Over the Hill

I may be unpopular, but I try

Two weeks ago, I wrote that the Paso Robles school district is financially pinched and has canceled regular school-bus service within the city. And I wrung my hands over how that might affect the children of employed parents.

Many of those parents relied on the school buses to get their children to supervised afterschool programs. Will those children now be on the streets?

A reader responded by e-mail. He courteously reminded me that deploring a problem isn’t enough.

He said I should suggest solutions and ways to pay for them.

Fortunately, the directors of the afterschool programs didn’t wait for me to suggest solutions. They met with school officials and city officials.

The school district has offered to provide a school bus for a year for $31,000.

Paso Robles has four main afterschool programs serving more than 200 kids. They may need two buses. They’re scrambling to find grants and other sources of money.

But I’ll still do as the reader recommended. I’ll suggest some solutions to the overall school financial crisis; although my suggestions are usually unpopular.

Take the solution I sort of suggested in April. I wrote that I’d probably vote “yes” on a proposed $8-per-month parcel tax for the schools. Of course, by then, the school trustees had already voted 3-2 against putting it on the ballot and my column didn’t change their minds.

The voters probably would have rejected it anyhow.

Also, that was just a Band-Aid. We need major surgery on our state government, because the state controls our schools’ finances. It has controlled them since 1978 when Proposition 13 passed and local control died.

So I suggest we junk the rule that requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to adopt a state budget. It’s obviously unfair to let one “no” vote equal two “yes” votes.

It’s also obviously unworkable. The state constitution says a new budget must be approved and signed by June 17, but we still don’t have one this year. Only three of the past 20 budgets met the deadline.

And the budget we finally do get is usually balanced through trickery, false hope and false assumptions, and usually shortchanges our schools.

I also suggest repealing term limits. I voted for them but I was wrong. When legislators can serve only six or eight years, they are lame ducks from the start. They can’t develop enough personal power to resist the demands of special interests and big campaign contributors.

I have a few other suggestions but I’m already unpopular enough.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.