The Star-News


Education isn't city's business

Sat, Apr 16 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Tom Basinski

I had just put the finishing touches on a column about investigations and was starting to relax. Then I read a story in the April 8 edition of The Star-News about Chula Vista's volunteer programs and this column was born.

The article about volunteers indicated that Chula Vista's chief service officer, Wanda Bailey, is heading up a three-pronged program, the result of a $200,000 grant. That sounded great. Volunteerism within the city is wonderful.

One of the programs is called Graduation Works! The article said the city was going to help high school sophomores graduate with entry-level readiness.

That hit me in the face like a stocking full of nickels. What in the name of Horace Mann was going on? What responsibility does city government have to educate kids? What is the Sweetwater Union High School District for? What are parents for?

The school district superintendent used to provide free lunches for movers and shakers in the community. Thanks to the public outcry - and only because of the outcry - the board reluctantly removed the superintendent's credit card, and free lunches for fellow executives are a thing of the past.

The job of the city is to run the city, keep the street lights on, the streets free of potholes, the citizens safe from crooks, and to ensure the city doesn't burn down.

The city regulates building standards so buildings don't collapse in an earthquake. The job of the city is not to see that high school kids have "entry level job readiness."

Don't forget the parents. Are they oblivious to what their kids know and don't know? I know that some kids don't have two parents to oversee them. I would think the school would supply some impetus for motivation from the students.

I read recently about a homeless kid who lived in a car. He got himself to school every day and made sure his homework was done. He kicked butt and ended up getting a scholarship to Harvard of all places. Granted, that scenario isn't the norm, but it really happened. Do you know why it happened? It was because the kid had drive and ambition, not because some city tried to shove him along toward graduation.

Kids seldom fail a grade in public school these days. Can't damage their egos, you know. I dedicated my first book to my parents. I dedicated the second to my wife and sons. Even though I don't have a third book yet, I already have the dedication completed. It reads: "To the Sisters of St. Joseph, the many priests, lay teachers, and coaches who demanded the best from me while not caring about my fragile self esteem." They didn't always get my best, but they sure tried.

Pushing kids along by "social promotion" and having city volunteers help high school kids get the skills they are supposed to get at school and home in order to graduate from high school is ridiculous. It's not a reach to say that this program is one more thing that makes us look like a welfare state.

I phoned Bailey, who I happen to think is a wonderful, talented, and enthusiastic woman who wants to make the world a better place.

She is all about volunteering. Mayor Cheryl Cox, a former educator herself, is equally dedicated to seeing the youth of today prosper.

The City sees itself as being in partnership with the school district to realize this prosperity.

I don't.

Bailey made sure I knew the money came from a grant.

I don't care.

I think preparedness to graduate should be handled by the schools, where a load of our tax money goes.

Several dollars within that grant came from me and you. It wasn't free money.

Bailey said, "It takes all of us as adults to help."

Those interested in volunteering should volunteer, but I want city employees to do city stuff, not school stuff.

Basinski is a 35-year police veteran, 17 of them with Chula Vista.


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