Commentary By Donna Westfall – January 12, 2022

Lately, I’ve been wondering why we’re not getting a refund on our property taxes? For several years, I’ve been attending Del Norte School Board meetings sporadically to explain my rational about my expectations about education in public schools. Test scores tell me that our public school children are NOT getting a good education. What I’m witnessing is the creation of little Marxists.

The other day I was at a friends house. She’s in charge of reading 30 compositions prepared by 6th, 7th and 8th graders about the constitution. The US constitution and rights with the aim of awarding prizes.

I was appalled at the horrible spelling and lack of knowledge these children had about our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I recall telling the elected School Board members and Superintendent, Jeff Harris, I have high expectations. If students are not learning basics then something has to change. When my children were in public school, we told them anything under a “B” was unacceptable. They had to do their homework. They had to learn to spell, and read and write. We became disenchanted with the public school system in Los Angeles. We also didn’t like the Charter schools, so after moving to Santa Barbara County, we enrolled them in private schools where they got an excellent education. Those same children became adults, married, had children and home schooled their own kids….all doing well and above average.

Meanwhile, after watching what’s going on in Del Norte County, I don’t want to continue to pay for failure.

Per Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, “California spends a lot on education. Ever since the passage of Proposition 98 in 1988, which guarantees to education a minimum of 40% of the general fund, per-pupil spending on K-12 has risen faster than any other category of state appropriations. And yet, for all that new money, the state’s education monopoly continues its history of FAILURE to deliver a quality product.

California is quickly rising in the ranks in spending according to multiple metrics and we are now at least 17th highest in the United States. And many of these statistics are pre-pandemic, before the state plowed even more money into the system.

Where it excels in spending money, California lags in educational outcomes due to a clear hostility to meaningful education reforms. For decades, reformers have unsuccessfully advocated for more school choice, merit pay for teachers, advancement based on merit rather than seniority and the ability to fire bad teachers including some credibly accused of crimes against children.

The “reforms” coming out of the union-dominated Legislature will only make matters worse. The latest iteration of this is Senate Bill 830 by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, that would change the way schools are funded. Under current law, schools get financial support based on a formula that includes average daily attendance. This bill would eliminate daily attendance from the formula, and with it the financial incentive for school personnel to attempt to get students in the building.

This, mind you, comes after the state already froze funding to pre-pandemic levels to paper over historic declines in enrollment across the state these last two years.

But according to supporters of SB 830, the current system is unfair because it punishes low-income districts that have higher rates of absenteeism and truancy. It would seem to a rational person that, if a school is having a problem with absenteeism and truancy, it would be better to address those problems directly as opposed to hiding the problems and rewarding those schools with more money for fewer students.

As evidenced by the teachers’ unions’ hesitancy to return to the classroom, especially in the Los Angeles Unified School District, it is not a good idea to give teachers’ unions a financial incentive to reduce their workload by rewarding districts with high truancy rates.

This is just the latest example of California lawmakers applying a counterproductive solution to a problem, and their reflexive tendency to throw good money after bad.

We hope that those educators in well-performing schools where teachers and administrators work with students and parents to incentivize attendance push back against this proposal.

Schools should reward success, not failure. Our educational dollars should be funding students, not systems. And, if our public school system can’t fulfill its core mission, educating the next generation of Californians, maybe our education dollars should follow our students to a school that will – like a charter school or a private school.

Keep that in mind as two school-choice initiatives gather signatures in the coming months.

In addition to getting the 1% REPEAL of SALES TAX (Crescent City and Del Norte County) on the ballot hopefully in June 2022, there is a petition circulating in our town to sign for SCHOOL CHOICE. It would allow parents to chose Parochial, Private, Charter Schools or Home Schooling. They’ll have to gather over 1 million signatures to get it on the November ballot.

The days of public school may be coming to an end if they don’t change course and educate the children.

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