By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
More money doesnt mean better outcome for our schools
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

Sixty-two percent of us - according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California - favor a 12-year extension on temporary taxes imposed on those making $250,000 plus that are due to expire this year.

The tax - one of two imposed by voters under Proposition 30 - was designed to avoid $6 billion in automatic annual cuts to education due to a drop in state revenue. The other tax passed was a temporary quarter cent sales tax.

Public employee labor unions are pushing the extension. Given that education personal costs - pay and benefits typically constitute around 75 percent of public school and higher education budgets - its little wonder why they're behind the plan.

In Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal for the 2016-2017 fiscal year starting July 1 education would get $101.9 billion of the overall $122.2 billion general fund budget. That's 80 percent of all state expenditures with $71.9 billion going to K-12 schools and $30 billion to higher education.

Brown's plan will increase spending per K-12 student in overall state money by nearly $500 to almost $14,700 per year.

So where will the $5 billion plus annually in taxes extending the "temporary" tax on those making $250,000 or more a year go? The poll says Californians want to spend more on education. The only problem is almost all of that money will go to underwrite pay increases for existing educators and propping up the retirement funds for teachers already retired and those who will retire. The Public Employment Retirement System, as an example, is mandating increased contributions from school districts expected to increase typical budgets by close to 10 percent by 2020.

For for districts, that will take the amount of the budget eaten up by employee pay and benefits from 74.6 percent today to 82.7 percent by 2020. The public by buying into the narrative advanced by special interests that benefit from increased state funding namely public school employee groups and associations representing groups ranging from school boards to school administrators are unwittingly contributing to the status quo.

Californians want more spending for education labor under the false assumption it will mean lower class sizes, more teacher aides, more counselors, better equipment, and college professors that actually directly teach students. That's not to say anyone begrudges any school employee pay raises that are in line with the private sector as a whole, and not just the red hot tech sectors. But it would be nice if efforts were undertaken to truly improve the quality of education.

Brown knows all too well how the education cartel beats back real reform efforts in public schools.

During his stint as Oakland's mayor after serving his first go around as governor, Brown was stopped at every turn by the education cartel in his bid to improve the quality of Oakland public school education as measured by the end results - student success.

After several years with no success, Brown took it upon himself to raise nearly $10 million from the private sector to fund the Oakland Military Institute and the Oakland School of Arts - two schools initially charted by the California State Board of Education because Oakland Unified School District refused to do so.

How successful were the schools? The regimented military institute that required discipline and school uniforms took students that had previously been struggling and turned them into success stories.

A significant number of graduates ended up going to Yale, Stanford, Vassar, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and West Point among others.

Spending per student today is anywhere between 40 and 50 percent higher than at other OUSD schools including charter schools, test scores aren't much higher. But the big difference is in real life success. The Oakland Military Institute, as an example, sees 90 percent of its underprivileged students go onto college with three out of four going to four-year. Meanwhile much of the rest of the OUSD struggles for mediocrity.

Yes, there is more money spent per student. But here's the rub: Every step of the way the education carte fought the concept, ridiculed the discipline and regiment aspects and then after Brown's last year as mayor strived mightily to kill the two charter schools off but to no avail. That's because parents - and many in the greater community - wouldn't let it happen.

Brown, more than anyone else, should understand that simply giving schools more money doesn't translate into better schools. That's because of obstructionism from the education cartel.

What Californian doesn't want to see better performing schools? But simply providing more money doesn't mean better schools.

One can't help but wonder how state residents would respond if the Public Policy Institute of California ever bothers to ask a question such as "would you like to see California spend its money more effectively on education?"

Entrenched "industries" operating with government protection aren't exactly nimble and responsive. Imagine what would happen if public schools acted more like Uber and Lyft and not entrenched taxi cab companies.

If you think simply throwing more money - especially when its the money of other people who make $250,000 or more a year - at education in California then the next time you shop avoid the vendors that offer you what you want at lower prices. If the real world is expected to adapt to the times, government - which includes education - needs to do the same.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.