It's a shame that so much of Occupy San Diego's attention this week was on the San Diego Police Department's crackdown of the protest movement's encampment at the Civic Center. On Friday night, a line of officers standing in front of the Civic Theatre during a large rally was opposed by a small throng of demonstrators—for hours.
We understand the anger, after 51 people were arrested and carted off to jail in the middle of the night before.
To “occupy” a piece of land, you have to be there all the time, and you have to sleep at some point. City leaders have obviously lost their patience with the encampment. As a result of the mutual hostility, too much of the movement's focus is on its relationship with the police (read more about that in Spin Cycle) when it should be pinpointed on selected effects of economic inequality—such as the financial condition of San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD).
The district, having just cut roughly $80 million from its budget, is facing another cut of as much as $78 million next July and possibly $30 million before that if the state is forced to make mid-year budget cuts due to revenue shortfalls. District officials say a cut of the higher end of that range could mean insolvency, which would result in a state takeover of day-to-day district operations.
Meanwhile, last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) laid out in precise detail what most of us already knew in general terms: Since 1979, the top 1 percent of U.S. earners more than doubled their share of the country's income while income among the lower 99 percent grew at a snail's pace, relatively speaking. The CBO also found that government policy has become less and less effective at curbing income inequality. That makes sense: Through a combination of election-campaign financing and high-powered lobbying, public regulatory policy is largely controlled by members of the 1 percent. Surprise, surprise: Guess who makes off with the money.
So, life is good up at the top of the pyramid; closer to the bottom, we're left to fight over the scraps.
And fight we do. On the public-schools front, struggling parents fight with struggling teachers.
This week, one member of the SDUSD Board of Education released a bold proposal to stave off insolvency that would highlight that battle. Scott barnett's proposal would cut employee pay by 10 percent; the cuts would be made in a progressive manner, with a larger percentage being cut from higher earners, less from lower earners and nothing from the lowest-paid workers, and it would cancel a negotiated series of three pay raises. Then, it would attempt to backfill those cuts with a $50-per-parcel tax.
According to voiceofsandiego.org, barnett predicted that a parcel-tax election would, in effect, be a referendum on teacher compensation. Sadly, he's probably right. The people in San Diego who are bent on eliminating public-employee pensions will see to that—teachers will be portrayed as greedy. CityBeat has, in the past, expressed displeasure with the teachers union over negotiating a reduction in the number of school days and over protecting longer-tenured teachers at the expense of newer ones without regard to merit. But they are not, by any means, grossly overcompensated.
We'll wait for the details of barnett's plan before we weigh in on it—particularly, we want to know more about his sliding scale.
According to the CBO, the rapid growth of the finance industry has been a large contributor to the explosion of wealth in the upper reaches of society. Then unchecked greed nearly brought the banking industry down, saved by government intervention and a mammoth bailout. President Obama has tried to pass a jobs bill that would include $30 billion to help pay teacher salaries, but those efforts have died in Congress.
We can save Wall Street, because it's too important to let fail, but, apparently, we can just let education drown. Does it make you want to pick up a protest sign, join a march and chant, “Banks got bailed out / We got sold out!” It should.
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