Nothing will work without solid public education

By From page B1 | October 05, 2012

Often I find myself becoming one with fictional UBS news anchor Howard Beale of “Network” movie lore …

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad …

“It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the streets and there’s no one anywhere who seems to know what to do.

“We sit in a house and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller and all we say is, ‘Please don’t leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster, and TV, and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything.’

“Well, I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad. All I know is first you’ve got to get mad. So, I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we will figure out what to do about the depression, and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out and yell. ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ ”

Amen, Howard.

With Election Day a month off, I’ve been taking stock of our environment.

Davis isn’t the Real World. We’re blessed to live here. From schools to city services to entertainment and safety, our community stands tall. But that Real World is closing in on us.

Other communities from Sacramento to Vacaville and beyond, struggle to keep their heads above water. Just down the road, in Stockton, can anarchy be far off?

Throughout the state, basic services are threatened. Nationally, some people believe it won’t be long before the United States puts out a for-sale sign — and the list of potential buyers (China) is a short one.

Listening to Wednesday’s presidential debate was another low point. No substance. No answers. Just platitudes, smart-aleck remarks and candidates flicking blame off their shoulders.

About the time Howard Beale was ranting in “Network,” I was the sports editor at a newspaper in Southern California.

Title IX of the Civil Rights Act had mandated that schools provide a level playing field for girls in sports and other classroom activities. Many coaches of boys sports feared the ruling would be a death knell for prep athletics. However, we know now that Title IX was a landmark measure that changed the landscape for the better.

That was 40 years ago, and other far-reaching upgrades of public education are infrequent and left to forward-thinking districts like Davis; districts that can afford to support education. We can’t afford not to support schools in every community.

Voters in Davis have an opportunity on Nov. 6 to help our state and once again prop up our local schools by voting yes on the statewide Proposition 30 and yes on Davis’ Measure E.

Prop. 30 would temporarily raise the state sales tax and the income tax for those earning more than $250,000 annually. It is expected to generate an additional $6 billion to $9 billion annually for the state’s general fund — money that will benefit schools and public safety.

With Measure E, Davis residents will provide the additional funding necessary to preserve our excellent programs. Without passage of Measure E, that Real World becomes a couple of steps closer to our front doors.

But Prop. 30 — if it passes — will need watchdogs in Sacramento. And therein lies part of the problem. And it’s our fault.

We continue to send representatives to Sacramento and to Washington who do not get it — and the task, as I see it, is straightforward.

Our lawmakers must make public education the No. 1 priority. Without the world’s best schools, we are ensuring ourselves a second-class future. And nobody seems to have a plan. In the rare instance that a representative does have a clue, she or he is neutered by the pork-barrel mentality of taking care of one’s contributors or constituency first.

In California, we could be a national leader by setting in motion a funding program that resurrects public education.

Put a three-year moratorium on unfunded state mandates. This gives local districts a breather and a chance to spend their money in a fashion that most suits their students. Take five percent from every other non-safety state department and give that money to public education. It’s noted that every department is strapped. But if our schools don’t turn out the best and brightest again, public transportation, health care, social services, environmental oversight — all services provided by the state — will be worth nothing in the long run anyway.

By investing in schools that turn out smarter, more worldly kids, all the departments initially affected will benefit down the road because our newly educated workforce will provide answers and move intelligently forward.

And once we’ve made public education the top priority in the United States, we need to ensure credibility. We need to make sure our teachers are the best. We need to monitor the new money and make sure it is being spent in classrooms. We need to create a better schools-business relationship so our vocational needs are better served.

Prop. 30 and Measure E are baby steps forward. What we need are champions of the cause — future candidates with backbone who understand the importance of public education and are willing to go to Washington or Sacramento with a real plan and make noise and create better schools.

I don’t see it again this November.

I see finger-pointing, a lot of bowing to special interests and no-plan politicians saying what they’ve always said.

Meanwhile, the greatness of who we once were is slipping away.

Somebody needs to do something.

— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047.

Bruce Gallaudet

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