Sunday, February 1, 2009

Oakland School District's Latest Poverty Ploy

I'll be the first to admit that I don't really know where the money goes in the Oakland school district.

Somehow, no matter what happens at the state or local level, the district is always out of money. And it always underperforms other nearby districts by a significant margin.

Like most people, I have read anecdotal reports suggesting that Oakland's bureaucracy is top-heavy and inefficient. I also know that the Oakland teachers' union is very powerful. Owing to an extremely liberal electorate, there is no real check on that power. Parents support the union, even as it abuses their children.

Regardless of the exact spending patterns, I think it's safe to conclude the district's money is not being spent in a particularly efficient fashion.

For example, since I started this blog, I have called for the school district to create some sort of magnet high school. This would lure more affluent students back into the district, it would improve scores districtwide and it would provide an excellent school that high performers from lower-income neighborhoods could attend.

There's no real argument against such an idea, yet the district won't implement it. The closest they come is the excellent Paideia program at Oakland Technical. But that's just one relatively small program at one school.

This weekend I read an article in the East Bay Express about many Oakland's schools not having heat in the classrooms this winter.

Apparently, this problem is a consequence of the school district laying off two of its four "steamfitters" -- the people who turn on the boilers when they are needed. Presumably this is a unionized job, so the district is prevented from just hiring these people as contracters during the busy winter months.

I looked up the job on Wikipedia, and it looks like the only facilities that need full-time steamfitters are places like nuclear power plants. But, I digress.

There's a reason why the school district was unable to turn on the heat this winter, and it has nothing to do with budgetary problems. They did it on purpose.

But what purpose could this possibly serve? Why make the classrooms cold?

It's simple. The Leftists in the government want to get as much money as possible -- not to run a great school district but because they're following the bureaucratic imperative. To do so, they need to make it clear to Oakland residents that there is a budgetary problem that can only be solved by tax increases.

How best to do this?

Oakland's school district has a time-tested strategy when it comes to fundraising. They simply cut things that matter to the vast majority of stuents and parents.

No, they'll never cut out car allowances for the superintendent or bonus pay for principals -- that's not the kind of stuff that will get noticed. Instead, they cut out front-line teachers, they cut music programs and they turn the schools into iceboxes.

The police department does the same thing, incidentally. What better way to get more money out of taxpayers than to allow the city to descend into a lawless disaster zone?

I know many out there will accuse me of looking for conspiracies. But, honestly, how else can you explain this kind of absurd failure? And, honestly, why doesn't the city have a magnet high school? No one has ever explained this to me, in spite of repeated queries to numerous people in and out of government.

I know liberals want to make the charitable assumption that those in leadership positions in government have our best interests at heart.

But it's just not true. All they want is your money and their car allowances. That's the way the game is played in the big city.


  1. This strategy is so obvious, in other instances, I think even MSM outlets have noticed that the first things the bureaucrats always propose cutting in a downturn are: Police, firemen, teachers, usually in that order.

    They absolutely never, ever propose trimming back overtime, cutting car allowances or per diems, firing bureaucrats, eliminating "commissions," and everything else that no one would actually miss, and shockingly also correspond to the bureaucrats' gold-bricking jobs & benefits.

  2. This is the same kind of logic that says environmentalists are poisoning streams to get fish placed on the endangered species list.

    What you're saying is entirely plausible, but without real proof "that dog just won't hunt"

  3. "That dog Hunts". Years ago, I did consulting to a city government, back when Proposition 13 was taking effect.

    The city administrators were angry at having their source of funds cut off. They decided to close all the public restrooms at the city's parks. They said things like "We'll show them what happens when the tax money is cut off".

    The person who said there's "no real proof" just hasn't had enough experience in life to know what goes on.