Friday, April 29, 2011

My Fellow Californians

The San Francisco Chronicle published a survey this week on people's opinions on the California budget situation, and Gov. Brown's plan to balance the budget through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.  The survey showed that everyone is really worried about the state of public education (as they fardling well should be!).  I will quote two paragraphs that about sum the results up:
Overall, the poll found that 61 percent of those surveyed supported closing the state's deficit through roughly half spending cuts and half extending and increasing taxes if that meant K-12 education would face no further cuts, as Brown has proposed.
However, Brown's proposal would restore a 0.25 percentage point increase in the personal income tax that expired in January and when asked about raising personal income taxes to fund K-12 education, 62 percent of those surveyed opposed the idea.
Nobody wanted to "raise taxes" by keeping the existing 1 cent sales tax that will expire in July, either.

Really, people?  A "0.25 percentage point increase" is too much?  Do you know how much that is?  Let's leave out the wealthy - how much is .0025% of the median salary in California?  According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, the median salary in California for a family of four is $76,488. That's for fiscal year 2010-2011.  A quarter of one percent of $76,488 is - $191.07.  That would be for the whole year.  It's $15.92 per month. 

You spend more than that on Netflix, if you have any kind of subscription package.  That's about 3 lattes at Starbuck's.  But 62 percent of you can't spare $16 a month to keep the schools from being cut any further?  

California has one of the worst education systems in the country.  I think 3 or 4 states are worse, it depends on who's counting what.  And we have that because we are too cheap to pay for schools.  We say we care about our kids, but we don't care enough to put any money into the schools they attend.  We've convinced ourselves that "taxes are BAD."  Sixteen bucks a month is gonna break you if you make $76,000 a year?  If you make $50,000 a year, it's $10.41 a month.  Just for curiosity, I ran the percentage for $250,000 a year - it comes to $52.08 a month.

Don't give me this crap that we can't afford a .0025% tax increase to support the schools.  We can't not afford it.  We all have to live with the children these schools turn out - if they can't read, can't do math, can't use a computer, can't think, then they can't get a job, and they'll be mugging you on the street or breaking into your house.  Is that what you want?  I don't. 

Oh, yeah, and those rapacious unionized teachers that everyone has been ranting about?  Do you know how much they really make?  The site shows average salaries by state.  I think these numbers are about 3 years old based on the dates on the comments.  This table shows that the average starting teacher salary in California is:  $35,760.  The average salary overall is:  $59,825.

What was that median salary for California again?   Oh, yeah - $76,488.  So the average teacher in California makes $16,663 a year less than the state median income.  And they spend some of it on supplies for the classroom because we don't pay enough to support the schools. And it's about to get worse, because we're too cheap to raise taxes.



  1. hedera:

    I'm going to offer a contrary opinion. I fully respect your position about education--in principle. You and I grew up in an homogenous community in which the amount of investment in teachers' salaries and physical plant facilities had a direct result in student performance and residual consequences (such as high college entrance exam scores and low delinquency rates). There was almost no ethnic tension, and what distress there was was primarily the result of class conflict (it had been characterized in those years as a "country club town"). In fact, in the 1950's, rapid community growth had caused a severe crisis in the local school system, which was belatedly ameliorated by a couple of school bond referendums which barely met demand (most of my high school classes were in the 30-45 student size). The town was rigidly segregated, which forestalled many of the problems which were beginning to rear their ugly heads in the mid-1960's.

    But the situation in California public schools has changed dramatically since we went to Napa High. Current statistics now show that over 50% of all school age children in California are Latino. The great majority of those students do not speak English as a first language. In addition, many of them are the children of illegal immigrants. In our inner cities, the evils of ghetto-ization based on race and class poverty have deepened and worsened.

    On the tax side, California State taxes are already the highest in the nation. Most county rates are at or above 10%. Had it not been for Proposition 13, California's property tax rates would be AT LEAST three times higher than they are now. Our state has steadily lost industry and businesses due to unfavorable tax rates. Comparing the median incomes and resources of those leaving the state, with those arriving, shows enormous disparities; in other words, our real tax base is steadily eroding. Middle class Californians, particularly native whites, are disturbed that the state is becoming a magnate for economic refugees from across the spectrum: Central and South Americans, Asians, Africans, South Sea Islanders (i.e. Filipino). These newly arrived populations present enormous problems: Language, education, health care, crime, welfare, employment. Californians look at the beneficiaries of our state's largesse, and wonder why, given our already over-stretched budget and increasingly compromised environment, public services, and crumbling infrastructure, we should pony up any more for the needy newcomers.

    America had entered a consolidation phase following the huge influxes of immigration during the latter half of the 19th and the first two decades of the 20th Century, but we find ourselves, in the last three decades, in the midst of a new "Hispanic diaspora" which threatens to drown us in debt and obligation.

    I'm not suggesting that we should not have a care for our public education systems. What I am suggesting is that, given the limitations inherent in our assets and economy, we can no longer afford the sort of "generosity" which has driven our immigration policies over the last four decades. Personally, I'm indignant that Mexicans--who comprise, now, for instance, the great majority of school-children in much of Eastern Contra Costa County--should benefit from my property taxes. If we could be assured that we were paying for the education of our own citizens (and their children), I doubt whether we'd be in the deep doo-doo we presently find ourselves.

    I'm afraid you're not really up to date with the realities of our present-day public schools, hedera. Take a day and go visit a public school in Richmond, or Concord, or Pleasanton, or Hayward. What you find may surprise you, and may trouble you as well.

  2. In my post above, for "referendum" put "initiative."

  3. I've been thinking about your comment for some time. Paraphrased, your argument seems to be, they're not like us, we don't want them here, and therefore we shouldn't pay to educate them, because we already pay too many taxes, and it isn't enough to educate our own kids.

    But they're here. Their families came here, as poor and not-so-poor families have come to America for generations, because they think things are better here than they were at home. These children's parents think their kids will have a better life here than they would in Mexico. They plan to stay. We don't have the resources, in money or people, to find all the illegals and force them to go home. We can and do deport, but nobody thinks we deport all the illegals. And their children aren't illegal at all, if they're born here. Read the 14th Amendment.

    The real statement is, these kids are going to grow up here, and you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives surrounded by them. Now, is it better for us, for you and me, if they grow up well-educated and able to support themselves at honest jobs, or if we kick them out of the schools and they join the maras??

    And don't throw the public schools in Richmond or Pleasanton at me, Curtis; I live in Oakland. I'm half a block from an elementary school and half a mile from a middle school and I walk past them all the time. They look just like children to me.

    This entire country has spent the last 40 years acting on the assumption that education isn't important. This country was built by people who believed that education was critically important. That change is what troubles me.

  4. Hedera:

    Okay, you can play the race card, and I can deny it, and then we can move on.

    No, it has nothing to do with difference--except in the cultural sense--different cultures have been fighting it out in America since the beginning--how about the Irish and Italians in Massachusetts. Nothing new about any of that.

    My point, which is intractable and indignant, is to define a position, a feeling, an objection. For too long, we've hidden behind the wall of government, as if it were a membrane which separated us from the realities all around us. We say "well, somehow, we'll find the money to deal with all these problems. We'll build more prisons, we'll hire more bi-lingual teachers, we'll dig more sewers, construct more dams, cheap apartment complexes, expand the welfare rolls, make more civil service jobs, etc.

    What bothers me is that, rather than really facing the realities of the situation, you're falling back on "principle" and "belief"--it all sounds very dignified and PC and proper. Education is important, all these kids must be educated, we have no choice, it's our duty, etc., etc.

    But the means to support that kind of social responsibility has been eroding for 50 years in this country. Just at the point in our history that our prosperity is being systematically dismantled, we're being asked to entertain a massive refugee relocation program, involuntarily, unplanned-for, and largely unwanted. To have the political will to solve a problem, you must feel some sense of responsibility and duty to address it; it must, IOW, be a problem that deserves to be solved.

    The problems in the California school system have nothing to do with "better teachers" or better "facilities" or any of that. The public school system 50 years ago, when we went to school, lived on less than half the per capita budget it does today, yet it succeeded in turning out some of the best educated kids in the world. Why?

    I'm thinking you aren't interested in knowing why. You just want to throw more money at the problem, and sleep soundly at night, knowing you've "paid your share" and can't be considered selfish or racist in your soul.

    But facing reality is more difficult, and not nearly so satisfying as espousing expanded funding. What would you cut to preserve our rising education budget? The hiways? The prisons? State parks? Medi-cal? The state SSI supplement? If we're being practical, let's set some priorities. How about setting limits on enrollment on a county-by-county basis? If a county budget can't afford new enrollees, they don't attend. That would put a quick stop to illegals moving into Los Angeles and San Diego just to get access to our schools.

    In the end, illegals will keep coming--and over-burdening our society--as long as we tolerate and accommodate them. The harshest reality in life sometimes is in realizing the limits of our own tolerance. Because it does have limits. I think we've reached them already in California.