First, I want to thank John Wildermuth for making my daily afternoon can of Diet Coke so unnecessary. His column in F&H yesterday provided me with one jolt after another.
I cannot hold John totally responsible for some of what he wrote. In some circles you just are not taken seriously unless you compare Republicans to bent cops, imply they have a fourth grader’s ability to develop positions and that the positions they do develop are based upon “reasons lost in the fog of the past”.
But what really got me off my polo pony and in front of my computer was John’s statement that opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment that would have systematically reduce the number of Asian Americans in our California colleges (SCA5) was by “Asian American voters with a specific complaint very much in their own self interest. You know, just like all the other interest groups looking for something from the Legislature”.
Maybe it is just me, but comparing parents from a group that has experienced unthinkable discrimination in our state (see Internment Camps, World War Two) and who are concerned their children will not get a quality education because of their race, to some business looking for a tax break I find very offensive. And when Republicans stand up to support their civil rights, we are “gleefully plotting how to use the kerfuffle” [kerfuffle!] “over UC admissions to pry them out the Democratic Party”. Liberalism has come a long, long way.
Our history has sometimes been hijacked by the left. That statement is too extreme you say? To you, three questions:
Q: Who was the first president to use federal troops to support students who wanted to attend an all-white school?
A: Kudos if you said Dwight Eisenhower, although totally understandable if you said John Kennedy.
Q: True or false: John Kennedy attempted to stop Martin Luther King from giving his “I Have a Dream Speech”.
A: True. Surprised? You are not alone.
Q: Who has deported more Latinos than all other presidents combined?
A: Of course if the answer had been a Republican president, we would have seen documentary after documentary with dark sinister music in the background. That it is Barack Obama? I am still checking my TV listings.
So, as John challenges us, if SCA5 is not the answer to ensuring our black and Latino students get a quality education, what is our solution? There are many, including more Democrats than I can count, that do a lot more on this issue than me, but I spend a significant amount of time focusing on minority education issues in Santa Clara County. And there are several things we can do that will have a lasting impact.
First, we have to give schools the ability to get rid of poor teachers. According to the Los Angeles School District’s own numbers, black students are 43% more likely to have a teacher who ranks in the bottom 5%, Latinos 68%. Yet under current law getting poor quality teachers out of the classroom is almost impossible. Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy recently testified firing an ineffective teacher takes several years and typically costs the district around $350,000. Deasy said “We who hire cannot make a judgment to fire.” Even when the district tentatively succeeds in dismissing an educator, a separate government board can reinstate them. For the good of our children, these laws need to change.
Then, many minority students who successfully survive the K-12 gauntlet are not admitted to California colleges. Often this is because our colleges accept students from outside California so they can charge more for them to attend.
If the minority student is able to get into and graduate from college and then wants to go back to their home community to teach, they are guaranteed they will be the first to be fired. This is because as a matter of state law the hiring of teachers is based on seniority, which disproportionately favors whites.
And we wonder why our children are failing.
Look, I do not care who solves this problem. If it is Democrats, I will be the first to applaud them. And I am not saying every Republican has been a champion of civil rights or that there are not Democrats who have made tremendous sacrifices to get us where we are today.
What I am saying is that it is going to take more than insults and the perpetuation of tired political stereotypes to solve this problem. It is going to require us to have as our number one priority the interests of the child. It is going to require us to stand up to the real special interest that controls education in this state – the teachers’ union. It is going to require us to write our laws based on empirical evidence, not raw political muscle. And finally, it is going to require us to listen to what each person has to say, even if they are Asian American and yes even if they are a Republican.
If we do, we can ensure each child, regardless of race, gets access to a quality education. I am not willing to even acknowledge there is an alternative.