their over staffed and over paid unions.

No more new taxes in the nanny state.

» on 05.17.12 @ 04:04 AM

How very disappointing. I thought perhaps I would read a reasoned argument against the parcel tax measures, but instead wasted a whole 3 minutes (not including response time, of course) slogging through another inchoate, rambling right wing screed.  Instead of addressing why we should or should not vote for measures W and X, Mr. Segal simply rehashes a laundry list of unrelated complaints. Teacher tenure is certainly a discussion-worthy issue, but what’s it got to do with the parcel tax vote?

(I actually agree with Mr. Segal that it’s too difficult to fire bad teachers. The problem is defining a “bad teacher” and designing criteria and an evaluation process specific enough to make that determination. I have a feeling, and I hope I’m wrong, that Mr. Segal would prefer a rather simplistic approach, using standardized test data to decide which teachers to fire. That is indeed a topic worthy of debate, but not when trying to decide on whether to vote on a parcel tax.)

The paragraph beginning “It’s not rocket science” lays bare Mr. Segal’s abysmal ignorance of the realities of public education. Principals already know that their job security, which is pretty tenuous, depends on many factors, including how their teachers and schools perform. They actually do have a lot of say in the hiring of teachers on their sites, although not so much the firing. From there he veers into grumpy curmudgeon land complaining about the curriculum, and over medicated students. In other words, a blatant disconnect with real students and teachers, blasé clichés (“we need to think outside the box”, seriously?) and nothing whatsoever to do with deciding how to vote.  Solutions seem so simple when you don’t really know what the problem is.

Finally he gets back to the vote, but he’s just against it because…, because he’s just against schools, I guess. He thinks parcel tax money will “acquiesce to the powerful teacher unions”, not knowing that it is precisely the local teacher unions that are working towards solving some of the problems he complains about, such as appropriate teacher evaluations. Moreover, how is that an argument against approving a parcel tax? The phrase non-sequitur comes to mind.  If that’s what he thinks, and that’s why he’s against these measures, then I think he doesn’t really know much about them, or our schools.

» on 05.17.12 @ 12:32 PM

Lou, clear thinking and direct as usual. You are a welcome voice in the public education spending debate. Gov Brown’s own state website May Revise message on the state 2012/2013 budget should give readers additional pause.

Brown discloses state revenues, while under his proposed budget,  are significantly higher than last year. Therefore, with Prop 98 guaranteeing over 50% of state revenues going by law go to education,  K-12 automatically receives significantly more money this year than last.

Read the official Brown May Revise budget report. Schools do not need to have their hands out this year for more. They are already getting it from the taxpayers in the form of the Prop 98 guarantee. Brown admits this up front on the first page.

Parcel tax W and X additions need to be defeated this time around and these programs should be now folded into these additional operating funds K-12 will be getting in 2012/2013. Parcel taxes should be one-time and temporary and not be used endlessly to support ongoing school operations.

Bottomline is Parcel Tax W and X should not be renewed when K-12 by law will be the recipient of 50% of all the new state revenues for 2012/2013.

» on 05.17.12 @ 12:46 PM

Several parent lawsuits against districts and teacher unions are working their way through the courts for the very union-supported practices that have brought California education down to the dismal level it enjoys today.

Check out Edvoice for one such anti-teacher union advocacy group and track what other lawsuits have been filed against Los Angeles County School District as the bellwether for the future of these issues in California K-12 public education.

California public education is drowning in its own employee-protectionist legislation and teacher union control of the state legislature and State Dept of Education. Voters let this happen. Only non-partisan independent, non teacher union led voters along with the courts will change the current oppressive make-up of of both public schools and the state Dept of Education which fails its primary obligation: public education for California students.

It is easy. Vote against any candidate endorsed by the CTA - California Teachers Association or its various political fronts such as the formerly venerable PTA now co-opted by the CTA teachers union, taking their job protection messages via your own children asked to carry pro-teacher union messages into your own homes.

» on 05.17.12 @ 12:48 PM

Sorry noletares, I lost your arguments somewhere in your own stream of disjointed thoughts and personal attacks. Please don’t tell us you represent the finest in California public education.

» on 05.17.12 @ 01:03 PM

I totally agree - the concept of tenure being more important than performance is wrong in this, or any, profession. If two people competing for a position have the same performance record, then, and only then, tenure should give the nod to the more senior. The fact that teachers found guilty of abuse and other criminal activities are protected from dismissal by the union is evidence enough of the problems with the current system.

But I would add that in our school systems today we have too much overhead and administrative positions. Too many deputy assistant vice principals, etc. When the budget gets cut, they cut teachers and make class sizes larger. Better to cut out some of the top level that primarily serves to make more work for themselves and everyone.

» on 05.17.12 @ 01:53 PM

Administrative positions are the direct result of heavy union-backed teacher protection regulations and union threats to sue if every single letter of their job protection laws are not carried out. This keeps multiple administrators working full time.

At one time tenure protected academic freedom from undue political influence. Today it protects a highly-partisan progressive political agenda in the classroom that has sapped all intellectual vitality out of providing a balanced and independent education for our children.

The partisan progressive political agenda permeates every aspect of public education today in the classroom biases to the use of student as political agents strong-arming the parents into voting for more of the same.

Reap what you sow. The Big Government agenda fostered by teacher union demands for more pay and more benefits with no limits or accountability has taken over our public education system.

Stop voting for teacher-union backed candidates for school boards or for state legislators. This is the only way to stop this machine that ate California public education. The CTA is not a friend of public education. Just the opposite.

» on 05.17.12 @ 02:34 PM

Noleta, his point is that increasing the local tax burden will not solve the problem with our schools. He is right, it won’t. We have had many of these local taxes applied in the past and few have done much good at all. Further, the point I have made in this debate is that it further insulates the thieves in Sacramento from being held accountable for their atrocious care of our education system. Every time locals raise their own taxes to compensate for Sacramento’s theft, Sacrament just steals more to make up for it. At some point we have to stop state government. That means being more vigilant about where our money goes. Simply raising taxes and trying to throw money at it won’t work. I am simply appalled that people complain about how badly their children are being treated by state government but their only solution is confiscate more money to throw those responsible.

People if you really want to solve the education problems in this state you need to stop whining and complaining and start doing something at the ballot box. Sending the same tax and spend creatures to Sacramento to do the same crap over and over again is a sure sign you have gone insane. If your child’s future really means that much to you then drop the partisan garbage and clean state government out. These people you have voted for are holding your children hostage with YOUR money! Stop picking more pockets and get friggen mad! Oust these idiots and start over. We have 40 years of systemic problems that have now become institutionalized. Adding another tax will not solve it or help your children. Being responsible, fiducially conservative and holding your elected representatives accountably to you the tax payer rather than their campaign donors is what must happen.

Failing at that you fail your children and that folks is on you.

» on 05.17.12 @ 02:43 PM

Measures W and X WILL improve LOCAL education.  Santa Barbara City Elementary Schools and Santa Barbara Secondary Schools will benefit DIRECTLY without STATE bureaucratic involvement.  That is whole POINT of a local property assessment to support our local schools.  Music, Art, Science programs will remain if Measures W and X are approved.  LOCAL property owners will benefit directly because THEIR children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will have art and music and science education at current levels.  This is about directly funding local education AND about LOCAL control.

» on 05.17.12 @ 03:03 PM

Let’s not implicate our local schools for the systemic problems in California education. The mess in Sacramento isn’t the fault of the 20,000 Santa Barbara kids who will directly benefit from Measures W & X over the next four years. These are local monies that will be spent directly for student programs that matter—not for administrative salaries—and will be overseen by a panel of local citizen watchdogs. Sure, let’s do everything we can to straighten out what’s wrong, but not throw out our babies with the bathwater.

» on 05.17.12 @ 04:31 PM

Only a fool would vote for more taxes in California, the Democrats have wasted your money year after year.

Home school if you must, or lower their staff and wages by 30% like the private sector. The problem is we have too many illegal aliens and their children crowding our once nice schools.

» on 05.17.12 @ 04:37 PM

Think globally and act locally. Do not pass Measure W and X. There is more money for local schools this year because of the Prop 98 mandate. Read Gov Brown’s own admission on his May Revise website report: State revenues higher therefor Prop 98 windfall goes directly out to our local schools.

If these parcel tax funded programs are that important to local education needs, they need also to be funded out of state tax revenues guaranteed by Prop 98.

Measures W and X are a smokescreen to cover up the diversion of this new Prop 98 money into more employee benefit and perks, instead of supporting existing programs for our students.

Send the message you do believe in local control. Vote these confiscatory taxes in Measures W and X down and tell local schools to use their new Prop 98 funds to support education programs, and not just more teacher salaries and benefits.

» on 05.17.12 @ 06:30 PM

Yes, seniors can opt out, but they have to fill out some form EVERY year to do so. How many people will remember to do that?

» on 05.17.12 @ 09:45 PM

Parcel taxes are great for short-term and temporary benefit, not for permanent long-term operational funding.

With this new Prop 98 money coming in to local schools this year, this is the time to end incorporate these programs in the new permanent operational funding.
Otherwise the new Prop 98 money will go elsewhere and you will be stuck with this parcel tax permanently.

This means No on X and W. And it means yes to the new Prop 98 money coming locally gets used to support these programs using direct operational dollars. End this parcel tax dependency.  Otherwise the unions will gobble up the new Prop 98 money for themselves and students themselves will never see it again for these enhanced programs.

» on 05.18.12 @ 12:04 AM

“[Tenure]... protects a highly-partisan progressive political agenda in the classroom that has sapped all intellectual vitality out of providing a balanced and independent education for our children.”

So true, Sister Sylvia. The Nuns of the Conservative Church know that without Intelligent Design being taught, no child may ponder the fact that Satan planted fossils for us to find… to be fair and balanced, why cannot the children be shown Fox News Channel during Social(ist) Studies class? That is what we encourage to our home schoolers!

“The partisan progressive political agenda [that] permeates every aspect of public education today in the classroom biases to the use of student <sic> as political agents strong-arming the parents into voting for more of the same.”

So true, again, Sister Sylvia. It is an ugly sight to see - these little political agents strong-arming their mothers and fathers outside polling places. I myself have had to pull the little beasts off of their screaming adult parents, so that the poor people may enter and vote.

[Sister Silvia, it turns out your hormone pills were accidentally switched with the Ritalin Sister Mary confiscated last week. I implore you to stop taking them before you wear out your pointer fingers on the keyboard! But I applaud your Holy Energy, while it lasts!]

» on 05.18.12 @ 12:06 AM

Father Lou, please eat your prunes.

» on 05.18.12 @ 12:10 AM

Lou Segal is innumerate and doesn’t know a trillion from a billion from a million.  There is no reason to listen to him… a dog understands a card trick better than Lou understands teaching or education.

The only thing worse than our current education system is letting guys like Lou influence it.  Our system needs a lot of improvement… a good way to go would be to emulate the ghetto schools of Canada, where all the same immigration problems that we have are present.  But in Canada they actually educate people.

» on 05.18.12 @ 03:43 AM

I guess some of the posters think more dollars without the needed reforms will actually make a difference. In fact, nothing will change, and the public schools will continue to do a lousy job preparing our kids for the 21st century. It’s time for people in the state and the country to rise up and demand these reforms, which means no more money until the unions and the bureaucrats are prepared to loosen their death grip on our public education system. It is a disgrace and a scandal that the unions protect their sinecures at the expense of the kids. It is the reason why many of us have begun to advocate privatizing the schools. The govt monopoly of our schools is a failure, not unlike the post office or our welfare system.

BTW, before we increase property taxes, why not dismantle the SB County Board of Education. Can anyone here tell me what it does. What does Cirone do besides writing articles for Noozhawk, like his most recent brown-nose piece about Dudley. Why do we need more than one superintendent for the schools? What exactly is he the superintendent of? Every school in Santa Barbara County already has a superintendent. Just think about the money that is wasted on bureaucrats and duplication.

Here is a test for the defenders of the public educational system. Who said the following:

  “If we gave vouchers to parents for $4,400 a year, schools would be starting right and left. People would get out of college and say, “Let’s start a school.” You could have a track at Stanford within the MBA program on how to be the businessperson of a school. And that MBA would get together with somebody else, and they’d start schools. And you’d have these young, idealistic people starting schools, working for pennies.

  They’d do it because they’d be able to set the curriculum. When you have kids you think, What exactly do I want them to learn? Most of the stuff they study in school is completely useless. But some incredibly valuable things you don’t learn until you’re older — yet you could learn them when you’re younger. And you start to think, What would I do if I set a curriculum for a school?

  God, how exciting that could be! But you can’t do it today. You’d be crazy to work in a school today. You don’t get to do what you want. You don’t get to pick your books, your curriculum. You get to teach one narrow specialization. Who would ever want to do that?

  These are the solutions to our problems in education. Unfortunately, technology isn’t it. You’re not going to solve the problems by putting all knowledge onto CD-ROMs. We can put a Web site in every school — none of this is bad. It’s bad only if it lulls us into thinking we’re doing something to solve the problem with education.”

Hint: His computer company is named after a fruit.

» on 05.18.12 @ 12:22 PM

Goleta teachers are currently arguing for (demanding?) a 3% pay hike.  Is this where the tax increases of Measures W and X will go?

» on 05.18.12 @ 12:59 PM

Lou, if all you wanted to do was list a bunch of things you don’t like about public education that would have been fine. Each point you raise, from the cogent (teacher hiring/firing practices) to the absurd (curriculum: you don’t know nearly enough about this to make an argument) is debate-worthy and I would love to engage, but the issue you chose was the parcel tax measure. Try to focus on that. I respectfully suggest this perspective:
If measures H and I expire and are not replaced with something such as W and X, three things will almost immediately happen. Teachers will be fired or reassigned such that
1) 9th grade math classes will swell to over 35 students per class, from their present level of 20.
2) 9th grade English classes will undergo the same change.
3) Music and Art programs will be even further reduced. Right now, for example, San Marcos HS has only two art teachers serving nearly 2000 students.

It is factually wrong to state that these measures will have no effect on Santa Barbara public schools. They will have a _significant_ positive impact. They won’t solve the problems Lou is complaining about. They’re not designed to. Public education has many, many challenges, many are the result of its “public” responsibility, but we CAN help our schools by passing these measures.

» on 05.18.12 @ 01:17 PM

Right P, so how does Canada do it? Do they cater to unions, pay for triple the management? How it is that Canada educates their children that we do not? Lou is proffering suggestions, many more of us are too, but all we get from the left is leave the crappy broken corrupt way we do things alone, just throw more money at it.

I would be nice if for once you whining liberals would actually come up with your own ideas some time. It’s real easy to be a Ramjet and sit back and denigrate every one else while offering nothing of your own.

P, you acknowledge the system needs improvement, so how do you improve it that doesn’t just require throwing more money down the same rat hole?

» on 05.18.12 @ 01:31 PM

Lou,  A couple of questions for you.

Do you have any children currently in public schools?
Have you been a teacher or any other position in SB public schools?

If the answer is no to either of these questions, you have no right to make any assertion as to what is right or wrong. And if you cannot afford this tiny increase perhaps you should sell your house and move…

» on 05.18.12 @ 02:24 PM

One thing to think about in this discussion is the role of the Federal government meddling in local school systems, curricula, etc.

I pose this question - what part of the US Constitution allows federal involvement in schools? Hint - in my copy of the Constitution, there is nothing that allows it. In fact Article 10 specifically prohibits the federal government from getting into anything not specifically listed as a federal responsibility. Yet we have allowed this to grow into an empire.

» on 05.18.12 @ 03:18 PM

One of the funniest unfunny aspects of this discussion is how quickly the ignorami converge on it with stupid arguments about sexually deviant teachers, teacher unions that turn children into leftists, bureaucrats running amok, and now even bizarre arguments federal control and the Constitution.

Lou, can you name a bad teacher in any SB school district? I doubt it.

Do you know of a teacher who got “tenure” though they were mediocre or worse?

In teaching, the starting salary is often quite low. Incremental yearly raises eventually bring these college-educated professionals up to a modest scale. Wouldn’t it be nasty if the powers that be could replace them at this point with newly minted teachers at entry-level salaries? That’s what the union prevents. Of course, to someone like Lou, it makes much more sense to treat teachers like commodities.

The parcel tax is a local tax for local schools, which by the way are exemplary. Our local children graduate from our public schools and are accepted at universities and colleges all over the country. Our schools are doing a very good job, and deserve the funding they need to continue.

They don’t deserve a grumpy screed by some tight-fisted old curmudgeon.

» on 05.18.12 @ 03:50 PM


If you think our public schools are doing a very good job, you must be delusional. Read this thoughtful piece in the Atlantic:

Here is one quote:

“Nearly three decades after A Nation at Risk, the groundbreaking report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, warned of “a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people,” the gains we have made in improving our schools are negligible—even though we have doubled our spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) on K–12 public education. On America’s latest exams (the National Assessment of Educational Progress), one-third or fewer of eighth-grade students were proficient in math, science, or reading. Our high-school graduation rate continues to hover just shy of 70 percent, according to a 2010 report by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, and many of those students who do graduate aren’t prepared for college. ACT, the respected national organization that administers college-admissions tests, recently found that 76 percent of our high-school graduates “were not adequately prepared academically for first-year college courses.”

Even the Obama Administration is trying to reform the ridiculous tenure and seniority rules.

“Do you know of a teacher who got “tenure” though they were mediocre or worse?”


» on 05.18.12 @ 09:29 PM

That was good, Lou, and par for the course. I ask you about SB schools and you quote an article from the Atlantic. Maybe you’re confusing SB Schools with public schools in other locales, but this parcel tax is not about any school outside this area.

Almost every parent I know who has put their children through SB public schools has been happy. I’ve put my kids through the SB Schools and think they are top notch.

I do know a couple who sued the SB school district because they thought their severely handicapped child should have gotten several more hours per month of 1-on-1 therapy, but they were an exception. Also, they were quite wealthy and devout conservatives. They cost us all some money.

I’m sure you could find one or two teachers who are not so great. You’d find far more mediocrity within the County Administration Building and the Police Department. Read Deming, and understand why you cannot ever have 100% white marbles (you’ll get it if you read it).

» on 05.18.12 @ 09:54 PM

If a child is handicapped, why do the taxpayers have to pay for their special education? Why not the parents?

» on 05.19.12 @ 12:13 AM

The Santa Barbara schools are not that different from most schools elsewhere in Ca. Most people are trying to send their kids to an elementary school outside the District. When the Hope School District use to take kids from outside the District, the wait list was a mile long. Parents were begging the administrators to let their kids into the Hope schools. Peabody, a charter school, also has a long wait list of kids from other SB schools, whose parents are desperately trying to get their kids out of their neighborhood schools. All the private and parochial schools are doing very well taking kids from the Santa Barbara School District. If this is the best we can do, then we are in a lot of trouble.

» on 05.19.12 @ 01:50 AM

You say, “Teachers need to drill in grammar and syntax ...” and then, two lines later, “we are medicating our children in alarming numbers because of the rote teaching of mind-numbing facts and the regurgitation of this information…”

What should we do, Lou? Should we “drill in grammar and syntax” or should we avoid the “regurgitation of this information”? Make up your mind.

You should not have written this piece. Not in reference to our local schools. It’s poorly researched, and based on stuff you’ve read in national journals.

» on 05.19.12 @ 06:18 AM

Rambler, you can do both. Click on the link I provided (video by Ken Robinson) and you will see. The reference to the mind-numbing regurgitation of facts on too many tests, however, is a phenomenon where I was mainly referring to the secondary grade levels. At the elementary levels, it is still important to teach the fundamentals, although it can be done much more effectively than it is being done today.

Rambler, this is not a partisan issue, and it is not helpful to approach it as such. We have a generation of kids falling behind many of their counterparts from countries which we will have to compete with in this century. The future of our country depends on us fixing the broken public educational system. Believe me it will take much more than just throwing more dollars at the problem. At the least, we need to make the reforms I cited in my article, even though there are powerful special interests opposing them. Change is hard and the entrenched educational bureaucracy will resist it despite its merits.

If Steve Jobs was alive today, and if I could wave a magic wand, I would put him in charge and let him remake the entire system. Although even a genius and an innovator like Jobs would have his hands full dealing with the creativity-destroying,sclerotic bureaucracy now in charge. So, I think it is important the voters send a loud and clear message to those who would favor the status quo: no reform, no money. Surely, we can do better than what we have now.

One ray of hope is that the poor and the minorities, particularly in our our major urban areas, are beginning to see how ill-served they are by our public schools and teacher unions and are endorsing many of the reforms I cited. The Democratic Mayor of Los Angeles, a union organizer in his previous life, has spoken out against the unions and their intransigence. Rambler, and the other posters who support these measures, spend some time studying the issue and try to keep an open mind, because without the support of liberals and Democratic voters, we will not achieve the necessary critical mass to overcome the formidable special interests.

» on 05.19.12 @ 12:50 PM

I find it very interesting that a die hard conservative like Lou applauds and admires a die hard liberal like Steve Jobs.  Jobs HATED almost everything that Lou and his fellow conservatives stand for -  yet they now applaud him because of his financial success???  Typical of a modern revisionist conservative.  Jobs absolutely hated greedy, myopic, un-creative conservatives. 

Lou, you never answered my two questions.  And as such I and the rest of the readers will assume that you:
1) do not have any experience in public education (or education)
2) do not have any children in SB schools. 

I stand by my assertion that without insight or skin in the game you’re just another complainer…  The readers of this site already know that… all you ever do is whine, complain and rant.  You must be one fun guy to hang out with…  not.

Rambler is absolutely correct.  This was a poorly written and researched piece.  Being against taxes is one thing (who isnt?). But to use this measure as your nexus for ranting against the whole enchilada is not only absurd it paints you as the fool.  Good work Lou, good work…

» on 05.19.12 @ 01:13 PM

Rambler and someguy, I couldn’t agree with you more. It smells like low tide around here with all the red herrings.

» on 05.19.12 @ 01:45 PM

gotta love the someguys of this world - if ya don’t agree with them, then “move” away.  How ‘bout this someguy - everyone who will be subject to the parcel tax has a view, whether or not they know anything about schools or children, because they are the ones being asked to pay.  Apparently on your planet they are just expected to pay up no matter what….or maybe YOU should move away.

» on 05.19.12 @ 02:09 PM


You claim that if Lou, or anyone, isn’t from the education field or have children in school then he/they shouldn’t weigh in because they don’t have skin in the game.

I would suggest to you that any of us that currently are pay or would be paying more for the school system through these taxes absolutely has a LOT of skin in the game. That’s the problem that many are highlighting in this discussion - we have a lot of our skin in the game but have little or no voice in how we are being skinned.

» on 05.19.12 @ 06:06 PM

noletares makes the point a while back: once a parcel tax is voted on it becomes a permanent tax.

That alone is reason to vote down the measures X and W which is merely the Son of the Last Parcel Taxes.

Once in place then you are now “taking programs and jobs away” if you refuse to keep voting and voting and voting and voting to more and more and more taxes. Instead of using state monies for these programs, any new state money got funneled into increased teacher benefits and now the local taxpayer is stuck with constant new appeals for more taxes ..... or else.

Lou is right. These parcel tax measures have become devouring monsters and need to be stopped now. They should never have become on-going taxation demands for basic education while the state education dollar got misused as more bonuses and perks for teachers and not for the students and classrooms.

The parcel tax scam is done here.  They should never have been hijacked for ongoing expenses. Bad call. No on Measures X and W. Yes on short-term dedicated parcel taxes that expire. But one big NO on parcel taxes that become built into the system and up for eternal renewals. No, no, no on Measure X and W.

» on 05.20.12 @ 12:56 AM

Any locale with the same or better schools has much higher property taxes than SB. The children are the vital resource our country and our economy depends on tomorrow.

You people who figure it can all come apart later (when you are dead) have no sense of citizenship.

Why do you hate America so much?

» on 05.20.12 @ 01:06 AM

What is the source of your allegation that any school system better than SB pays “much higher property taxes.” Can you cite facts or is this just to be taken on faith?

And why does someone “hate America” just because he or she disagrees with you over how well or poorly our taxes are being spent?

» on 05.20.12 @ 01:47 AM

Please people: These measures are not about political ideology, unions, tenure, conservative v. liberal, or anything of the kind. No matter what our political perspective, when we see something come along in our LOCAL community, for LOCALS only, that will make a positive difference, we ought to support it. This is a grassroots effort led by people from all persuasions who care about kids.  I encourage you to look at the website below to see what Measures H and I, which W and X will replace, are doing. Let’s save the histrionics for November and focus on the kids for once.

» on 05.20.12 @ 02:32 AM

Sy hasn’t got the facts right when s/he says “Instead of using state monies for these programs, any new state money got funneled into increased teacher benefits”, unless you call retaining a teacher “increased benefits”. The teacher’s union has agreed to class size increases for the last several years as a way of trying to help out with the district’s financial mess, so teacher work load has done nothing but increase, and health insurance increases effectively have lowered salaries without providing any better coverage. Teachers are trying to do more with less, just like every other class of employees in this regard, so stop trying to make them the enemy.
Honestly I don’t get some of your priorities. You can take what you’ll pay for the entire four years worth of property tax increases and they’ll add up to a couple of nice dinners with some friends, or less than one car payment. But it means a markedly better educational environment for our kids. It doesn’t make sense in any other way but knee-jerk Norquist-worship. You are putting political rhetoric, or else blatant stinginess above the best interests of kids.

» on 05.20.12 @ 04:00 AM


You missed the entire point of my article. Tell me what is the incentive for the educational bureaucracy and the unions to make the substantive changes necessary to really transform the schools. Since they have done everything possible to frustrate any attempt to institute these badly needed reforms, the taxpayers have no choice but to deny them the money (crack) they need to continue with the status quo. I can see it upsets you, but that’s the point. Maybe you guys will see that we not going to accept any more excuses; the taxpayers want real change, not the phony, meaningless stuff that is being proposed today.

I looked at the website and I am not impressed. You have PTA parents on this committee overseeing the funds. What expertise do they have? None of the expenditures have been audited. These measures have been responsible for approximately 5 additional teachers for about 16 schools. Hardly enough to make a real difference for the kids.

If you really had any compassion for the kids locked into these public schools, you would display the same sense of urgency you have for these measures for the changes I am calling for; instead of the phony, marginal, skirting around the edges stuff that in the end will not change anything for 98% of the kids stuck in these schools.

» on 05.20.12 @ 05:10 AM

Noleta, I am all for paying the BEST teachers a very good salary, but I am not buying your sob story. Teachers have around 180 work days a year. Subtract holidays, personal and sick leave and we are talking about 154 days a year. The average American worker works around 230 days a year. A mid-career teacher in the SB schools averages around $65,000 a year with a pension and excellent health care benefits. You are not going to get a whole lot of sympathy from most people who are not anywhere near this. Having said this, I want to pay our teachers generously, but not subject to the corrupt tenure and seniority system we now have. You’re barking up the wrong tree with your fallacious arguments.

» on 05.20.12 @ 01:04 PM

Lou, more and more of us do get what you are saying. Measures W and X need to be defeated.

Thank you for taking the time to write your article and sticking around to defend it against the predictable teacher union attacks. You are finally shedding some light on this shake-down racket, that even draws in innocent parents who don’t stop to sort out who is really manipulating them and why.

Parcel taxes like Measure X and W as permanent demands for school funding are voracious monsters. They have to be stopped because you are quite correct in your conclusion: all they do is throw more money at problems that need to be solved elsewhere.

Yes, it is all about unions and bloated teacher benefits and perks. Those are the sponges soaking the education dollar while leaving the students themselves out to go begging now at every election cycle.

The cynicism of the teachers unions shows no better poster child than Hannah-Beth Jackson’s campaign signs in eco-correct green, with an apple no less and the statement “Teachers for Hannah Beth Jackson”. The forgot the obvious. Make that Teachers UNIONS for Hannah Beth Jackson.

» on 05.20.12 @ 02:31 PM

@noletares:  Your comment “You can take what you’ll pay for the entire four years worth of property tax increases and they’ll add up to a couple of nice dinners with some friends, or less than one car payment” reminds me of the basis for the Chinese “death of a thousand cuts”.  The point for some of us is not the dollar amount per individual of this particular tax - it is the deeply flawed system of taxation that misdirects revenue to less important causes than education. 

To repeat myself:  Government is first responsible for defense (national level), public safety (all levels), infrastructure (all levels), and education (ideally local level, i.e. not routing money through the State where it is taken away).  Government should serve all the people, not just its own employees.  And allowing the death of a thousand cuts to make up for the State’s failure to fund education properly with our money simply allows the overall problem and its associated failures to continue without correction.

» on 05.20.12 @ 07:15 PM

Parcel taxes should not be used as band-aids to staunch the flow of a system badly leaking cash because of poor priorities and poor planning.

A community should never be threatened to pass a parcel tax .... or else, which is what is happening now.  NO on W and X. One time yes, but not endlessly, NO.

» on 05.21.12 @ 01:14 PM

Noleta, Someguy, I have worked in the “system” and have had children in our schools. This is not a new problem. We saw the same crap 30 years ago; too much money goes to Sacramento, not enough gets back to where it is needed. The argument that this is a local tax is good only on its face. As has been repeatedly said it only lets the state off the hook and free to impose more tax confiscation to make up for what you are now paying for locally, i.e. more cuts from the state.

People, what Lou is trying to tell you is this is a systemic problem that cannot be fixed by throwing good money after bad. In that respect it is non partisan. In other words, doesn’t matter who controls wealth private or public what matters is the wealth being consumed by our state and our education system is being wasted and our children are being hurt by it. Democrat or republican, we should all be united on this front and all of us demanding the state stop using our children as hostages to fuel its greed and demand our public institutions be accountable for what they spend. Surely we can all agree on that.

Now what is partisan it that the majority party in this state has sold its soul to the unions and has become corrupt. The hostage takers are democrats. We conservatives and republicans cannot change that, it is up to you democrat voters to clean your house. We cannot do it for you. Put the partisan crap aside and recognize that your liberal ideology, your democrat party has been high jacked by crooks, criminals and thieves holding your children hostage for more money. That is surely not in the interest of your kids or your political ideology. If you democrats can do that then the republicans will be held to the same standards

We can do battle most certainly on the merits of our ideological differences, there is much to argue there. But right now we have a crisis of integrity and character at the state level. Stop feeding the beast more of what it wants (your hard earned money) and demand it be accountable for what it already gets. The best way to do that is through your local representatives. Tell them you are loyal but are completely disenfranchised with the state government no matter the party. Let them know you will not feed them anymore until they come clean on the waste fraud and corruption bankrupting our state treasury.

Hold your school district accountable. Demand to know the distribution of and allocation of funds. They are a public institution and therefore required to make everything they do public. That goes for the state as well. Stop caving in to the demand for more money until they come clean with the accounting details. Nothing, people, will strike more fear into the hearts of these greedy heartless bureaucrats than having to tell the truth.

» on 05.21.12 @ 06:06 PM

Wow.  And you wonder why this state is circling the drain.  Our friends on the left are apparently not living in the same CA as the rest of us.  Can we say denial?

» on 05.21.12 @ 10:46 PM

Here is a long article on the CTA, the worst union in America and how they betrayed the students:

» on 05.21.12 @ 11:16 PM

Great article, Wireless. It makes you want to cry how corrupt the CTA is and how much damage they have inflicted upon our public schools. The children pay the price for their greed and selfishness.

» on 05.22.12 @ 01:26 AM

CTA (California Teachers Association union) just honored Das Williams.

There you have it folks. Use your vote wisely come next election. Do you want the teachers union candidate running the show or the other guy?  No choice could be clearer this time around. Send Das Williams packing.

» on 05.22.12 @ 12:26 PM

Das is a Taxin’ Jackson clone.  Vote NO on both.

» on 05.22.12 @ 03:11 PM

Perpetual parcel taxes paper over poor planning. Vote yes once if the cause is valid. Then vote no the second time around to maintain control.

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