Posted by David A. Lehrer
On an almost daily basis I receive emails from well-intentioned friends and acquaintances warning, in the most apocalyptic of terms, of the deterioration in the US-Israel relationship. They invariably allege that Israel is being assaulted by an uncaring American president who has put his stock in the Muslim world and its future. The vitriol against the president and the secretary of state are troubling—let alone the frequent misrepresentations and exaggerations.
Some of the emails are so over-the-top that they passionately condemn Obama for following a 60 year old American doctrine that no other American president has veered from, keeping the US embassy in Tel Aviv. One such email self-righteously accuses Obama of violating US law for daring to condemn the planned building program in East Jerusalem.
The common thread among virtually all of these polemics is the notion that Netanyahu’s government is doing everything it can to promote peace and that President Obama is ignoring Netanyahu’s efforts and is freezing Israel out of its special place in American foreign policy.
Amidst the passion and drama of the Middle East situation playing itself out on the American stage—ranging from the kerfuffle about Andrew Sullivan and anti-Semitism to the effort to pass a divestment resolution at UC Berkeley—-it is rare to read a sane and sober analysis that brings some intellectual heft to the discussion. This week’s The New Republic is a breath of fresh air.
In his “Washington Diarist” column entitled,Showdown
, Leon Wieseltier avoids the hyperventilating and exaggeration of the Bibi supporters who demand that America’s president effectively sign up for membership in the Likud party and the Obama loyalists who fail to see that there is a danger in the foreign policy notion that America can mollify the “Muslim world” by some realignment in our Middle East priorities.
Wieseltier succinctly points out the folly of Netanyahu’s course,
I find Netanyahu’s recent behavior incomprehensible…. I insist that it is mad for Netanyahu to think that he can have it all: the strike on Iran, the steadfastness of America, the churlishness about a peace process, the apartments in Ramat Shlomo. In these strategic circumstances, Rabin and Sharon would have damned the apartments, and the small perspective that they represent. For all his lectures on history, Netanyahu lacks their historical amplitude. He cannot tear himself away from his numbers. I concur that Israel has the right to build in Ramat Shlomo: I have the right to jump off my building, which some of my Jewish readers may wish me to do, but it would not be the intelligent course of action…
I observe in the Israeli leadership a rigid and insensible attachment to the status quo, which consists in a prosperous high-tech contentment protected by a wall and a bi-annual war in the north or the south. Some of this status-quo-ism results from the pettiness of Israeli politics, which is what Obama rightly wishes to challenge; but some of it results from a despair of the world, to which Obama is callously indifferent. Netanyahu’s ideal is no good: a normal life does not go with a despair of the world. He seems to regard Israel’s unpopularity as evidence of the justice of its cause, and in this dirty world I half-see his point; but Israel is not an island. It would be a monumental failure of statecraft to lead his country into complete isolation.
Wieseltier then expounds on the shortcomings of the present American attitude,
Yet some intellectual pressure must be put also on Obama’s airs, and on a central assumption behind his policy toward Israel. This assumption—one hears it in Washington all the time—is that our strategic objective must be to restore America’s standing in the Muslim world. This is an article of faith in the anti-Bush catechism, which imputes all foreign enmities to Obama’s predecessor. It contains an important element of truth: the United States has essential interests—and hundreds of thousands of troops—in Muslim lands, and insofar as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict complicates or harms those interests, the United States should desire it to be swiftly resolved.
Which Muslims hate the United States, and which do not? Which of those anti-Americanisms are based upon American actions and alliances, and which are rooted in prior and autonomous beliefs that no American behavior will mollify? Which of those actions and alliances should be abandoned to realism, and which of them should be upheld as a matter of national honor, even if it drives realists crazy? (Driving realists crazy is God’s work.) And there are still more questions. To what extent does the American aim of improving our reputation in various Muslim societies entail American acceptance of the current state of those societies?
I want Israel to make peace with the Palestinians even more than Obama does, because I love the Jewish state and I fear for it; but because I love it and fear for it, Obama’s adamant refusal to open his famously large heart to the depth of Israel’s anxieties, to offer Israel the same “strategic reassurance” that he weirdly offered China, to recognize that his coldness toward Israel has the effect of confirming its delegitimation in many corners of the globe—his unmoved pursuit of perfect impartiality and a middle way, the whole Gautama Obama thing—repels me. It is also bad community organizing.
Whether one agrees with all of Wieseltier’s points or not, his thought provoking analysis and frankness is worth a careful read.
Ignore those chain emails that are designed to inflame and distort, they over- simplify what is, and will remain, a very complex and important relationship.
12.12.13 at 3:52 pm | When two heroic Prisoners of Conscience met
11.5.13 at 2:23 pm | America’s energy revolution has the potential. . .
11.4.13 at 11:26 am | Visit the Getty Villa to see the Cyrus. . .
10.24.13 at 2:01 pm | The Los Angeles City Council, in the wake of. . .
8.30.13 at 9:35 am | Intolerance, no matter its motivation, is. . .
8.28.13 at 10:54 am | America is not a racial Nirvana. However, a few. . .
April 14, 2010 | 5:03 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
The numbers are staggering, in fact, overwhelming: the City of Los Angeles’ annual pension and retirement health benefit bills (just for police and fire) will escalate over the next five years from $423 million to $1 billion. That makes the paltry few million dollars shortfall that the city is being tied in knots over today small change.
A few months ago we blogged about the appalling absence of local leadership as the city budget projections kept getting worse and worse and our leaders’ responses ever more inadequate,
Last week, the Council—-to the amazement of most observers of the local scene—-failed to cut the city budget despite the Mayor’s and the city’s Chief Administrative Officer’s (“CAO”) unquestioned warning that financial disaster was imminent. There is a budget gap of $218 million for this fiscal year and a projected $484 deficit for next year.
The CAO urged that 1,000 jobs be cut—-there is virtually no other place to find the savings necessary to keep us solvent. There is no question as to the scope and depth of the crisis—-everyone acknowledges it. There is only a shocking unwillingness on the part of a large majority of the council to demonstrate the political backbone to make very difficult and, possibly, unpopular choices.
The immediate short-term fiscal crisis may have been averted because of new found revenue for this year. But that doesn’t address the structural problems that the pensions present.
Amazingly, there are few voices speaking out about what is going to happen to our city in very short order. Today’s
features a commentary about Community Advocates’ chairman, former Mayor Richard J. Riordan, one of the only leaders willing to talk honestly about what LA’s future looks like if things continue as they are and the pension crisis remains unresolved.
As he told the
, “We need some adults to come alive in the city and talk through how to meet that liability…if that doesn’t happen we shouldn’t rule out bankruptcy.” Riordan warned the
, “the city, the way it is going, is unsustainable. “
I recall a presentation that Riordan sponsored at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce several years ago with graphs laying out the city, county and state’s pension obligations over the next decade. Those graphs were set against the projected incomes of the governmental entities at a time when 8% annual return on investments didn’t seem irrational. Even then, Riordan warned that the likelihood of these entities not being able to meet their pension obligations and fund their other governmental duties was real and demanded honest talk.
It has been astounding to see how little attention has been paid to the issue until the past few months. In February the Pew Center on the States published a comparative study of the pension obligations of the 50 states set against the funds the states have set aside to pay those bills, their findings don’t inspire confidence—-a trillion dollar gap:
“While the economic crisis and drop in investments helped create it, the trillion dollar gap is primarily the result of states’ inability to save for the future and manage the costs of their public sector retirement benefits,” said Susan Urahn, managing director, Pew Center on the States. “The growing bill coming due to states could have significant consequences for taxpayers—higher taxes, less money for public services and lower state bond ratings. States need to start exploring reforms.”
Clearly, we are not alone.
Whether the answer is bankruptcy, changing the retirement structure going forward, or even discussions with unions to alter the plans presently in place—-the failure to be forthright about the dire circumstances we face is not an option.
Yet the LA City Council dithers. In January it defeated an effort to place a measure on the June ballot to roll back benefits for newly hired city workers and future hires. Mayor Villaraigosa’s spokesman said, “this is not the time to panic.” He and a representative of city council president, Eric Garcetti, said they thought they could achieve more by negotiating directly with the unions that represent civilian city employees. Lots of luck, the city’s unions were even opposed to the January measure that was aimed at future hires.
The time for kicking the can down the road and hoping for some other level of government to take their chestnuts out of the fire is past. Virtually every level of government faces the same stark choices. As the Pew Center wrote, it’s time to “start exploring reforms”—-however painful that may be.
Mayor Riordan may be the only local leader telling it like it is and acting like an “adult.”
April 9, 2010 | 2:02 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Yesterday’s Wall St. Journal had an article by the frequently controversial Dorothy Rabinowitz titled, “What’s Not Happening to American Muslims.” It was prompted by remarks attributed to Tom Hanks in his promotional tour for his epic HBO series, “The Pacific.”
Hanks is reported to have observed that our war with Japan was one of “racism and terror” and “that should remind us of current wars”.
Rabinowitz used the Hanks remark to make some important points about America and how different we are than most of the rest of the world in terms of acceptance of differences, tolerating dissent and respecting minorities. She correctly observes that,
No menacing hordes, then or later, ever threatened American Muslims—and it has been an insult to the nation to have been lectured to the same way after every attempted terror attack, as though wild mobs of citizens might actually run through the streets attacking Muslims. Even as the ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon still smoldered, countless Americans had reached out to their Muslim neighbors to reassure them.
Her theme is not unlike that we raised in a blog last November after the tragedy at Ft. Hood, and which has been documented in poll after poll.
Where Rabinowitz goes further than we did is to seek reasons for Americans’ susceptibility to the view that we are just an admonition away from taking out our anger on minorities here who are related to our enemies abroad. In a hard hitting analysis she refers to the tragedy at Ft. Hood last year,
But, it’s a good bet, few like Maj. Hasan’s superiors—so addled by raised consciousness and worries about appearing insensitive to Muslims in the service that they ignored even the most extreme expressions of his enmity to the United States and its military, his praise of suicide bombers, his jihadi contacts.
Every report of any activity bearing resemblance to anti-Muslim sentiment became, in short order, essential news. Every actual incident, every report of a nasty sign, fitted the all-consuming theme taken up by large sectors of mainstream media: that the country’s Muslims were now hapless targets, not only of the national rage at the atrocities committed by Islamic fundamentalists, but also of racism.
It was a view especially well in accord with those of a generation schooled in colleges and universities where pathological extremes of sensitivity to claims of racial, religious or sexual insult or charges of gender bias are considered perfectly normal and right
As one who, in my previous position at the Anti Defamation League, spent years promoting an “anti-bias” curriculum, the A World of Difference program, and its attendant workshops—-I believe she is on to something.
Although exceptionally well-intentioned, many of these programs do indeed promote a “pathological extreme of sensitivity” as part of an effort to further multi-cultural understanding and diversity. The “sensitivity” engendered has a definite downside. Normal interactions are often perceived through the prism of victimhood and otherwise innocuous statements or acts suddenly become suspect and an innocent individual gets labeled as “insensitive,” or worse, “racist.”
I can recall an A World of Difference conference in Boston almost two decades ago at which the keynote speaker was Jane Elliott, a former school teacher who gained national renown for her classroom exercise (which became an ABC network news special) that ostensibly taught her students what the experience of discrimination was like (“Eye of the Storm”). Unfortunately, the message was bound up with the theme that whites are, by definition, racist or at a minimum, culpable beneficiaries of a racist system.
At the time, I found her presentation simplistic, patronizing, and insulting (I actually left the room because I found her message and demeanor so insufferable).In her workshops she described herself as the “resident BITCH for the day—-Being In Total Control Honey.”
Sadly, Elliott’s pernicious theories have infused many “diversity training” programs—she is, after all, considered the “foremother” of diversity training. Here’s a snippet from an interview where she unabashedly sets forth her worldview:
I think white people aren’t aware that racism isn’t just wearing white hoods and burning crosses. It’s also fixing the system so that black votes don’t get counted. It’s refusing to open the polling places in precincts where most of the eligible voters are people of color. It’s outlawing affirmative action at the state level even though it has proven successful. It’s building more prisons than we build schools and guaranteeing that they will be filled by targeting young men of color with things like the “three strikes” legislation in California, and the DWB—“driving while black.” These are problems encountered by young black men all over this country. It’s the fact that there are more children attending segregated schools in the U.S. today than there were previous to Brown vs. Board of Education. It’s white flight and red-lining by financial institutions. It’s television programming that portrays people of color as villains and white people as their victims. It’s ballot-security systems, which are used to intimidate minority voters and so result in the very activities which they are supposedly designed to prevent.
A black woman at a major corporation here in the Midwest just this past summer, after hearing my presentation, almost beating on the table as she spoke, said, “For the first time in my life I can be me. It’s real; it’s not my imagination.” Because, you see, we have convinced ourselves and tried to convince people of color that they’re imagining the racism they’re experiencing, that they’re paranoid.
Her theories and outlook have permeated “diversity training” programs whose stock in trade has too often become guilt and looking for boogey men to confirm theories about how America operates. Non-minorities are taught that they are the beneficiaries of “white privilege” and should as a result be laden with guilt for having put others down—-intentionally or not. Racism, the participants are told, constantly animates our actions and lurks just below the surface—- it’s often unconscious (we may not even realize that we are animated by bigotry and insensitivity) yet are as guilty as if we were purposeful haters.
Rabinowitz accurately describes this nonsense for what it is—-a skewed unrepresentative distortion of America today. The sooner we shed ourselves of the Jane Elliott-like view of America, the better off we will all be. Hopefully, we will be able to acknowledge where America has come in terms of race and inter-group relations and the real work that we have left before us.
America isn’t perfected, but it surely it is not the dreary place Elliott and her clones would have us believe it is.
March 31, 2010 | 2:14 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Twenty five years ago, I wrote an op/ed in the Los Angeles Times about the failure of a political leader to speak up unequivocally in the face of bigotry and hate; I do the same today with virtually the same message.
The political leader is different and placement on the political spectrum has switched.
In 1985, Minister Louis Farrakhan came to Los Angeles trailing a long record of anti-Semitic rabble rousing; nearly every speech of his contained his trademark attack on Jews and a message of ostensible “self-empowerment” for the Black community. Mayor Tom Bradley chose not to speak out about Farrakhan’s impending speech thinking he had a commitment from the Farrakhan camp to stick to an economic message and eschew anti-Semitism. A large group of local Jewish leaders had urged Bradley to speak out to try and pre-empt the appearance becoming a hate-fest.
Bradley’s hope of moderation by the minister was not to be. A Farrakhan show without anti-Semitism isn’t a Farrakhan show. Ultimately, after the fact, Bradley condemned what Farrakhan said and even wrote to then New York mayor Ed Koch to warn that “Farrakhan divides people into warring factions.”
My op/ed was directed to those in our community who thought that they could parse Farrakhan’s message of hate from his economic prescriptions—essentially, that one had to consider his bigotry “in a broader context.” Indeed, I was told by a then editor at the Times, that “the Jews may just have to put up with some anti-Semitism because Farrakhan’s message of self-empowerment is so important.”
I responded to the editor and wrote that no one had to put up with hate for any reason; it was a devil’s bargain. There could be no temporizing with hate; no passing condemnations followed by post hoc justifications as to the source of the extremist’s anger and venom.
We couldn’t “parse the messenger from the message” then, nor should we now.
I was reminded of that quarter-of-a-century-ago incident by the events of the past week. The hyperbolic denunciations of President Obama’s healthcare plan which predict impending doom have infused the rhetoric of the past ten days with an unsettling ugliness that is troubling. Rush Limbaugh saying that, “we have to defeat these bastards…we need to wipe them out…defeat the Democrats, every one of them that voted for this bill.” Sarah Palin tweeting, “Don’t retreat, instead RELOAD!” Glenn Beck querying, “Whether you are an American or are you a mouse? Are you an American or a European?”
One can be generous and ascribe such heated rhetoric to “politics as usual,” even if many of the remarks border on the incendiary. I am loathe to draw a causal link between exaggerated rhetoric, however irresponsible, and illegal activities—it’s easy yet too hard to prove.
Causal link or no, what can’t be excused is a response to the violence that is qualified and ambiguous. When Sarah Palin was on the Beck show she noted that “No, violence is not the answer”….BUT “there is understandable, there is legitimate frustration with our government today…..violence is not the answer though.”
Equivocation and a “blink and a nod” in the face of violent conduct is simply unacceptable. The whys and wherefores (the “context”) of out of control anger and violence is irrelevant.
In 1985, my analysis of why so many otherwise responsible leaders (all on the left at that time) were reluctant to condemn Farrakhan unequivocally was that,
many of the leaders who sidestepped speaking out against Farrakhan must have felt that doing so would have exacted an unacceptably high price among their constituents….If the assessment of these leaders is accurate…
then both they and we have much work to do
The tables have been turned. Palin and others qualify their condemnations of the crazies because they must assume that there is a meaningful political price to pay for clarity and forthrightness—simply saying that there is no excuse for violence without qualification or explanation is, seemingly, politically risky.
Those who feel passionately about the Obama healthcare plan and are political leaders must
separate themselves from those who think and act as if extreme means are justified.
If they are reluctant to speak out without hesitation or qualification—then, truly,
they and we have much work to do
Twenty five years ago I noted that the tragedy of whole affair was that “people who should have led followed and leaders who should have spoken out, remained silent.” Not too much has changed.
March 24, 2010 | 4:47 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Sheriff Lee Baca is a friend. We have known him for decades, long before he was elected sheriff we worked with him as he dedicated himself to improving inter-group relations in Los Angeles County. We don’t doubt his commitment, sincerity and genuineness in seeking to reach out to diverse communities throughout the county.
But even good guys can be wrong.
Last week Lee testified before US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security. During the course of his testimony, Lee was confronted by Rep. Mark Souder regarding Lee’s attendance at fund-raising events on behalf of the Council on American Islamic Relations (“CAIR”), a national non-profit that claims to “enhance understanding of Islam, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” Souder told Baca that CAIR, in fact, has veered from its proclaimed mission and espouses “radical speech” and is an organization “which even the FBI has separated themselves from.”
Lee took umbrage and condemned the “circuitous attack on CAIR…it is un-American.” Upon his return to LA, Lee defended CAIR even more passionately. In attending a meeting of the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress yesterday, he decried the congressman’s comments and termed them an affront to all Muslim Americans, “when you attack CAIR, you attack virtually every Muslim in America.”
Unfortunately, what Congressman Souder observed, understated the problem with CAIR, it doesn’t just espouse “speech that is radical.” In fact, last year the FBI disclosed that it was limiting its contacts with CAIR, “until we resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner.”
There are exhaustive studies of CAIR which recount its links to the Holy Land Foundation, an organization whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling over $12 million to Hamas, its ambiguity in condemning terror, and much more. But they aren’t needed to realize that what Congressman Souder observed was accurate. The organization has veered from its proclaimed mission; in fact, “espousing radical speech” may be among the least of its transgressions.
Hopefully, Lee is wrong when he claims that if you attack CAIR “you attack every Muslim in America.” We have more confidence in American Muslims than that.
March 16, 2010 | 1:52 pm
Posted by Joe R. Hicks
Now being pushed through the House by Speaker Nancy Pelosi is President Obama’s healthcare bill. It’s a 1,018-page-long document that has all sorts of interesting little gems, or toad stools, depending on one’s perspective.
The massive plan is something that few members of Congress have actually read completely. Even Madam Speaker tells us “… We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.” Excuse me, but shouldn’t we know what the bill entails, in fairly concise terms, before this thing becomes law?
The public remains skeptical of Obama’s plan, even though he’s given more than fifty speeches about it, the mainstream media has been supportive and sympathetic, and Democratic Party leadership has had more than a year to fully explain why the legislation is something that’s good for the nation’s people. Still, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, more than 81 percent of Americans polled believe that, if passed, the bill would cost far more than being claimed by the President and his political allies.
A quick look at the history of government-funded entitlements, like Medicare and Medicaid, shows why there are good reasons for this perception. The House Ways and Means Committee is notorious for inaccurate predictions of government programs’ eventual costs. It estimated that Medicare would cost the taxpayers about $12 billion by 1990 – the public’s tab that year was … $107 billion. The same is true for Medicaid. Congress estimated that it would cost $1 billion in 1992 … the real cost was $17 billion.
As we know from past history, there is always room for all sorts of mischief inside a document as massive and complex as this healthcare bill has become, after a year of political maneuvering and back-room dealings.
And while there plenty to argue over regarding this bill – something new caught my eye.
There it was, beginning on page 879. This healthcare bill, as currently constructed, literally enshrines racial preferences. The bill specifies that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, “In awarding grants or contracts under this section … shall give preferences to entities that have a demonstrated record of … training individuals who are from
The bill doesn’t say what would qualify as a “demonstrated record.” If the bill passes you can expect that medical schools and other training institutions will do whatever they think they can get away with to train as many individuals as they can from “
Why would they do this? Because the more “underrepresented” minorities they train the better their “demonstrated record” will be. This will help insure they’ll be on the fast track for government contracts and grants.
If you are Jewish, poor and white, or Asian, don’t expect to receive any advantage under this plan. The word “underrepresented” is inserted into the bill’s language to make it clear that the preferences are aimed at advantaging blacks and Latinos.
What’s the rationale behind this? Due to the disproportionately poorer health among poor blacks and Hispanics, the assumption is that the cause is somehow healthcare discrimination. But alleging racism is always the default position among those with a well-known ideological axe to grind, which blinds them to other contributing factors like bad eating habits, heredity, and levels of fitness, among others.
To be sure, institutionalized racial preferences at nursing, dental and medical schools are nothing new. What this healthcare bill language does—that is new – is to insure that race, sex and ethnic quotes will be institutionalized in perpetuity.
In 2003, now-retired U.S. Supreme Court associate justice Sandra Day O’Conner wrote in her opinion regarding the University of Michigan affirmative action case that she believed race-conscious college admissions policies would be unnecessary 25 years down the road.
Receiving a preference simply because of skin color is something many believe was outlawed under the 1964 Civil Rights Act that made it unlawful to discriminate against any individual because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
To be sure, outstanding and highly-qualified black and Latino students are studying at the nation’s best medical training schools today. However, race preferences have allowed others who are less-than-qualified into these same schools. This has led to high drop-out rates and the failure to pass critical licensing exams at rates that are far higher than their classmates.
Language about racial preferences has alarmed members of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a California State advisor to this Commission.
The Commissioners recently sent a letter to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (among other key House and Senate members). They said that “Racial preferences in the Senate Healthcare Bill, in addition to being unconstitutional, will not improve health care outcomes for minority patients.”
Some would argue that life is a game of winners and losers. This may be true, however I don’t believe that legislation described as “reform” should, in part, be selecting the people who win or lose based on skin color or surname.
March 11, 2010 | 12:15 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
An often heard complaint about the broadcast media is that important subjects are dealt with in a cursory and superficial way. Profound subjects are packaged in 90 second segments and the various advocates of differing positions are given a few precious seconds to make what are often complex and nuanced arguments.
If you are tired of media superficiality, you have a chance to participate in one answer to the problem—our Critical Issues Seminars.
Next Wednesday, March 17th, we are hosting, in partnership with NPR station KPCC and the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, a 90 minute panel on Combating Terror in the Skies—Balancing Privacy and Security.
The distinguished panel includes University of California, Irvine Law School dean and noted constitutional scholar, Erwin Chemerinsky, former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security and counsel of the National Security Agency, Stewart A. Baker, and Prof. Erroll Southers, President Obama’s choice as Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security. The program will be moderated by Airtalk’s award-winning host, Larry Mantle.
The program takes place next Wednesday, March 17th at 7:00PM at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo (111 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles). Refreshments will be served.
This will be a full-bodied exploration of a complex and challenging issue with ramifications in areas as diverse as racial profiling, security, terror and constitutional rights. You will have the opportunity to pose questions to the panel.
March 8, 2010 | 3:55 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Friday’s Los Angeles Times had three articles, the interconnections of which weren’t clear, but ought to have been.
One reported on the state-wide “Day of Action” by students, faculty and parents protesting cuts in education funding in California. The second article detailed the refusal of the US Department of Education to award California a single dollar of the $4.35 billion to be given to states in the first round of grants under the administration’s “Race to the Top” reform program. The third item was an editorial by the Times decrying the failure of California to get the federal money and noting the “lack of coherence” in the legislation passed by the state in its vain (and half-hearted) effort to win the federal funding.
The Times failed to connect the events or highlight the tragic irony of a good deal of Thursday’s theatre.
The “Day of Action” was led, in good measure, by the state’s teachers’ unions. They decried the cuts that have “shredded this year’s budget.” So far so good—-we lack money, the budgets have been cut—-the teachers are, understandably, upset.
But as one reads the Times’ article about why California didn’t receive what might have been some $700 million in “Race to the Top” funds, it appears that one of the critical reasons was that the very same teachers’ unions were unwilling to support the reforms that the federal government explicitly required be undertaken as a condition of receiving the monies.
Over half of California’s districts did NOT get their unions to sign on to the necessary reforms. The California Federation of Teachers and the California Teachers Association openly opposed receiving the federal dollars. Yet they had no qualms or sense of shame in vocally sponsoring Thursday’s protests about how students will be hurt by budget cuts.
There is more than a little irony in the teachers’ union leading parents and kids in protest about the budget woes facing California education while they were actively opposing the $700 million in federal money that would, at least partially, have eased those woes.
One California Federation of Teachers official is anonymously (wisely so) quoted as describing the $700 million potential federal dollars as “peanuts
” which would do harm to the “quality of teachers’ jobs.”
Some teachers’ union leaders would like more money, but seemingly only ontheir
terms. They are averse to reforms that offer, as the Times suggested, “meaningful help for the students who most need it.” What a sorry state of affairs.