Thursday, March 03, 2011

Why the Silence of the Schools?

Let's face it: school board members often care about playing politics to advance their own careers more than they care about kids.

Why the Silence of the Schools?
Randy Dotinga
Voice of San Diego

Local school districts are not exactly rushing to support the governor's plan to kill redevelopment, which is designed to pump billions into education. In fact, they're silent or close to it when asked if they're with the program.

That's more than just peculiar, a lobbyist and consultant says: "they ought to be ashamed of themselves...

Schools Pull Punches in Redevelopment Fight
March 2, 2011
by Emily Alpert
by Liam Dillon

In his effort to eliminate redevelopment in California, Gov. Jerry Brown has pitted developers against schools. He's argued that the state doesn't have enough money to subsidize both, and as it stands, his plan directs billions of would-be redevelopment dollars to education.

Yet few local school districts have rallied for redevelopment's demise. Ask school systems from San Diego to Coronado to Los Angeles about the idea and they tend to be cautious or silent — hardly the reaction you might expect for one key part of a plan to lessen budget cuts at schools statewide.

"It's been tepid," said Stephen Rhoads, a lobbyist and consultant for Strategic Education Services, a Sacramento firm that works with school districts across the state. "And they ought to be ashamed of themselves."

Schools' reluctance to aggressively back the proposal stems from confusion over how the state funds education and subsidizes development, murkiness on how exactly ending redevelopment would work and a lack of trust in the state to follow through on its plans.

That reluctance has cost the controversial plan to axe redevelopment the moral force that an outpouring of kids, parents and teachers can provide — something Brown is banking on to advance his idea that redevelopment comes at schools' expense. But if the fears that have held school districts back from vigorously endorsing the plan are real, it supports claims that the governor is merely using children to sell his budget.

San Diego Unified hasn't called to end redevelopment, even as it has tried to capitalize on the statewide debate that has weighed schools against it. Last week, school board president Richard Barrera asked the city to advance the schools $64 million from future downtown redevelopment funds to reduce its estimated $120 million deficit. Helping schools could be a selling point to save redevelopment, Barrera said.

Throngs of education supporters packed San Diego City Council chambers Monday when Barrera made his plea, one show of the power that schools can muster. But Barrera and other school backers have been much less bullish on ending redevelopment, saying they're still analyzing its effects. As of now, San Diego Unified is not planning any public stand on the governor's plan...

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