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Who is to blame for chronic absenteeism?

Who is to blame for this problem of chronic school absenteeism plaguing our public school system?

Statewide chronic absenteeism rose to 30 percent during the 2021-22 school year, more than twice the level in 2018-19. It’s still an issue.

One might argue Gavin Newsom is to blame. He shut down the schools during COVID with the failed distance learning nonsense even though children and young adults had minimal chance to get seriously sick or die from the virus. It demotivated some kids and their parents to show up for school and work as the savior Uncle Sam bailed out folks who sat on their butts with dollars it didn’t have.

In March Ceres Unified School District Supt. Denise Wickham told a joint meeting of the Ceres City Council and her School Board that Ceres was seeing a slide in enrollment. It’s no secret why – people are leaving California because of politics and the cost of living. However, Wickham touched on how CUSD has been impacted financially with increased student absenteeism following the pandemic since schools are paid on Average Daily Attendance (ADA). She said this: “The ADA is what’s really going to hurt us in the future if we don’t figure out what’s going on.”

Before the pandemic, about 95 to 96 percent of students showed up for class. Since COVID, about 92 percent show up. She added this: “Students, for whatever reason, are staying home more often, whether they’re sick or not feeling well or because they can easily access their material online or for whatever reason, we’re still trying to figure out.”

Ceres Unified is now essentially “bribing” kids to come to school with the possibility of winning a prize in a drawing. While I understand the motive, it bothers me that a school district would even have to lure kids into doing what they’re supposed to – attend school. Kids in other countries would die for free educational opportunities – taken for granted here – and we have to now dangle electronic device prizes in front of them to show up in class?

If you can’t blame Newsom for some of the cause, you can surely find fault with parents. This is from an Associated Press article earlier this year: “And the effects of online learning linger: School relationships have frayed, and after months at home, many parents and students don’t see the point of regular attendance.” Any parent who lets their kid skip school is doing a grave disservice to the child who is destined to become a failure in life if he or she cannot even show up at school let alone engage with the lessons. It’s a form of child abuse.

I’m not sure what has happened in this country in the past 50 years or so but parents have become softies – and so are their offspring. When members of the Greatest Generation and before were kids, the likes of my grandparents, Harry Truman, Joseph Cash Penney and Walt Disney had to work their butts off – while staying atop of their school work – and they led highly successful lives. Along the way the government became the backstop for those who refuse to work hard and get serious about their life plan.

I suppose I was an extraordinary kid. Even in the summer months, you’d catch me reading encyclopedias because I enjoyed learning. Today’s generation is glued to their phones in the cycle of 30-second TikTok clips of narcissistic women wiggling their butts when real learning could take place that could mean the difference between foregoing wealth or a comfortable lifestyle.

I don’t know what the solution is but this country is headed in the wrong direction. A good start would be to put the phone down, write a diary, get into books and meet with good people, like in a church.

* * * * * 

Parents, your state officials think you are horrible people.

They are fighting to keep you in the dark because they think you can’ handle truth. They like stupid, gullible people (voters). They don’t want you knowing if your OWN child is having delusions of not being a boy if he has a male member or of not being a girl when she doesn’t have a male member.

Your own state Attorney General Rob Bonta is not your friend.

He just sued the Chino School District because they adopted a policy of letting parents know when their child is confused about sexual identity and ignores basic biology to “identify” another gender. Bonta doesn’t trust parents because said parents may try to get their kid into counseling to correct their defective thought process. Bonta must think parents will beat the hell out of their kids when the reality is very few parents spank any more. Democrats like Bonta and Democrat State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond think the students will be in danger. Pathetic ideology there!

I agree with Chino School Board President Sonja Shaw who said Thurmond “is a danger to our students. He continues to push things that pervert children, and he continues to push out parents and bring in policies that create division between families.”

* * * * * 

In most cases, store employees won’t intervene when they see brazen thievery taking place. Depending on physical size, most folks don’t want to risk being hurt, stabbed or shot by the thief. But I always enjoy seeing videos of store owners taking matters in their own hands and tackling a suspect. A good case in point is the 7-Eleven beating of a brazen repeat thief in Stockton and the same at a jewelry store in El Monte.

I’ve also watched video of shop owners pulling a handgun on would-be robbers and pop off a few rounds at the dirt-bag wanting to stick his hands in the till. It needs to happen more, not less, because state leaders have the strength of the Pillsbury Doughboy to stand up to crime.

But when employees do intervene to stop theft, should they be fired? It happened in Peachtree Corners, Georgia.

In May two female employees of Lululemon were fired when they tried to physically stop brazen shoplifters. Assistant store manager Jennifer Ferguson and employee Rachel Rogers were later fired by the apparel store for breaching the company’s absolute zero-tolerance policy that workers should not put their safety at risk to stop thieves.

Imagine a store policy which punishes do-gooders and rewards thieves!

If the policy is based on fear of lawsuits, maybe we need to change something in this country. How about a law saying if you are committing a crime and get hurt or killed, you or survivors can’t sue? Or maybe allow employees to sign a waiver that says: “I understand the risks in trying to stop a thief and hold the company harmless if I get hurt standing in their way – and that goes for beating the crap out of a thief that threatens my economic livelihood when the store closes because it can’t make profit.”

 * * * * * 

Planning Commissioner Gary Del Nero probably wished he had skipped last week’s meeting because of a major faux pas. When discussion time came about the application for a Dutch Bros. Coffee business on Ceres’ west side, Del Nero asked if the city knew the conceptual design for the O’Reilly’s which is a neighboring project. Senior Planner Teddie Hernandez laughed and reminded Del Nero that he and the other commissioners approved the O’Reilly’s at the previous meeting. That prompted Commission Chairman Bob Kachel to jest, “He’s in a whole different decade now.”

Kachel has been closing out the meetings in a humorous way since there’s not a lot of business to consider. He asked for reports from commissioners “other than Gary being significantly older than he used to be.” (He had a recent birthday). Kachel went on to say he had nothing new to report, “other than a very sore neck.”

It’s nice to see moments of light-heartedness in a lackluster meeting.

* * * * * 

At a recent Ceres City Council meeting a resident asked if the city could be less restrictive about yard sales. Mayor Javier Lopez appeared to not know if the two-per-year limit was “really being enforced at the moment.” When he told it was, he replied: “Yes, it is being reinforced? Okay, well if that’s the case I don’t see why it wouldn’t be an issue.”

There are reasons why many cities have a limit of two yard sales per year – Modesto included. We like our neighborhoods nice and quiet with the least traffic possible. We don’t want neighbors using their homes to run perpetual yard or garage sales because they disrupt things by bringing through extra traffic, not to mention the aesthetics. If you need an income by selling used goods, open a second-hand business in a commercial space or buy space at the El Rematito Flea Market. There’s nothing more irritating to see a next door neighbor weekend after weekend setting up wares all over the driveway and yard with the invasion of strangers doing the drive-by assessment from their car window and then rolling taking up the parking in your neighborhood, pulling up to and out from the curb and navigating around kids riding bicycles or shooting hoops. I’ve even had yard sale customers block my own driveway because they couldn’t find street parking.

* * * * * 

Who’s side are they on anyway?

Democrat lawmakers last week rejected an effort to hold fentanyl traffickers accountable!

Assemblyman Juan Alanis told me that Democrats will not support any bills which add a single day to sentences for any crime. Apparently they don’t like sending drug dealers and murderers and rapists to prison any longer than they have to. (Unless you break into the Capitol and you get a longer prison sentence than any murderer would).

According to the CDC, over 150 Americans die daily from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 to100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed as a pain management treatment for cancer patients. Because of its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl is diverted for abuse and illicitly manufactured.

Stanislaus County recorded 176 total drug-related deaths by overdose and poisoning in calendar year 2022, equivalent to the number of deaths in 2021. However, 2021 deaths increased by 33% over 2020 and deaths increased by 112% between 2019 and 2020. Of the 176 deaths, 142 were opioid related and 128 were fentanyl related. In 2021 and 2022, Stanislaus County averaged 3-4 overdose and poisoning deaths per week. Fentanyl continues to be the primary driver of deaths in our community.

Republicans want to see what’s called “Alexandra’s Law” become law. It would require convicted fentanyl traffickers to receive a warning that fentanyl can kill and if they continue selling the drug and cause a death, they could face homicide charges. To see it become law, they offered Assembly Constitutional Amendment 12, which would put Alexandra’s Law before the voters. However, ACA 12 has been stalled by Democrats in the Assembly Rules Committee since its introduction. When a Republican motioned to withdraw ACA 12 from the Rules Committee and place it before a vote of the entire Assembly, the motion was rejected on a party-line vote.

According to Alanis, “holding fentanyl dealers accountable for the harm … shouldn’t be a partisan issue. “We need to put politics aside and work together to fight fentanyl and save lives.” 

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Last week, the Sacramento liberals were congratulating themselves and slapping each other on the back for raising taxes again – this time under the guise of “this is the gun tax that will end all of these horrible mass shootings.”

Does anyone really believe this swill?

When you hear the catch phrase “fair share” you know some liberal is going to unleash more in the way of regulation and taxes. Consider this sentence from a press release from a group named GIFFORDS (all caps and named after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who was shot by a deranged man in 2011): GIFFORDS …. applauded the California Senate for passing AB 28, landmark legislation which would have the gun industry pay its fair share via an 11% excise tax on firearms corporations. The policy would generate $160 million annually to fund gun violence intervention and prevention programs, mirroring a federal tax on the gun industry that has been in place for more than a century and is used to fund wildlife conservation efforts.”

Taxing is the liberal’s way of assaulting gun owners.

According to Mike McLively, Policy Director at GIFFORDS Center for Violence Intervention, this is the magic bullet (no pun intended) to cure gun violence. He said “This is a tried-and-true method of addressing public health epidemics.” Tried and true, we will see no more gun violence. Happy now?

What a crock.

It’s dishonest for any politician to suggest a manufacturer of a product needs to pay its “fair share.” What does that even mean? Like gun manufacturers don’t pay anything close to taxes that say a cabinet shop pays? It’s a stupid claim, especially when you remember the cost of new taxes will just get passed onto the buyer of those guns, 99 percent of which will never misuse their weapon.

Where does this nonsense end? Guns or no guns, it is impossible on this planet to eradicate evil.

* * * * *  

My blood was at near boiling last week when we received an email from some dude who suggested that by publishing a story of a DUI suspect – he happened to be wearing a turban on his head – that the story was racially motivated.

I found his claims to be patently offensive. I have published hundreds of stories on DUI arrests throughout my 40-plus career as a journalist, featuring mugshots of persons from all backgrounds. We do not give special consideration for or against someone based on their ethnicity ... but nice try.

If he had picked up a print copy of our Sept. 6 edition, he would have noticed mugshots of four white men and a Latino man who were arrested the same week!

He was also incorrect when he suggested that since the county website (not a news website) doesn’t run mugshots we shouldn’t or can’t either. His claim is ludicrous as arrests are most certainly public information. He asked what gives us the right to publish such stories. I’m surprised that he hasn’t read about Constitutional First Amendment protection of freedom of the press.

We consider DUIs to be serious matters and that it doesn’t take having a DUI suspect crashing and killing someone to become a “worthy” new story.

Nowhere in the email did the writer suggest the information we published was inaccurate, only attack us for doing our job in covering community news instead of faulting the arrestee for breaking the law.

An arrestee having “an abundance of connections” is not reason for scrubbing our website of a news story. About 18 years ago, the publisher of the Oakdale Leader was arrested for DUI and he insisted that his newspaper publish the story. To not do so, he felt, would be a professional failing.

I’m sorry that in this culture of race baiting that someone would stoop so low as to level such charges against this newspaper and to me personally.

This column is the opinion of Jeff Benziger, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation.  How do you feel about this? Let Jeff know at