Guest opinion: Voters Should Flunk Measure C
Original post made
on Apr 17, 2009
Despite widespread layoffs, foreclosures and broken retirement nest-eggs, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District wants a 60 percent, seven-year parcel-tax increase, from $90 to $144 annually - another taxpayer-funded bailout for another spendthrift public agency.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Friday, April 17, 2009, 12:00 AM
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Posted by Michael Arata
a resident of Danville
on Apr 24, 2009 at 1:10 am
I appreciate Danville Weekly's publication of "Voters Should Flunk Measure C." My thanks as well now to "Worker Bee," "Susan," "Free to Choose," "Dawn", Jake Farsh, "Jack," "Raymond, and "Barbara" for sensible comments and for "NO" votes on Measure C. The Public Choice Theory commentary by Free to Choose was literally right on the money!
And yes, Worker Bee, a senior exemption does indeed represent SRVUSD's cynical attempt to buy votes. Fair-minded seniors will recognize the inequity in supporting taxes they needn't pay themselves. So please continue to spread the word about Measure C, and please refer voters to www.NOonC.info.
Meanwhile, the all too eponymic "Teacherman," apparently a would-be beneficiary of the new series of retroactive raises which Measure C would enable (on top of existing step-and-column increases, and without regard to merit or lack thereof), doesn't know quite what to make of having "been branded a liberal." But he considers Measure C an absolute entitlement.
And the innumeracy and illogic he exhibits here are certainly among the common antecedents and/or symptoms of liberalism. Basing notions about public-agency spending upon feelings rather than facts is another co-factor, indeed a hallmark, of the liberal condition.
Specifically, Teacherman finds dollar figures ("number ramblings") which gainsay his enthusiasm for Measure C "too confusing," or that [allegedly] they "don't add up" oh, and that they're "misleading as well." So after all his "researching and reading," no argument against Measure C holds merit for him.
He can admit, though, that "We all know that public education costs a lot of money." The more perceptive among us recognize that whatever that amount is now (in this district, presently $8,221 in general-fund spending per student, or over $205,000 per 25-student classroom in operational dollars alone), it keeps rising in constant-dollar (inflation-adjusted) terms, and that so far as the public-sector spending lobby is concerned, it's never been and will never be enough (as Susan observes in these postings).
So even if SRVUSD per-student spending is a more than a third higher in constant dollars now than when the district failed to pass a parcel tax in 1991-92, then the [Teacherman-alleged] end, "consistent results of high student achievement," supposedly justifies the means however costly.
Naturally, thereby, the Teacherman-postulated "need right now is met by passing Measure C" i.e., a 60% increase in the existing parcel tax!
Even if SRVUSD were to experience actual budget cuts (not just reductions in planned increases), the district would have to lose nearly $60 Million from its current $215 Million budget to regain parity with the effects of inflation and enrollment increases since 1991-92.
Teacherman does eventually try his hand with some numbers. He claims, for example, that the "district approved a budget that laid off or released 500 teachers, librarians, counselors, and psychologists. It cancelled music programs, coaches stipends, and drastically cut physical education programs
because the state has cut 16 million from the district budget."
But the 9-month-employment salary and benefit cost of 500 certificated district employees, were they to be laid off (which they have not been and will not be) would be on the order of $40 Million, not $16 Million.
Meanwhile, asserting "high student achievement" begs the question. In fact, as my article observed: AMONG SIMILAR SCHOOLS, SRVUSD's Academic Performance Index ratings average just 6.9 out of 10. And as in most districts, SRVUSD high school juniors perform poorly in State testing of college readiness averaging only 43% proficiency in English, for example. SRVUSD's performance deficiencies are featured in "Not As Good As You Think," published by the Pacific Research Institute.
[And the CSU system, which administers the college readiness tests, still laments the fact that about 50% of matriculating students require remedial English -- and that about a third of CSU freshmen need remedial help in math.]
More talk about numbers, I realize inconvenient, distasteful, and "confusing" to Teacherman. They underscore the fact that dollarwise, taxpaying citizens long ago "did our duty to reach the needs of our students." But it is unionized teachers, often more focused on indoctrination than instruction, who've failed to "maintain educational excellence."
All too frequently, they've displaced facts with feelings (a substitution "Teacherman" advocates presently as a voter response to Measure C) and teachers of knowledge and skills with propaganda shills. "Values"? A classic illustration of teacher-union values is the booklet "Guidelines for Academic Freedom in the Public Schools," published by the California Teachers Association in 1984: "Who dares take on religion, free enterprise, patriotism, and motherhood? We do and we must!" (p. 32)
But to Dan Parnas, it's adopting a "NO on C" position which is "morally corrupt"! And to Mr. Parnas, it's evidently OK for "Teacherman," "Schoolmom," "Terry W.," et al. to maintain anonymity (and that's fine with me, by the way), but not for opponents to Measure C. Furthermore, nine other individuals signed the public ballot arguments opposing Measure C, realizing they could face the scorn of determined tax promoters.
As for common sense, that's what voters demonstrate when they realize that SRVUSD spending represents a local microcosm of public-agency spending in general in both cases, spending which far exceeds the combined and compounded rates of enrollment growth (or population increases) and inflation over time.
For such voters, it's thereby also common sense to begin calling a halt where they can in this case, to a 60% parcel-tax increase while much of America is suffering layoffs, foreclosures, bankruptcies, huge investment losses, and retirement delays.
One or more homeroom mother(s) at Greenbrook School (where Mr. Parnas is a parent) has/have again been using privileged classroom e-mail addresses to promote Measure C and that's illegal, as is the use of other public resources in urging "yes" votes on C.
Janet Orgill apparently opposes any use of 2008-09 budget-year reserves ($6.9 Million set aside for "economic uncertainties"), unencumbered reserves ($5.6 Million, likely set aside to fund the first new retroactive raises sometime next year), or $1 Million more in discretionary "carryover" funds.
Last year's 1% increase was the fourth of four raises since passage of the current parcel tax in 2004 (when both the superintendent and SRVUSD's public relations chief said Measure A was unconnected to raises, while we opponents predicted the raises which have occurred). Cumulatively, the raises have amounted to 20% again, on top of existing step and column increases.
And a few other facts, also "just for fun":
1. The general-fund spending I've documented does not pertain to capital improvements. Indeed, that category of the budget is entirely separate, involving additional taxpayer expenditures over and above the $8,221 per student this year, or $205,525 per 25-student classroom.
2. In my world (and from the perspective of a 20-year classroom and coaching veteran), that's plenty enough to go around. The title of one article I wrote while I was still a full-time teacher identified then what's needed now: "Better Schools, Not More Taxes." Having worked directly for and with children (students and athletes) and parents in high-achieving private and public schools and swim clubs, I know first hand that more and more money isn't necessary for improving performance.
3. Predicting enrollment numbers from new construction and other demographic factors isn't so difficult. And as Ernie Scherer demonstrated in 2006, SRVUSD's 2004 vastly understated enrollment-increase projections at the time of that earlier parcel-tax campaign were an exercise either in terrible incompetence or rank dishonesty, leading to a fictitious funding deficiency, just in time for misleading parcel-tax promotions. We're seeing a replay of that tactic now.
4. 225 pink slips (notices of potential layoff) were issued in 2004. Ultimately, nobody was laid off and nobody would have been laid off had Measure A failed. Instead, the measure brought in $3.8 Million in its first year, and the District then implemented $3.8 Million in the first of four retroactive raises. As part of 2009's tactical replay, 228 teachers have received pink slips this year.
Janet Orgill is correct about some of my essential arguments: indeed, "the district is wasting money, [some] teachers are [hugely] overpaid [relative to what they accomplish], and the education in SRVUSD just isn't that good." And the facts do support those arguments.
Regarding (increasingly test-experience-boosted) API scores and parcel tax amounts, or school spending in general: as Jake Farsh points out, and as Eric Hanushek and other researchers have demonstrated, correlations between school spending, per se, and achievement are questionable, ranging to poor or even negative. Far more important correlates of achievement, at least in the U.S., are the professionalism and dedication of teachers and the socioeconomic situations of families with kids in school.
Finally: "Farmer Dave" wants "to see a notation on each comment against Measure C stating whether the individual has children that attend school in the district (private school doesn't count). If you can read this comment, thank a teacher."
Parcel owners generally pay large real-estate taxes now, and Measure C would cumulatively increase those taxes by another $1,008 over the next seven years. Many parents pay not only the taxes which fund public schools, but additional sums for tutors and in many cases, large tuitions for private schools so their kids can escape the problems of public schools; or in some cases they invest personal time in homeschooling their children.
Farmer Dave's invidious demand for marginalizing the comments of such taxpayers is unfortunately a common one, and one that is at least implied by some other commentators in this forum in so many words: sit down, shut up, and pay more new taxes now, whether you think the purpose is legitimate or not.
And Farmer Dave's citation of a teacher-union-favorite bumper sticker reminds me of another: "If you thing education is expensive, try ignorance." Unfortunately, we're trying both. We're already paying a great deal of money, for an unsatisfactory educational product.
Again, readers should look to www.NOonC.info for additional information.
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Posted by Michael Arata
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2009 at 1:56 am
Projection, the unwitting or manipulatively conscious assignment of one's own failings upon others, appears to be standard operating procedure for Dan Parnas and some other Measure C tax promoters.
But indeed, "the issue is so incredibly simple," as it boils down to two simple facts:
(1) SRVUSD understates its fiscal position; and
(2) SRVUSD overstates its academic performance.
These deceptions become especially obvious and particularly worthy of public notice whenever the district seeks new taxes.
The data which exposes the district's misrepresentations is available in (1) SRVUSD's own financial statements and (2) postings by the California Department of Education though Mr. Parnas will likely reject any source which doesn't confirm his preconceptions. Summaries of the data, with related links where available, can be found at www.NOonC.info/pages/spending09.htm and www.NOonC.info/pages/academic.htm
In 2004, SRVUSD's then superintendent and the district's then-and-now PR spokesman both denied that 2004's parcel tax was about raises. We opponents said they were deceiving the public. Four retroactive raises later: we were right again, as we've been uniformly in challenging the district's expensive gamesmanship.
But if Mr. Parnas's financial wizardry leads him to believe the district and its tax promoters, that's certainly his option. Perhaps he'll notice some day that SRVUSD is always in a state of fiscal crisis until it's time for the next retroactive pay raise. Sadly, the district will always manage to convince some substantial number of parents and other voters to support and to assist its latest Chicken Little, sky-is-falling, dialing-for-dollars manipulations of public opinion.
Meanwhile, if home values depend on education spending, then we should all consider moving into the Oakland USD or the West Contra Costa USD. They both spend over $10,000 per student annually and yet there are some terrific, hugely price-depressed real-estate deals to be had in those districts.
As for multitudes of "yes on C" signs: they aren't surprising or unusual. One illegal Greenbrook School message, using privileged class-parent e-mail addresses, mentioned a $250,000 campaign and that buys a lot of signs.
Whatever its final dollar size this time around, the tax-promotion campaign is again being funded and powered by easy-to-mobilize PTA and teacher-union troops, and likely once again by vendors of goods and services to the district. Underlying direction, rallies, and deluges of printed material are again being coordinated by professional campaign agents likely the same outfit the district itself hired with many thousands of taxpayer dollars to undertake push polling as a preliminary step to rolling out what became the Measure C campaign.
In marked contrast, the grassroots opposition doesn't have professional campaign agents, taxpayer-financed push polls and spin doctors, slanted media coverage nor illegal school-based campaigning. (By the way, perhaps Mr. Parnas's zealous illegal-sign-removal campaign can include the sign posted at the Diablo on-ramp sign for 680N even if officially, "there aren't any Yes on C signs posted illegally anywhere.")
The present "yes on C" campaign coordinators appear to be a little more discreet than the district's previous hucksters. The book authored by one of those earlier promoters worries that "by using our sophisticated tools to target, analyze, and segment voters, we are in fact hurting the democratic process.... New technologies allow campaigns to target various subsets of voters and to ignore others."
The other earlier agent's own co-authored book urges school administrators pushing new taxes to "create cognitive dissonance" and to consider "the 'theater' associated with media contact." SRVUSD is already a practiced master of such tactics, whether or not the present campaign agents are overt about such things.
In 1995 97, the district spent $237,000 trying to defend and to rehabilitate a number of illegal bond-measure ballots, only to see its expensive team of ten lawyers lose the case in two courtrooms to two non-attorneys acting in propria persona Ernie Scherer and myself.
The $144 amount? For one, it adds up to $1,008 over 7 years. Secondly, defeating Measure C would be one small but important step in beginning to require spendthrift public agencies to live within their means for example, to restrict spending increases to the combined rates of inflation (to which public agencies contribute mightily, by the way) and population (or enrollment) growth.
Were some programs actually to be defunded (as unlikely now as in 1991-92, when the district tried and lost its first parcel-tax campaign, but wound up with a surplus which it applied to raises), it wouldn't be the fault of already overstressed taxpayers or because SRVUSD lacks the money. Since the district is way ahead of the inflation-enrollment curve, dropping programs would simply be another case of educrats attempting crudely to hold children and parents hostage, while assuring the next round of cross-the-board raises, without regard to merit.
One of my local contributions to education, by the way following 20 years of full-time teaching and coaching was to substitute-teach during the 1990 teacher strike here, when the teacher unionists who claimed they did everything "for the children" in fact deserted the children, and then did their best (worst) to disrupt the educational process.
The SRVEA union received CTA's "Joyce Fadem Chapter in Politics" award after following the strike with orchestration of a recall and election of a new union-compliant school board. Since then, successions of union-friendly board majorities have gratified their SRVEA campaigners and funders, while betraying the interests of parents, other taxpayers, and children.
Also in the time since, I've exposed perniciously inappropriate programs, salacious classroom and library materials, and some of the unprofessional and / or malfeasant teachers who put such garbage in front of kids and have seen some of the junk removed and some of the offending teachers move on.
And for the benefit of "wondering," I didn't leave teaching because of money. I put aside early admission to medical school, in fact, to become a teacher and coach, after some related volunteer work my junior year of college. In other words, I became a teacher by deliberation, not by default.
My departure from teaching, after what became 20 years of highly successful results, was motivated by accelerating administrative dereliction, increasing numbers of non-academic interruptions of the instructional day, the frequent substitution of R-rated indoctrination in place of instruction, the suffocating mediocrity induced by union strangleholds on American education, and the prospect of happier circumstances in other realms of endeavor.
Much remains to be done now in terms of converting indoctrination back to beneficial instruction in knowledge and skills; in insisting upon rigorous grade-level standards, and implementation and enforcement of same; in better overall utilization of 186 paid teacher-employment days annually; and in efficient application of existing dollar resources.
I recognize that many voters have been dragooned into a "yes on C" position through school-based promotions or simple unfamiliarity with the legitimate arguments opposing Measure C. Here's hoping that those who haven't yet returned their vote-by-mail ballots take time before voting now to read the ballot arguments, and to visit www.NOonC.info.
There, among other informative pages, both sides' ballot arguments are posted, with explanatory annotations.
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Posted by Michael Arata
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2009 at 6:14 pm
More false dichotomies: pass Measure C or (allegedly) we will "bring the school system to its knees at a time when it is most vulnerable" and "cripple our schools and devastate funding for teachers and programs."
Meanwhile, we'll supposedly be "allowing the country to implode and anarchy to reign" [hellzapoppin'! and I must presume the missing antecedent premises here...] unless we close our eyes to the vote-buying irresponsibility of the Carter-era Community Reinvestment Act (1977) and the Clinton administration's expansion thereof (1995); approve of taxpayer-financed bailouts and bonuses for government-sponsored enterprises (e.g., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), absorb GM "legacy" costs (i.e., exorbitant UAW wages and lifetime benefits) and accept other negligent institutional behavior; and halt opposition to public-agency spending which vastly exceeds the effect of natural escalators (population and inflation though the latter is itself largely government driven).
So in other words, in the present context: drink the Kool-Aid, or they'll come for the kids. It's a worn argument, and an invalid one. Parents and other taxpayers should reject the Xeroxed and cutout ransom notes of the tax-increase extortionists, tell them to get the job done with the vast resources they already receive and then fire them if they don't.
Ah, but after all, shouldn't we realize that Measure C would raise "local funds that will be spent only in the SRVUSD, to reduce class sizes; to restore elementary and secondary library programs; to restore computer and technology programs; to restore elementary reading specialists; to restore the elementary music program; and to restore other essential programs"?
Also after all, "Senior citizens may apply to the SRVUSD for an exemption.... The school board is required to review Measure C expenditures annually in an open, public hearing.... Measure C is an investment in our children, in education, in our property values and in our community."
In fact, those are all false-alarm ballot arguments from 1991's Measure C parcel-tax campaign. With California facing a massive legislature-created fiscal crisis then as now, the measure FAILED but SRVUSD finished that year with a $3.6 Million surplus anyway, and implemented or continued all the programs besides.
In today's dollars, SRVUSD's general fund expended $6,092 per student in 1991-92. By 2003-04, BEFORE Measure A (first-time ever) parcel-tax dollars kicked in, the district's general-fund spending was $7,958, again in constant 2008-09 dollars.
The latest SRVUSD interim budget report puts the present figure at $8,221. Without current parcel-tax dollars, it would still be $8,068.
So we don't have to speculate about "the real world," or search very long for "a single instance where[in] "that kind of approach [defeating Measure C] has happened successfully in the public sector," or worry about the hypothecated possibility that "the institution fails completely and becomes extinct."
Unfortunately, public education's hulking dinosaurs will lumber on, consuming larger and larger real-dollar sums for an unsatisfactory outcome, and still leaving us a "Nation at Risk," 26 years after the report of that title.
Still today, "the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur--others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments."
And "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that [still] exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves."
I never assume that others will "feel the same way." But I do keep hoping that others will begin paying attention to the facts.
As I tell newspaper editors and other media persons regularly: concentrate less on "he said / she said" (or Arata said / Parnas said) opinions when facts abound. The truth is out there, for those who want it.
Unfortunately, it's easier for lazy reporters simply to transcribe the latest press release from Robert Gibbs or Terry Koehne and then pass off what becomes a one-sided advocacy-journalism puff piece as "news" when at best it belongs on the editorial page.
[In the current Geoff Gillette story, Koehne exhibits either his ignorance or his continuing dishonesty when he claims that "Since Proposition 13 passed, education funding in this state has declined" -- and Gillette laps it up without challenge. In fact, per student education funding in California is at least a third higher in real-dollar terms than in 1978-79.]
Most citizens are tightening their belts these days. But SRVUSD, like other public agencies, wants to keep its ride on the gravy train.
So again: what's important to me in discussing public-agency budgets and new taxes are FACTS, not the self-serving lamentations of the affected public agency or the captive-audience echo chamber of its self-perceived beneficiaries.
"R-rated" is not my own designation. It's an assignment affixed by the Motion Picture Association of America to indicate that material contains "adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously."
I don't want my tax dollars sponsoring the exhibition of such material in SRVUSD classrooms nor do other sensible taxpayers. An example: the showing of "Last Temptation of Christ," a blasphemous and obscene insult to Christianity, shown during Holy Week several years ago, in a Monte Vista English class.
Other examples of inappropriate SRVUSD matter presented to students over the years under the union-sponsored banner of "academic freedom" are too numerous to catalog here. Mr. Parnas can place obscene material before his own children at home, I suppose but he could thereby draw the attention of Child Protective Services.
Such irresponsibility on the part of offending instructors reminds me of my own M.Ed courses. Overall, they were a worthless collection of time-wasting nonsense, but occasionally they would veer into some common-sense acknowledgment of the reality already understood by students with any brainpower.
An example was the recognition, treated as a profound revelation in Educational Psychology 101, that "children do not think like adults." Children operate largely in the concrete; adults can operate in the abstract. That's among the reasons that "adult" material doesn't belong in front of kids.
But unfortunately, the district has some significant number of teachers who apparently believe that children do think like adults -- because they are adults who think like children.
If only there were as much concern in schools about polluting children's minds as there is about Al Gore's views on the environment!
Meanwhile, Mr. Parnas is now more overt about wanting to shut down opposing views. It's another marker of the liberal condition, like wanting to substitute feelings for facts, or like telling "NO on C" voters effectively to sit down, shut up, and hand over your money.
But the present assertion is more dangerous, because a desire for outright exclusion of opposing political views is a manifestation of Stalinist/Leninist instincts.
[Since Mr. Parnas wants to introduce sidebar issues: silencing speech which those in power don't like reminds me as well of the Orwellian "Fairness Doctrine," and of attempts by the SRVEA teacher union and a homosexual-activist teacher at Charlotte Wood to shut down the "Valley Citizen" when it published commentaries they didn't like.]
Specifically here, Mr. Parnas asserts that "the religious right has no place in politics." We can't be sure, but apparently "the religious right" is to be understood as those who espouse "bible belt politics" and undefined "biases and bigotry."
So one wonders: are we meanwhile to lay out the scarlet carpet to welcome the licentious left into the political discussion?
[And are we to applaud Mr. Obama's nomination of David Ogden as deputy attorney general? After all, Ogden volunteered to assist a challenge to the Children's Internet Protection Act, which was intended to shield children from access to pornography on school and library computers. Oh, but I forgot momentarily: it's opposing Measure C which is "morally corrupt." ]
In particular, regarding Mr. Parnas's obdurate insistence that a lack of widespread "NO on C" signs somehow indicates that opponents to the Measure C scam are "awfully ashamed and embarrassed to publicly argue such a morally corrupt position" (! Yes, he really said that, in his Apr 20, 2009, 2:37 pm post above - and posits the same "clear reasons" now):
Dawn tells forthrightly of the consequences sometimes visited upon those who speak up in opposition to local tax measures.
I hear frequently myself, via phone and e-mail, from school parents and other taxpayers who fear direct retribution or negative consequences for their children from teachers (especially those sporting "yes on tax measure" buttons) if the parents et al. publicly oppose the measure.
And Free to Choose himself answered Mr. Parnas correctly and articulately, specifying the spot-on applicability of Public Choice Theory in his post of Apr 20, 2009 11:50 am, also above.
Here's hoping that a sufficient number of people will do as Dawn suggests, and let their "NO" votes on Measure C do their talking for them. More information remains available at www.NOonC.info .
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Posted by Michael Arata
a resident of Danville
on Apr 27, 2009 at 12:37 am
Thanks now for insightful comments by Dawn, cardfarc, and Shelby.
There are substantial problems with Greg Marvel's numbers:
1. He compares SRVUSD's state revenue limit (actual amount presently = $5,660 per student this year) with all-sources funding in other places. The comparable SRVUSD number is at least $8,221 per student.
2. And then, so what if Oakland USD, LAUSD, the NYC Department of Education, or some other districts elsewhere spend "over $11,500 per student," "about $10,500," "over$17,000," or "easily average over $20,000 per student" respectively (as quoted by Mr. Marvel, though I lack time at the moment to check his figures)?
All those numbers do is to validate what I said earlier: correlations between school spending per se and achievement are questionable, ranging to poor or even negative. OUSD, LAUSD, and NYCDOE are hardly models of academic achievement.
Spending more money on education two to three times more, in inflation-adjusted terms, over the last five decades has not improved the result in any proportionate way, if at all. Far more important correlates of achievement, at least in the U.S., are the professionalism and dedication of teachers and the socioeconomic situations of families with kids in school.
3. In constant dollars, SRVUSD spends a third more annually now per student than the district did in 1991-92, when the district first tried and failed to pass a parcel tax. The present $205,525 spent here per 25-student classroom (operational dollars alone) already provides more than enough to compensate teachers fairly for a 186-day employment year, and for students to achieve at high levels.
4. But like other public agencies, SRVUSD plays a continuous game of compensation leapfrog, funded royally by taxpayers. The result is a public-sector salary and benefit spiral that has gotten out of control with resultant fiscal crises being proclaimed at all levels of government.
5. The present macroscopic economic problems highlight the microscopic. School-district demands for a further acceleration of the taxpayer-funded spending spiral, escalating even more quickly at rates beyond the combined effects of inflation and enrollment growth, are comparable to Citibank demanding a taxpayer bailout because AIG got one or Chrysler shouting for more taxpayer funds because GM received its own billions.
(And whatever the sequence in which bailouts have occurred, the underlying problem was one of irresponsible application of existing, already generous resources, with taxpayers now supplying many more dollars to fix a problem they didn't create.)
5. As I said before, SRVUSD always considers itself in financial distress until it's time for the next retroactive pay raise. We opponents of the 2004 parcel tax predicted that it would simply enable a teacher pay raise, without regard to merit.
In fact, there have been four retroactive raises since SRVUSD passed its 2004 parcel tax. And this year's Measure C would simply facilitate the next series of unmerited cross-the-board raises.
Some additional matters of importance:
6. As always, I encourage independent research into the facts cited here and elsewhere in regard to Measure C. When digging into political, social, and moral controversies, I never rely myself on a series of he said / she said reports, ballot arguments, or proclamations by public agencies and their tax-promotion allies.
Posting website information, with relevant links where available (and with ballot arguments from both sides), is intended merely as a convenience to busy, already overstressed taxpayers many of whom, like Dawn, already see 50% of their next-dollar income consumed by taxes even before cashing their paychecks.
7. SRVUSD would have to cut nearly $60 Million from its current real-dollar operational budget, not just the claimed $16 Million, to regain parity with the effects of inflation an enrollment growth since failing to pass the 1991-92 parcel tax. The relevant dollar facts and enrollment figures are found in SRVUSD's budget booklets from 1991-92 to the present. The needed Bay Area inflation rates are posted by ABAG: Web Link
SRVUSD's being "ranked No. 1 in districts of its size" in California is more an indication of the dismal state of California education at large than of absolute or relative achievement by SRVUSD. Being the best of the worst in a subset of the worst is not necessarily an indication of great or even satisfactory performance.
It's not especially surprising if most SRVUSD schools rank 10 out of 10 in stanine comparisons to all schools and districts statewide. What's of interest is SRVUSD's dodging of similar school rankings which aren't so favorable to their template.
9. SRVUSD's poor performance in the Early Assessment Program (of college readiness) can be reviewed from starting page Web Link .
10. Mr. Marvel candidly admitted in our March 31 debate that the SRVEA teacher union holds far too much sway in the district, after I raised the issue. And from the perspective of someone who taught and coached for 20 years in private and public schools, and who became an educational activist while observing the juvenile, counterproductive behavior of striking "colleagues" (not having gone on strike myself), the SRVEA union has indeed exerted far too much influence, fiscally and curricularly, over the district since installing a SRVEA-friendly board in 1990.
11. Genuinely responsible fiscal and curricular SRVUSD behavior, with union control minimized, could readily draw an interest in volunteer activity. SRVUSD has a very long way to go in all three areas of preliminary improvement.
12. Several times since 1990, responsible individuals with excellent credentials including fiscal and curricular common sense and relevant professional backgrounds have run for the school board. But they've been targeted by the local and state CTA teacher unions with thousands of dollars and hundreds of dedicated union foot soldiers, and they weren't elected.
Speaking of curriculum, there was an antecedent which Mr. Parnas fails to cite when complaining now about my "throwing out comments like '... Mr. Parnas can place obscene material before his own children at home, I suppose but he could thereby draw the attention of Child Protective Services.' "
The predicate develops from the discussion above:
"wondering": (and after a separate question about my contributions to local education) "I'm curious why you left teaching. Was it the money? Or the grief?"
Arata: "I've exposed perniciously inappropriate programs, salacious classroom and library materials, and some of the unprofessional and / or malfeasant teachers who put such garbage in front of kids and have seen some of the junk removed and some of the offending teachers move on
My departure from teaching, after what became 20 years of highly successful results, was motivated by accelerating administrative dereliction, increasing numbers of non-academic interruptions of the instructional day, the frequent substitution of R-rated indoctrination in place of instruction, the suffocating mediocrity induced by union strangleholds on American education, and the prospect of happier circumstances in other realms of endeavor."
Parnas: "When I start to hear comments like "R rated" and "salicious", I see the slippery slope you are on and I want no part of it. The religious right has no place in politics and it frightens me to hear that kind of thing pop up in my community. Yet another reason I live in Northern California is to stay away from bible belt politics, biases and bigotry and to keep my children away from that as well.
Arata: "R-rated" is not my own designation. It's an assignment affixed by the Motion Picture Association of America to indicate that material contains 'adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously.'
"I don't want my tax dollars sponsoring the exhibition of such material in SRVUSD classrooms nor do other sensible taxpayers. An example: the showing of "Last Temptation of Christ," a blasphemous and obscene insult to Christianity, shown during Holy Week several years ago, in a Monte Vista English class.
"Other examples of inappropriate SRVUSD matter presented to students over the years under the union-sponsored banner of "academic freedom" are too numerous to catalog here. Mr. Parnas can place obscene material before his own children at home, I suppose but he could thereby draw the attention of Child Protective Services...."
Mr. Parnas asserts that 'the religious right has no place in politics.' We can't be sure, but apparently 'the religious right' is to be understood as those who espouse 'bible belt politics' and undefined 'biases and bigotry.'
"So one wonders: are we meanwhile to lay out the scarlet carpet to welcome the licentious left into the political discussion?"
Meanwhile: rejecting Measure C is no gamble, as became obvious when voters rejected 1991's Measure C.
Also meanwhile: an ever accelerating upward spiral of public agency spending, far in excess of the natural escalators (inflation and population or enrollment growth) isn't just a gamble.
It's additionally a prescription for more government-induced financial disasters of the sort we're already seeing now. What we subsidize, we promote.
To "Teacherman": I congratulate you on your enthusiasm for teaching. But I suggest you not raise issues and then keep raising them unless you anticipate substantive responses.
Whether I'm a "rambler" or not, and whether or not my arguments get "lost in a sea of variables," are matters of subjective opinion. Others disagree with you, in this forum and elsewhere.
The facts relevant to Measure C, which you studiously avoid once again, are what they are, and in my researched and professionally backgrounded opinion they argue for the rejection of Measure C.
District spending, with or without Measure C or its predecessor parcel-tax measures, has spiraled many millions of dollars ahead of the combined effect of inflation and enrollment growth. And "excellence in education" here is to some significant extent a Potemkin construct.
What I said about indicators of liberalism was that "the innumeracy and illogic [Teacherman] exhibits here are among the common antecedents and/or symptoms of liberalism. Basing notions about public-agency spending upon feelings rather than facts is another co-factor, indeed a hallmark, of liberalism."
I wish I had more time to listen to and/or watch Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity but only for audiovisual pointers to news which is surgically altered or spiked altogether in the three newspapers I read daily and from network TV.
I sometimes wind up citing something that appeared on a conservative website or on a conservative radio/TV station but only after I've checked other independent sources, especially liberal ones.
Indeed, individual freedom under Declaration and Constitutional principles is a key, and public agencies (government) encroaches daily upon essential liberties. For me and for other like minded individuals, facts and reason drive ideology, not the other way around.
I'm glad to see again that you support merit pay for teachers. I recommend that for now, you minimize your teacher-union dues at the lowest possible agency-fee (financial core) levels, while you connect with the Pacific Justice Institute and its www.choosecharity.org program to see about getting all your union-dues money donated to charity instead. You'll need to act soon to control where your dues money goes next year.
I neither entered nor left the teaching profession because of money ($5,400 my first year, $36,000 my last). My students were three times team state champions in subject-area tests of scholastic achievement, three times runners up. My swimmers (as head coach) were three times state team champions, and included 35 All Americans. I wrote the successful competitive grant application for our school's Science Club to spend several days interacting with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratories. I averaged 80 100 hours a week as chemistry / math instructor, swim coach, and aquatics director etc., etc., etc.
Meanwhile, the physics teacher next door was named NSTA's national science teacher of the year. None of that added anything to our respective salaries as I knew it never would so long as the teacher unions controlled the agenda.
As you recognize, apparently, your own income is limited by a CTA-generated and enforced philosophy and practice which requires a single salary schedule for all certificated teachers, with increases based only on how long you stay around and how many (typically worthless) course hours you accumulate atop your BA or BS degree.
So I hope you'll begin pushing for structural change in a public way, as I did nearly 30 years ago. Providing more money (in huge excess compared to inflation and enrollment growth) to so inefficient and out-of-control a spending behemoth as public education only fuels more inefficiency, incompetence, unaccountability, and a continuation of public-agency compensation plans which are deliberately detached from performance.
Again: what we subsidize, we promote.
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Posted by Michael Arata
a resident of Danville
on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:15 am
2004's parcel tax helped enable large permanent spending increases (on large raises) with what was advertised as a temporary tax -- guaranteeing the tax-increase campaign under way now. 2009's Measure C, were it to pass, would do more of the same.
SRVUSD has a long history of deceiving voters and essentially extorting public dollars for unmerited salary increases, all the while claiming it's "for the children." In an abbreviated listing of SRVUSD deceptions and malfeasance over time:
1991: In the original Measure C parcel-tax run, the district's tax promoters sounded Chicken-Little, sky-is-falling, false alarms very similar to those underlying the present Measure C campaign. See Web Link . (It turns out that non-commercial links are permitted here.)
With California facing a massive politician-generated fiscal crisis then as now, 1991's Measure C failed. But SRVUSD finished the year with a surplus anyway (after predictions of a $1.5 million deficit a year earlier), programs continued, and revenues climbed rapidly during the 90s and on into the present decade at much faster rates than inflation and enrollment growth combined.
A month after 1991's Measure C defeat, the Times headline said "School Board to Announce It's in the Black" (Dec. 9, 1991). The kids didn't suffer, and teachers and administrators then received a succession of raises, despite 1991's Measure C rejection. Defeat of 2009's Measure C will have the same result.
1995: SRVUSD suppressed exorbitant (bond) Measure B project costs, including expensive re-roofing jobs for phantom buildings. Eventually, a Times reporter asked to see contents of a particular district office drawer, and found the project cost summary that had been requested by taxpayers -- but which district officials had said didn't exist.
1995-97: SRVUSD and its legal team spent at least $237,000 attempting to defend and rehabilitate illegal (bond) Measure C ballots, including double votes. They lost a recount and then a court case to two non-lawyers, acting in pro per, in Superior and state Appellate Court.
2000: SRVUSD drew Grand Jury findings regarding its 1998 Measure D bond: "The District electorate appears to have been, and continues to be, misinformed on [Measure D's] scope and intent...."
2004: After losing a parcel-tax election in November, 2003, District officials pretended they didn't have enough time to place their next attempt on the (anticipated heavy turnout) presidential primary election. In fact, they had plenty of time, but waited for an expensive special election April date instead, so as better to be able to march "yes" voters to the polls, and hope that other March primary voters would stay home. The scheme worked, and the current parcel tax passed.
They hope a similar scheme will work again now, with a $300,000 special vote-by-mail election, having dodged the high-turnout (much less expensive, consolidated) November presidential election after losing in the Measure D election last June.
2004: SRVUSD's then superintendent and (still in place) PR spokesman said the Measure A parcel tax was not about raises. The SRVUSD spokesman (Terry Koehne) proclaimed "an understanding there will not be a pay raise next year" (SRV Times, Mar. 28, 2004).
We Measure A opponents had predicted exactly what happened then: in fact, 2005's RETROACTIVE raise was just the first of four raises implemented since 2004's parcel tax passed the most recent raise being implemented brazenly just a month before last June's Measure D election.
Similarly, Measure C is all about the next series of raises without regard to merit i.e., more permanent spending increases enabled for now by a supposedly temporary tax, ensuring another campaign for another parcel tax increase, in 2016 or earlier. See graph and related data for SRVUSD's skyrocketing spending trajectory: Web Link.
Now, as in 2004 and in previous tax-promoter campaigns, SRVUSD resources are being used unethically (and in some cases, illegally) to promote Measure C. See Web Link .
The district continues to understate its financial condition and to overstate its academic achievements.
The pro-tax ballot arguments try deceptively to make Measure C sound like a simple renewal. It's not. It's a 60% increase, under terrible economic conditions.
As always, a tax-promoter ballot argument says "The argument against Measure C is inaccurate and misleading." But the Measure C ballot-argument promoters fail to identify any statement that is "inaccurate" or "misleading." It's in fact the other way around; it's the tax promoters who mislead, attempting to project their own failings upon Measure C opponents.
Trying to divert voter attention from SRVUSD's deceptions and fiscal irresponsibility, Measure C promoters emphasize the "only-$12-per-month" theme. But $12 per month for seven years = $1,008 (plus interest or other return, if you retain the money, while continuing to support the district with thousands of dollars in other tax extractions).
Even if SRVUSD winds up with a $16 million lessening of its anticipated spending increases, district spending next year alone will still be more than $40 Million ahead of the aggregated effect of inflation and enrollment growth since SRVUSD lost its first Measure C parcel-tax run in 1991.
It isn't the fault of taxpayers that SRVUSD, like other spendthrift public agencies, can't keep its spending increases within reasonable bounds. Also like other spendthrift public agencies, SRVUSD doesn't deserve another taxpayer bailout.
More money does not equal better education. As in the title of an article I wrote some 20 years ago, when I was still teaching: parents and other taxpayers deserve "Better Schools, Not More Taxes." Teachers and schools should compete; students, parents and other taxpayers and skillful teachers would win.
Fiscal sanity in American public education has to start someplace. Here's hoping it's here and now.
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Posted by Michael Arata
a resident of Danville
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:45 pm
"School Supporter" requests sourcing for several statements of fact regarding SRVUSD's long history of misrepresentation.
It's certainly a very good idea to look briefly (again, at "School Supporter's insistence) at SRVUSD's past money-measure deceptions and the District's attempt to carry a bond election with illegal ballots in the present context of:
SRVUSD's late-breaking Measure C gamesmanship with enrollment numbers (and resultant fictitious deficit figures), explained at Web Link ;
attempts by ballot-argument tax promoters to divert attention from both SRVUSD's skyrocketing spending curve and the fact that Measure C attempts a 60% increase from the present parcel tax, at a time of severe financial distress for taxpayers; and
the District's determination to deflect attention from a new series of unmerited raises that Measure C would enable etc., etc., etc.
In 1995, even the SRV Times finally asked (AFTER the election), "What did school officials know -- and when?" (lead editorial, 3/9/95).
Regarding District suppression of the Measure B bond project list, the Times commented: "By January, opponents' charges were having an effect, and the Times was pressing the district for more information.
"But officials did not give the press the Oct. 26 report. Instead, they released a revision, dated Jan. 10, which omitted the crucial cost information.
"That's clearly a violation of state law guaranteeing public access to public records," the Times continued.... "Concealing information from the public is a serious breach of officials' responsibility."
The cost data, when finally it became available, included things like re-roofing an area larger than 5 football fields, including at least 45,000 square feet of non-existent buildings, at Monte Vista High School.
As the Times noted: reporter Susan Dowdney accepted the school board's challenge to find evidence of concealment, "even to the extent of going through the file drawers in the district office
." [A]nd that's where she found the October surprise."
(By the way, the County Library archives the CC Times but not the SRV Times. So I've arranged for a copy of the editorial in question to be posted at the bottom of Web Link .)
The court case involving SRVUSD's attempt to win back the subsequent Measure C bond election with illegal votes, after Ernie Scherer and I had commissioned and overseen a recount which overturned the original election result, was Contra Costa County Superior Court No. C96-00160.
The subsequent California First Appellate District case was A075812. Ernie Scherer and I, two non-attorneys, prevailed against SRVUSD's $238,000 legal team in both courtrooms.
The SRV Times asked for a lengthy in-person follow-up interview at Times offices, then spiked the David vs. Goliath story that was to result.
When kids in earlier California days actually learned "readin', writin', and 'rithmetic" say, in the early part of the last century, inflation-adjusted per-student spending was a small fraction of today's $8,221 per-student spending (=$205,525 per 25 student classroom, in operational dollars alone). How much is enough?
Those interested in seeing real SRVUSD academic achievement numbers (with links to state sources) can visit Web Link .
Distinguished schools? I taught in one. The award depended more on the paperwork persistence of administrators than on actual achievement.
Like others here, "School Supporter" wants to sidestep SRVUSD's long history of saying one thing and doing another, especially when it comes to making dollars available for salary and benefit increases.
At one school board meeting preceding the board's adoption of what became 2009's Measure C, SRVEA / CTA's local teacher-union president proclaimed to the board that they would not balance their budget "on the backs of teachers."
Translation: You won't mess with our next series of unmerited cross-the-board raises. There were smiles all around, and the union-dominated board followed its marching orders.
As SRVUSD has proven repeatedly: The District is always in "desperate" fiscal condition until it's time for the next retroactive pay raise.
One of SRVUSD's classic such reversals was that of 1995:
"For the first time in a long time, we're not having to pit teachers against maintenance against programs. We've taken care of the things we need to take care of this year." [-- Rob Kessler, SRVUSD Superintendent, endorsing a 5% raise (Herald, 12/15/95), just 9 days after "desperately needed" Measure C was undone in our recount.]
This turned out to be just the first of three retroactive raises of 5% or more in just the first 24 months following Measure C's recount demise, while the District spent $238,000 trying to rehabilitate illegal "yes on C" ballots, including double votes.]
More recently, Kessler and still-in-place SRVUSD P.R. spokesman Terry Koehne said in 2004 that the Measure A parcel tax was not about raises. The SRVUSD spokesman (Terry Koehne) proclaimed "an understanding there will not be a pay raise next year" (SRV Times, Mar. 28, 2004).
We Measure A opponents had predicted earlier exactly what happened next: 2005's RETROACTIVE raise became just the first of four raises (atop existing contractual step-and-column advancements) implemented since 2004's parcel tax passed the most recent raise being implemented brazenly just a month before last June's Measure D election.
2009's Measure C has precisely the same ultimate purpose: a series of permanent spending increases through new raises, enabled by the $7 million annually (with housing growth, more than $50 Million in total new bonanza bucks over the next 7 years).
Here's hoping for a "NO on C" outcome on Tuesday, even though SRVUSD has expensively gamed this (vote-by-mail) special election by avoiding November's heavy-turnout general election.
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Posted by Michael Arata
a resident of Danville
on Apr 30, 2009 at 12:44 am
Rick, I appreciate your opposition to Measure C but you'll be far more effective if you slow down and clean up your language. By the time some others see this in the morning, your comment about Churchill may have been removed. It's offensive, inaccurate, and has the effect of weakening your arguments besides.
For Lynn's benefit:
Now that she mentions but denies her earlier purpose what is it in fact BUT a character attack (as "Stop Drinking the Kool-Aid" observed) to transmit disinformation which alleges falsely that I don't live in the SRVUSD, yet that I supposedly keep "trying to convince [everyone else] what to do in [their] own backyards"?
If Lynn wants to question someone from outside the district who has tried to influence Measure C's outcome, she could start with the District's San Francisco and Oakland-based tax-election election consultants, who cost local taxpayers $39,838 for push polling orchestration and campaign strategizing before Measure C was even on the ballot.
Meanwhile, "looking at [her] three children sitting at the breakfast table," charming as that scene is, gives Lynn no monopoly on caring about children. I skipped early admission to medical school for what turned out to be a 20-year first career of teaching and coaching children ages 3 27, and I still receive copious thanks from kids and parents for that involvement now, many years later. My two kids are themselves happily situated in excellent, societally beneficial careers today.
And as time allows, I still expose school programs that could readily harm children, brought their way by their seemingly friendly but ignorant or malfeasant teacher-union activist.
None of that qualifies me for a monopoly on caring about kids either. But it certainly doesn't disqualify me, or others with Measure C sentiments similar to mine.
In so many words, what I've been saying is that caring about children and their education doesn't mean that when it comes to SRVUSD school budgets, we should somehow become so indulgently open-minded that our fiscal brains fall out.
I can't think of a money issue in which SRVUSD has not misled voters about the intent and the ultimate outcome. Presently, Measure C, like its Measure A predecessor in 2004, and with the same tactical gimmicks now as then, is in fact all about cross-the-board raises.
That's because parcel-tax money is fungible. It goes into a (let's call it) column A to fund programs that all schools should be prioritizing and funding with their core financing already, as standard operating procedure [i.e., to "retain qualified and experienced teachers, prepare students for college and careers, prepare students to compete in a global economy, (and) maintain strong math, science and literacy programs."]
Meanwhile, since parcel-tax money becomes general-fund revenue, money now freed up in column A transfers over to column B, whence the next series of cross-the-board raises, without regard to merit, is funded. And the "citizen oversight [crony] committee" reports, meanwhile, that everything is fine, don't worry, be happy.
We don't have to guess at this outcome; it's the standard template over time for SRVUSD, and for other public agencies as well.
And what about the expense of the current parcel-tax elections? SRVUSD was billed $152,737 for last June's first act, Measure D. That election was consolidated, as what the Election Office calls a "direct primary." Seeking a given measure's passage in a consolidated election lessens the related district's taxpayer cost, because expenses are shared with other entities participating in the same election.
In contrast, a November 17 letter (i.e., just after the November presidential election, and pointing to some prior inquiry by SRVUSD) from the Elections Office to SRVUSD's Superintendent secretary estimates an unconsolidated "All Mail Ballot Election May 2009) as costing $3.50 for each of 83,565 voters registered as of November 3.
83,565 x $3.50 = $292,478 almost double the cost to taxpayers of SRVUSD's preliminary parcel-tax round last June, and before any new registrants since November 3 are added to the electorate.
That's because it's a single-issue election, by design. So the claim of "saving" $200,000 by avoiding in-person voting is simply another of SRVUSD's many cynical deceptions of voters.
The District and some significant number of its dedicated in-house tax promoters and professional consultants don't care about saving local taxpayer money; they care about passing the parcel tax, and thereby about freeing up lots of dollars for more cross-the board raises.
If Measure C passes, one wonders if contributors to this forum who question the motives of Measure C opponents, their concern for children, their support for education, etc., etc., etc. will apply their efforts to trying to halt the series of unmerited teacher-union raises that Measure C would enable.
If perchance they do make such an effort, in the unfortunate event of Measure C passage, they'll find that the train carrying the cashbox has already left the station, headed straight for a hold-up as soon as it travels out of sight around the first bend in the tracks.
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Posted by Rick
a resident of Danville
on Apr 30, 2009 at 9:12 am
So, who did say it Parnas? Wow, that was really important that you prove me wrong on a quote from Churchill (edited). Churchill had many good quotes though and I'm sure he did say something to this effect, regardless of his wife's stance. (your phrase-finder is not the absolute fact either, merely some opinion writer, besides the fact that it said he switched from liberal to conservative later in life) Whether or not he did is irrelevant, because the quote still stands as true in terms of its content. I originally just referred to the proverbial "they" when quoting that, but Palin asked who said it, as if no one's ever heard the quote. So, I said what I had seen on the History Channel, which is that Churchill said it. I have no vested interest in making it a Churchill comment or not, so nice try splitting hairs. It's also telling that you think everything on the internet is the written-in-stone truth. That's pretty naive. You keep wanting to debase this argument to simplicities that aren't true. "The school needs more money (false), therefore we must give it to them (false.)" If someone has been wasteful and irresponsible with our money in the past, then we don't throw more at them. I'm glad Greenbrook has solar panels. That doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a lot better if we weren't wasting money prior, and that of course goes for all the schools. We would have a local fiscal surplus that could pay for your teachers if they're money wasn't wasted other places. But, now that it's gone it's time to take a look at what we could cut, rather than what we can spend. This has nothing to do with a measly 12 bucks. The Federal, state and local government find millions of ways to just take a few bucks from us, which adds up to intolerably overbearing taxation of far more than just prop C. We have to nip all these small things in the bud and attack the true problem, which is the wasteful spending of the state as a whole. But, you don't want to go there, or least say "you're right, the state wastes billions of dollars a year on illegal immigrants. let's definitely stop that and in the meantime pass prop C." No, I've not heard one person on your side of this debate acknowledge the state's wasteful spending. The local government is also wasteful, sending our money since the 1980s to other districts. You just say, "who cares, look to the future." Sorry, you don't get to waste our money for decades, then come back looking for a handout.
I forgot what I wrote about Churchill that was so offensive. I have my argument style, which fires up the base, others have their own, which is fine if you want to distinguish yourself from me, for I am a bit of a firebrand. I do have to say, I've seen countless insulting words thrown around from the other side of this debate, calling people such as myself greedy right-wingers, which I am not (I voted for Obama, Kerry and Gore). I did not whine about it being offensive. I just took them on. I have to say, you adults may need to thicken your skin. That's not a snipe at you Arata. I know that, as the face behind this cause, you need to be the moderate voice and people don't know who I am (though they soon will), therefore you need to show that my words are not yours. Let it be stated that I have never met Mr. Arata, i don't even know what he looks like. I don't care. This is my cause. My words are my own. My passion is my own. I'm a researched young man who is passionate about saving America in general. So, let us all gain a bit more intestinal fortitude.