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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back To School

Last Thursday our girls, woke up, put on their blue skorts and white shirts and headed back to school. A day filled with excitement, nerves, anticipation and some relief to get started on another year of academic achievement, personal growth and homework.

This year our elementary school campus mirrors many in the Long Beach Unified School District, and other districts across the state, because we have fewer adults on the campus. Adults that used to provide library services, nursing, physical education, instrumental or vocal music lessons, computer instruction, counseling, janitorial services, and teachers aides to name a few. Budget cuts from the district have resulted in staffing cuts on school campuses and principals have juggled what small portions of their budgets they can control to keep cuts out of the classroom and core academic instruction and push the budget cuts into the "ancillary" services.

Long Beach Unified School District, and other districts up and down the state, are cutting their budgets because of the almost criminal budgeting processes that have been overseen by the California Legislature controlled by the Democrats and signed by Governors Gray Davis, another Democrat, and Arnold Schwarzenegger who ran as a Republican. Each of the budgets the past ten years has required anywhere from three to five Republicans to cross party lines to vote for the budget so there is fault on both parties for the obscene give aways the past decade to public employees in the form of salaries and benefits. Those give aways have resulted in take aways from our students. While prison guards have seen their salaries balloon our school has lost its nursing service so for five hundred or more students there is a nurse on campus 1 day a week.

While the Legislature has doubled the spending from the State it has taken billions away from our school districts while increasing the number of mandated programs and services that school districts must offer--whether needed in the district or not. So while the number of staffers who work for the Legislators and their committees who make well over $100,000 a year, plus benefits, has exploded, many campuses across the Long Beach Unified School District have no Physical Education.

Our campus is not alone, our childrens' campus reflects campuses throughout Long Beach Unified School District and up and down the state. District Administrators and principals are making difficult decisions as to who and what must go so our kids can learn the core subjects. In the meantime parents are scrambling to back fill funding for what they consider essential services and prioritizing their fundraising targets.

Last year our PTA was told that Patrick Henry Elementary would not have Ms. Roberts for the 2008-2009 school year. Ms. Roberts runs the computer lab and teaches our children how to use the computers, research on-line, how to do PowerPoint presentations. We asked how much to keep her and were told we would need to raise approximately $60,000 to keep her on campus 5 days a week. We began to fund raise because as parents we consider computer training and instruction in this day and age to be close to a core service. Thankfully we have so far raised funds to keep her four days a week, for this year, but what about next? It led us to establish the Henry Technology Endowment, realizing that funding for computer equipment and instruction would not be coming back to our district and campus in the near future. Why?

Why will we not see money coming back to our districts and campuses to fund and re-start services and programs that have been cut? Because the politicians in Sacramento have no incentive to cut the payments extracted through contracts to SEIU employees or other groups that have contributed to their campaigns and their party. We will not see any change because voters will continue to vote for the same individuals to fill the same seats and when they are term limited out of office you will vote for the person who represents the same party as the last one.

Long Beach Unified School District will find out later today if it will once again win the prestigious Broad Prize for Excellence in Public Schools. Since its inception in 2002 Long Beach Unified has been a finalist for the prize five times, winning it in 2003, including this year. As the Broad committee has observed, Long Beach Unified is an outstanding distrcit. Supervisor Chris Steinhauser, the Board of Education, the principals, the teachers, the support staff, the parents and the students overwhelming make positive contributions to the education of our children. Despite losing tens of millions of dollars in funding from the state budgets the past decade.

Our state collects more and more taxes, our state spends more and more money, our state sends less and less back to the taxpayers' school districts to educate their children. And yet the political intelligence of the California voters is such that they will re-elect again and again the people responsible for this broken budget process that has rewarded the public employees unions at the expense of our childrens' futures. Some would say the politicians actions are almost criminal rewarding political donors at the expense of citizens; I would say the proposed criminal act is with the voters for rewarding them with their votes.

Who are these people? Well for those who represent the Long Beach Unified School District here are the members of the California Assembly and Senate who voted to cut your school nurse, your PE instructor, your librarian, your language arts, your music, your computer lab, your counselor, your science camp:


Bonnie Lowenthal (D) 54th Assembly District (click here for campaign donors)

Warren Furutani (D) 55th Assembly District (click here for campaign donors)


Rod Wright (D) 25th Senate District (click here for campaign donors)

Alan Lowenthal (D) 27th Senate District (click here for campaign donors)

Jenny Oropeze (D) 28th Senate District (click here for campaign donors)

Remember these names in 14 months when you go to vote...if you go to vote.
Who are they representing, the list of voters or the list of campaign donors? Who is taking money from your child's school and funneling it to those on their donor lists?

Don't live in Long Beach but want to find out who is responsible for taking funding from your district? Here are links for State Senators and for Assembly Members.

Being a responsible parent also means being a responsible voter, doing homework, studying for the election and doing your best on the final test: casting your votes.

UPDATE: It was announced today that Aldine Independent School District in Texas won the $1 million Broad Prize for 2009. Long Beach Unified School District as a finalist was awarded $250,000 for scholarships. Congratulations to everyone in the District for this accomplishment despite having no support or prospects for future support from Sacramento.


Julie J said...

Hi Dennis - First of all I miss your articles from the LB Post. I just wrote Ryan a letter asking that you return. Obviously I don't know the entire story, but it would be great if it could work out for both parties.

Anyway, regarding the funding for teaching positions, my 10 year old attends Kettering Elem and over the past four years we have raised over $80k to maintain our technology program in addition to the 30k that the PTA spent on new cmputers. The madness has to stop. I hve been to see both Lowenthals about this and of course they agreed that education is important, yet there is no leadership. The parents of the LBUSD need to start making some noise. The LBUSD does some pretty good things with little support from Sacramento, but I think parents need to start pushing back. I'm hearing rumblings that some schools are not going to do major fundraising any more...they are going to volunteer their time and other resources. It's time for the Parents to go on strike and let the legislatre know that they cannot take us for granted any more. LA has a parents union...maybe it's time for Long Beach to start a parents union.

Thanks for all you do to bring attention to this very important topic - the kids are the future - we better get on it - they deserve to have the best we can give them and no less.

Dennis C Smith said...

Julie: Thank you for your comments. We don't need parents to strike, we need them to pay attention when they are voting. Both Lowenthals are part of the problem, they are part of the core of the Democratic Party in the state that has driven every budget the past 10 years and are beholden to the teachers' unions--and every other union. We will continue down this path as long as our fellow citizens continue voting like sheep.