Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Los Angeles Unified School District

The Los Angeles Unified School District is always stating that they need more money. This is probably true, since they serve over 600,000 students annually, and with only about 37,000 teachers. Every school teacher I know has had to use their own money to buy things for their classroom. These things include chalk, erasers, notebooks and the like, but also often include books for their students.

Something is obviously wrong with our society when teachers (already fairly low paid) have to use their own money to buy school supplies. One of the problems here in Los Angeles is that Proposition 13 was passed many years ago. This legislation was good in that it reduced the value of houses in the state, but bad in what it has done to our schools.

Back in the 40s and 50s, many people moved to Los Angeles because they liked the year-round nice weather, and the job market was expanding. Many of these people had been stationed here during the war and wanted to stay. Houses were soon built on a large scale and suburban areas were particularly attractive, as the cost of housing was much lower than in the city proper.

Los Angeles grew and as it grew, housing values increased. This was a problem because salaries did not increase accordingly, and property taxes are based on the value of the house. A family living in a two bedroom house that cost $40,000 with the father earning $20,000 annually was doing well, but when that house increased in value to $100,000 the tax bill became so high that the family could not pay. Houses were being seized by the state in lieu of payment. Proposition 13 ended this.

With Proposition 13 your tax rate is based on what you paid for the house. That amount is allowed to increase by a very small percentage annually, but when a spike in housing value happens, it does not change your tax rate. This is all well and good, but the writers of Prop 13 went too far. It also includes houses that are given from a parent to a child or a grandchild.

These houses are often sold without the sale being declared, so the parent receives money from their child and the child continues paying taxes at the parents' rate. Property taxes are where the money comes from to fund the school districts. When these amounts are being decreased, the money to schools decreases.

We certainly need to look at Prop 13 again, not to abolish it, but to improve it. Areas where our schools suffer need to be addressed. Added to this, we need to get the parents of school children more involved in schools. We should enact tuition for all students in our district. $100 per student per year is a small amount to pay, but this amount would generate $68,000,000 in additional money for our schools.

Added to this, every parent should be required to work at their child's school for five hours per month. Five hours is a very small amount of time, and no parent can claim they cannot do this. They can forego five hours of television per month to put in their time at their childs' school.

For parents with more than one child, it was their choice to have children. Children are not free, and parents need to take more responsibility for their children. This is one way of accomplishing that.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Who Made This Economic Mess

Our nation is facing the worst economic disaster since the great depression, but where should we place the blame for it? As Americans, we enjoy pointing the finger, and both sides of the aisle will steadfastly accuse the other of being the proximate cause, and both with sound arguments. As I see it, the cause rests squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats AND the Republicans.

Republicans have traditionally been the party of big business and the wealthy, which often go hand-in-hand. The wealthy own the businesses, comprise the upper echelon of the management and own stock in the corporations. What ever is good for the business is good for their wallets, and the Republican party subscribes to that.

Democrats, on the other hand, follow a different tact. Where Republicans represent the wealthy, Democrats represent the poor. The Republicans are the owners of the businesses, but the workers are often Democrats. Both are responsible for the mess we're currently in, but they have added to the problem from different angles.

As representatives of the worker, Democrats often stand up for unions. Union workers enjoy good salaries and benefits due to their ability to band together and make demands of the business owners. While no one can argue that every American deserves a clean, safe workplace and to be paid a livable wage, unions often go above and beyond what is reasonable. Their logic is that if the businesses can afford to pay executives exhorbitant salaries, then the workers should be compensated highly as well.

This sounds all well and good, but there are problems with it. In the first place, the cost of these wages and benefits are passed on to the consumer. In the second place, mediocrity is being rewarded. Union workers are often compensated based solely on the fact that they are already employed, not on anything they have done to make themselves worth more. While anyone can spend the money and time to go back to school and get a degree, many union workers choose not to, but are still demanding wages exceeding those paid to someone with a degree.

The Democrats don't see this as a problem, and continue their union affiliations. If the legislature were to come out with a ceiling based on job and education level, the unions would have a fit, but such a measure would have done much to prevent the economic downfall in which we currently find ourselves.

The Republicans, on the other hand, continue to support the business owners. Years ago, as union wages rose the businesses decided they needed to cut costs, and one of the first places they did this was with their own operators. At one time in this country, when you called a company a person answered the phone and routed your call appropriately. Now you get a recorded voice and you must enter numbers to let the machine know where your call should be sent. If you don't fall within the parameters set up by the creator of the system, your call often goes unanswered.

All of these operators lost their jobs. Note that these were not the highest paying jobs, but they were jobs. People had them and relied upon them to pay their bills. Without these jobs, a segment of our society became unproductive, and their spending was curtailed. This, however, was not enough for the business owners. Other jobs were to follow. More and more businesses outsourced their Human Resources departments, their Customer Service departments, their Sales departments and their IT departments and much of this outsourcing was done in foreign countries. More Americans lost their jobs to the greed of the corporations, and more people had less money to spend.

Our economy has fallen apart and in order to rebuild it we need reform. Real reform. We need jobs at all levels, and those jobs must pay respectful wages and benefits. Those jobs should not pay exhorbitant wages. If someone wishes to better themselves, they should do that with education and training, not union affiliation.

At the same time, corporations must limit executive salaries. The executives of all corprorations should be paid no more than five times the salary of the lowest paid person in the company. All other benefits should be the same for all employees, be they executive or worker.

These reforms would not only end this recession, but they would ensure the prevention of another. In order for these reforms to work, Democrats and Republicans must work together. I wonder if I will ever see that happen.