The rationale of 26


    Proposition 26 is the ballot measure which says 50.1 percent, not 35 percent, of voters should decide whether school bonds pass. Last week’s anti-26 writer believes facts he presented show California already spends too much educating its kids. First, he compared total U.S. education spending to other countries’ spending, but California’s funding is 41st out of 50 states, so the total US amount doesn’t tell us where California stands relative to other countries. The writer points out total U.S. education spending rose 200 percent over the last 30 years. Population and inflation rose; the computer was invented and globalization occurred. Spending should have risen. Unexamined statistics can create their own hyperbole and misunderstanding.

    Moreover, it is unknown whether the writer’s spending figures are for operating costs, facilities costs or both. Proposition 26 only deals with facilities costs — a figure that should go up — if only because of class size reduction, which the state mandates but does not fully fund. Rather, it requires local school districts to match state funds — with bonds. The sole question posed by 26 is: “Is it fair that children, silent in our democracy through lack of voting power, must also suffer from having majority voices who do speak on their behalf, shouted down by a minority?”

    The writer argues for minority rule, because bureaucrats often make terrible spending decisions. Minority rule does not reform bureaucracies, but 26 does. It contains provisions for increased scrutiny and accountability, for which the writer wisely called and may have been unaware 26 contained.

    Nothing replaces vigilant citizen oversight. Santa Monica and Malibu have a devoted group of parents who fight for intelligent use of taxpayer money. Our school district is a manageable size; we can influence it. Yet, the writer focuses on L.A. Unified, one of the toughest to operate and worst run. It is an unpersuasive debating tactic to posit the worst example as the norm or a reason to deny all others. A basic tenet of democracy is that bad bureaucracies are best combated by strengthening majority rule, not defeating it.

    Lastly, the writer says, defeat 26 and work towards a “new educational funding paradigm,” where schools compete for parents free to choose. If this means school vouchers, they were recently defeated in a statewide referendum. No matter, whatever the system, it would be funded by taxes and bonds, which require a vote. We’d still have to decide whether that vote would be majority or minority!

    I chose to send my children to Webster public school, not private schools or other public schools available to me. I am involved in the way the writer advocates. I see principals, school board members and bureaucrats, listening to and being influenced by vocal parent groups, which are quite diverse and always seek increased community involvement.

    Santa Monica/Malibu families already live in an educational world, though not utopian, where parent choice and voice make a difference. The main problem is lack of money to provide things parents believe children need. Urging schools to be competitive and parents to adopt school choice, while simultaneously arguing schools should not be allowed access to funds that would allow them to compete well and the majority’s choices regarding education should be ignored, is illogical.

    Vote “yes” on 26. Allow the majority to deliver funds when and how children need them, without being derailed by a minority which so deeply distrusts government it would rather keep its money under the mattress than invest in the future of all our children.

    Deirdre Roney