Schools’ Success Not About Funding

Friday, November 2, 2012
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For the first time in many election cycles, voters in the Santa Barbara Unified School District have a real choice among the candidates for the School Board. Generally, all candidates seek the endorsement of the teachers union and the dominant political party in the district and, therefore, despite attempts to differentiate themselves, they pretty much think alike and represent the same tired old policies that have kept our schools stuck in a last-century time warp.

By appeasing these special interest groups, they relinquish their objectivity and independence and are reduced to spewing one banality after another. Everyone who runs for the School Board professes to want to improve the schools, but if you listen closely, you will not hear any meaningful reforms they would enact. By virtue of my candidacy, for the first time, voters will have a real choice. If you are as alarmed as I am that approximately 2/3 of our 10th and 1lth graders are less than proficient in math, you may be ready to vote for an alternative voice on our Board.

I am the only candidate who will push to reform the antiquated and counterproductive tenure and seniority rules, which effectively guarantee an ineffective teacher a lifetime job and ensure that all teachers are rewarded for longevity rather than performance. I will be a persistent and consistent voice for abolishing the last-in-first-out rules, which were responsible for the dismissal of the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year in 2010. I will provide clear direction for instituting a comprehensive and integrated system for hiring, training, evaluating, and retaining the very best teachers. Teachers who can make learning fun and motivate their students to perform beyond expectations are priceless. Rules that make it tougher to attract these teachers need to be expunged. I will also hold administrators responsible for implementing these reforms and ensuring they are up to the task of carrying them out. This means that principals must be able to identify great teaching and have the requisite skills to train and nurture teachers to perform at high levels.

Finally, I will insist that we junk ineffective curriculum, bureaucracy, counterproductive rules, mandates, and a culture which is all too accepting of mediocrity and poor results. I will be singularly focused on improving student academic outcomes in the core subjects of English, reading, math and writing. I will speak out every time I detect that my fellow board members do not elevate the students and their academic outcomes above the politics and narrow concerns of special interest groups. I will have a simple test: If there is any board action that doesn’t lead to raising academic achievement, I will oppose it.

As for Measures A&B, I oppose them. I have many reasons for my opposition, but I will cite the three most important. First, despite all you have heard from the strident and shrill voices pushing these property taxes, it is a fact that per pupil spending has actually increased by over $400 in the last several years due to the district having lost more than 1000 students since 2005. It is also a fact that spending for the district has exceeded inflation and population growth since 2000. Research has shown that there is no correlation between academic outcomes and spending for schools with similar population profiles. United States is second in the world for per pupil spending, but in the bottom half of the industrialized nations for academic achievement.

My second reason is the incredible waste of taxpayer resources by the educational bureaucracy in this state. We have a County Educational Office led by the County Superintendent of Schools, Bill Cirone. One might ask for which schools or districts he is responsible. Except for a limited number of special needs students and kids from juvenile court, every school district in the county already has a Superintendent appointed by a local schools committee. To understand the amount of taxpayer dollars going to uses other than the classroom, one needs to compare the budgets of the Santa Barbara Unified School District and the County Education Office. The District has a budget of $117 million and around 13,100 students. The County Office has in excess of $60 million and approximately 700 students in their three schools. In other words, the County’s budget is close to 60% of the District’s budget but with only 5% of the students. Or put another way, we spend $8,900 per student in the District and $86,000 per student in the County schools. The County employs well over a hundred administrators and hundreds of more employees. Granted the County Education Office has other functions, such as providing business services and teacher training programs, but many of these programs can easily be folded into the School Districts. The County Education Office is a relic of the 19th Century and has outlived it usefulness.

My final reason for opposing these Measures is by far the most important. If sufficient voters make clear to the School Board and the school bureaucracy that there will be no more tax revenues until these school reforms are enacted, it might fully motivate the people in charge to do what we all know is in the best interest of the students. So people don’t misunderstand, I could support the parcel taxes if 100% of money was going to strengthen curriculum and instruction, hire more teachers in English, math and science and implement the other reforms to which I alluded. Since the Board has not been inclined to pursue reforms, I suspect the loss of taxpayer dollars might help them to see the light. If I am elected, you can bet I will make sure they understand the message if voters reject Measures A&B.

Update: I would like to add my two cents to the Brandon Fastman article on Measures A&B, elsewhere on this site. He indicated class sizes would go up if these measures do not pass. Just for the record, according to my calculations, class size would go up maybe 2 to 3 students if Measure H, which funds 3.5 math teacher positions in 9th grade for all three of our high schools, were not renewed. It should be noted that even with these additional positions, only 43% of the students in 9th grade math are proficient or better. Finally, he also indicated that Measure I funded music, math, science, and technology in our elementary schools. However, 90% of the funds were spent on music. Although the remainder of the money was supposed to go to math, science, and technology, I could not trace any of the money to math and science.

Lou Segal is a candidate for the Santa Barbara School Board.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Mr. Segal,

All three of my grown children were born and raised in Santa Barbara and attended the public schools the entire time. In our experience, they had access to enormously gifted teachers in the former Santa Barbara Elementary School, the Goleta School, and the Santa Barbara Secondary School Systems. I can count on two fingers teachers who were mediocre and milking the system. In our experience, the site administrators were also very committed to education. Regarding arts and music, Ike Jenkins led numerous public school jazz bands to national competitions and awards, Mrs. Zimmerman, the aCapella choir teacher at Santa Barbara High School produced extremely high quality music programs year after year, and an art teacher, whose name I don't remember at Santa Barbara High taught students to make exquisite jewelry that would cost thousands of dollars to purchase. In all, I am grateful for the enormous talent and commitment our children had growing up and being educated in Santa Barbara.

I don't know whether you have had a chance to volunteer in classrooms within any of these systems. If not, I suggest you do so at Franklin School, La Cumbre Junior High, and any of high schools. Teachers cannot fix the problems in the system without the support of strong families, the community, or adequate class room funding. I am totally supportive of additional funding for arts and music.

Where you and I do agree is with the bloated administration in our schools, especially the County Education Office. The amount of money being spent there is a disgrace. The board is not elected and they operate invisibly within the education system. As you pointed out, they have very little to do with front lines teaching or learning.

The regrettable problem, in my view, is how to rein in these out of control bureaucracies yet not throw out the baby with the bath water, which is education of the next generation of students.

gsjoh (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 4:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Than you, gsjoh, for your comment.

Like you, I have had a child go through the public schools and was very fortunate that he had many capable teachers. Unlike you, we witnessed many mediocre teachers, too.

Because there are some very good teachers, does not justify many of the archaic and counterproductive union rules. I think it would be very difficult to rationally justify lifetime tenure, seniority, lack of merit pay, ineffectual teacher evaluations, and last in first out rules, which led to the dismissal of the County Teacher of the Year in 2010.

I base my poor assessment of the schools on the voluminous publicly available less-than-stellar data on student educational outcomes in our schools. I won't bore you with all the details, but the results are not encouraging. For example, very few of our students (all ethnic groups and races) go to college, and the ones that do, are generally not "college ready". Although some would like to blame it on the achievement gap, only around 45% of our white high school students are proficient in math. Up to 90% of the students who go to our community colleges need remediation in English and/or math.

Surely you are not suggesting that our public schools are perfectly fine and don't need many of the reforms I have suggested. Anyway, thank you for perspective. I trust we both want all students who attend our schools to receive the best possible education, and, at the very least, to be proficient in the core academic subjects.

lousegal (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 7:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Segal only wants to privatize the school system. Don't elect people who want to destroy what they're being elected to.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 7:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hmmm?!? I don"t know about your assessment, whatsoever. All three of my children did well in Santa Barbara's public schools and were exposed to enormous diversity and the best of the best. They also went onto universities after a completely fine education in the Santa Barbara Public Schools. In fact, I cannot think of a single one of their large group of friends who didn't go onto great college and universities, either. In fact, several of them are now doctors and lawyers. Go figure?!?

I truly don't see your perspective and if you were expecting the public school system and modestly paid teachers to shore up you child's experience, no wonder you are disappointed. All it might have taken is getting involved in the local public schools!

gsjoh (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 8:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You got my vote Lou. We need to attack the problem at the root instead of continuing to throw more money at it and hoping it will go away.

Botany (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 8:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thanks, Botany.

Gsjoh, this has nothing to do with my son; he did very well, went to a fine college and has a great job. I am running because there are too many children not being well served by our schools. I will rely upon the publicly available information regarding our 13,000 students, as opposed to your anecdotal observations of your children's friends from many years ago.

lousegal (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 10:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

But your ultimate goal is to privatize the public school system completely is it not Mr. Segal?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 10:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And define "ineffective curriculum"? Are you trying to say you'll cut Arts classes? English? Foreign Languages? Perhaps there's an area of Science you believe isn't pulling its weight.
You never dare address my questions, but instead share "heartwarming stories" of sending junior off to college.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 10:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken, I am not sure it is possible to have a rational discussion with you.

No, I am not trying to privatize our public schools, although I would like parents to have more choices than their neighborhood school, which is why I favor charter or magnet schools.

An example of ineffective curriculum are the poor writing skills of many of our students. Ask some of the English teachers at SBCC how many of our high school graduates write well. We need to change the curriculum for writing, particularly in our elementary schools.

lousegal (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 10:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. Segal charter schools are de facto privatized schools. If you don't know this you aren't qualified for the school board; if you do already know this then you are not entirely honest.
As for being incapable of holding a rational discussion, try starting with facts and you'll be on your way.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 11:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. Segal, as you say you wish to "rely upon the publicly available information," perhaps you should bolster your commentary with links to the sources you use to draw your conclusions.

For example, your claim that:

...."very few of our students (all ethnic groups and races) go to college, and the ones that do, are generally not "college ready,"

...would benefit from an attribution and some context.

As you chided the poster "gsjoh," I also will rely on publicly available information regarding SB schools.

Another place you could start is explaining how the County Education Office -- of which the Santa Barbara Unified School district is a part of, and supports 19 other K-12 districts with Business/Accounting/Payroll/Purchasing, Human Resources, Special Needs Education, Teacher Training and Certification Services, among other functions -- is a "is a relic of the 19th Century and has outlived it usefulness."

They describe their mission to address three main targets:
: : :
"- Students: 88 percent of our budget provides classroom instruction and support directly to special populations of

" - Teachers: We provide valuable professional development, training, and support to teachers countywide.

" - Finance: We provide critical business and data processing services to 20 school districts, two community colleges, one Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) and our own internal services department."
[Programs and Services, page 4]

binky (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2012 at 11:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)


In my response to gsjoh, I should have said few graduates go directly to 4-year colleges and a low percentage are transferring from our community colleges to 4-year colleges. These numbers have to be inferred from data I collected from the Ca Dept of Education and the National Center of Education Statistics. The vast majority of our high school graduates, who pursue postgraduate education, go to SBCC and other community colleges. A study was done a few years ago which showed the percentage of graduates from our 3 high schools, who are full-time students at Ca colleges (mainly community colleges) and completed one full year of credit within 2 years of post-secondary education, is around 38%. I then took a look at the graduation and transfer rates at SBCC and found that 36% and 23% of the full-time students graduate and transfer to 4-year colleges, respectively, within 150% of "normal time" to completion of the program. Obviously, the number will probably go up some if you extend the time period to graduation. Now it is impossible to know the exact numbers of students graduating 4-year colleges, but I believe it can be reasonably inferred from this data that it is not high. As I mentioned in my letter to the editor, The California Colleges Student Success Task Force recently concluded that up to 90% of students attending community colleges in California need remedial instruction in English and/or math.

The County Education Office is a waste of money. They perform payroll and centralized purchasing services for the schools. You don't need a Superintendent of County Schools and a vast bureaucracy to perform what is essentially a clerical service. The teacher training programs should be administered by the districts, where they hire, train and evaluate teachers. What the County Education office is doing in this area is duplicative and redundant. I have talked to a number of people in the district and no one is willing to say anything nice about these County programs.

Their main function is to provide schooling for around 650 to 700 special needs and juvenile court students. BTW, according to the Ca. Ed-Data website, these schools compare unfavorably to comparable schools in Ca. The have been given a "F" grade by this entity. So you have a $60 million bureaucracy and well over a 100 administrators and many more employees overseeing 3 very small schools and other administrative functions which are either redundant or could easily be done by the districts.

California is the only state in the country that has this added layer of bureaucracy between the districts and the State Department of Education. It may have been needed in 1870 but I think it can be dramatically downsized today. Remember, every school in the county already has a local superintendent and school board. You really think we need a county superintendent without line authority for any district.

lousegal (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 3:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

as always for Botany it's ever about the money..."don't throw money..." ad nauseum. If you have children, they did or will go to private schools, Botz, I assume.
Lou Segal WILL try to privatize public education, and Ken's point that charter schools are de facto private schools is absolutely on the spot. Segal is a local clone of Romney on education.
gsjoh makes good points, and our public education system needs the infusion of Prop 30 TAX monies [most of this will make up for earlier very devastating CUTS, so these aren't additional monies actually]. To be fair, the CEO is largely a waste of money and should be jettisoned with the monies saved going directly to the classroom and teachers.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 5:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Lou, how wonderful that 90% of the Measure I funding went to Music! obviously, you'd hack that, too

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 5:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. Segal...You and I are in complete agreement about the CEO.

gsjoh (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 9:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If I follow your propositions, "gsjoh" and "DrDan" you all advocate doing away with the services of the County Education Office in the interest of efficiency?

Please tell me how 20 separate smaller offices doing the same work (and more) would be more effective than a specialty shop concentrating on those services.

It seems an improper allocation of time and resources, and a lost opportunity to take advantage of scaling similar departments.

binky (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 9:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)


I am not suggesting we eliminate the centralized purchasing and payroll operation. It could easily be run by a committee of officials appointed by the districts.

Many of the other functions, like teacher development, should definitely be folded into the districts. It makes no sense to have duplicative teacher development programs run by an agency that is not involved in teacher hiring, training and evaluations. Teacher training/evaluation needs to be integrated, if it is to be truly effective.

Since the districts already have their own special needs programs, I don't know why we need the county to run this one school. It's not like the county is doing a bang-up job. The SBUSD special needs budget far exceeds outside revenue sources, so I am sure they would welcome the additional funding.

The bottom line is that we have a $60 million operation, an enormous amount of money, which is not justified considering the number of students and the range of redundant activities already performed at the districts. BTW, have you seen their facilities; they are much nicer than the SBUSD buildings.

lousegal (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 10:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Perhaps you're correct, Binky...I'm no efficiency expert. Cirone and co. have never impressed anyone, hope you know that. Private schools do without these bloated services quite easily and it's far better than cutting teachers etc.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 11:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. Segal wants nothing less than to sabotage the public school system from within, then cry it's broken and must be privatized (aka Charter School). Why else would he wish to cut funding or deny funding from any source? A schoolboard member who had the schools' best interests at heart would welcome new funding- not dissuade it.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 1:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's good to see a politician with his interests seen above the narrow parameters of his prospective job. One person's "sabotage" is another person's "reform".

Botany (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 1:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

(part one of two)
"Teachers cannot fix the problems in the system without the support of strong families, the community, or adequate class room funding. I am totally supportive of additional funding for arts and music." -gsjoe-

I agree.

When I came to Santa Barbara from Chicago in 1973, I was in 6th grade. I had attended a Catholic school and went into the public school system where I remained until I finished high school. What immediately struck me was the difference in the social attitudes out here; how much of it was the Catholic vs. public school thing, or the California vs. back east thing, I don't know.

The way I was raised--as were all the kids I knew (and some of them went to public school) in Chicago, was that you didn't even THINK about talking back to your parents or teachers. It was hardwired into our heads that the school we went to and our parents were closely connected, and if you screwed up, the whole neighborhood knew about it. Sure, we were far from perfect kids, but whatever bad stuff we did, we tried to hide it. Fast forward to 1973...

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 1:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

(part two of two)
I come out here and now I see kids acting up...excuse me, "acting out" (gotta be politically correct) in class and the worst thing that would happen is they might get sent home for three days and often times to parents (assuming their parents were still together) who didn't care or were caught up in the Postmodern way of raising kids. I would also add that back in Catholic school, we had some pretty big classroom sizes--if I remember--about 30 kids per room was normal--and even us A.D.D. kids were well on our way to reading by the end of first grade.

Were I disagree with you Mr. Segal, is your focusing solely on pushing ahead into the future. Clearly, we have to bring back basic standards and to dismiss the past as "antiquated" misses the point. While I would agree that curriculum needs to be adjusted to the present and future, (especially with regard to technological issues) the question we need to ask ourselves is "where did we go wrong?". I know it's easier for us to shove this under the carpet, but we need to ask ourselves why the problems that were episodic in the past, are systemic today. Of course bringing up these issues makes us uncomfortable so many would simply rather argue the problem is class size, ethnic background, and how much money we spend (without regard to whether or not the money we fork over actually gets to where we are told it is going)

Whether it's our political system, the gang problem, the issue of homelessness, broken families, or a broken public education system, we need to look at what we were doing before, take the good things from the past, filter out the bad things from the past, and move forward integrating the best of past, present and future. Sadly, the dogmatic politics that have infiltrated our education system will continue to bring it down, and while Ken might be right about charter schools, charter schools are a symptom of parents who are fed up with a public education system that they are forced to support with their tax dollars, while failing to reap the benefits it used to confer.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 1:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Bill, good post. You raise many good points. I will say that we don't have to look far to find inner city schools around the country with very low socioeconomic populations that are getting much better results than the SBUSD.

Typically, they are charter schools that share some common characteristics. They have a culture of no-excuses, high expectations and high standards of accountability. These schools have little or no bureaucracy, are not hindered by counterproductive labor rules and have great principals who have the expertise to identify great teaching and know how to develop and nurture it.

The teachers work collaboratively to identify academically weak students and develop strategies to attack their weaknesses. They use technology to individualize instruction for students who need it. Although many of these students do not have strong families, teachers work very hard to reach out to these parents. These schools are not burdened with mandates and useless rules that interfere with classroom instruction and impede the adaptation of
innovative pedagogical techniques to facilitate learning.

I would like to see our schools adopt many of these reforms. Why reinvent the wheel, when the model already exists.

lousegal (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 2:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One person's privatized is another person's charter.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 4:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

sabotage it is, Lou... and your "They [should] use technology to individualize instruction " the worst sort of educ-ese, and not necessarily the way to go. You want to save money by replacing teachers [expensive, $43000 a year!] and throwing machines at the kids..
Vote Ed Heron

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 4:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Part of school is in fact learning social skills and connecting with others in one's peer group. Education in isolation seems like a very lonely childhood leading to potential problems in adulthood.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 6:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dunno...Still think that ADP can run payroll for 1/8th of the cost of CEO

gsjoh (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 7:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

BTW...I am one of 7 children; a large family that couldn't afford to send all of us to CSU or UC. My first two years of college education were at SBCC and after two of my siblings finished their four degrees my good fortune was to finish up at UCSB.

gsjoh (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 7:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You wouldn't need good fortune just good smarts to attend UCSB or any UC campus if Ronald Reagan hadn't come along.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 10:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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