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Steve Lunetta: Dems begin to see light on education

Right About Now

Posted: December 19, 2010 10:49 p.m.
Updated: December 20, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

One of my yearly duties during the holidays is helping my uncle put up his Christmas lights. It usually takes us 10 minutes to get the lights out, one hour to get the ball of lights untangled, another hour to hunt down the defective bulbs, and two hours to put them on the house.

Of course, Uncle Earl gets to impart his wisdom on me as we work.

“My boy, the state of California is much like this ball of lights. It has great potential to shine and bring folks enjoyment. But here it sits in a tangled mess waiting for someone to straighten it out.”

“Wow, that’s deep, Earl. And I suppose all of the dim bulbs mean something too?”

“Of course! Those are all the Democrats who we send to Sacramento! But that’s not really fair, is it? Some Democrats are getting wise and realizing that all the money we have plowed into education over the past years was not the right way to go.”

“You must be referring to the recent column in The Signal that talked about how some Democrats are beginning to rethink education policy. This reconsideration of long-held liberal beliefs is causing a rift in the Democratic Party.”

“My boy, you are correct. Our current fiscal mess is forcing this new look at education. Think about it — about half the state budget is spent on education. And 80 percent of that is teacher salaries, pensions and benefits. If you are looking for something to cut, there is the biggest part of the budget right there.”

“But, Earl, you can’t seriously consider cutting teacher’s compensation. Teachers have contributed so greatly to all of us. I know that I have benefited immensely from the dedicated professionals that poured so much into me.”

“Yep, that’s true. But what about the cop and the fireman who protect your life and property? What about the truck driver who gets food to your table? What about the scientist who created the drug that keeps your blood pressure down? What about the highway worker who fills potholes in our streets? Don’t all of them have value?”

“Well, yes, but…”

“But nothing! Here’s the simple truth. We are broke. The state cannot afford the lavish pay and benefits that it gives to its employees. While teachers contribute to our society, the costs of education have risen mightily over the last few years due largely to teachers’ unions and the political influence they wield.”

“I just have a hard time believing that.”

“Just go online and check it out. Most websites list California as the national leader in teacher compensation. Teacherportal.com lists California at No. 1 in compensation with $59,825. The eye-popping statistic is that the 10-year increase is 41.6 percent. Payscale.com says California teachers lead the nation with an average annual pay of $70,394 outstripping the second-place state by 6.8 percent.”

“I never realized that, Earl. But don’t we get our money’s worth here in California? I mean, isn’t a California public school education still worth something?”

 “Maybe here in the Santa Clarita Valley, but not in the rest of the state. Looking at the result of standardized test scores (SAT and ACT), California ranks 47th out of 50 states with only Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico ranked lower. So we pay buckets of money and get very little in return.”

“So this is causing the rift in the Democratic Party?”

“You bet! Democrats are starting to realize that just throwing money at the problem doesn’t make it go away. Some Dems are beginning to support charter schools, better accountability and educational choice as ways to reform our broken system.”

 “It almost sounds like education reform is becoming less of a liberal/conservative issue and more of a common-sense issue.”

 “And it’s about time, my boy. Most Democrats I know are smart people. They are getting very sick and tired of being bullied by self-centered public employee unions that care nothing about the state of California. And they realize that our budget mess is due in large part to these blasted unions.”

“So, Democrats are beginning to help Republicans straighten out the budget mess?”

“Without a doubt, California needs folks to put aside their philosophical differences and work together to solve this problem. Like this ball of lights, it’s going to take some patience, hard work and time but we can work it out.”

And with that last comment, we finished the lights on his house. 

From all of us here at the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Merry Christmas to all!

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and is really good at untangling balls of lights. He can be reached at slunetta63@yahoo.com. His column represents his own opinions and not necessarily those of the Signal.

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