Monday, May 16, 2011

Unionized Public Education and Thomas Jefferson's Vision

Education is a double-edged sword.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in his 1778 “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” speaking of education and governance “…that even under the best of forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny;”

Jefferson goes on to write “…and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of the other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes; And whereas it is generally true that laws will be wisely formed, and honestly administered, in proportion as those who form and administer them are wise and honest…”

Jefferson wrote much about educating the public and even created the first institution of higher education, University of Virginia. 

I bring this up, not because I know about education or have studied Jefferson but because it seems to me that common sense should prevail when it comes to funding public education.

Jefferson believed that those “whom nature hath endowed with genius and virtue, should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens, and that they should be called to that charge without regard to wealth, birth, or other accidental condition or circumstance;”

In other words, if you have the natural talent, then by all means receive the formal education.

In Jefferson’s time, it was common for the eldest male to receive formal education while other siblings learned the trades.  It was all a home could afford.  Jefferson desired to right this problem by offering public education.  He believed it was a wise investment in the future of our nation. 

So, how does Jefferson’s strong desire for public education fit in with the recent budgetary failures of our public education system?  It would seem that, if public education were able to “illuminate” as Jefferson wrote, that we would not need to cut spending nor would we need to raise taxes.  In Jefferson’s Utopia, we would have a balanced budget that met the needs of our people through the consent of the people.  
Earlier this month teachers took to the streets of Fullerton to rally support for tax extensions.  Some believe that these tax extensions could save many schools from laying off teachers. 

Others, me included, believe that an extension of the temporary taxes currently due to expire in June only rewards poor governance and failed leadership.

Based on the financial records released by the Fullerton School District (K-8) and the Fullerton Joint Union High School District (9-12) it appears that most teachers are earning at or above the median income level for Orange County residents.  This tells me that the teachers are paid fairly and equitably for the services rendered assuming of course that each performs equally with other teachers receiving the same pay.  That assumption, however, is false since teachers’ pay is based on seniority, certifications, and college credits received.  Their pay is not tied to student learning outcomes. 
We all know some great teachers and we all know, or are at least aware of, some rotten teachers.  Most fall somewhere between those margins. 

The current basis for compensation leaves great teachers unrewarded and leaves no incentive for marginal teachers to improve.  This needs to be corrected.

Then we come to the issue of taxes.  How much is enough?

There appears to be no real plan to education plan that addresses funds available and needs of the community.  The massive disparity places culpability on everyone. 

From the top down and from the bottom up, the education community is disjointed.  Everyone from the chancellors and superintendants down to the teachers violently defend their salaries – however inflated or minimized they may be – and use students as their shields.  “It’s all about the kids.”

I’m not so sure that salaries have anything to do with students whatsoever.  It would be the same as if I used my clients as justification for a raise as a reason not to cut my pay except for one very large difference, I work for a for-profit company which all funding is tied to the services I provide to my clients. 

Public education is a higher calling as is medicine or the religious vocations.  Many join those callings to attain a certain social status but with the understanding that personal wealth is always secondary. 

The professionalism of teaching was greatly diminished with the unionization of the so-called profession and turned into “just a job”.  Unionization and organized labor efforts were of greatest benefit to children and workers whose lives were put in jeopardy as a result of dangerous working conditions.  Over the past several decades, these conditions have been addressed with legislation and worker protection laws that effectively removed the needed existence of unions in the work place. 

Furthermore, I cannot remember a time or place in which educators taught under dangerous or unsafe conditions that were not already addressed through legislation.  There are minimum wage laws and whistle-blower protection laws.  There are thousands of environmental laws and regulations that have surely made classrooms safer workplaces.

Despite all of those regulations and protections, unionized labor runs the classrooms of the United States. 

And when the union feels pressure to give in it responds with the usual tirade of rallies and protests that reach out to the hearts of taxpayers through their tireless motto “Its for the kids.”

At what point will public employees realize that the people they serve can no longer afford their services and have begun looking at alternatives? 

In the Mid May Fullerton Observer an anonymous author writes “The flyer seemed to imply that teachers are overpaid and that they are the reason that public schools are having trouble making ends meet. Although the reason schools are having budget problems has much more to do with the over $20 billion in cuts that have been made over several years, than what anyone is paid, the list has other problems.”  The article goes on to state that teachers’ and administrators’ salaries account for 47% to 49% of the total budgets for the school districts.  The anonymous author fails to disclose that the percentages given do not include other benefits such as medical and pension contributions, nor does it include employees such as counselors and janitors. 

If extending taxes can be marginalized to mean that we keep paying the same taxes to save public employee jobs then all public employees should forego any raises, cost of living adjustment, pension increases, or increases in benefits until the extended taxes sunset.  But that still will not fix our broken system. 

All of us must learn to live within our means.  Translation:  If we cannot afford to purchase, own, and maintain it (whatever “it” may be), then we should not buy it, receive it, seek it, or have it.

Jefferson’s original plan was to publicly fund education through taxes to pay for three years of reading, writing, and “arithmetick” with the text books used to teach them reading and writing would at the same time familiarize student sin Græcian, Roman, English and American history.  Any education beyond three years would have to be paid by the students’ parents, guardians, or friends.  Jefferson also laid the ground work to have the very best students receive publically funded scholarships in order to further their education.

Today, we can afford much more than Jefferson’s original plan but let’s be realistic with our expectations and the resources to achieve those expectations. 

Lastly, who is in charge of educating our children: the unions, politicians, teachers, or parents?

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Greg Sebourn

Orange County Bail Bonds

The Beauty of a Storm

The Beauty of a Storm
Orange County, Ca.

My Grandma - A Eulogy

LET'S TALK ABOUT 1914 FOR A MOMENT.



FOR STARTERS, GRANDMA WAS BORN TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1914 IN HER FAMILY'S ATWOOD RANCH HOUSE.



IT IS WORTH NOTING THOSE ALSO BORN IN 1914:

JACK LALANNE

JOE DIMAGGIO

DANNY THOMAS



AND WHO DIED IN 1914:

JOHN MUIR, THE FAMOUS NATURALIST FOR WHICH NUMEROUS ROADS, PARKS, HOTELS, AND NATURE RESERVES ARE NAMED.



IT IS ALSO WORTH NOTING THAT IN 1914 WOODROW WILSON SIGNS MOTHER'S DAY PROCLAMATION AND BABE RUTH MAKES HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT WITH THE RED SOX. MOTHER'S DAY AND BASEBALL- TWO OF MY FAVORITES!! (PERHAPS HER NICKNAME "BABE" CAME FROM BABE RUTH???)



GRANDMA WAS BORN INTO A PERIOD OF TIME FILLED WITH TURMOIL. IN JUNE OF 1914 ARCHDUKE FRANZS FERDINAND WAS ASSASSINATED. WITHIN ONE MONTH WORLD WAR I RAGED ACROSS EUROPE. TWO DAYS AFTER HER BIRTH HOWEVER, GERMAN AND BRITISH TROOPS INTERRUPTED WWI TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. (PERHAPS THEY PAUSE KNOWING THAT A GREAT WOMAN WAS BORNE) WORLD WAR I CONTINUED UNTIL THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES IN 1919.



ALTHOUGH SHE WAS ONLY 5 YEARS OLD, SHE SAW THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS CREATED AND THE 19TH AMENDMENT WAS APPROVED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS GUARANTEEING THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO VOTE.



SHE LIVED THROUGH MANY NOTABLE EVENTS. LIKE THE 1933 LONG BEACH EARTHQUAKE OR WHEN ATWOOD FLOODED ALONG WITH MOST OF ORANGE COUNTY IN 1938 AND THE FLOOD-WATERS CLAIMED MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE, 43 OF WHICH WERE FROM ATWOOD! ALL OF THIS DURING A TIME THAT WE READ ABOUT IN SCHOOL AND KNOWN AS "THE GREAT DEPRESSION". SOMEWHERE IN ALL OF THAT SHE FOUND THE LOVE OF HER LIFE, GRANDPA LEO, GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL, GOT MARRIED, AND HAD KIDS!



THEN THERE WAS WORLD WAR II. FROM PEARL HARBOR TO HIROSHIMA, GRANDMA WAS RAISING MY UNCLE BOB AND MOM ARLINE. WITH AIR-RAID SIRENS AND BLACKOUTS SHE WAS A WIFE AND MOTHER. WHAT A TIME TO RAISE CHILDREN! I BET GRANDMA'S PARENTS WERE ABEL TO TELL HER A THING OR TWO ABOUT RAISING KIDS IN WARTIME.



GRANDMA WAS THERE WHEN THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA HELD THEIR 3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL JAMBOREE IN 1953. SHE SAW AIRBASES OPEN IN '42 AND CLOSE IN '99. SHE WATCHED WALTER KNOTT START UP HIS BERRY FARM AND WALT DISNEY TURN ORANGE GROVES AND STRAWBERRY PATCHES INTO DISNEYLAND!



SHE SAW THE HORSE AND CARRIAGE FADE AWAY INTO HISTORY AND SPACE TRAVEL EXPLODE BEFORE HER WITH THE FIRST LUNAR LANDING. JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS. FROM TUBE RECTIFIERS TO SUPERCONDUCTORS; FROM TRANS-ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH CABLES TO SATELLITE TV.



SHE SAW MORE IN HER 93 YEARS THAN MOST OF US WILL EVER READ ABOUT, LET ALONE LIVE THROUGH!



OF THOSE 93 YEARS IT IS MY HONOR TO HAVE BEEN HER GRANDSON FOR 35 OF THEM. SHE WAS MY MOTHER WHEN MOM HAD TO WORK. SHE WIPED MY NOSE AND PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH. SHE LET ME PLAY WITH GRANDPA EVEN THOUGH SHE NEEDED HIM TO TAKE HER TO THE STORE. SHE WAS MY GRANDMA AND I WILL MISS HER IMMENSELY.



JUST LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM; SHE DID THIS. SHE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR BRINGING SO MANY GOOD PEOPLE INTO THIS WORLD AND TOGETHER TODAY. THIS IS HER LEGACY.



A Dedication To My Loving Wife, Stacey. Thank you for all you do for me!

Brad Paisley - I Thought I Loved You Then


I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you
You had me mesmerized
3 weeks later in the front porch light taking 45 min to kiss you goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet but I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I remember taking you back to right where I first met you
You were so surprised
There were people around
But I didn’t care I got down on one knee right there
And once again I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I can just see you with a baby on the way
I can just see you when your hair is turning gray
What I can’t see is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before.

Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Well look back some day at this moment that we’re in
And I'll look at you and say I thought I loved you then
And I thought I loved you then...

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