Craig DeLuz

Writer, Actor, Public Speaker, Media Personality
Posts Tagged ‘Education’

California School Districts head down familiar path on debt and taxes

grant_high_school1I have always believed that if voters are going to be allowed to selectively choose to tax a specific segment of our community, that vote should require a supermajority. In the case of school bonds, that used to be the case. Not any longer.

In a recent Sacramento Bee commentary, Ed Ring points out how a change in the voter thresh-hold has opened the door to the potential abuse of taxpayers:

Every few years in November, moviegoers are treated to another James Bond film filled with deception, mystery and mayhem. Judging by the previews, the upcoming installment, “Spectre,” will be no exception. But as more voters are learning, Agent 007 isn’t the only Bond to wreak havoc during election season. In California, education bonds have buried taxpayers in $200 billion of debt to bondholders through 2055.

Now, a report from the California Policy Center explains the consequences of this bond debt and reveals the playbook used to pass these dangerous schemes. Like a rigged game of high-stakes poker, taxpayers may have a seat at the table, but for years haven’t stood a chance against the politicians, construction companies and investors colluding for political and financial gain. By shining a light on this vested interest problem, citing cautionary tales and outlining recommendations for reform, this report offers Californians the tools to fight back.

If your district has proven to your voters to be fiscally responsible and present a solid plan as to how the bond money will be spent, voters will approve the bond. In Robla, we passed our first bond in over 23 years with over 72% voter support. So, it can be done.

In fact, prior to Prop. 39 more than half of all school bond measures passed. As pointed out in this article, today 80 percent of all school bonds are approved. And I think we can all agree that not all of those bond proposals were worthy of passage.

In 2000, passage of Proposition 39 ushered in a new era of borrowing. The measure lowered the required threshold for passage of local education bonds from two-thirds to 55 percent. Since then, 80 percent of these bonds – 911 out of 1,147 proposed – have passed, totaling $110.4 billion in debt. Previously, these bonds had just a 50-50 chance of winning approval.

Let us not forget why the 2/3 vote thresh-hold was passed in the first place: because voters believed that state and local politicians abused their taxing authority. Unfortunately, the old  adage is true, “Those who do not learn from history  are doomed to repeat it.”

With this lower threshold, school districts have become more aggressive in pursuing construction projects. Combined with vague language and suppressed information (for example, projections of assessed property valuation and school enrollment are not easily accessible), voters are served a poisonous bond-measure cocktail, resulting in $200 billion of bond debt for California.

The case of Poway Unified School District is instructive. In 2008, the district asked voters to authorize borrowing $179 million to finance capital improvements, and the measure passed with 63.9 percent support. Today, thanks to controversial debt-financing practices that resulted in ballooning interest, property owners face $1.27 billion in debt service through 2051 – all thanks to a $179 million bond measure that garnered less than two-thirds support. Although district voters held school board members accountable for their actions, the burden on taxpayers cannot be undone.

Elsewhere, districts have claimed that Proposition 39’s ambiguous language gives them free rein to spend construction bond dollars. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s failed technology program provides a recent example. The LAUSD purchased iPads with proceeds from several construction bonds approved before the gadgets were even invented, leaving future generations on the hook for technology that may not even be around for them.

So, note to my fellow school board members: Let us not go down that path again. Voters have proven once that they are more than willing to take our authority away as we prove to be untrustworthy. And sadly, the true losers will be our kids.

How Lawsuit Abuse Harms Education

As a School Board President for the Robla School District in Northern California, Craig points out that even when a lawsuit is clearly bogus, it is often cheaper for the district to settle outside of court instead of fighting it — encouraging more shakedown lawsuits against schools and reducing already scarce funding for education.

California’s Race to the Bottom

Currently, the State Legislature is in its Fifth Extraordinary Session, which was called by Governor Schwarzenegger to implement reforms to our educational system that would make our state eligible to compete for over $400 million in federal “Race To The Top” education funds. But, when given an opportunity to make substantive change for the better in California’s education system, the California Assembly’s Education Committee chose to side with those who have destroyed the system in the first place.
On a 6-5-6 vote they shot down SB X5 1 (Romero), which was a bipartisan effort supported by scores of education advocates, school districts, educators and business leaders. Conversely, they approved AB X5 8 (Brownley), which is little more than a union backed attack on California charter schools.
Romero’s SB X5 1 was largely about bringing greater accountability and flexibility to education in California. It removed the cap placed on the number of charter schools that could be established; allowed student performance data to be utilized in the evaluation of their teachers; established an “Open Enrollment Act” which permitted students to opt out of failing schools; required state education leaders to intervene in the California’s worst performing schools; permitted differential pay for teachers; and allowed for parent initiated school reform.
On the other hand Brownley’s AB X5 8 does the bare minimum to qualify California for Race to the Top funds, while at the same time takes a big swipe at charter schools, one of few education reforms that has actually made positive a difference in California. It puts in place new rules and regulations making it easier to deny successful charter schools the opportunity to expand or even to have their charter renewed. In effect, this bill makes it easier to get rid of a successful charter school than to get rid of a bad teacher.
One only need look at the support and opposition to Romero’s measure to know the true story. The list of supporters for SB X5 1 was extensive and diverse. Conservative and liberal advocacy groups; education and business interests; Black and Latino community groups all lined up in support of what they saw as real reform. The only opposition to the bill was the union controlled Education Coalition members and other public employee union groups. Romero’s bill was so comprehensive, that Republicans and Democrats alike voted for it. And most of those who did not vote for it couldn’t even bring themselves to vote against it; choosing instead to abstain or not vote at all for fear of reprisals by the California Teachers Association.
Through it’s actions, the Assembly Education Committee made it clear that the rights and responsibility parents have to make decisions about what is in the best interest of their children comes second to the power of the state to control their children’s future; that status quo will trump real reform; that our children come in a distant second to the powerful union lead special interest groups. One can only wonder how the Democratic members of this committee will explain to their constituents why it is that their children’s schools, which are the most in need of reform, will continue to wallow in the culture of mediocrity.
Too many of our children are being failed by our public school system. If there was ever a time to set aside partisan differences, this is it. There is no greater crisis facing California for which the solution is so clearly evident. Accountability, flexibility and increased parental involvement are the keys to true education reform. SB X5 1 was written with this in mind. And nonetheless, it was summarily rejected by the legislature; by those who would put the special interests ahead of our children.
The voters of California are sick and tired of being sick and tired and it is actions like this that will continue to fuel the fire of a citizen’s revolt against the establishment. But it does not appear that the liberal controlled California Legislature is capable of much else.
Welcome to the revolution!

Power to the Parents!

Thanks to the pressure put on by parents, community members and pro-family activists the San Juan School Board voted 3-2 to not implement a new policy that would allow them to release students for “confidential medical services” without even notifying their parents.
“As a former teacher, current parent of two high school age children and a fellow school board member I know what you are going through in making this decision. I know that parents and voters have entrusted you make educational decisions for this district.” Craig DeLuz who is a candidate for the State Assembly in California’s Fifth District told the board, “But it is completely unacceptable for any board to take the power and trust we place in them and use it to undermine our rights and responsibilities as parents.”
Also speaking before the board were known conservative activists, Karen England with the Capitol Resource Institute who made it clear that other area school districts have opted to require parental notification and/or permission before a student is released for confidential medical services. “So far no school districts have been sued.” according to England. Karen went on to point out that the author of the legislation being sited as the reason for the policy change never intended for the bill to require a change in school district policy. In fact, she presented a 1987 letter from the assemblyman which stated that his intent was merely to require school districts to notify parents of what their policy was in regards to releasing students for such services.
Brad Dacus with the Pacific Justice Institute provided a bit of a legal seminar on the issue, as even the General Counsel for the district seemed to be misinformed as to what the law actually said. “The law say that school districts ‘may’ have such policies; not ‘shall'”
Parents, pro-life activists, community members and the media all looked on as the board, which was clearly uncomfortable with all of the new found attention narrowly voted down the new policy. Board members Larry Masuoka, Greg Paulo and Lucinda Lutgen all voted down the new policy, while Board President Richard Luaney and Assembly District 5 candidate Larry Miles voted to keep parents in the dark.
“It was fact that the people showed up that made the board do the right thing.” DeLuz declared “That’s why I was here. Because we need leaders who are going to show up.”

The Great Education Debate- Funny but true! (Video)

One of the things I like about british humor is how “in your face” they can be when it comes to pointing out stupidity.

This video aptly demonstrates just how out of touch Educarats (Education Bureaucrats) are when it comes to understanding and meeting the educational needs of our children.

The Great Education Debate- Funny but true! (Video)

One of the things I like about british humor is how “in your face” they can be when it comes to pointing out stupidity.

This video aptly demonstrates just how out of touch Educarats (Education Bureaucrats) are when it comes to understanding and meeting the educational needs of our children.

Racial Preferences… Help or Hinderance?

According to the LA Times, UCLA Professor, Richard Sanders will be publishing a study that statistically shows what I have always believed. Racial preferences have too often taken intelligent, potentially successful students and placed them in situations where they have not been adequately prepared to be successful.
When I started school at California State University, Chico there were a total of 70 Black students in the freshman class, most of which were affirmative action students. When I graduated five years later, about 10% of those students graduated with me. I didn’t understand why so few had made it. They were just as smart and talented as I was. It wasn’t until I became a tutor for a program called Summer Bridge and worked with incoming freshmen, many of whom were affirmative action placements, that the truth of affirmative action became clear.Many of these students were not able to do basic mathematical computations, such as adding, multiplying or dividing fractions. Additionally, few knew how to write a basic five-paragraph essay, a skill necessary for most college level courses. This is not to say that they were not capable of learning these skills. Rather, they had either, never been exposed to them or the importance of perfecting them had not been adequately imparted. All students experience a certain culture shock when they go to college. Now add to the mix the fact that many of these students come from high schools who’s ethnic and cultural makeup is dramatically different from that of the average college campus. What 18 year-old kid wouldn’t want to return to the comforts and familiar surroundings of home. And as if these students weren’t dealing with enough insecurities, wait until they find out that they have been setup for failure. Like a contractor asked to build a fence, but is given no wood, no hammer or any nails; these students are not given the proper tools to compete at the college level.

The problem is not Affirmative Action, but what it has become. Rather than making sure that ALL students have an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO SUCCEED in college, we have set many of those students up to fail by not making sure all students have the tools necessary to succeed once they there.

Everybody wants to take the shortcuts to solve the problem. Conservatives say to eliminate the program. Liberals simply want to throw more money at it. The answer is far more complex than politicians in either of these groups will admit. There is not a level playing field when it comes to access to higher education in this state. Black, Latino & Native American students tend to come from poorer communities with a quality of education that is worse than many third world nations. This must be addressed. But putting bright, potentially successful young men and women in positions where they are not prepared to succeed is not the answer. It is important that we not lower the bar for these students, but provide these students with whatever resources and assistance they need to meet these standards.

In other words… Let us not seek to improve their circumstances. Let us seek to help them improve themselves, so that they can overcome their circumstances.