California law prohibits government officials from using taxpayer dollars “for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure.” But on February 13, in the meeting room of the Santa Ana Unified School District, school officials revealed a political campaign that began with shaping public opinion and will end in November with a district-wide vote on a bond measure that will cost residents hundreds of millions of dollars.
Under the guise of measuring public opinion, Santa Ana school officials are trying to shape it – and they’re using taxpayer dollars to pay for it.
In April and May, Santa Ana Unified School District officials papered the city with mail that looks like a poll. The direct-mail campaign included questions about how residents would spend $479 million to “support high quality instruction, repair deteriorating facilities, provide modern science labs, replace failing heating and ventilation systems, and replace portable classrooms.”
Officials asked the questions in anticipation of a district-wide vote on a multi-million-dollar bond. On a 4-1 vote last month, the district’s board of trustees placed the bond on the November ballot.
State law allows government officials to communicate nonpartisan information, but not to engage in politicking.
“This mailing was neither a scientific survey or a poll or mere educational outreach,” said Will Swaim of the California Policy Center. “It was a push poll, an attempt by Santa Ana Unified officials to persuade voters, and that would be illegal under state law.”
A push poll is meant to promote a political message under the pretense of collecting public feedback.
The Santa Ana survey is part of a broader trend in California politics. “It’s now common for local officials seeking tax increases or bond issues from voters to hire campaign consultants on the fiction that they will provide unbiased information to the voting public,” said veteran political commentator Dan Walters.“These consultants conduct polling to determine which angles of proposals are most attractive to voters, write the measures to stress those popular features and then produce literature and ads to trumpet those selling points.”
On first glance, the Santa Ana mailing looks like an actual survey. The front page states, “Santa Ana Unified School District wants to hear from you.” On the second page, respondents are told that “developing a plan for the future of our schools should be a community-driven process.”
But the “survey” strongly implies that the bond is essential – and that it’s so likely to succeed at the polls in November that voters should start thinking about how they’d like to spend hundreds of millions of dollars.
These millions will come from Santa Ana residents and businesses – a fact the district downplays.
A bond is a loan that will be repaid by local taxpayers over a period of years. Public officials have priced the November bond all over the map – from $479 million when they first launched it, they soon raised the price tag to $518 million. More recently, without explanation, the district announced the bond was $232 million. None of those numbers include interest payments that will double the cost to taxpayers. The district is still paying off two previous bonds.
“Santa Ana’s campaign strategy is a little like sending your kids a bill in January for all the toys you gave them in December,” said Swaim. “Everybody’s excited to think about spending. It’d be great if district officials told their residents about the costs to individuals and businesses.”
One of the first things respondents saw on the April-May survey was a message in capital letters: “Improving the Quality of Local Schools.” The accompanying note from the district superintendent emphasizes the district’s pressing need for more cash.
Further, the survey asks respondents to rank their priorities on bond spending. The menu of options ranges from upgrading classrooms and repairing deteriorating roofs and electrical systems, to replacing failing heating and ventilation systems.
Critics say the district’s approval of every proposed teacher pay raise and rising pension debt is consuming so much money that almost nothing is left for facility maintenance or hiring new teachers. Hence, the November bond.
“Santa Ana can ill afford another tax increase,” says Art Pedroza, a Santa Ana resident and publisher of the website New Santa Ana. “Our residents include many seniors on fixed incomes and young families struggling to survive. This latest bond measure will raise their cost of living.
“Ultimately this bond measure is a gift to the unions at taxpayer expense.”
Kelly McGee is a Rhodes College (Memphis) graduate and CPC journalism intern.
It’s 1999, and Bill Clinton is one year removed from his affair with Monica Lewinsky becoming public. Destiny’s Child is a hit with its single “Bills, Bills, Bills,” and the San Antonio Spurs have won the NBA championship. Meanwhile, the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) is proposing a $145 million bond measure to fund the construction of 13 new schools, replace portables with permanent classrooms, and renovate facilities.
The measure passed. A few years later, it was revealed the district hadspent $450 million building just five schools instead of the 13 promised.
Flash forward to 2008. The New York Giants beat the undefeated Patriots, Katy Perry is on top of bubblegum radio with the hit single “I Kissed a Girl,” Barack Obama becomes the first African American president – and SAUSD is pushing forward yet another bond, Measure G.
Almost a mirror image of Measure C, that bond was also successful. An independent auditor says Measure G funds were handled more responsibly than Measure Cfunds. But there’s still this weirdness: The $200 million generated by Measure G targeted precisely the same problems that were supposed to have been corrected under Measure C – the replacement of portable classrooms with permanent buildings, and implementing upgrades to facilities throughout the district. Both bonds won’t be paid off until 2040. That’s three more decades of higher taxes.
Now it’s 2018. Donald Trump is president, the Houston Astros are the defending World Series champs – and there’s another SAUSD bond measure. Depending on which day you talk to district officials, the proposed November 2018 bond measure would raise either $479 million, $518 million or, most recently, $232 million. The purpose of this new bond? You guessed it: fix deteriorating roofs, upgrade older schools, and, yes, replace portable classrooms with permanent ones.
In 19 years, SAUSD has proposed three bonds at a cost of more than a billion dollars (counting interest) – and is still unable to fix those portables or maintain its other facilities. At the same time, they have told state officials their facilities (the very facilities they say are in need of an upgrade) are good or even exemplary. In the meantime, government union-backed trustees have ignored official warnings of a looming financial crisis.
The country has changed so much since 1999, but not the SAUSD. There’s clearly a problem in Santa Ana that more tax dollars won’t fix.
Kelly McGee is a Rhodes College graduate and a journalism intern at California Policy Center.
School officials in California’s sixth-largest school district are working overtime to promote a massive $1.2 billion bond tentatively scheduled for a districtwide vote in November. Yet behind their chatter about improving Santa Ana Unified facilities is a stark fact: Student enrollment there has been falling steadily for over 15 years. And declining enrollment means declining revenue from federal, state and local sources – about $10,000 per student. But at the same time, district spending, particularly on teacher salaries and benefits, has been rising. Where those two trends intersect – falling revenue, rising costs– is crisis.
Just last summer, the crisis claimed its first victims when the district declared it would have to lay off 287 teachers. The same teacher’s union that had pushed for the pay increases that precipitated the crisis helpfully provided district officials with the hit list – all of it based on one metric only: the last hired were the first fired.
But the crisis didn’t begin in 2017. An SAUSD demographer’s 2016 report illustrates a steady decline in SAUSD enrollment starting in 2003. That year, total student enrollment was 60,973. By 2012, enrollment had fallen to 53,493. This equates to an approximately 12% drop in enrollment and a $75 million loss in revenue. Long-range projections through this school year predict that the decline will continue.
As recently as June 26th — school trustees backed by the powerful teaches union approved regular annual salary increases. In addition to this most recent salary increase, teacher salaries were also raised from 2013-2015.
Losing cash, union-backed trustees ordered district staff to find a solution. Facilities maintenance was delayed. Major renovations were impossible. And so they settled on the November bond.
A bond is basically an IOU — the district’s promise that it will repay Wall Street lenders interest on a multi-million-dollar loan. District officials first pegged the amount of the loan at $479 million – enough, they said, to repair damage created by time and mismanagement. But in the past few weeks the amount of the bond has fluctuated from $518 million back down to $232 million. Neither figure includes interest payments on the loan, which will more than double its cost.
Santa Ana Unified hasn’t even finished paying off two existing loans, from 1999 and 2008. They should be paid off by 2040. By that time, last month’s graduates will be about 40 years old, some with children of their own attending Santa Ana schools that will boast well-paid adults, falling test scores, failing infrastructure – and perhaps still laboring beneath hundreds of millions of dollars in repayments on the Great Bond of 2018.
Kelly McGee is a Rhodes College graduate and a journalism intern at California Policy Center.
Call it a tale of two school districts: The Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) is sending out conflicting messages regarding the status of its schools: their facilities are amazingly good — unless they’re amazingly bad.
According to the School Accountability Report Cards (SARCs) posted on the SAUSD website, all of the district’s high schools are in “good” or even “exemplary” shape. But in promoting a bond measure on the November ballot, district officials say they’re struggling with “deteriorating systems.”
SARCs are state-required reports meant to provide parents and community members with an update of local school facilities. Schools are rated on such safety measures as fire hazards, structural integrity, overall cleanliness, and electrical/water systems.
SAUSD rated six of their 10 high schools “exemplary,” and declared the other four “good.” Yet the SAUSD Twitter account paints a different, very bleak picture. In promoting a $479 million bond measure on the November ballot, the district says its campuses are plagued by failing heating and ventilation systems, aging portable classrooms, and “deteriorating systems.”
Further, surveys sent out by the SAUSD to potential voters ask respondents to rank priorities in spending money from the proposed bond: upgrading classroom facilities, repairing deteriorating roofs and electrical systems, replacing failing heating and ventilation systems, and other measures. That catalogue of collapsing structures fails to match with the SARC reports in every way possible.
The surveys are part of a high-priced campaign managed by TBWB, the district’s bond consultant. They’re intended to excite voters about the potential of state-of-the-art facilities becoming a reality in the district.
SAUSD parents and community members need to know the truth behind these contradictions. The schools are either in exemplary condition or deteriorating. Or perhaps they’re deteriorating in exemplary fashion.
Kelly McGee is a Rhodes College graduate and a journalism intern at California Policy Center.
Among the many burdens we place on military families, there’s frequent re-location from one military duty station to another – one year you’re in North Carolina, the next in Southern California or Norfolk, Virginia or even Germany or Japan. These are not combat zones but some of the places the military send both the military member and his or her spouse and family. Part of that is requiring children of a military family to pack up and move their lives, including their ongoing education, to another state or even nation.
In California, there are 32 military bases of all four branches plus the Coast Guard with thousands of military families at each base. At Camp Pendleton alone there are 42,000 active duty military personnel serving on base – many, many of them with families that include school-age children.
Those children (and their parents) find themselves at the mercy of the local public school districts. Sometimes these schools are perform poorly – or are even rated “failing” year after year with no change in sight. Sometimes, the child has special education or other needs that the local school simply cannot take care of.
Like most states, California does not have school-choice options available for such military families. Here, the children of military families are stuck in the school that is simply nearest their parents’ military duty station.
Private school is rarely an option for low-paid military families – the tuition is simply beyond reach. Studies reveal that many times military families, faced with the prospect of placing their children in a school that does not meet their child’s needs, exit the military.
The resulting troop loss is no small matter. Taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars to train military members in many different occupations. Mechanics (jets, trucks, tanks, etc.), doctors, nurses, pilots, special forces, supply or logistics specialists, etc., etc., etc. – all are vital to the national defense. When military members leave the service, our armed forces lose those members’ years of experience, leadership and the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent in training them. This places a significant burden on the military budget to replace those service members. In short our national security suffers greatly and this is costly to taxpayers.
There’s a proposal that will largely solve this problem. H.R. 5199 (introduced by Rep. Jim Banks, R–IN) and Senate version S.2517 (Senator Ben Sasse, R–NE) will amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1964. It is also known as the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act of 2018.
Under these bills, military families would be allowed to establish education savings accounts. It would transition Impact Aid funds the Federal Government already pays to local school districts for the education of military dependents into these accounts. Then the parents could choose the school of their choice – the best place for their child’s education needs. Private schools, parochial schools, private tutoring and even homeschooling expenses would be approved expenses under H.R. 5199. And if there is money left over at the end of the school year, it can be rolled over for the next year – or even for college. Funds not used by the time the child leaves the education system are paid back to the government and the educational savings account for that child is closed.
Just as in the current public school system, the money would follow the child; unlike the current California system, those funds would be allowed to follow the child outside of the public school system. Parents, not a Zip code, would determine educational choice for a child.
Educational Savings Accounts are already a proven success in providing a better education for children. H.R. 5199 will allow military families, including thousands of families stationed in California, the freedom to make the best choices possible for their children. This will likely be a major factor in whether many servicemen and women elect to stay in the military.
Congress members should co-sponsor and vote yes on H.R. 5199 or make this proposal part of the National Defense Authorization Act which is passed every year by Congress to fund our military.
Craig P. Alexander is an attorney and former U.S. Marine who serves as general counsel to the California Policy Center. His office is located in Dana Point, California and his practice includes insurance, commercial leasing, business contracts, the California Public Records Act and HOA law and litigation. He can be reached at Craig@CraigAlexanderLaw.com.
It is impossible to achieve diversity without discriminating. The only way that would be possible would be if every imaginable human subgroup were equally qualified to perform every imaginable task. In reality, while individual talents vary dramatically in a manner completely irrespective of group identity, on average, groups exhibit huge and verifiable differences in aptitude.
The objective of diversity, however, is indifferent to this fact. To achieve their objective, discrimination against the more qualified is inevitable. To enforce this across all walks of life, a growing army of unionized government bureaucrats have been hired.
When it comes to discrimination in the name of diversity, California is the trendsetter. It is the most diverse state in America, it has the worst performing K-12 system of public education of any large state, and it has the most left-leaning electorate in America. And to enforce discrimination to ensure diversity, California has its all-powerful public sector unions, that will support any new bureaucracy that increases its numbers.
The University of California provides a perfect example of how discrimination to ensure diversity is working. Starting at the top, each campus has a “Chief Diversity Officer.” Take a look at the pay and benefits packages for these individuals, bearing in mind how many high-paid administrators must work for each of them:
(1) Berkeley, Oscar Dubón, Jr., Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, (2) Davis, Adela de la Torre, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity, (3) Irvine, Doug Haynes, Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (4) Los Angeles, Jerry Kang, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (5) Merced, Luanna Putney, Associate Chancellor & Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, Ethics and Compliance, (6) Riverside, Mariam Lam, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Excellence and Equity, (7) San Diego, Becky Petitt, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (8) San Francisco, Renee Navarro, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Outreach, (9) Santa Barbara, Maria Herrera-Sobek, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Academic Policy, (10) Santa Cruz, Ashish Sahni, Associate Chancellor, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
The average pay and benefits for each of these ten University of California Chief Diversity Officers was $311,474 in 2016. To get just a partial idea of what members of their staff, or members of the California’s overall diversity bureaucracy make, go to Transparent California and search job titles under the key words “diversity” or “inclusion.”
The toxic impact of California’s unionized diversity bureaucracy is hard to overstate. California’s K-12 public schools have been destroyed by unionization, which, among other bad things, caused the worst teachers to end up in the poorest, most disadvantaged neighborhoods because they could not be fired. But why fix the K-12 public schools, when you have a diversity army that forces college admissions to reflect proportional representation regardless of academic performance?
The University of California’s “Freshman Admissions Count” for 2017 showed the following results by ethnicity: 34.2% Asian, 33.2% Latino, 23.8% White, 5.0% Black, and 3.9% “Other.”
Here’s where the tactics of the diversity army become truly suspect, because they aren’t just discriminating in order to achieve proportional representation. If they were, based on the numbers of college-aged Californians by ethnicity, 2017 admissions would have been 13% Asian, 50% Latino, 31% White, and 6% Black.
To put this in perspective, a recent California Policy Center analysis that took into account the number of college age students along with SAT performance, came up with what should have been UC’s 2017 freshmen class if admissions were based on merit: 21% Asian, 35% Latino, 41% White, and 3% Black. The CPC analysis, moreover, yielded understated results because the SAT criteria used was “met college ready benchmark,” whereas in reality the UC system purports to admit students who greatly outperform the “college ready” SAT benchmark. This is an important distinction – it means that in reality, a far greater percentage of Asians and significantly greater percentage of Whites would be admitted in a hypothetical merit based analysis, if more complete SAT data were accessible.
One can only assume the UC diversity bureaucracy, controlled by the UC Regents, who are themselves controlled by the State Legislature, did not reduce Asian admissions to their proportional representation because Asians still vote – by a margin of two-to-one, in favor of Democrats. So Asians were admitted to the UC system more-or-less based on their merit. Blacks were admitted based on proportional representation. Latinos, comprising 50% of college age students, but at most 35% of merit-based successful applicants, broke nearly even on that basis with 33% of the admissions. But where did that leave the Whites? Instead of being at least 41% of the successful applicants based on merit, only 24% of the UC system’s 2017 freshman class are White. Apart from keeping Asians firmly in the Democratic voting bloc, does any of the University of California’s systemic racial discrimination to enforce “diversity” actually help anyone?
It certainly doesn’t help White and Asian students who are left behind. It also doesn’t help Latino or Black students who are admitted to an elite university without having the academic skills to succeed. Rather than fix the ruined K-12 system that, thanks to union work rules, demonstrably provides inferior public education to the Black and Latino communities, the rules are changed and manipulated to get them into a UC program anyway. And then in an attempt to accommodate them, the campus syllabus becomes rife with academically weak majors in various types of ethnic studies.
Could it be that much of the campus polarization we are witnessing is because unqualified, struggling students are being indoctrinated to believe their academic failures are caused by racism instead of taking personal responsibility?
Discrimination to enforce diversity is not confined to academia. It is institutionalized across most of corporate America. It is enshrined in countless laws and incentives which are designed to “level the playing field,” but in reality discriminate against more qualified actors. It breeds bitterness and corruption. It creates tribalism where none had previously existed.
Ultimately, as America becomes more “diverse” at the same time as huge gaps in aptitude and achievement remain between groups, discrimination to enforce diversity in all areas of life will become increasingly tyrannical. And as it occurs, the role of government unions will remain pervasive and negative. They will continue to ruin inner city schools, then hire lavishly compensated bureaucrats to enforce equal outcomes.
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Edward Ring co-founded the California Policy Center in 2010 and served as its president through 2016. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development.
(1) The University of California’s “InfoCenter” has interesting data on graduation rates by ethnicity. The data is through 2016, meaning that graduation rates within six years of entry are available for freshmen entering the UC system in 2010. Here is a summary of results by ethnicity:
White – 64.5% graduated within four years, 86.1% graduated within six years.
Asian – 63.9% graduated within four years, 88.1% graduated within six years.
Latino – 47.1% graduated within four years, 77.6% graduated within six years.
Black – 46.8% graduated within four years, 75.4% graduated within six years.
(3) Some examples of pertinent information – at least to any diversity advocate (or critic) – that do not appear to be available on the UC “diversity” website pages are the following: What number and percentage of non-foreign undergraduates pursue STEM majors, by ethnicity, and what are their graduation rates? And, what number and percentage of non-foreign undergraduates pursue non-STEM majors, by ethnicity, and what are their graduation rates? What were the SAT scores – numbers and percentages by ethnicity – of applicants who were accepted to the 2017 freshman class in the UC system? What were the SAT scores – numbers and percentages by ethnicity – of applicants who did not gain acceptance to the 2017 freshman class in the UC system? With respect to SAT scores – is there any report that has compiled a bell-curve distribution showing the range of SAT scores from highest to lowest, proportioned by quantity of test takers, per ethnic group, on one overlay?
(4) The high school class of 2017 – admitted to the UC system as incoming freshmen in the Fall of 2017 – earned SAT scores by ethnicity as shown on the following chart (below) from the SAT College Board. As can be seen, across the U.S., the percentage of test takers who met the college-ready benchmark varied significantly by ethnicity – 70% of Asians met the benchmark, 59% of Whites, 31% of Latinos, and 20% of Blacks. Moreover, as documented by Ed Source, the disparity between the SAT performance of California’s students and all U.S. students is not significant. In fact, the average Math/Reading combined score for California’s White students was 1,153 vs. 1,118 nationally; for Latinos, 992 CA vs. 990 US; Asians 1,145 vs 1,181 US; Blacks 961 vs 941 US.
(5) In May 2016 the Public Policy Institute of California produced a study that includes data that tracks the correlation between SAT scores and graduation rates. As can be seen on Figure 4 in the study (shown below), the correlation is quite high. The upper chart depicts six year graduation rates, the lower chart depicts four year graduation rates. The orange dots represent results for Cal State campuses, which were the focus of the study. The more numerous grey dots represent similar universities nationwide. As can be seen, it is roughly accurate to state that for every 50 point improvement in a student’s Math SAT score, there is a 10% greater probability that they will graduate from college.
Correlation between SAT Math score and graduation
(6) As California’s population becomes more “diverse,” the proportion of “mixed race” individuals will proliferate. This is a welcome development to anyone who believes in assimilation, but may be of great concern to the diversity bureaucrats. For the UC System, for example, to handle this complexity, one recommendation is they require all applicants to submit to blood tests to determine their ancestry. Some of the new services, such as “Advanced Ancestry” can offer tremendous detail, showing the DNA based areas of origin for any human. The bureaucrats only need overlay that data with the geographic areas around the world that are known to be the places of origin for “marginalized peoples,” and they will have exactly what they need to continue to discriminate against individuals in order to enforce equality of group outcomes.
(7) Then again, since DNA affects individuals differently, it may not be possible to properly identify “people of color” for discriminatory favoritism based solely on geographically based DNA analysis. To compensate for this, the UC diversity bureaucrats can learn a great deal from the American Progressives of the early 20th century, and, for that matter, the German Nazis of the WWII era. Both of these groups created a robust set of best practices aimed at classifying humans based on their racial appearance. Going into the details of these best practices would go beyond the scope of this report, but clearly the UC diversity bureaucrats, and all diversity bureaucrats, can learn a lot of useful skills from their racist predecessors of the previous century.
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