John Houchin

Paul Wellman

John Houchin

Santa Barbara Teachers Association Elects New Union Boss

John Houchin Will Soon Find Himself at the Bargaining Table

Thursday, May 23, 2013
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John Houchin has led the proverbial nine lives: artist, interior designer, business owner, special-education teacher, art teacher, and now — after being elected by his peers to take over as president of the Santa Barbara Teachers Association following a six-year term by Layne Wheeler — union boss.

As bargaining between the district and the union drags on toward summer, it is likely that Houchin will serve as the primary negotiator before anyone signs a new contract. He has been studying for the job since getting involved with the union in 2006 and for the past two years serving on the California Teachers Association state council while also attending emerging-leaders workshops at UCLA. “This is a poignant time for me,” he said earlier this week as he glanced wistfully around a classroom adorned with stunningly professional-looking, student-created art nouveau paintings, enlarged Tintin comic book panels, and reproductions of African masks. Whoever it is that replaces Houchin at Santa Barbara Junior High School will inherit that classroom, which is also replete with architectural drawing tables, an upstairs storage room converted into a bright exhibition gallery, and a library’s worth of art texts and lesson plans — all acquired by Houchin through personal fundraising efforts. His successor will also inherit high expectations.

Of himself, said Houchin, “I want to excel at what I do.” Of his new position, he said, “I am not here to defend bad teachers,” pushing back against criticism that the teachers unions keep poor instructors in classrooms and noting that union members are also community members who have a personal stake in exceptional teaching. As head of the union, he said, his primary concerns will be working conditions, class size, and salary. District teachers have not received a raise in six years while health insurance costs have risen about 10 percent each of those years. Maximum class sizes have grown by five students to 26 in elementary schools and 38 in secondary schools.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Getting increased health insurance premiums paid out of district funds is "getting a raise". And a tax free one at that.

Look at your property tax bill folks and add up your 10 SBUSD parcel taxes or bond issues that have depleted your own income when you think CTA teachers should feel mistreated because they have not had a "raise in 6 years".

When district funds are used to pay increased CalSTRS teacher pension premiums, that too is getting a tax-free raise. Teacher union bosses need a new vocabulary.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 10:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

“I am not here to defend bad teachers,”
Let's pray this means "I will work to take out bad teachers". Although it does not say that ..

Each year the bottom 10% should be taken out!
There is always a bottom 10% and they belong on a different team or a different career.

loneranger (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 10:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's give teachers a raise! But have them switch to defined contribution plans instead of defined benefit plans.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 10:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We've covered this often, Botany: no one in their right mind would trade their defined benefits plan for a 401(k) (defined contribution plan), these workers lose out on it. If they've earned it, if they taught for many years under this better plan, you would need that BIG government you hate to take it away. It's pure jealousy to want to take their defined benefits pension plan away.
Did you actually read the article?? "District teachers have not received a raise in six years while health insurance costs have risen about 10 percent each of those years."

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 11:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, I read it. I'll agree with you that the teachers need a raise, but you continue to overlook the obvious issues that need to be reformed. Certainly for new and recent hires, a defined benefit plan is a must! The tenure rules need to be changed to allow bad teachers to be fired. Pay for performance is also good. But your solution is just to keep things as they are, pay them more and bludgeon the taxpayers to perpetuate this broken system.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 11:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

er...for new hires, a defined CONTRIBUTION plan is a must.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 11:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It is not a matter of choice. It is a matter of real-politik.

There is no money or will to continue defined-benefit public employee pension plans. Taking money from us to support pensions for public employees is not a winning argument.

Get used to it and plan for an unstable transition time, but public pensions are changing to defined contribution plans only ---if at all.

If there is any defined benefit, it equals exactly what social security pays out for the same pay in. After that it is a matter of choices to offer additional defined-contribution plans or salaries adequate enough to allow employee self-directed IRA plans.

You are caught between a rock and a hard place. Run out of money for present plans and everyone suffers, or endure a two tier system for X number of years where some suffer while others enjoy a windfall, until all prior vested employees are phased out.

Adding new employees to this unsustainable defined-benefit pension system is folly. No two ways about it.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 1:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Foofighter ,

You take money from us everytime you drive down the street or need emergency services (or are arrested outside EOS.)

You can take the defined contribution plan and send it to where the sun don't shine, because it doesn't take into account interest earned or cost of living that balances same out.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 2 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's give teachers a raise - a thousand dollar a year raise. Stop paying your teacher union dues. Done.

Teachers and staff already get over 80% of the entire educational dollar already. Maxed out. No more bargaining necessary. No need for unions. Done.

Consensus among fellow teaching professionals get more done anyway, than polarizing union demands. Decertify this union and de-unionize California public education. Trending.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 2:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

New unions will emerge even if. Any entrenched establishment gets corrupted then replaced by another which eventually follows the same path. I don't know if the Teacher's union is good, bad or lukewarm, but I do know history.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 2:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There were no teacher unions in this state until a few years ago, coinciding surprisingly with the decline in California education. Though of course, coincidence is not necessarily causation. Right.

Time to revisit the issue of public employee unions and the warnings from both sides of the aisle they were not appropriate in government service.

It would be interesting to track the volume and detail of Calif Education Code, before and after teachers became unionized.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 4:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

[Start sarcasm] God forbid any large group of people form a union to protect themselves and bargain for a contract. Corporate CEOs and government officials will always give the little guy a fair shake. [end sarcasm]

@ foofighter... I'd like to know where you get those so-called facts of yours. The truth is once an employee is hired in the public sector under a defined benefit pension plan the state supreme court has said you can't take it away. It's in the contract clause of the state constitution. All this talk of the money running out is nothing but BS!

This whole "public employee hate train" has been unmasked in CA for what it is already. Simply a Koch financed, Teatard led campaign to hurt the unions. Remember prop 32?

Validated (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 4:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you validated.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 5:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Does anyone actually understand the difference between public and private sector unions anymore? I am neither a right wing nut nor a hater of legitimate unions in the private sector but public unions own the CA legislature and the teachers union is so out of control that they make the mob look legitimate. How is is fair to have the CT union funding campaigns for people that vote for their wage and retirement packages? How is it that these packages were created with projections that we know were incorrect but teachers, among other public employees, feel they have an inalienable right to?
The money is running out and that is a fact that even Los Angeles is now admitting; their drop dead date is now 2017. Add that to San Jose, Stockton, Vallejo, Oakland, and San Bernadino.
I can't wait for next years predictable news about fake pink slips for teachers...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 5:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow, validated. Don't send up straw dogs and then shoot them down and say they were created by someone else:

1. No mention of taking away vested pensions.
2. Prospective pension reform is necessary.
3. Personnel costs already eat at least 80-90% of the educational dollar, so no union can squeeze any more blood from that turnip and still keep the lights on.
4. How does name-calling Koch and tetrads help this discussion
5. Public pension money as it is currently promised is running out. Independently corroborated.
6. Unions are hurting their own members, far more than me.
7. Your overly-hysterical response is a case in point.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 23, 2013 at 6 p.m. (Suggest removal)

foo, with you it's always the teacher unions, it's never the students despite your smarmy comments. Tedious. Faugh!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 5:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Dr Dan, you mis-read me. It is always about public employee unions, not just teachers unions. Unions don't belong in government, taxpayer supported institutions. This was a mistake and we need to repeal this mistake.

But let me also emphasize: Fair competitive compensation is a strength of civil service.

However, what we have now is a wall of debt with more and more tax dollars now going out for past services, robbing present services and no end to the amount of additional taxation demands by those same unions who bargained for and got over-bloated and unsustainable promises that are now becoming due.

What we also have now is an entire state legislature veto proof majority beholden to public employee union interests, and a governor who rode those same coat-tails into office himself.

If you can't see what is wrong with this formula, you need to get out of the discussion until you can bring some sober balance to your points instead of putting words into other people's mouths that pander only to your own prejudices and misrepresent those you claim you are speaking for.

And the real question here is what the heck is Das Williams trying to pull off here with this legislation, opposed by the very people who are asked to carry it out. How does K-12 stand to benefit, at the expense of community colleges?

It is always about the K-12 teacher unions with Das Williams, it is never about the good of the state as a whole even when he pretends he is an environmentalist.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 9:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

foofighters entire argument is built on one big lie.... that we're running out of money."Unsustainable" is the biggest spin word in the hard rights vocabulary. The pension funds are NOT running dry. As a matter of fact with the stock market and reformulations being done there is no need to fear, which of course puts fear in the hearts of TeaPublicans.

Doomsday prophecies aside lets understand that the political activist billionaires only fear one thing. The voice of the masses. You know, the voices that can't be bought by corporations. The biggest voices being employee unions and the strongest of those being public employee unions, especially public safety.

I started to buy into their argument at the height of the recession myself, but then I realized, the sky isn't falling after all.

Validated (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 10:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Validated is completely correct, and foo's incessant fear-mongering is based on untruth and is also repetitive. Most pension funds in Calif. are sustainable, they are being changed, they will survive. UC pension funds, e.g., are OK.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The sky may not be falling, but the unions and the politicians are conspiring against the taxpayers. Just ask Das Williams if he would do ANYTHING that would cross the public employee unions. Das doesn't care about the taxpayers getting value for their money, he just wants to win the next election. They wash each other's hands and the watch each other's backs.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

gotta agree with you Botany about our corrupt Demo politician, who really WOULD do about anything the unions tell him. This is why I'm also not favored by the Democrats.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 11:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"unions and the politicians are conspiring against the taxpayers".... Let's remember that those union members pay full rates on taxes and not the 13-15% rates that those who finance the teabaggers pay on their dividend returns.

Validated (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 11:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Everybody is unhappy with the political establishment here, why do they keep getting voted in? because they have a D by their name and the R candidates are often just a bad joke.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont seems to do just fine running, winning and governing as an Independent.
Many people here have said they'd love to support an indie/third party candidate. More people read than comment. Who will pick up the ball and run with it?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 11:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

For a union member to get their average $50,000 a year pension for life, the following needs to have taken place:

1. They would need to have taken out of their paychecks the investment equivalent of one million dollars over the life of their working career and

2. That million dollar investment would need to earn a guaranteed 5% in order to generate the guaranteed defined benefit pension pay out.

Did each employee actually put in the investment equivalent of one million dollars out of their paychecks?

Or did they get over-promised benefits and taxpayers are now stuck with making up the massive state unfunded pension liability to support those promises made, that have now come due?

Remember when these plush public employee pension promises were made, the bills were not yet due. Baby boomers are now retiring and they demand you pay up.

The state needs pension reform. Just do it. The prior promises were a mistake, but they can't be undone.

You can put the future on a far more sustainable track however changing the state taxpayer funded pensions promised public employees to become defined contribution plans and phase out all non-vested defined benefit plans.

We can't afford them. Nor should we.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 12:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Be sure to read the Michael Jordan's article this week in the SB Sentinel. He gets you up to speed how the unresolved public employee pension problems will impact public paychecks in the upcoming years.

You need to start thinking seriously about this, instead of finger-pointing and demanding tax payers make up the difference.

The problem has gone well beyond simplistic solutions. Not that the public employee unions were not warned a long time ago. They were. Crunch time is finally happening, and there is no turning back now.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 3:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Be sure to read Paul Krugman's article "The False Claims for Austerity" in this week's New York Review of Books. He gets you up to speed on the creative math NeoCon/Libs use to paint a picture of impending doom to justify greater privatization in the upcoming years.

We all need to start thinking seriously about this, instead of finger-pointing and demanding poor people and the dwindling working middle make up the difference.

The problem has gone well beyond simplistic solutions. Not that the American public wasn't warned by both Eisenhower, and the predictions of the impact of a Reagan presidency and the proof afterwards; they were warned a long time ago. They were. Crunch time is finally happening, and there is no turning back now. Down with corporatists be they Dem or Republican.

Foo should pay me for proofing their bunk.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 3:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't read anything Paul Krugman writes, unless it's for a good laugh.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 6:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

When Krugman addresses California's unfunded public employee pension liabilities, I'll take a listen. Michael Jordan addresses what we are facing here and now. Give him a look.

Keep in mind Krugman is talking to the federal government, which can print its own money. California cannot. And we have too much borrowed money as part of our California debt wall anyway.

Austerity works, but its payoff is living with less. Isn't that what the envios have been telling us all along. And did not Gov Moonbeam make big bucks in the 1970's book touting less is more for California. Small is Good, or something like this.

BTW: Krugman is not a credible economist. Read him at your peril. Volok, you seem very disconnected regarding the basics of revenues and expenses. You come up with great ways to spend money (can't we all?), but never follow it up with ways to pay for it. That weakens your replies.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 24, 2013 at 6:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Validated puts his/her faith in the "stock market and reformulations" to cure the massive unfunded public pension liability. But no mention of the inexorable financial burden defined-benefit pension plans have created.

Over-promising based upon the stock market and "reformulations" is exactly how this massive unfunded public pension liability got created in the first place. You do not run a fiduciary pension plan on such volatile speculation and fixed demands, but this seems to be the Big Lie the unions are currently relying upon.

All the while, more and more present tax dollars are confiscated to pay prior promises to people no longer working. Validated, you need to come up with a better con game than the one you are currently parroting that gets erroneously repeated up and down this state from your CYA union party headquarters.

On one hand the unions were strongly behind the Occupy corporation bashing, while now at the same time claiming union pension plans will benefit from strong corporate profits, dividends and increasing stock market values.

If your head spins with this Union-Speak duplicity, you are not alone. Unions have to decide if they want to destroy America, or take part in re-building America. Their unsustainable unfunded pension liabilities depends on choosing the right answer. So do our own pocket books.

Fomenting the Big Lie (there is plenty of money) while leaving taxpayers on the hook is the Big Lie. This is what the union label looks like.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 9:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

First and foremost we must eliminate the bottom 10% of the teachers each and every year. We owe it to the future of our community to provide the best possible education for our students. Let the teachers tell us who the bottom 10% is, they actually know.
We need to close the books each and every year without any overhanging liabilities. Counting on a 7+% return on pensions is crazy, we need to set realistic return. If the rate is not archived the pension payouts are adjusted accordingly. Set maximum pensions, no spiking, average over 10 years of base earnings.

loneranger (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 9:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If you have a pension plan that requires fixed returns and yet base these promises on volatile markets, you have a recipe for speculative disaster. Hello CalSTRS and CalPERS.

All the more reason to immediately convert all non-vested public pensions to defined-contribution plans so each recipient ran ride the market up or down according to their own risk comfort levels.

Or each recipient can choose to put their retirement accounts in safer fixed income instruments, so they can reasonably predict what their retirement will bring and plan accordingly.

Currently public employees get all the gravy, while taxpayers are left to gnaw on bones. This is a Ponzi scheme; not a fiduciary pension plan. The Stockton bankruptcy case could turn all of this on its head. The final chapter has not yet been written. Stay tuned folks.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 9:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Basically the public pension plans based upon 7.5% stock market returns are nothing more than a heads or tail gamble.

Heads up - both the taxpayers and the unions win. Tails down - the union still wins, but the taxpayer lose. It is a con game where the unions always win every time; but taxpayers alone carry all the downside risks.

This is what a few decades of public employee unions controlling the legislature and local governing boards have done for you.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 9:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't bother with foo, just another partisan hack

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 11:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

foofighter has been sleeping with his Teabible. It's full of pictures so all Teabaggers understand it, and just like it's religious counterpart, says believe nothing but what's written within, even when undeniable truth says otherwise.

If it wasn't for unions this country would still be like China or Bangladesh. Greed is greed my friend and it's power has no compassion. Public employee unions were given laws and governing bodies to maintain a working government. You know, those greedy people who show up when you dial 911. Before that, strikes (blue flus) left the public unprotected.

Elect ultra conservs (San Jose) and you get a huge void in protections. So many cops, firefighters and dispatchers left the SJ city council voted in emergency pay raises to say "we're sorry please don't leave". It's simple people, all this extreme austerity kills people.

I've never been a democrat and now embarrassed to say I'm a life long republican. Never thought I'd ever see billionaires jealous of the influence the working class has upon the voting public. That 1-2% does have one thing on their side in todays elections though... ignorance.

Validated (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 12:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh look at this. I found the official Tea Party pace car...

Validated (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 12:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think both parties are on their way out the door, one is just further along then the other.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 12:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good, when the rebuttal posts drop down to name-calling and insults I know my points won on substance. Thank you. Happy Memorial Day weekend.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 3:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah insulate yourself from reality because everybody else is wrong.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 4:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

FDR wasn't wrong. Read what he has to say about public employee unions.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 7:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think all workers should have the right to unionize. The management, be it government bureaucracy or private industry is certainly organized. I'm surprised the Indy isn't union.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think Ken should move the France. There he can see first hand the issues with his socialist views.

loneranger (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Independent is not unionized? Who would have guessed. One more liberal mouthpiece that fails to walk the walk. Who would have guessed that either.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2013 at 10:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

People who post under pseudonyms aren't considered to be walking "the walk" either.
Just so you know. When the posts are nothing but political musings and attacks, complete fabrications and hot air published under the name of a rock band that would disown the writer; that is called "trolling" not "walking".

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2013 at 11:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken, I be sure to file that under Talk to My Hand.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2013 at 11:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)


To where shall I move France to? Can I start with something small like an island or a county? I might need help, would that be considered Socialist?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2013 at 2:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2013 at 5:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

He must be damn near 100yo by now.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2013 at 8:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Interesting challenge - where are the pure socialistic countries where everyone works for the benefit of the whole, little wealth/poverty disparity and all is peace, love and harmony.

Used to point to Sweden, but that no longer holds true. Letting in all those darn foreigners in for their cheap labor now has destroyed their homogeneous culture that previously made Swedish socialism for Swedes work better than most other places.

Finland also gets high marks, but I think they also have a high alcoholism problem. Not sure. Holland has promise but also a very large wealth/poverty disparity and those dang royals again.

Switzerland works fairly well for their large middle class, but also floats on foreign money so it is not a true worker paradise state, and has lots of xenophobia as a result of their now porous borders and their darkening illegal immigrant under-class situation. Still enough of a police state to make socialism work fairly well there however.

Denmark still gets high marks but people there seem to have an inborn work ethic and little cultural diversity, so the door is probably not open there either. And they do have that darn royalty thing there too.

UAE is pretty darn close to a very beneficent state, but you have to deal with the royal family controlling everything, fairly strict Islamic law oil dependency and not a true working economy, more a wealth dispensing economy with strings attacjed. Brunei, same thing. But everyone there does get well cared for. To each their own if you are a local. But immigrant labor, get to the back of the line which is still better than what was left behind. Oman - ditto. All these Islamic countries area actually closer to what you might be looking for than you would inititally think. Fifth pillar of Islam - charity

Bhutan maybe, but a little wary about letting foreigners in. Royalty there also, check Iceland used to be fairly egalitarian and floats also on nice renewable energy supplies, but recent poor fiscal planning dramatically upended their workers paradise state of mind while they have billions of debt now to pay off.

Singapore is a great example of the closest thing, but don't treat strangers well unless you already show up wealthy and abide by their very strict but fair rules.

Russia, the original workers paradise I guess is totally out now as the wealth/poverty disparity is now over the moon. Even the Chumash ran a class society and the early civilization in Ur, Mesopotamia had kings and the upper ruling classes.

Even egalitarian ancient Greece had no place for women and plenty of room for slaves. Not doing so well today. Can't think of any socialist workers paradise in Africa, Pacific Islands or South East Asia. You just might be SOL and have to bloom where you are planted and deal with less than perfect existence right here in good old Santa Barbara, warts and all.

Open to any other suggestions however.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2013 at 9:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's go with Finland, Santa Barbara can supply the nation with drinks so we're halfway there.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2013 at 9:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Worth opening the link - drinking in Finland and what they do about it:

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2013 at 10:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Looks like the future of Santa Barbara.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 26, 2013 at 11:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

To take Foofighters comment further, (and it appears he/she has done their homework) Bhutan has (as I'm guessing Ken and Foo already know) the concept of Gross National Happiness. While seemingly very drum-circle-ish and idealistic, it does point out that there has to be a basic moral goal in society. The Harry Chapin classic song "Cat's in the cradle" would be a good illustration of sacrificing happiness for the sheer purpose of wealth/achievement. (Not that there's anything wrong with these things in and of themselves)

Clearly we have to be flexible. This is just my opinion, but let's start with health care. Put a short leash on the ambulance-chasing lawyers who are ready to sue doctors for any honest mistake, (if we did that, it would anger many establishment Democrats) and let's fund medical schooling so that people would not be discouraged from entering the medical profession by being scared off by having to spend years if not decades paying off student loans. (This suggestion would offend establishment Republicans and Libertarians as being socialistic) Ironically, with many more doctors and nurses, it would create more competition (a free-market concept) and reduce the stress on doctors which would mean they'd do a better job and not make as many mistakes and, and, and...

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 3:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Used to point to Sweden, but that no longer holds true. Letting in all those darn foreigners in for their cheap labor now has destroyed their homogeneous culture that previously made Swedish socialism for Swedes work better than most other places." I'd like to offer a correction to the above.
This statement more accurately describes what happened in Germany and perhaps a few other European countries in past decades, the need for "cheap labor" providing a ticket to entry by foreigners. Whatever one may think about the semi-Socialist model in Sweden, the country's criteria for immigration were almost always based on perceived political repression abroad, a willingness to offer refuge to victims of war and civil strife and that sort of thing, not a need for cheap labor.
As a sidebar, during the past week there has been serious civil unrest and violence in Sweden, mainly in Stockholm, and mostly confined to the enclaves that are largely populated by immigrants, many of them second/third generation and Swedish citizens. This has hardly been covered in the American press.

zappa (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 7:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Conservative news links have covered the unrest in Sweden. You are correct, the initial immigrant waves were for humanitarian purposes in Sweden. The failure to assimilate however now is homegrown.

Germany does present the better model for immigrant cheap labor and generational demographic impacts (like Sweden) finally destroying the "pure Aryan" Germanic culture. However, getting ranked as the most popular country recently says Germany is still doing something right.

So where exactly is this socialist paradise, where they never run out of spending other people's money in the world today? Still have to tip the hat to the UAE, only because they have not yet run out of oil and are far more enlightened than their Saudi neighbors. (In relative terms).

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 8:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Breitbart covers Swedish unrest:

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 9:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

EVERYONE benefits in some way from all of us paying our taxes. The average time spent in the job for a California teacher is under five years. If it was such a cushy life, bleeding society dry sucking on the teat of government, you'd think far less would leave the job.
Why does no one seem to recall that teachers do not get Social Security either? If we were all dumped into that already broken system it would end it.
I am kept part time in my position, and the portion of my insurance I pay is going up THIRTY percent next year. If teachers did not have tenure protection, intellectual freedom would be at risk, and when a serious budget crisis hits the temptation to shed highly skilled teachers for political, or monetary issues alone would be too great. Why keep an older, skilled teacher when you can hire a twenty-two year old for half the salary.
As for the "bad teachers", there are bad cops, bad firemen, bad doctors and some very bad parents, etc. There is a percentage of "bad" workers in every industry. Who gets to decide who the "bad" teachers are? You? Me? Test scores? It's not that cut and dried. Awesome, outstanding teachers FAR outwork their pay scale... and there are very few "bad" teachers... although they do exist.
Trust me, education is the one area of government where we are getting more than what we pay for.
We need to stop demonizing teachers, and fix the real money pit of public spending: Health Care.... Workman's Comp...oh and War.

sbbob3 (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 9:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Not to mention that "benefits" are what you get in loo of "salary". A lot of this discussion smacks of "anyone can teach" Also, I have no children, and yet I pay the same tax rate as someone who has five kids... or more. Are we ready to have THAT discussion about "fairness" and equity in taxation.

sbbob3 (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 9:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A lot of people can teach a 9 month, 185 part time day with only a bachelors and one year certificate.

Move aside if you don't like your $100,000 a year (9 month) toal compensation package and aveage $50,000 plus a year gauranteed benefits for life after you stop clocking in for your nine-month year.

There are lots of newly minted college grads with lots of new energy who would love to get teaching jobs, except with tenure and gold-plated job security benefits few ever open up. Sweet business.

Plus all teachers today have "teachers aides" to help carry the daily load. Teachers themselves turned the structured classroom setting into a a free for all zoo and started dressing like slobs so any problems with classroom discipline lands squarely on their own shoulders.

Since all we harvested was declining tests scores and need for remedial work once they get to college, maybe, just maybe these out of control free-spirited classrooms were an educational experiment that failed. No wonder Catholic schools do better than public schools. There still remains some dignity in the teaching and learning experience.

Sure teaching is hard work, but guess what lots of jobs are hard work. If you love what you are doing, it is the right match regardless. if you hate it, no money in the world will turn you into a better teacher. Tell your unions to stop exploiting you because they are driving a deep wedge between you and the public you chose to serve.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 11:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Sobering - what teachers get paid around the world and how it links to student success (win one for Finland again!)

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 11:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

One big part of the problem is benefits in lieu of salary. One of the big reasons politicians like that option is that there is no downside for them politically.

If a politician agrees to a salary increase, the money is distributed immediately and the politician pays for it in terms of goodwill towards the taxpayers. Their budgets look bad and they look bad.

The beauty of deferred compensation (in the politician's eyes) is there is no downside for them politically. They agree to these Cadillac benefits packages while keeping the salaries low. Their budgets look cleaner because all the additional compensation they agreed to is distributed down the road long after the politician has left office. They're happy, their union cronies are happy and maybe they get elected for another term. Politicians NEVER have any vision beyond the next election.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 11:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Benefits that come to public sector employees are tax-free perks - they pay no income taxes on these benefits. When benefits costs go up, they get covered by the district and should be considered "raises", but in the teachers minds they are not; they think they are basic entitlements no matter what they cost the district.

Know anyone who is getting $53,000 year in social security like the average teacher pension is getting, guaranteed. Sure, we know you don't get social security. You get a heck of a lot more.

What you get equals one million sitting in the bank earning 5% a year. Anyone else getting that on their million dollars they managed to squirrel away on their 9 month a year job?

Keep in mind only the teacher compensation package is getting bashed here, not the individual teachers who may be doing a wonderful job in the classroom - bless their hearts.

The bashing is reserved for the unions who constantly harangue voters for more money, more money and more money. Please take a moment to assess what a nice package teachers are already getting and just give the constant demands for more, more, more a rest.

To listen to the unions, you would think teachers were still wearing patches on their coat sleeves, living on sawdust scrapings and forced to sell their children into slavery to pay for their daily necessities.

The truer picture is teachers living well on over $50,000 a year for ever once they retire. Plus getting to spend all of their compensation package while they are working any way they want, because they get their retirement savings or individual health insurance premiums tax free on top of their salaries..

I think we treat teachers very well. I think good teachers are worth good compensation. However, I would also like to see teachers treating the voters and taxpayers a heck of a lot better than their unions are doing to us right now.

Everything you demand with each contract negotiation comes out of our pocketbooks. Stop dunning the taxpayers for more, more and more. Tired of it, but most of all stop lying about your very fulsome compensation package.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 1:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The problems with deferred compensation promises is the bill for those promises made a few decades ago is now due. OMG - where is the money???? That is what is happening today.

So the dynamics of this constant demand for more money and more benefits has reached horrific proportions, particularly when the state economy looks like it will never recover to the bubble go-go years when these promises were made.

This economic reality has not sunk in with teacher unions, their members or even the voting public. This started with the prison guards, which mobilized the CTA to counter-punch for teachers. And then every other public sector group got its hands out for the same treatment.

Net result: we ran out of spending other people's money. Baby boomers are retiring to whom those prior promises were made. Pay up.

The unions have to back way off their former demands. Employees need to get a grip those go-go bubble days are over officially. And they need to realize if they are not part of the solution now, they are the problem.

Accept the current fiscal realities and stop whining every chance you get you are under-paid, over-worked and under-appreciated. Just get back to teaching and let's start seeing better results from your efforts for your chosen profession.

Spend the next decade just being grateful for what you get right now, and let us appreciate you for the results you will finally produce in the improved education of our next generation.

Moratorium on whining, okay? From both sides. Mine too.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 1:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Public employee benefits are NOT tax free.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 1:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I've been subscribed to this online publication for years. It seems Sweden has increasing problems.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 3:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Most people don't know that Brandon Fastman's wife is a teacher at SB Junior High School. Last year I had an exchange with him when I suggested he should disclose this information when writing articles regarding policies affecting district employees. He agreed with my suggestion and told me the paper would disclose it in the future.

Obviously, it hasn't happened. I would hope the Independent would understand the necessity of disclosing information that can affect the objectivity of the author. It might be helpful for Mr. Fastman and the Independent to take a refresher course in journalistic ethics.

lousegal (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 5:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Louse gal, great job in that last election- hope you'll provide some more comedy next time.
But don't you think it's kinda hypocritical of you to criticize Fastman when you yourself are far from upfront and honest?
Maybe try a dose of your own advice.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 6:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you for this critical information about a potential journalistic conflict of interest, Lou. This is an important insight to have when reading Fastman's artilces in the future.

Yet again a "progressive" paper standing in judgement regarding the journalistic ethics of the N/P, while not walking the walk for their own paper. Much like the Independent automatically endorsing every pro-union candidate, yet remaining scrupulously union-free for their own operations.

BTW tax fee public sector benefits: Willing to stand corrected, but I believe when CalSTRS and PERS require additional contributions to shore up public sector pension benefits, they are paid right off the top of the districts budget and do not show up on the employee's W-2 even though they are paid to support the employee's future pension benefits and thereby accrue value for that individual employee .

It would also be a surprise to learn the amount the district agrees under contract to pay for the employee health insurance premiums would show up on the employee's W-2's as well as part of their annual taxable compensation. Again, willing to stand corrected here.

Are we talking about the same thing when you say your "benefits are taxed"? Are you saying your pensions are taxed as income once you start receiving them?

Or does the amount the district pays for your health insurance premiums and CalSTRS/PERS mandated payments show up on your W-2?

Thanks for the enlightenment.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 7:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What a buncha maroons, criticizing disclosure while one hides under pseudonyms and the other can't spell but wants to run our schools.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 7:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Open question to louse gal, why would people elect someone such as yourself to the School Board when you've publicly advocated privatizing the entire school system. Why don't you disclose that?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 7:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Fastman has been scrupulously objective, your info. is not very enlightening, except for foo.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 8:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Volok, Best to let Lou Segal speak for himself, rather than put your words in his mouth. Segal sounds very student centered when you read his own words:

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 8:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well that's your fantasy but he's only on the side of corporatizing the educational system which we :
(a) already know you support
(b) has proven to be a failure, or a cancer that shouldn't be allowed to spread.

And foo, if Fastman's "nondisclosure" is such "critical information" , why don't you disclose your identity? You obviously fancy yourself some mouthpiece of (mis)information and some kinda authority. You're published on here just as much as Fastman. So tell us foo, who are you?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 8:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

My wife is a teacher at Santa Barbara High School. I DO disclose that in some of my stories. It is an editorial decision made on an article to article basis.

Lou Segal knows my wife is a teacher because I told him myself, as I make it a distinct point not to hide that fact. Furthermore, my wife is a temporary teacher on a one-year contract (disclosed in a recent article) and does not currently benefit from any union protection. If she were an astronaut, though, it wouldn't change the news that John Houchin was elected the new SBTA president.

brandon (Brandon Fastman)
May 27, 2013 at 8:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Foo's turn to disclose.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 8:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Brandon, the fact that your wife is a teacher and a district employee is relevant information which should be routinely disclosed regarding articles relating to collective bargaining or policies impacting district employees. Although she may be on a one-year contract, that does not mean she wouldn't benefit from collective bargaining.

A number of assertions about employee health insurance costs, salaries and class room size were made. It wasn't clear to me if you were quoting Mr. Houchin or these were facts you independently researched. Although I understand you were only reporting his claim that he doesn't want to defend bad teachers, most people familiar with our public educational system know the teacher unions expend a tremendous of money and effort defending poorly performing teachers regardless of the impact it has on our students.

The fact that you told me about your wife or you believe these articles to be entirely objective is beside the point. Your readers deserve to know this important piece of information, so they can decide for themselves if the information is relevant or if you were able to omit any subtle personal bias or editorializing from influencing your reporting.

lousegal (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 10:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 10:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey Segal, how many of your clients at Pacific Equity are involved in privatized/charter schools?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 27, 2013 at 10:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you Fastman for this disclosure. I agree you need to include this conflicts of interest disclosure every time you are paid to write an education article for this publication.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 9:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So "foofighter" who are you?
Disclosure is a two way styreet isn't it?
I mean c'mon, even hiding under that silly pseudonym of a band that would disown you. Surely you feel silly demanding "full disclosure" over a minor detail form a journalist who publishes under his own name, while you cower behind a fake one.
So c'mon who are you? Your turn to squeeze or get off the pot.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 11:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And do you think Lou Segal will ever tell us if he or any of his clients at Pacific Equity Investment Advisers have any business, financial stake or interest in a charter (private) school or educational corporation or the like?
He seems really hellbent on destroying the public education system.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 11:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Sure Ken. Why don't you ask for their names and account balances too?

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 11:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Another anonymous weasel heard from.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 12:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If I wanted to recruit people to Marxism, I would just use the comments on this thread from foo hoo, louse and botchilize.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 12:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Lou Segal, just sour grapes, you got stomped in the election, now you criticize a hardworking journalist. KV's quite correct, Lou, you just want to privatize public education, and the voters handed you a resounding NO! Try to figure that out, take a deep breath, accept, and keep on investing.
As for foo and botz, all they say is the same old record. Yawn.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 3 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken, I have no clients who have any interest in charter or private schools in Santa Barbara or anywhere else. Although in some instances I think it would be advantageous for parents and their children to have a free choice or competitive school model as an alternative to the current govt school monopoly, I am not an ideologue regarding this issue.

I know it may be hard for you guys to believe, but my only reason for running for the school board was because too many of our children are graduating our schools without the requisite skills to succeed in life. For instance, over 70% of the students who continue their education at SBCC are unprepared for college courses and are required to take remedial courses in math and English. Most of these kids drop out and make up the vast majority of the unemployed or underemployed.

I have many ideas for reforming our schools to improve student outcomes. At the minimum, I would expect that every kid who graduates from our high schools can read, write and perform basic math at a proficient level. If you google me, I am sure you can read a number of articles where I have discussed these reforms. It will require changing the culture, expectations and reforming some of the labor practices and rules which are antithetical to successful student academic performance. Unfortunately, the education labyrinth in Sacramento and its many school districts throughout the state have become a bureaucratic nightmare that are operating under decades-old mandates and archaic rules.

Finally, I wish people could depoliticize this issue. The solutions need not be defined as left or right. It is the interest of everyone, no matter where they stand on the political spectrum, to fix our schools so every kid has a chance to succeed in life. A good education is the best chance to escape poverty for many of our socioeconomic disadvantaged residents.

lousegal (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 3:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Excellent, Segal. Voters in Santa Barbara missed a splendid opportunity not putting you on the school board last time. You did exceptionally well for a new voice to these matters, running as an independent.

Keep being the voice of common sense on this critical topic. Keep the focus where it rightly belongs - providing young people the best possible education in this state. People hear you. It was not yet the right time, last time. People like what you say. Keep saying it. The right time will come.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 4:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Another 5k down the drain, great investment Lou!
BTW Foo, he's not an independent, he's a Tea Party Republican.
I wonder what old city council candidate Justin Tevis thinks of all this, any idea Foo?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 4:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

On one post meant to promote Segal as a candidate he refused to answer any questions as to his qualifications!

Nice of him to venture out of the dustbin for this tedious trip down memory lane.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 4:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here is an interesting article from the Washington Post on how land development is being disguised as school reform. All in effort to "erode national commitment to the ideal of public education" beqeathed to us by the founding fathers and our ancestors.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 8:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 28, 2013 at 8:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Education: one more American institution destroyed by unions.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 29, 2013 at 1:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Budget cuts to schools haven't helped, and Proposition 13 has especially made matters worse.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 29, 2013 at 1:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

1. Budgets have not been cut: tax revenues decreased recently and education budgets failed to adjust accordingly.

2. Prop 13 was put in place over 30 years ago and decades of Democratic mismanagement have controlled this state the majority of the time.

3. California today is ranked among the least attractive states to do business in, due to excessive taxes, regulations and poor quality K-12 schools.

4. Depending upon bubble-go-go tax revenue years as the education budget standard is folly.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2013 at 10:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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