View From Lodi, CA: Immigration-Driven School Construction—No End In Sight
November 18, 2005, 04:00 AM
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Measure Y, the $4 billion Los Angeles Unified School District bond issue about which I wrote two weeks ago, passed overwhelmingly with 66% of the vote.

The proceeds will be used to build 25 new elementary schools as well as to upgrade older middle and high schools.

Even though Los Angeles voters have passed nearly $10 billion in bond issues since 1997 that enabled the district to construct more than 40 new schools, more are needed. 

By 2012, a total of 160 additional schools will be required.

In a quasi-apologetic statement to the community, Glenn Gritzner, special assistant to LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer said: "The previous bonds have gotten us a step closer to our goals. They are all pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This is the final piece."  [LA Voters Pass $3.9 Billion School Measure, Associated Press, November 9, 2005]

One thing I know for sure: Gritzner is wrong.

Measure Y is not the "final piece" or the next to the "final piece" or even the next to the next "final piece."

LAUSD, like every other school district in California, will continue to go back to the taxpayer well indefinitely and without any guarantee that the end product—education—will ever improve.

While I have no financial stake in the outcome of Los Angeles tax issues, I do have strong emotional ties to my native California in general and to Lodi specifically.

I would like to think that we're on the right track.

Our own Lodi Unified School District, according to Superintendent Bill Huyett in his 2005 State of the District address, announced the need for ten new elementary, one middle and one high school.

This comes directly on the heels of Measure K that generated $109 million for new school construction. (Lodi Unified Progressing Despite Challenges, Bill Huyett, Lodi News-Sentinel, April 4, 2005)

To be sure, demographics warrant the additions.  In north Stockton alone, 30,000 new homes will bring 15,000 new students into the district in the next few years.

And according to the Great Valley Center, San Joaquin County's population, at 570,000 in 2000, will reach 1.7 million in 2050.

You know what that means…schools, schools and more schools.

California K-12 education is at a critical juncture. Building more schools is an inevitability given the population growth.

But there is a less discussed variable that would alleviate much of the pressure to expand, increase the dismal California graduation rate and insure that those who do graduate are better qualified.

Everyone who has a stake in California's children—school administrators, parents, teachers, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and President George W. Bush—should work to end the illegal immigration that has had a remarkably detrimental impact on our schools.

Less illegal immigration would allow the state's population to gradually level off instead of continuing to soar into the stratosphere.

That, in turn, would give the beleaguered taxpayer a break from his steady diet of school bond issues.

And last but not least in the classroom, it would free teachers to focus on the children who are already here and struggling.

Why isn't that a plausible plan?

What has been true for decades is that poverty and low educational achievement are closely linked. Educators often cite as a major goal reducing the achievement gap between Hispanic and white and Asian students.

Worthy as that is, it is simply not possible as long as significant numbers of low performing students are added to the K-12 enrollment every year.

The stakes are high. According to the San Jose-based National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the per capita income in California is poised to sink by 11% over the first two decades of the 21st Century as the workforce shifts from mostly white (71 percent in 1980) to mostly Hispanic (61 percent by 2020).

Incomes will drop because fewer will have the academic qualifications to get and hold better jobs.

Since, according to Census 2000, 52 percent of Hispanics in the 25-to-64 age group do not have high-school diplomas, they are locked into low paying jobs. (Per Capita Income in State Is Expected to Sink Over 20 Years, Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, November 9th, 2005)

And their children will suffer, too. In 2004, the Rand Corporation released its study titled, "A Matter of Class." According to Rand, the most important variables in a child's education are socioeconomic: parental education levels and occupational status, family income and neighborhood poverty.

[JOENOTE TO VDARE.COM READERS: The Rand Study is comic in that it specifically claims that academic success is not based on immigration status. But what many immigrants have in common—a conclusion not drawn by Rand—are the reasons cited above for poor school performance: parental education, family low income, poverty, etc.]

If you don't think the current system is crazy, consider these facts. The Harvard Civil Rights Project reported that about 50 percent of Hispanics who enroll in high school drop out before graduation. Each year, dropouts cost California about $14 billion. And, again every year, 1,224 non-graduating high school students land in the California penal system.

What I am telling you, in a nutshell, is that we're spinning our wheels. For things to get better, school enrollment must level off.

And then California, instead of being the educational providers to the world, could focus on the students already here to prepare them for the challenges of the 21st Century.

[CLOSING JOENOTE TO VDARE.COM READERS: One of California's leading experts in school bond financing and the impact of immigration on education is VDARE.COM contributor and Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, Lance Izumi.

Blaming failed education and immigration policies, Izumi offers this solution:

"Instead of blindly approving school bonds, Californians should demand the reform on legal immigration and the elimination of illegal immigration. And here's a word of caution to the White House and Congress: proposed amnesty for illegals will not help." [School Bond Onslaught Exposes Failed Policies, Lance Izumi, San Francisco Business Times, May 17, 2002]

Take it from someone (me) who is very close to the K-12 classroom scene: California public education has gone too far down the drain to be corrected any time soon. The place to start, however, in the unlikely event that political will makes a return, is by closing the border.]

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.