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Education: Parcel Tax Issue and Politics in the Public Schools

May 15, 1994

Increasingly, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is becoming dependent on "out of district" children to make up the school enrollment that serves as the measure for state funding. In addition, driven by the Santa Monicans for Renters Rights-dominated board of education, our school system has become a refuge for a variety of social programs that have little to do with educating youth. While a federal commission headed by Education Secretary Richard Riley condemns the declining school day allocated to core subjects like math, science and English and criticizes the increasing time spent on AIDS and sex education, community service and similar programs, the local board of education supervises a system that lards on social welfare programs and methodically destroys its educational honors program in the name of social fairness.

Over the protest of many parents, the high school initiated a condom distribution program that bypasses parental control (and, in this respect, may be illegal based on a New York court case of last year). The school also has a program for teen mothers that even the liberal former state Senate candidate, Catherine O'Neill, questions whether pushing baby carriages on campus is "too normal" and sends the wrong message. The politically correct history textbooks tell us that Ronald Reagan was elected President because of conservative special-interest groups that have dominated our political landscape for the past 25 years. The big-city political machines that pander to liberal agendas--no, none of that is in the history book.

The high school English department has imported deconstruction of literature from the universities; students are frequently graded on their ability to express "politically correct" feelings whether or not there is empirical evidence to support their conclusions. This kind of nonsense is slowly filtering down to our middle and elementary schools.

Now the school board and a number of civil "leaders" want us to vote in favor of a parcel tax to continue providing additional funds for this dysfunctional system. While they may think themselves civic-minded and "helping the children," the problem is that passage of such a tax will send the message that we are giving tacit approval for our politicized board of education to keep engaging in the kind of management that has led one family after another to pull their children out of the school system.

As is the case with just about every aspect of Santa Monica life, the parcel tax is recommended by a committee that is heavily politicized. The group is dominated by SMRR members and fellow travelers.

It is high time we sent a message to the educational leadership in this community that their social engineering experiments are unacceptable. By voting NO on the parcel tax, the people in the community will not really deprive our youth of an education--unless, of course, the school system decides to continue funding social programs and sacrificing classroom learning.

Remember, the parcel tax requires a two-thirds majority in order to pass. Sadly but appropriately, this is a necessary protection available to numerical minorities to ensure that their views are heard and responded to instead of dismissed out of hand as is the case in Santa Monica. (To my "liberal" friends who decry my approach, I suggest they carefully review the writings of one whom they "champion," Lani Guinier.) For too long in this community, the SMRR-dominated board of education has made decisions for our children with little or no regard for the views of any but those who agree entirely with them.

Let's see them change the way they do business, choose their advisory groups, conduct their board and other meetings and then let them demonstrate a record of community responsiveness, a focus on the education of children rather than social welfare programs, and--only then--ask for us to approve a parcel tax.

KIP DELLINGER, Santa Monica

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