Letter to Local Churches in Pasadena's Black Community

Michael T. Alexander

August 7, 2017

Re: California School Choice Initiative and Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Speaking Engagement

Dear Reverend,

I am writing to you because you are not only a man – or woman – of religion but because you are also a leader in the community.  As such I am fully confident that you are aware of and concerned about the educational crisis we face in the inner cities among poor and minority children.  I say “we” because the problem is one that affects us all regardless of our race, ethnicity, religious belief, party affiliation or income level. 

Graduation Rates in Inner City Less than 50%

The sad fact is that our public school system has failed the children and families who most need a quality education.  The facts speak for themselves.  In the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD), for example, the schools are so bad that 40% of school age children don’t even attend the public schools.  Of the remainder, PUSD only manages to graduate about 50%.  Those graduates are so poorly prepared for college that PCC has become little more than a continuation school where incoming students must complete extensive remedial work before they can undertake real college level work.  The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and other inner city school districts are no better and often worse.

Failing Public Schools Spend $10,000 - $25,000 Year Per Student

Now comes the shocking part.  PUSD spends over $11,000 per year per student.  LAUSD spends that and more.   That’s why some experts estimate that the LAUSD may spend as much as $25,000 per year per student.  Bear in mind that the schools don’t pay rent and the don’t pay property taxes like most private schools. 

Several years ago, Adam Schaeffer of the Cato Institute’s Center for Education Freedom estimated that the Los Angeles Unified School District spent $29,780 per student in fiscal year 2007-08. That’s way above the $10-12,000 claimed by the school district, and as used in most studies.  You can imagine what it is by now.  The reality is that because of arcane bookkeeping practices, it is almost impossible to know how much these schools actually spend.  What we do know is that they have failed miserably.

Statewide, California is required by its constitution to spend at least 40% of its budget on its schools.  In the 2017-18 state budget that will be a minimum of $ 53.5 billion.  But that number is based on income and expenditures from the general fund.  That doesn’t include billions and billions of additional cash flows that come from other sources and programs especially grants from the federal government.  There are roughly six million school age children in California.  Approximately 500,000 are in private schools.  That leaves 5.5 million children in the public system.  That comes to about $10,000 per year per pupil not including federal grants and other programs!  For this kind of money, we should be doing a lot better.

Time to End the Cycle of Poverty, Ignorance and Crime

Whatever your religion and whatever your politics, all men and women of good must agree that we cannot build the America of the future unless all of our citizens have the tools they need to participate fully in the economy and

  the political life of our country.  Americans have long recognized the link between ignorance, poverty and crime.  Despite having spent trillions in the War on Poverty and inner city schools we have yet to break that vicious cycle.   We cannot do so unless and until the poorest among us get a good education. 

Time to Do Something Different

The wealthiest and most successful families have always turned to private education to best prepare their children to meet the challenges of life and commerce.  This has been the key to maintaining and increasing their prosperity.  Why shouldn’t poor families have the same option?  It’s not like we don’t have the money.  The problem is that the system itself is unaccountable or, more accurately, accountable only unto itself and the public employee unions and special interests who treat it like their own private piggy bank.  They grant themselves high lifetime salaries and retirement benefits and never have to pay the price of their own incompetence and failure.  They merely demand more money.

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you got.”  Isn’t it time that we tried something different?

School Choice for Everyone

As noted above, the rich and well-off have always had school choice.  So do poor families, except they cannot afford it.  They are condemned to a failing public school system.  That’s why TEAPAC is joining with other concerned parents and organizations to qualify a School Choice initiative for the November 2018 statewide ballot.   Although this initiative is still in the drafting stage, its key features will include the following:

·         At least $10,000 per year per child.

·         Parents will be able to choose the school, whether public or private to send their           child.

·         School options will include all private schools including religious schools.  No           discrimination against religion.

·         To encourage efficiency and price competition, parents will be able to create           Educational Savings Accounts.  Any money not spent in a given year on tuition           can be accumulated and used for college expenses.

Come Join Us Tuesday Evening, August 8, 2017

Before we can do any of this, however, we need to start a conversation.  That conversation will begin on Tuesday night August 8, 2017 when the Reverend Jesse Peterson will be the featured speaker at special evening edition of our First Friday Forums.  As many of you know, Reverend Peterson comes from the right side of the political spectrum.  On this night, however, he will be talking about the education crisis in the black community, not partisan politics.   We are inviting you and other concerned citizens of all faiths and communities across the political spectrum to join in this very important conversation.

We have included a flyer with more details.  Please call (626) 792-1772 or reply by email to hq@teapac.net

Very truly yours,

Mike Alexander