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Waiting for Mr. Smith to go to Sacramento
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They won’t be waiting for Superman Monday at the corner of Louise Avenue and Main Street.

Instead they are hoping against hope that one day Mr. Smith of Jimmy Stewart fame will go to Sacramento.

The Manteca Unified teachers rallying from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. as part of the State of Emergency demonstrations orchestrated by California’s umbrella organizations for school boards, teachers, school administrators and the PTA most certainly want an extension of temporary income and vehicle license fees.

But that will do nothing to stop the cancerous course that education in California has taken in the past 40 years in terms of financing and overall expectations. If the taxes are extended they will be akin to only chopping off a third of a person’s arm instead of the entire thing in a bid to stop gangrene from killing them. What’s really needed isn’t a measure that reduces the damage for just the moment but a radical treatment that is designed to save and restore vitality to education.

No matter where you fall in your viewpoints on public education, teacher pay, or taxes virtually everyone agrees they don’t like the course things are taking.

There needs to be a movement back to basics for funding and expectations.

That means simplifying financing, radically cutting back on education bureaucrats in Sacramento, and freeing local districts.

California first - and foremost - needs to go to a true consumption tax. If it is a purchase or a service - save anything that is medical related - there needs to be a 7 percent sales tax. That goes for sales over the Internet all the way down to a haircut. At the same time, boutique taxes have to go. They are sometimes called sin taxes such as on cigarettes or public service taxes such as electrical customers funding programs to subsidize the poor. The programs boutique taxes support will have to compete for available money just like everyone else. That means no more bright ideas to tax every ounce of soda distributed to raise money for projects. If a politician wants something funded, they will have to cut back on something already getting money and divert it or else try to make a case for bumping up the consumption tax.

The teachers may be right that it will “only” cost a typical California family $80 more a year to keep the temporary taxes in place. The problem is those families are being hammered left and right with behavioral taxes.

By simplifying things and dumping the money into one pot it will make it more difficult in the future for politicians to balkanize the state’s revenues.

Eliminate tax breaks for the likes of Facebook and eBay. They talk about the state being anti-business but how much more anti-business can you get than choking off the very public education system and public institutions of higher learning that generated the workforce they needed to make billions by not paying their fair share of taxes?

Sacramento then needs to reduce restrictions on school funding. Roll things back to 1978. That was when a much bigger piece of the funding pie went to general education with some additional money going to specific programs such as special education. Let the local districts decide where the money is best spent.

At the same time, back off teachers. Let teachers teach without Sacramento looking over their shoulder. Teaching is more of an art form and not an exact science. Besides, every kid is different. That means formula approaches to standards can - and do - backfire.

That isn’t to say “sub par teachers” are acceptable. It’s just that we keep applying ridiculous standards what else do we expect?

Schools in the last 30 years have been pressured to cut the drop-out rate which means kids that don’t want to be in school are impacting negatively the efforts made for students who want to learn. We’ve also made teachers into full-scale social workers. At the same time instead of 25 percent of the graduates going to college or higher education we cry foul when not every kid is able to do so.

Sacramento needs to straighten out its act in terms of collecting and distributing tax funds to run the schools. What they don’t need to do is tell schools - and teachers - how to do their jobs.

One of the biggest budget disasters of late was class-size reduction. The state had a huge surplus. Instead of squirreling money away for a rainy day, Sacramento went on a spending spree to accomplish pet goals of politicians.

They threw money at districts to implement class-size reduction and gave them a ridiculous short time to do so. The end result had teachers who spent five years or more getting qualified for the right to teach working alongside people who hadn’t gone through the same process. It doesn’t mean they were all not up to par. But it would have made more sense from both an academic and funding standpoint to give qualified teachers paid aides instead of creating what has proven to be a financially unsustainable way to reduce class-size.

Solutions now on the table are simply kicking the can down the road. And the more we kick the can, the weaker it gets.