First, I share this quote that Dennis Myers offered the other day:
Franklin Roosevelt/September 30 1934: I am not for a return of that definition of liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of a privileged few.
That said, I wish I had an audience that might go forth to insure that justice guides the decisions a public makes. Here in Washoe County, Nevada there is a ballot measure that will raise the sales tax to finance renovation of public school buildings and the building of new schools to accommodate the expected rise in population that will accompany growth in the economy, particularly the arrival of technology companies like the Tesla/Panasonic battery plant that is to open soon. Schools in the county are already overcrowded, some classrooms with almost forty students in them, a number that I know makes good instruction impossible.
The schools have, for a very long time, been overcrowded and many of the district’s buildings are badly in need of repair. They have been this way, as I just said, for a very long time. During that time, the recent and not so recent past, the business community, particularly through its Chamber of Commerce, have fought and fought extremely hard against almost every measure to increase the funding of schools and most legislative initiatives aimed at improving the condition of the schools. And they have, too often, won. That is a good part of the reason that schools are so badly funded in this state, the consequence being that Nevada is ranked last or next to last in quality of education in every assessment that considers school quality or states’ provision for the welfare of the young.
The rankings are almost always dismissed, the problem being with those providing the analyses or conditions cannot be remedied with infusion of funds. But now, because the business community sees an opportunity for economic growth that is, to some degree, dependent on the attractiveness of the region for businesses that need the kind of employees who are concerned with such things as the quality of the schools, it is now concerned with such things as the quality of the schools and it is arguing that money is a prominent factor in bringing about the kind of improvements that are needed to add the ingredient of quality to the education young people receive. More money, now, is a factor in providing good education, this a stance that the same people have consistently derided in order to convince the public to not support too costly school measures and to elect anti-tax candidates to the state legislature. They have also, to tragic effect, been effective in their lobbying efforts to prevent their having to pay higher taxes.
Now the voters of Washoe County have before them a ballot initiative to “save our schools.” This initiative is not only supported by the business community but sponsored by it! But that community does not want to pay for they want and so, the initiative that is Measure 1 will use sales taxes to foot the bill not an income tax or a business tax, but the most regressive kind of tax, the sales tax. Washoe County will, if the measure passes, have one of, if not the highest sales tax in the nation, this in a county with good numbers of people with modest to less than modest incomes because of the very business asking them to make conditions more attractive for those who can help bring about significant economic growth, more money to the region, higher profits for business folk.
The current measure is a most cynical one developed by some very cynical and very greedy people, those who benefit from the price of things rising, real estate, for example, and from increased numbers of people buying things that they will pay taxes on to help the business that pay them relatively little (this is a right to work state with the gambling industry a major economic and political force) by being forced to offer up a larger portion of their wages to cover the tax.
Few in the county are willing to oppose Measure 1 because they know the condition of the schools and the lacking in quality of educational programs in the region. Saving the schools is something most sensible citizens will support and they should. But in this case, voting to save the schools puts the burden of growing the economy disproportionately on the backs of those who are not going to be the direct beneficiaries of the schools being saved for there is in the Measure nothing that will pay for the “human resources” essential to improvement in the instruction that is offered. Those who, proportionately, pay the largest share of the tax will likely get even less than they do now from the school system, for, as is tradition in this region and most others, those who already have get most of what is there to be gotten, the schools in wealthier areas being the best endowed schools with the best equipment and the best teachers, a good amount of the tax money going to the building and staffing of the new schools that, as tradition holds, will be built in the newer and wealthier subdivisions.
So a vote to save the schools–and again, who can argue against–will be payed for, disproportionally, because the tax chosen by our business leaders is a regressive one, by those who will benefit least by it, people already here who have always carried the load, those who work for those who own, owners who have always been incredibly stingy in what they are willing to provide their workers in terms of wages and benefits. The people will be voting against themselves, as they often do, to benefit those who have for so long taken so much from them.
Public education must be funded and it must be funded at rates considerably higher than what they are today. Good teachers deserve a hell of a lot more than they are payed now and what they are payed now is so little because of those who now want to save the schools. When the business incited economic crash of recent years hit, the hardest hit were people of the so called working class, amongst these teachers. Business payed legislators were convinced to face the new economic reality by cutting the amount of money the state would pay for publicly funded programs, schools one of those programs, and good numbers of teachers lost their jobs, one reason why classrooms are so full as new revenues to fix the damage done by the crash have been slow to appear. The teachers are still getting less than they did before the economic debacle, some are without the homes they once were just barely able to afford (and won’t be able to afford when housing prices rise with demand caused by economic growth) and all are harder pressed to make ends meet, sending their own kids to good colleges a profound economic hardship.
Nothing in Measure 1 affects the salaries of teachers-and others who work in public education and nothing in Measure 1 calls for the money going to improve the conditions for learning in the -except that they will, along with others, paying more out of pocket for the goods they buy– that currently exist and with growth in population, without funds for adequate staffing, the quality of education is likely to diminish even further.
We do need to save our schools. No, we need to build school programs that educate students well enough so that they can understand the complexities of the world in which they live, well enough to understand what measures such as One really mean so that they can make decisions that are the right ones for insuring that they are able to live decent lives in a decently democratic country. Those who are sponsoring Measure 1 are cynical people, the very people who have for years and years benefited from an undereducated population willing to work for little, people who have little sense of how to fight the essential battles they need to fight, who do not even know who their foes are and who are too often convinced by those who deprive them to vote against their own best interests.
What should the people do about Measure 1? They should go after those who wrote and support it with a vengeance and demand that those in power, elected officials, do their bidding and not alone those who already have far more than they deserve, those who exploit the underpaid to pay themselves even more. They should do what is necessary to get rid of the predators, of the businesses and business people who take more than they deserve and make it impossible for those who do deserve to get what is properly theirs. Do not vote on the issue or vote yes if you have to while organizing to shed light on the reality that is the economic reality here and on those who have created the unfairness. Scream loudly at them and do what is necessary to pass laws that will put them in the place they deserve to be, ones amongst us and not a few who are above us.
If the measure passes without there being illumination of the fraud and the fraudulent, the educational system that our “community leaders” have created will work again to work against the very people who the system is supposed to serve. It is time to get real mean to expose the meanness of those who are really mean.