As donor ID no. 46, I gave the Santa Monica Malibu-Unified School District the $198 they asked for from the voters. If you were one of the 13,671 voters who believed Measure A was the right thing to do, you don’t need permission from anyone to send $198 or more to SMMUSD. Just go to http://www.smmef.org or mail it to the school district. With that in mind, I challenge every voter who voted in favor of Measure A to put your money where your ballot was right now. If you do that every six months, we wouldn’t need a Measure A.
Personally I have no children or family in the SMMUSD, so my actions clearly state I believe education is a civic duty. My question from last week still stands. How much money should we spend to give our children the best education in the country? If your husband or wife came home from the grocery store and had spent 35 percent more for the same or inferior groceries, wouldn’t you ask why? What’s more troubling is, when you ask the school district why, they just tell you that they need to spend more! Does that response make any sense to you? Right now we are scheduled to spend $10,636 per student in Santa Monica, so what do we get for spending 35 percent more than St. Monica Catholic school? How do the current budget cuts explain this problem?
The cost of giving children a good education is lost on those of you who wrote to me, chiding me for not wanting to spend 55 cents a day for measure A. I just now spent it; did you? My column last week opened with the question: “Why not raise spending per student to be number one in the country?” I was 100 percent for Measure A, but in this polarized world of pin heads, if you don’t march behind them like a good Nazi, then you’re the enemy. The anti-children lobby will even tell you that due to state budget cuts they are getting less money and that is bad. Why? They are failing your children and you want to give them more money? This is not the inner city people. Go to http://www.cde.ca.gov and look at the results. They are embarrassing and purposely confusing. I think it is a great idea to spend 50 percent more than what St. Monica spends, provided it will give us equal or better results than the local Catholic school.
I hope by now it’s painfully obvious that I believe the problem is how we spend the money, not how much money we spend. I propose a grand experiment for the next five years with a simple string attached. We the people of Santa Monica should give $14 million dollars per year for our children. Per pupil spending would be about $11,850 or 50 percent more than what St. Monica charges. I also suggest we collect the proposed $14 million before we’re allowed to spend it. This way we don’t over spend money we don’t have.
So here is the string that is attached to the spending. We require that every school in the city, both private and public, test their non-special needs students with the same state of California Department of Education test for math and English that the public schools already use. Then require SMMUSD to have to match or exceed the lowest price private school results within five years, or we’ll give $11,000 vouchers to the parents to spend as they wish on school. Then cut the district budget to $11,000 per non-special needs student. I want a guarantee that in five years the money will give the children a good education or we give that choice to the parents. Catholic school was good enough for our President, and is good enough for me.
Let’s stop the party politics and get on with the business of helping children. It is in all of our best interests to do so. The reason why Measure A didn’t pass is because a large enough group of voters believe the money would be wasted by the SMMUSD. So instead of name calling, how can we make sure that the money isn’t wasted? How about you reach across to your fellow citizen and put together a simple report card for all the schools and lets make sure all of them, both public and private are getting what they pay for.
In Washington D.C., Chancellor Michelle Rhee had a novel idea. She offered the teachers union a two-tier plan that would pay teachers up to $131,000 per year if they would be accountable for the education of their students. Starting pay to attract new teachers would be $78,000 per year. The unions said no. Just think about that for a second. Whatever they make is worth more than $131,000 and one month of vacation.
If SMMUSD, armed with 50 percent more money than St. Monica, cannot compete, then we should not keep giving them money. We the people should guarantee the children a good education, but the endless flow of cash to the SMMUSD should not be guaranteed. I want the best education for the children and am willing to participate in this experiment. Do you think SMMUSD is up to the task?
David Alsabery can be reached at email@example.com.