View From Lodi, CA Pittsburgh, PA: Lodi School Budget Deficit Directly Tied To Immigration
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Although I look back with fondness at the twenty-five years that I spent working for the Lodi Unified School District, I'm glad to be out.

Imagine working in the atmosphere that exists now, with a pending $30 million budget deficit that likely will result in teacher layoffs or mandated furlough days.

In the worst case, if Lodi Unified's budget isn't balanced by June 30, the district could go into receivership and be run by the state.

If that happens, working conditions can only worsen. Imagine your business being run by the same people in Sacramento who have created California's $20 billion deficit!

Reporter Natalie Feulner's story in the News-Sentinel announcing the budget crisis promoted the usual reactions from outraged readers: cut administrative and teacher salaries, eliminate physical education classes and perform comprehensive independent audits on how the district spends its money. [Lodi Unified School District Faces a $30 Million Deficit, by Natalie Feulner, Lodi News-Sentinel, January 14, 2010]

All agree, however, that the crucial time has arrived and that painful steps must be taken.

Feulner's story prompted me to visit the California State Department of Education's website to find out what's gone wrong.

The first thing that jumped out at me is that the district's Hispanic enrollment is over 44 percent, with 11,665 students.

Of that total, 28 percent or 8,400 are English-learners. [ note: An English Learner is a child who can't speak English. They used to be called Limited English Proficiency students, which also meant a child who can't speak English. ]

Defining "Hispanic" for the sake of my column is tricky. In some cases, those students are American citizens. Others may be legal immigrants and yet still others illegal aliens.

One certain thing is that most of the 11,665 Hispanics are in Lodi because of lax federal immigration enforcement for the past fifty years. The majority are of Mexican heritage, most of whom had parents or grandparents whose arrived in America illegally.

What's evolved over a half century is that Mexican nationals have had easy, instant access to California and, therefore, its schools.

California school districts, Lodi included, have experienced more Mexican student influx than any other state.

Because the in-migration predominantly is illegal, I'm focusing on the cost of Mexican enrollment instead of the Asian populations which, for the most part, entered legally.

Had there been immigration enforcement during these past decades, less financial strain would have been put on California's K-12 schools. Instead of developing special English as a second language classes or remedial reading, teachers could concentrate on traditional subjects like math and history.

But that's all hindsight. What's left for Lodians and Lodi Unified School District is to come to grips with the consequences of the federal neglect of immigration policy for a half of a century.

Assuming an average annual cost of $8,000 to educate each Lodi student, the 11,665 Hispanics cost taxpayers about $93 million per annum—three times the projected budget shortfall.

As I wrote earlier, it's too late to do anything about it now.

But here's an interesting thought. During my years at the district, my colleagues and I often discussed what California taxpayers obligation to educate foreign nationals illegally in the U.S. should be.

Many of my fellow teachers thought that the children should not be punished for the transgressions of their parents. Others added that in the long run, California loses if we don't educate all of our young. Still another group contended that educating Mexican children is Mexico's obligation.

In light of Lodi Unified's budget crisis, I would put this forward this analysis to the 1,633 certificated teachers, administrators and pupil services personnel: if you were to underwrite your annual share of the total $93 million cost to educate Hispanic students, you would have to come up with about $57,000 each.

My simple exercise in multiplication and division will be perceived in some quarters as racist. I call it waking up to the fact that California cannot educate the world.

Because of California's ruinous economy, the pressure from Mexican migration has eased. Some are going home and many fewer are arriving.

The migratory pause would be an excellent time for the Obama administration to get serious about immigration enforcement.

Although Obama has shown no interest in that, in light of his plunging popularity ratings, he would do well to consider it.

Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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