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.