JOENOTE TO VDARE.COM READERS:
My Lodi News-Sentinel column this week deals with Los Angeles' Measure Y, another attempt to increase spending on the public schools. It focuses on educrat mismanagement, but VDARE.COM readers know that the outrageous costs of providing education to illegal aliens and the children of illegal aliens should really be dominating the argument. That Los Angeles taxpayers should be asked and expected to approve $4 billion in school bonds for a district wherein more than half of the 747,000 students are non-English speakers is a scandal.
Nevertheless, and predictably, the Los Angeles Times and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stand firmly behind Measure Y. [Rebuilding the Schools, Editorial, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2005; Villaraigosa Backs $3.9-Billion Bond for Schools, By Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times, October 13, 2005]
In his new book Fighting Immigration Anarchy, author and southland resident Dan Sheehy wrote about his 7th- 9th grade education at Columbus Junior High School.
Sheehy told me that as part of his research during 2004 he returned to his old school's neighborhood in Canoga Park.
According to Sheehy,
"I saw hundreds of school children and all were Hispanic. On a street corner across from the school, gang bangers and young teen girls who looked like streetwalkers, hung out. Hal Netkin told me that Canoga Park has some of the 'most notorious' Mexican gangs in the Valley. I drove through much of Canoga Park and found that virtually everyone was Hispanic and many signs were in Spanish."
The scene witnessed by Sheehy plays out at one campus after another throughout the LAUSD.
What happens with Measure Y next week will tell volumes about whether the ever-diminishing numbers of legal residents in Los Angeles can stem the tide of the ceaseless drain on their tax dollars generated by illegal aliens.
The most interesting ballot issue to watch on November 8 isn't any of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's controversial propositions.
Instead, turn your eyes to the southland where Los Angeles voters are being asked to approve Measure Y, a $4 billion school bond for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Those in favor say the "Y" stands for "yes." But those opposed claim that "Y" means "Yikes!"
LAUSD, whose $13 billion annual budget is larger than 20 of the 50 United States, is often referred to as the tail that wags the California public education dog.
Since 1997, Los Angeles voters have already approved four bond issues with an aggregate value of nearly $10 billion. With interest added, the total cost will reach $20 billion by maturity.
That is a stunning amount of money to ask Los Angeles taxpayers to underwrite. If passed, all these LAUSD bonds could cost the typical homeowner about $540 per year by 2009. For those who don't have children that attend public school, the debt level is especially burdensome.
As if that isn't bad enough, according to information posted on the League of Women Voters' Smart Voter.Org website, LAUSD has still not spent the money it raised through earlier bond issues.
So there is an understandable resistance, especially in this era of $2.75 a gallon gasoline, toward higher taxes especially when the proceeds are going to an institution synonymous with failure.
The pupils consistently score below grade average in reading and math. And the infamous Belmont Learning Center, into which LAUSD poured in $275 million, stands as a beacon for bureaucratic mismanagement. Belmont will never open its doors because it was built on a toxic waste dump.
The Belmont incident doesn't create much confidence that LAUSD can manage money or construction projects. In fact, the state controller Steve Wesley placed LAUSD on a watch list of districts that may not be able to meets its financial obligations.
Then there is the claim by the Full Disclosure Network that the LAUSD maintains ""a secret public financing operation whereby they quietly issue non-voter approved, tax-exempt bonds, mounting billions in public debt, and which is passed on to unsuspecting taxpayers for undefined projects."
Anthony Patchett, special district attorney and head of the LA County D.A.'s Belmont investigation, describes the LAUSD financing operation, known as the LAUSD Land Bank as a "pyramid scheme to defraud the voters."
LAUSD Chief Facilities Executive Jim Mc Connell confirms that the Land Bank is operational.
Given LAUSD's dismal history and assuming that another massive debt issue will not necessarily translate into greater academic achievement, voting yes on Measure Y will throw good money after bad.
Not only can't the school district produce its promised end product—education—but it is a bottomless money pit.
Let's be honest. If the LAUSD were a private institution, it would not be able to raise twenty-five cents in the money markets because it is bankrupt.
What the LAUSD needs instead of more money is the type of reorganization it would receive under bankruptcy protection.
The reasoning is simple. LAUSD is too big to do anything well. The district serves over one million children and adults each day within its boundaries. Included are 25 cities that cover 700 square miles.
Bob Hertzberg ran for Los Angeles Mayor earlier this year. One of his campaign pledges was to work for smaller school districts.
Said Hertzberg in support of his theory that a massive school district cannot possibly respond to the needs of its most at-risk students:
"Smaller administrations are faster-responding, more efficient, and more accountable to their clients-in this case, the people of Los Angeles. With strong oversight from parents and community school boards, neighborhood districts will be more effective and more frugal than Los Angeles Unified."
Substantial evidence exists indicating that smaller districts with smaller schools are better in almost every respect for students, parents and administrators. In his report, "The Impact of School Size," Virginia Tech University Professor Roger Ehrich found that smaller schools produce a higher quality of curriculum and more responsive as well as more involved students inside and outside the classroom.
And, on the other hand, Professor Ehrich's research found that large schools create atmospheres that lead to depersonalization, negativism, alienation, and ultimately truancy and dropouts.
Additional research about the benefits of smaller schools can be found on www.smallerschools.org
The trend across the U.S. is toward smaller schools. Chicago recently announced that it would close 60 of its worst performing schools and replace them with 100 smaller schools.
The LAUSD, as well as other large struggling districts, should take a lesson from Chicago. When, like the LAUSD, you're losing the race to provide quality education, the solution isn't $4 billion in additional debt to repeat the same mistakes.
The answer is smaller schools.
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.