Letters for March 3, 2011

Letter of the week
Maybe we’re real!

Re “Something’s not right with the government” by Rachel Leibrock (SN&R Feature, February 24):

It’s amusing enough that the “Republic for the united States of America” group wants to build wild fantasies on the premise that there is some great and sinister significance to the government spelling our names in all capitals [on birth certificates]. But it’s merely pitiful that the premise is directly contradicted by the simplest of facts.

I dug out old documents, and guess what: My Selective Service registration card and my wife’s and my birth certificates all give our names in lowercase with only initial capitals. Maybe we’re real citizens after all!

Donald E. Hall

Weird, but not so yum

Re “Feed me weird things” by Jonathan Mendick (SN&R Arts&Culture, February 24):

[This was a] really interesting article, and I am sure many readers will add to the varied menu experience. Mine is: As a child I recall eating ayerlach (Yiddish for “unborn chicken eggs”). They were often found in the chicken prepared by my grandmother, who would boil them and serve them in the chicken soup.

As I recall, not so “yum.”

Norman Kabak
via e-mail

Secede! That’ll work.

Re “OK, you fix the budget!” by Greg Lucas (SN&R Feature, February 17):

Balance the state’s budget by cutting the program that supports the federal government and the other states, territories and [Washington, D.C.].

California pays $287.627 billion in federal taxes and receives $242.023 billion in federal funding (2005 numbers from www.taxfoundation.org). That means there are $45.6 billion Californian tax dollars that leave the state to pay for out-of-state and federal programs, including a war or two.

Imagine, if California seceded from the union, the balance of that money could be spent or refunded by the state. If our current state budget deficit is $26 billion, the solution is simple: Use $26 billion of our contribution to the federal income to balance the state budget, and use the remaining $19.6 billion to fund underfunded programs like education, welfare, transportation and other civil works projects, or international programs that are more in line with the progressive values held by most Californians.

Rather than asking SN&R readers what to do about the deficit, why not ask what they would do with a $19.6 billion surplus?

John Downs

I am leaving

Re “OK, you fix the budget!” by Greg Lucas and “About a crisis” by Jeff vonKaenel (SN&R Feature, February 17):

First of all, I would like to say that Phil Angelides is full of crap when he said the housing crisis was a mistake. Mr. Angelides needs to be honest and say that this meltdown was the result of a deregulated real-estate market on national basis, which allowed crooks in monkey suits with master’s degrees to draw up bad loans and the naive families who didn’t read the fine print when signing the mortgage papers. Let’s sum it up and say that it’s all about greed and corruption with no accountability. What’s worse is that you have real-estate investors who buy single-family homes to rent out and “flip” them when they realize they’re losing money; as a result they create a new ghetto in a middle-class neighborhood.

The taxpayer/voter should not be responsible to fix the state’s budget deficit. It doesn’t mention anywhere getting rid of politicians’ perks and reducing their six-figure salary. Hell, these people have lifetime benefits, which I will never get through my employer. It doesn’t mention how to eliminate special-interest and corporate lobbyist expenses, either. I’ve had enough. I’m leaving the state. Good luck.

Rob Wormgoor

Same people in charge

Re “About a crisis” by Jeff vonKaenel (SN&R Frontlines, February 17):

Thanks, Phil [Angelides], for peeling away the cover-up.

But the scary part is: The same people that brought about this mess are still at the top of the economic food chain, and they still believe they did nothing wrong. Oh my god, the hubris! It will only be when the rest of us stop supporting the scum at the top that this will stop.

Peter McNamee

Schools in competition

Re “Do your homework” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Frontlines, February 10):

I find it amusing that your recent story about possible litigation from school districts toward the Sacramento County Office of Education was titled “Do your homework,” when you obviously did no homework on the issue of charter-school application procedures.

Any charter-school applicant that has been denied [by] a local district has the right to appeal to that district’s County Office of Education (in this case, SCOE) and, if denied there, may appeal to the California State Board of Education. This is all clearly defined in the Charter Schools Act of 1992, also known as Education Codes 47600-47608. The appeals process begins a new review period, and the county or state has the authority and legal obligation to approve charter schools that meet all established criteria.

The act also delineates the reasons why any educational body may deny a charter-school applicant, and those reasons have nothing to do with whether a district will lose “several hundred kids,” as Natomas Trustee Lisa Kaplan said in your article. If she voted to deny a charter on that reason, Kaplan, in effect, broke the law. She is held to uphold all Education Code guidelines, even those she finds distasteful.

The five reasons for denial are: 1) The charter school presents an unsound educational program; 2) the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition; 3) the petition does not contain the number of required signatures; 4) the petition does not affirm that it will be nonsectarian in nature; or 5) the petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of how the school will be run, financed and assess student outcomes. That’s it.

From an educational standpoint, the Charter Schools Act makes it clear that charter schools are to provide “opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure.” Yet charter schools must be approved by local districts, giving those districts discretion over their competition. It is as if Home Depot has the right to deny Lowe’s from opening up down the road. In business, we call that a conflict of interest, and it is one that local districts are breaking right and left.

Politics is not supposed to enter into the charter-school application process but it, regrettably, has. SCOE and others are trying to right those wrongs. They should be applauded or, at the least, understood.

Next time you do a story on charter schools, I implore you to contact the school you are talking about (not just district administrators and trustees), or the California Charter School Association, which is located in Sacramento. At least check the Charter Schools Act of 1992 to ensure you have a clear understanding of the issues involved.

Rick Brewer
principal of a charter school in Lodi
via e-mail