Letters for March 18, 2010

Letter of the week

Don’t forget race

Re “What the hell are they thinking?” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature, March 4):

While R.V. Scheide’s piece on California education captured the nature of the problem facing higher education in California and highlighted why our public systems of colleges and universities are so valuable to the state, he missed a major reason, one that is hiding in plain sight, why voters have been increasingly reluctant to adequately fund our institutions.

When the Donahoe Act was passed, our public education system was overwhelmingly comprised of non-Hispanic whites. Today, that same group makes up less than one-third of California students, and Hispanics are almost half.

Voters, on the other hand, are still largely non-Hispanic whites, and they will continue to vote in larger numbers to their actual proportion of the overall population well into the future. In effect, they seem reluctant to fund an educational system in which it is largely not their children who benefit. Retired Sacramento Bee Columnist Peter Schrag made this point in his wonderful book on the Golden State, simply titled California. Remember, Ronald Reagan was elected governor in 1966, the year after federal immigration laws were reformed and slowly over time, as California received a large share of the newer immigrants, fees on California’s public colleges and universities have been rising correspondingly.

Though it should be noted that Mr. Scheide did allude to the role of race in voters’ electing right-wing politicians, there is not a direct correlation made to its role as a catalyst in shaping voters’ views of education.

Any kind of change will have to come from shifting views of more recent immigrants, who have arrived in very large numbers over the past four decades, and their immediate descendants, from “them” to “us” from those who actually turn up to vote on election day. It should be noted that that the particular subset of Californians that vote have rebuffed efforts to change the onerous two-thirds requirement for budgets and taxes within the last decade, which would have helped higher education tremendously.

Most likely over time, people will start to get used to each other, and we’ll abandon the racism on one side and the tribalism on the other that separate us at present; then we can see ourselves as all Californians.

Hopefully, that day will come before the last vestiges of our public education system are eradicated.

James May

Don’t blame GOP, Proposition 13

Re “What the hell are they thinking?” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature, March 4):

This was a well-written article, on a subject about which the writer is clearly passionate.

I do think it is a bit unfair to blame a Republican minority and Proposition 13 for all of the ills that California has suffered. The truth is that California has very high taxes on personal and business income, and our sales tax is among the highest in the nation. The Wall Street Journal correctly pointed out in a March 10 feature that California’s Democratic Legislature has increased public pension and other benefits at a rate that vastly exceeds inflation. The Legislature also made calculations in 1999 (during the height of the Internet boom) that pension assets would return 8.25 percent in perpetuity, which would have meant that the Dow would have reached 25,000 by 2010. As a result, public sector benefits and pensions are now among the most generous in the nation.

A 50-year-old firefighter who worked for 30 years can retire on 90 percent of his salary—no private sector plan comes close to that level of generosity. And as bad as the numbers are now, they are downright frightening in the coming decades. With businesses and jobs leaving the state, raising taxes seems unwise. This forces the state to cut spending in virtually every other area of the budget, with education cuts being a large part of the equation.

The real culprit is the California Constitution and our bizarre initiative process, which allow the California voter to increase spending and cut taxes without consequence. Until this changes, California will continue to be ungovernable, and the body blows to our once vaunted education system will continue.

Steve Blevins

Twisted logic

Re “What the hell are they thinking?” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature, March 4):

What an amazing display of twisted logic. This is a state that has been run and populated by liberals for 30 years. So it’s conservatives’ fault? Sorry, but the cat is out of the bag as to public sector jobs and the outrageous lifetime perks—but in your twisted mind, we’re not paying enough in taxes. Wow.

Jim Farnsworth

Education is key … but not to an Audi

Re “What the hell are they thinking?” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature, March 4):

I don’t mind paying to have a key made, but when the price rises just to pay for the new Audi for the locksmith while I drive an old Ford, I balk. Much of the cost increase for education is due to unconscionable administrative costs.

Evan Jones

Wasting the future

Re “What the hell are they thinking?” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Feature, March 4):

I couldn’t agree with R.V. Scheide more about funding public higher education. Thank you for your article. The “wasteful publicly funded institutions” that some are so overly worried about is a bogus reason for wasting our state’s future and withholding opportunity from residents who are proud to work hard and contribute to the next generation.

Restore public revenues. We all need to chip in, including the miserly and selfish, or we’ll all just end up shriveled.

Glenda Marsh

Police for nonresidents

Re “Worst. Budget. Ever.” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Frontlines, February 25):

It always amazes me when people comment online before knowing the facts they are talking about. Sacramento has an extremely heavy call volume compared to similar sized cities for fire and emergency medical services, as well as some of the highest incidents of fatal fires in the state. Prior to the budget mess, public safety was funded at far below typical municipalities, where 65 to 70 percent of the budget is the norm. Per capita numbers may be very skewed for a city like Sacramento, where a lot of people come to work in but don’t live in the city.

Mike Ferguson