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It Ain't the Teachers Nor the Administrators!

Steve Ybarra: Everyone questions why little Johnny and Joanie can't read. Some say the problem is with the teachers. No one wants to talk about where the problem really resides -- and that is with the school district system.

For the last 40 years, I have listened to the debate about how teachers, administrators, or the unions are the reason why little Johnny and Joanie can’t read.


No one wants to talk about where the problem really resides -- and that is with the school district system.

To get this, one must examine why school districts exist in America. School districts were primarily established by rich white folk who wanted to make sure that their kids got enough education to run farms and to be sure there was a workforce in the area to work on the farms.

Rich white communities would get together and establish a school. They would be the school board and would hire the teacher to come and teach. They would set the vacations of the school to coincide with planting and harvest seasons. So, everybody got a week off in the spring for spring planting, summers off to work the fields, and a week off in the winter to deal with winter crops and celebrate the mythical birth of the Christian god.

Years ago, schools from Virginia to Orange County, California, were segregated. There was, after all, no necessity to educate young Chicanos and African Americans who were just going to work for the “rich” white community. The amount of money available to fund the school depended in large part on the largess of the property owners who benefited from the educated workforce.

In 1947, California began the desegregation process in the case of Mendez v. Westminster School District of Orange County. This case outlawed segregation in California. It would take 20 years for the rest of the country to catch on.

When desegregation did occur in the South, white communities generally stripped out the public schools of everything, except for the walls, and set up “Chartered Schools”. Chartered by the school districts of white people to assure the system didn’t change.

So what happened next were a series of lawsuits over the next 50 years to try to deal with the inequities of the system. In a recent Modesto case in California, the court found that it was inherent discrimination to never have had a Mexican American school board member in a district where 40% plus of the population was Spanish surnamed. The court found that at large elections where inherently discriminatory. This is a big deal. No longer will rich people have control over boards and city councils .

Nevertheless, today in some schools, there is one book for every three students and in others, three books for every student. Students routinely share materials in “poor districts,” while rich districts routinely outscore poor districts in all performance measures.

So here is the question of the day -- Why do we have school districts that perpetuate an inherently discriminatory school system?

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Unfortunately, not one person in the federal, state, county, or local district governments has one wit of spine to do what needs to be done.

The simple answer is clear, eliminate all school districts.

Look, we have county fire departments, county hospitals, county welfare departments etc. etc. etc. So why don’t we have one county education department that first determines the amount of money that comes in from property taxes from all county taxes and then distributes that back to each school on a per capita basis? Then the state can see what the disparate treatment of students ends up being and can equalize the funds for each student from either state or federal funds.

We keep hearing how there is all this waste in government. I agree. If we can get the political leadership to show some spine, the savings would be in the billions. The savings would be phenomenal. We would save all the election costs that could be diverted to the schools. We would save all the staff time, meeting time, and publicity that we presently do.

Now before you go crazy, I get the need to take care of the special ed students who will always receive more than the brightest kid in any district will. That being said, if every student received the same dollars, then roofs could be fixed, books could be purchased, and all the hard costs could be paid and no one school would have that advantage over another school. Then we would really know how to spend the dollars.

I get that teachers and administrators are not created equal, so at a minimum we could set a standard that no school administrator gets a salary greater than the governor of the state. Each school could still have its own advisory committee of parents and rich white people. But no school would have a monetary advantage over another. (The former school board could do this advisory job.)

If Governor Brown would do this, then it becomes one student, one book, one desk , a playground and a classroom that is the same as the one over the hill. This is real educational governmental reform.

Steve Ybarra

Do not do this and we will be blaming each other for the next 100 years as to why Juanito and Juanita cannot read.

PS- Thanks Jerry for the Dream Act signing.

Steven Ybarra

Steven J. Ybarra JD is a retired civil rights attorney who operates a consultant company in California. He is a member of the California Democratic State Party and is Former member of the DNC and a long time political activist. Contact Steven This article is copyright by Steven J. Ybarra JD, originally published in but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media if this entire credit paragraph is attached.