Two years ago I voted against giving another dollar to support Santa Monica College. Today our local public schools scramble for money to make ends meet. They need to cut millions from their budget due to shortfalls. The $295 million given to SMC as part of a bond measure would have been better spent on our local children than on SMC’s efforts to attract students from other zip codes.

I am tired of political types telling me every time they spend too much, that they will raise my taxes or take away water, power, teachers, police, firemen and release all the prisoners. Cut funding to everything else and give more money to those categories. In all fairness, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified is not like the Los Angeles Unified School District. They are not as wasteful. In fact, they do a fine job with the money they have in comparison. The money we agreed to give SMC would have allowed us to double the spending per student in Santa Monica for the next 10 years. If we doubled the amount spent on our local schools, we could have some of the finest schools in the world and you might think twice about having to send your children to private schools.

We are now in a global economy. The divide between the rich and the poor is often found to be based on education in the first 12 years. American students on average spend only 37 hours a week in class, while their counterparts in Asia and Europe are spending over 60 hours per week. That is a 50-day-a-year difference. The American school year of 180 days is 20 days a year shorter than its German counterpart. Compound that with our long summer breaks and you get children that are falling behind fast and will find it harder to compete at a global level. Long summer vacations act as a mental eraser causing students to loose about a month of general learning and three months of math learning from “summer learning loss.” In a global economy education is the only weapon our children will have when finding a job. Ignorant children are and will be a major financial burden on our economy.

When you take into consideration how much working parents pay for after-school activities, the real cost of not having children in school for longer hours and longer school years is high. Doubling the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s budget will allow for longer school years, longer hours in class and more time for each student to do homework. What if we made students do most of their homework in a safe and supportive environment with teachers in the room to help while they grade papers? Children in school and not on the streets means students will have less time to get into trouble. Doubling the funding to L.A. Unified would be a waste since they have a flawed system that is not accountable to anyone. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified does not suffer from that fatal flaw since they are much more accessible and accountable to parents.

Over the last 10 years we have given SMC almost $1 billion of Santa Monica tax dollars for 25,298 SMC students who are not from Santa Monica. The administration that runs SMC is not grateful for your money. As a Santa Monica resident, you are not given special admissions, special parking or any other benefit at this institution for your generosity. A majority of the students at SMC receive day care and will not get a four-year degree. According to California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, 69,000 out of the 2.7 million students in our community colleges will go on to UC and Cal State schools. That’s 2.5 percent or 753 students on average each year! The 11,910 students in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will have to get by with less. The 25,298 students that drive to SMC and not to their own local community colleges have a choice. The local students of Santa Monica do not have that choice. How about we take care of our own children before we provide adult day care for our neighbors’ children.

Please remember that only 17 percent or 4, 828 out of the 30,126 students attending SMC are from Santa Monica. The other 25,298 students can attend their own local community college. Forcing students to attend their local community college would reduce traffic, pollution, and parking problems. It will drive up quality in other community colleges and free up more money for our local schools. This year the SMMUSD will be running out of money to teach the 11,910 students of SMMUSD. SMMUSD has been forced to cut its budget while we send $295 million to build more buildings and parking for non-Santa Monica students. Is SMMUSD running out of money because we are wasting it in other ways?

David Alsabery is a driving instructor and all around nice guy. He can be reached at alsabery@gmail.com.

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