Don’t Waste Our Education

Conventional wisdom holds that the Democratic Party is the party of education, but some actions by democrats should put the accuracy of this stereotype into debate.
Oftentimes I see spokesmen cite the support of ‘teachers.’
Last year Gray Davis’ campaign even referred to the Republican challengers as being anti-education!
When one looks at the evidence it is hard to tell the accuracy of their claims.
The claim supporting teachers is perhaps the least credible claim.
Whenever the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, endorses the democratic candidate, one hears that ‘teachers’ endorse their candidacy.
While it is true that some teachers support their candidacy, such a statement ignores that teachers’ unions and the actual opinions of teachers frequently do not match up.
For example, Education Secretary Richard Riordan recently announced a plan to increase local control of funds.
The California Teachers Association disliked the plan, but a Peter Harris poll of California public school teachers found that actual teachers favored the plan 67 percent to 15 percent!
While there aren’t many polls that poll only teachers, one can say with accuracy that this isn’t the only case where the union’s position is opposite to that of teachers. Interviews with teachers show at least anecdotal support for the proposal by John Kerry at a speech at Colton High School to make firing teachers easier despite the disapproval of union bosses.
The American Federation of Teachers’ own estimates show that a majority of teachers are republicans or independents. Despite this, virtually all donations or endorsements by teachers’ unions go to democrats.
Polls of the membership rarely determine who is endorsed. In the only case I’m aware of a poll being done, the endorsement went to a republican.
Another problem with the claim of democrats being the party of education is their poor lack of priorities.
In 2002, Governor Davis passed SB 1419 which created multiple pro-union regulations that virtually eliminated any savings that outsourcing non-instructional employees might bring.
Since the passage of SB 1419, schools cannot outsource classified employees if the plan involved reduces the number of employees performing the same services or reduces their pay.
This makes reducing labor costs through outsourcing virtually illegal!
In 2003, faced with budget cuts, SB 1419 prevented school boards’ hands from reducing their non-instructional labor costs which resulted in thousands of teachers being laid off and many student programs being eliminated.
How can one put non-instructional staff as a higher priority than teachers and classroom supplies?
Simple: Fill the campaign coffers of the Democratic Party!
While Gov. Schwarzenegger has attempted to repeal SB 1419, democrats nonsensically claim that there is no cost to schools due to SB 1419.
This is despite estimates by individual school districts such as San Juan Capistrano that estimate savings of up to $4 million annually.
Statewide estimates are as high as $250 million to $300 million.
A recent state assembly committee vote to repeal SB 1419 was divided on party lines.
Local democrat Lou Correa rejected repealing SB 1419 even despite being told that computers sit in boxes in Santa Ana, which he represents, because SB 1419 won’t allow them to take advantage of free setup included with the computers.
On this issue, the democrats may win campaign funds from service unions, but students and taxpayers ultimately come out as losers.
Regardless of your political opinion, you probably agree with me that giving students the best education for our budget should be public schools’ highest priority.
Correa is running for the Orange County Board of supervisors this fall and he just lost my vote.
While the Republican Party has their own flaws on education, it is fair to say that they don’t have a monopoly on stupid decisions on education policy.

Shawn Augsburger is a fourth-year history major.