Don’t fall for the guilt trip

By J. Dyer

The special school board meeting/community workshop held on Jan. 25 exposed our school district’s unwillingness to take the measures necessary to balance its budget. Their unwillingness seems to be based upon desperation and fear.

The meeting focused on the district’s strategies regarding how it might survive its fiscal difficulties. What should be remembered from this meeting is that, if everything the district proposed could be accomplished — closing schools, selling properties and getting their next bond measure passed — by their own admission, all of these accomplishments would not solve their long-term fiscal problems. These strategies are only stop-gap measures to kick their self-inflicted difficulties down the road. These school officials are operating under the assumption that ultimately you will be required to bail them out of their habitual overspending.

The district is going to throw another bond measure at us in November. They are hiring consultants to strategize ways to manipulate us into supporting their sixth attempt to increase our property taxes. Five times we have refused to approve more funds for their fiscally irresponsible organization. They keep spending money to fight our vote because they do not operate as if they have a finite budget. Their bureaucracy is using money it has taken from us to fight us for more of our money.

A tactic used by the district in its attempt to scare us into supporting another bond measure is the threat of a state takeover of the school district. I asked them why the taxpayers of the community should care about which state bureaucrats run the local state schools. I specifically asked what would change if the state took over the district, since the district must teach what the state mandates them to teach.

We were told a “big” state bureaucrat would come here and be primarily focused on balancing the budget. This state bureaucrat would be able to cut jobs, close schools, and eliminate busing without the approval of a local school board. It appears our district’s biggest fear is to be forced to work within its budget. Our district bureaucrats, who have a history of being unresponsive to the voters of this community and have put the district on the brink of bankruptcy, now are fearful of a state bureaucrat who might be unresponsive to them.

The district also may have expressed an unspoken fear of the teachers union. We were told that in other state takeovers of school districts, the “big” state bureaucrat had to have armed guards protect him as he went about his business of eliminating unneeded services and the union employees providing them.

Is this why our district and board won’t work within their budget? Are they afraid to make the necessary cuts because they fear state union leaders might resort to threatening behaviors? Why else would this armed guard scenario have been brought up? Are they backing away from sound fiscal policies because they fear union intimidation?

At this special school board meeting, the district relied heavily on their own statistics to justify the actions they will be taking. However, they were not as willing to discuss statistics that made them look less than stellar. For example, the district touts its high student test scores and its good academic reputation when it pleads for higher property taxes through a bond measure. The veiled threat is that if we don’t give them more money, they won’t be able to maintain their “high” academic standards.

I went to various websites to try to verify their claim of “high” academic achievement, but I did not find that verification. When our district is compared to other school districts in standard testing of high school reading, writing and arithmetic skills, it rates in the 50 to 60% range. With a 100% score being the best rating in these district comparisons, our district rates poorly. These same websites show that our district does not consistently meet the state’s academic goals. In a U.S. News and World Report survey of the best high schools, the Ramona district did not make the list of top 600 schools.

The district likes to blame the lower enrollment rates on the housing crisis and the lack of a big business tax base in Ramona. Maybe these dismal academic rankings are responsible for the declining enrollment.

The public school system is inefficient because of its multi-layered bureaucracies. It is ineffective because it does not focus on teaching kids the basic skills necessary for success in the private work world.

The public school system is a money wasting, social engineering driven institution that cannot be redeemed with more tax dollars.

When the local bureaucrats send someone to the door of your home or of your business begging for money (and part of their strategy is to intrude upon your homes and businesses), be ready for them. Ask them to tell their bureaucrats to work within their budget just like you do. Tell them you will not support their sixth attempt to pass a local bond measure—five “No’s” should be enough.

Don’t fall for the guilt trip they will try to lay on you. You already give their system $8,000 to 10,000/student/year. You are taxed enough. You have given enough. It’s time for them to begin acting like fiscally responsible public servants.

To end on a slightly different tone, I know there are some good people working in government schools. I know they are fighting the state’s progressive socialist indoctrination of the kids. If these good people can’t show how their efforts are making this district more supportive of parental rights and traditional American values, it will be very difficult to convince the opposition that a state takeover of the schools to force a balanced budget is such a bad thing.

J. Dyer is a Ramona resident.

Related posts:

  1. Money management, not money, is the issue
  2. What is the long-term fiscal plan for Ramona schools?
  3. Schools are poised for a new beginning
  4. District declares impasse in teacher talks
  5. Survey shows support for a school bond

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Feb 28 2014. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Comments for “Don’t fall for the guilt trip”

  1. guest

    Pure drivel. At least the district had some statistics. You didn’t mention a single source in your “data”. You just use a lot of buzz words to get people worked up for no reason. “Social engineering driven institution”? Did you hurt yourself thinking that one up? Where did you get “progressive socialist indoctrination”? Maybe you should go campaigning with that draft dodging, aging rock star, racist Ted Nugent. He could use some of your keen intellect. By the way, Ramona is the third highest performing school district in area, trailing only Poway and San Marcos. They are doing their job.

    • Ramonan

      Interesting you state Dyer "didn't mention a single source for the 'data'." You then conclude with a citation of Ramona's ranking as 'third highest performing school district in area, trailing only Poway and San Marcos'. You cite no source in your 'data', yet you accuse Dyer of not citing sources.

      It is perfectly acceptable to disagree with comentary of others in a factual and non-inflamatory manner, but not in a denigrating manner as you have.

      I suspect, from your comments as well as comments on other submittals to the Sentinel, that Ramona is in for another contentious, devisive year -courtesy of RUSD.

      How sad.

  2. guest

    J Dyer…you sound very conservative. and as a conservative you should be appalled that any state interference in our local government/community and should be stopped at all cost.

  3. JimC

    And, guest, you sound like a school district employee who is afraid that somebody is speaking out against the taxpayer funded "gravy train" those in public education have been riding on for decades. The finer points of statistics can be argued but there is no rational argument to suggest the district has made sound financial decisions or has lived within its means. I have read a lot of comments that suggest our property values will decrease should the state take over the schools – where is the source for those statements and where is your call for naming those sources? It cuts both ways.

    As for your socialist indoctrination challenge – are you kidding me? Anybody who has taken an introductory Economics class can recognize that J. Dyer is 100% on point. When was the last time somebody failed and was held back? Islamic sensitivity and Christian hostility. The complete lack of recognition of the different capabilities of students because "we're all equal". What percentage of employees from the educational establishment vote Democrat (it is certainly nowhere near 50/50)? All of this is the hallmark of the progressive agenda and it is alive and well in our schools.

    The bottom line is this – we can continue to make excuses for the disaster that is RUSD or we can demand more. I don't know if the community would be better or worse off with the district under state control. What I am certain of is giving the district more money guarantees the status quo.

  4. guest

    So Ramona Unified is a Muslim brotherhood that needs to fail children so more teachers will vote for republicans? Is that what you are saying? Are you a product of the Ramona School district? If so, I would say you are 100% right. We need to start over.

    • JimC

      Guest, that may be one of the most ignorant posts I've ever read. Perhaps whatever school district you came from should have done a better job teaching reading comprehension and logic so that you would have the capability to understand and comment intelligently. And before you post a stupid rant attempting to attack me, yes, I am a product of this district. I went on to earn a bachelors and masters degree in business. I have been a director of finance for two very large organizations, the latest with nearly $3 billion in revenue. I have been responsible for ensuring efficient operations and profitability for both organizations and have been intimately involved with preparing both for bond issuances. So, when I approach a discussion about finance and what an organization needs to succeed, I don't approach it from my lower backside – can you claim the same? What are your credentials? I suspect, in lieu of anything to substantiate your opinions, either by way of facts or qualifications, you prefer to take a phrase out of context (I'd spell out the point I was making, but I'm sure it would be lost on you) rather than bring any intellect to the conversation. In fact, you make the case that education has failed us all.

    • CA Smith

      Another straw man argument. No one said that Ramona Unified is a Muslim Brotherhood. No one said anything about teachers voting for Republicans. No one made any statement about failing students causing teachers to vote for Republicans. You postulate these false statements because you can attack them successfully. That is the basis of the straw man argument. You don't dare discuss the true issues, so you make up things that you can argue against. These are the tactics of someone who knows that they are in the wrong, and who does not respect the audience they are addressing.

  5. Ramona Resident

    If people like guest are who vote in Ramona then we're in a lot of trouble! Hopefully not everybody is so willing to open their checkbooks and empty their minds.

  6. Jane Tanaka MD

    The school districts in California are paid approximately $5200 per student per year…if the student has perfect attendance. … not 8 to 10K per student per year, ( according to the SD Union Tribune.) It the next several years, it will increase slightly for ESL students and students who qualify for school lunch program.
    It is not guilt tripping, but simple fact that RUSD is the ONLY school district in San Diego County that has never passed a school bond. Other communities have recognized the need to do so. I would vote for a bare bones bond, just to pay off the C.O.P. , and RUSD would still have to be responsible in making ends meet otherwise.
    To allow insolvency to occur would be even more financially irresponsible, and would take on additional tens of millions of dollars of interest owed then to the State.

    • JimC

      The residents of Ramona have not passed a bond because we do not trust the district to use our money wisely. We have been down this road time and time again – no talk from the district about cost efficiencies or school site consolidations. We need RUSD to demonstrate that they are prepared to live within their means first, then we can talk about a bond. Selling property is just a stop-gap and is not the answer to sustaining financial viability. The bond is a stop-gap as well. Until we see the district address costs, there can be no trust from the electorate. It's as simple as that, and I am frankly shocked that the district does not address the cost issues loud and clear to demonstrate their good faith.

      As for a state take over, do we know property values will decrease? Just because they did in Watts or some other LA hellhole at the same time prices dropped across the nation is no certainty they will drop here as a result of the district defaulting. Facts to substantiate those claims can help make a compelling argument to fund the COP.

    • Invested in Ramona

      Not a fair comparison on Best Schools, Mr. Dyer. Compare the student enrollment, %age takin AP exams (100% at #1 school vs 38%), implies this Santa Cruz school of 500 students is for AP kids only. Twenty-five percent of our 1900 students are economically disadvantaged vs their 5% of <500.

  7. guest

    Jim, thanks for your resume. I'm not currently hiring. I also don't want the school district to be based on a six sigma factory churning out cookie cutter tea party apologists. Ill be voting for the bond. It will pass, so break out your checkbook.

    • JimC

      I noticed you did not respond to any of the points or questions. Your silence there speaks volumes. The district counts on the uninformed to keep them on the gravy train. It looks like they have succeeded with at least one voter.

      • guest

        Yes, I'm sure the district has a plan to subjugate the voters. That is surely their intention. Maybe they hired the crew who filmed the moon landing in a Hollywood studio to write the bond.

  8. guest
    If the state takes over, do they force us to take a loan even if we don't pass a bond? According to what they did in Inglewood, CA the answer is yes. If we don't fix this ourselves I think we are going to have bigger problems. Do we really think Jerry Brown is going to rein in the spending if the state takes over? Why doesn't the sentinel publish the schools budget in detail so everyone can see exactly where the money goes. I would like to see two spreadsheets side by side. One without a bond, and were we are headed, and another with a bond. Stop the banter and give us the facts. Show me the money!

  9. Honest Ramona Resident

    Your condescension toward our teachers is disgusting.

    Do you think the schools are well-equipped? Do you really think our teachers are well-paid? Passing a bond will hardly make us financially secure, but it gives our children a chance to compete against every other district in the county. We must fund our schools. Your talking points are straight from that TV channel commonly known as Faux News.

    The logic you espouse is that by reducing the funding and choking the schools for money we can instill better governance and some type of miraculous improvement. Obviously, you would prefer to pay no taxes for the good of our society. Your references to “government schools” seems quite paranoid. Last time I checked we all still have the freedom to vote and the majority has elected both Governor Brown and President Obama. What are you really upset about, our schools, or the changing of America to a more multicultural, multi-ethnic society that values education at least as much as so-called conservatives value the almighty dollar.

    • Guest

      Kind of frightening that a majority voted for Brown and Obama. How has that worked out or is everything still Bush's fault? America changing, how has that worked out? Well, if you are for pot stores opening up everywhere, more food stamps, the IRS targeting groups opposed to Obama's agenda, and ballots in 100 different foreign languages, I guess change is good.

      As for teachers, lets not forget that their teachers union is opposed to school choice. Their union refuses to consider performance based compensation for their members. Their union buys the votes of our "representatives" in order to maintain their own political power. Maybe the teachers are part of the problem…

      • Honest Resident

        Talk about right wing talking points, whew!

        I never mentioned Bush, but he DID crash the economy! Glad that Iraq thing worked out.
        Nor did I mention pot stores but you've shown your fears quite easily. Food stamps, yes, I'm for helping my fellow Americans when the times are tough. This country helps It's own people. Why are you against that? Please don't believe that a 1% fraud rate is something so horrific as to preclude helping our fellow citizens. There's always bad apples.

        If you believe that political groups should operate tax-exempt, then I'm sure you hate the IRS, too. No surprises there.

        What's wrong with 100 different languages for our ballot if they are all spoken by Americans? Talk about being unpatriotic.

        I'm not a union member, they are not part of my industry, but I recognize that unions have had a lot to do with the improvement of the work environment for all Americans. Check your history on that. Your use of quotes around the word "representatives" shows that your candidate has lost and your way to refuse to acknowledge a duly-elected member of gov't is deny they are OUR representatives. There's no need for quotes, just get out and vote next election.

        But bring some fresh ideas to the table, don't just be a rock thrower .

        • Guest

          You asked about food stamps – I am very much in favor of helping my fellow Americans. Food stamps and welfare were intended to be a help up, not a way of life. Unfortunately, at some point, politicians figured out that they could garner votes from a sector of the electorate in exchange for free stuff. Problem is, there is no such thing as a free lunch so those of us who work see our checks whittled away dollar by dollar to fund entitlements, all to keep politicians in power. California has one of the highest effective tax rates in the nation, and that doesn't include all the hidden taxes we pay as fees, etc. During the Depression, the CCC built parks, schools, and roads by employing the able bodied to work on these projects in exchange for assistance. Why doesn't that happen today? Could it be because unions would lose out on jobs, and those unions support elected officials?

          Finally, why am I not surprised that, 6 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus spending later, the economy is still a mess and its Bush's fault? Other than the Depression, name one economic downturn that has lasted this long?

  10. Real

    School vouchers anyone?

  11. Sorf of a newbie

    I may not have lived here long, but enough to become disgusted at the cheap shots and personal insults being slung back and forth. It accomplished NOTHING. Seriously, folks, keep focused on the subject and stop insulting people because their political and social views differ from yours. This school district is in dire straights. Mr. Dyer put a lot of thought into this piece. I don’t agree with him on many points, but I’d rather find a solution to our mutual problem than start slinging mud. The whole progressive socialist agenda thing he talks about? Yeah, he’s a conservative. I’m a moderate and I’m also dismayed at some of the counter-intuitive principles of the various educational unions and state agencies. However, I’m going to pick my battles here. For now, I choose to focus my energy on addressing Ramona’s financial dilemma. We can pay off the loan with a bond and keep pressure on the district to make sensible restructuring decisions, we can have the county board of Ed force painful cuts to keep a balanced budget, or we can succumb to state takeover. The state will pay off our debt, then force a repayment loan on the district that will require sweeping cuts and restructuring without regard for community or school board input. Parents are screaming about another 8 positions being cut at the school board meeting tonight? That will be nothing compared to what will come. So we either replay the loan or replay the loan, It’s just a matter of how we as a community choose to go about it. Please continue to voice your opinions because good ideas might come from them, but for heaven’s sake stop the useless squabbling.

  12. guest

    I agree with your statement with one caveat. I am fairly new to the area too, but, I wasnt born the day I moved here. I have lived all over the world and my voice and experience are just as valuable as any long time resident. No disrespect, it is good to know the history of the issues, but so is moving forward. As a parent and tax payer my voice in Ramona issues is worth as much as a life long resident.

  13. Mom

    Honest Ramona Resident- Yes the teachers are Very Well Paid! Not to mention having the summer off, free healthcare and pensions. You can look at the pay scale and see just how well they are paid!

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