Is a badly written law better than no law at all if the need for remedy is clear?
Occasionally, a qualified yes. California Proposition 1D, part of the Rebuild California Plan, is intended primarily to upgrade existing school facilities to the latest seizmic standards while aiding the effort to build new schools where they are needed. There is also a provision to modernize existing facilities to bring them technologically up to date, such as school science labs.
The qualifications to which I alluded above? Opponents of the proposal make some good points about how the benefits of this initiative won't be equally distributed due to a matching-fund requirement. Such a requirement ensures that the wealthier districts will receive the bulk of the available aid money, while districts which are far more in need will, despite some "emergency assistance" grants, end up doing without and falling further behind than they are now. For example, of schools now designated as seriously overcrowded, only 20% will qualify for such emergency aid.
There are also a few questionable line items within the proposed law, not the least of which is a grant of $200 million for "capital improvements that expand and enhance medical education programs with an emphasis on telemedicine aimed at developing high-tech approaches to health care" which benefit only two state educational entities – the University of California and the Hastings College of the Law.
One wonders why fledgling lawyers would need such a telemedical system. Practice for future malpractice claims, perhaps?
Such illogic isn't exclusively the domain of the proponents, however. Thomas N. Hudson, Executive Director of the California Taxpayer Protection Committee, opposes Prop 1d, claiming that "there are more important things to spend money on than new vocational education facilities, energy efﬁciency, and seismic safety upgrades".
If I'm reading the California Taxpayer Protection Committee literature correctly, it is much more important to cut taxes than it is to pay the necessary cost to make school facilities more earthquake resistant, purchase classroom air-conditioning equipment and insulation, increase school security and playground safety, conduct hazardous materials abatement, or repair school roofs. I guess payments of about $680 million per year are far too expensive, and it would be better to risk the lives of California's 6,050,895 students [2000-1 figures].
How would it feel to know that some people think your child isn't worth more than about $100?
William Saracino, Editorial Board Member of the California Political Review, at least offers some reasonable actions that might be taken if the parents — who opposed ideas like these in my school district — were convinced to support them. For example, Saracino proposes that "we can expand year-round school and better utilize our existing school facilities." I agree with this idea, and two of my school-aged children were on a year-round schedule through middle school. But the parents who have dreams of their kids becoming major sports stars (as some from my town have) protested vehemently against the high schools — our most impacted level — going year-round, lest their kid not make the football squad because he was off most of that quarter.
Saracino also points out, correctly, that Proposition 1D is a stop-gap measure, only covering two years worth of expense. He feels that a longer-term plan should be developed rather than patching together yet another financial bandage.
I have to agree with his conclusion, and yet I still lean in favor of this proposition, for as the Voter Guide points out, "Over the past decade, voters have approved a total of $28.1 billion in state bonds for K–12 school facilities. Approximately $3 billion of these funds remain available for new construction projects." We are using the money as fast as our political processes allow us to pass funding initiatives.
Because Proposition 1D will only cover two years, it is true that another law will have to be enacted to cover our growing educational needs. It is to be hoped that these next two years will be spent coming up with the long-term funding plan that Saracino calls for rather than be wasted in the partisan bickering that makes up the bulk of the blathering emanating from legislatures all across the nation.
I reservedly recommend that my California readers support Proposition 1D.Powered by Sidelines