PTA Gift for Someone Else’s Child? A Touchy Subject in California
April 9, 2017 8:38 AM   Subscribe

 
If I could ban a phrase used in political discourse, the phrase "They just want what's best for their child" would be high on the list of candidates. It's a phrase that cloaks the sentiments of Gordon Gekko behind the supposedly unquestionable bonds of parental love.

This right here is the inevitable result of treating such greed as natural or understandable: rich parents seething that a dollar of theirs might help someone else's poor kid.
posted by tocts at 9:03 AM on April 9, 2017 [64 favorites]


Gerrymandering helps Republicans, and parent donations help wealthier "public" schools, not to mention incredible inequity in local tax money in richer school districts. The system is rigged against everyone else.
posted by kozad at 9:04 AM on April 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


a Malibu mother said the plan would “bring everybody to a mediocre middle ground that serves nobody.”

A Malibu mother conflates 'equal opportunity' with 'a mediocre middle ground,' fucks everything up.
posted by carsonb at 9:06 AM on April 9, 2017 [53 favorites]


We live a few blocks from PS 87, mentioned in the article, and our entire neighborhood is a mess, fighting about re-zoning our elementary schools. Parents had petitions outside our subway stop for weeks trying to prevent the desegregation of one school. The Department of Education ended up ignoring them, for the most part, and are re-distributing children and resources as best they can.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:19 AM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


But those who wish to help pay for teachers’ salaries or school-day science and arts programs

The glaring problem here isn't the wishes of those who want to help, it's that teacher salaries or school day programs are funded through donations. Seriously, wtf? Fund your goddamn schools properly and you wouldn't have Malibu Barbie hyperventilating about the statistical mean trashing her child's future.
posted by fatbird at 9:24 AM on April 9, 2017 [45 favorites]


If the PTA donation model would evaporate when used for needy kids, then it *should* evaporate.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:29 AM on April 9, 2017 [15 favorites]


I have to not read things like this, because when I do my internal monologue becomes something like a Dalek's, except instead of always thinking EXTERMINATE, I'm always thinking EXPROPRIATE.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:42 AM on April 9, 2017 [17 favorites]


It almost seems inevitable now that wearable computer technology will eventually grant us the ability to do automatic per-child accounting of resources like teacher face time, answered questions, affirmations and scoldings. And some will insist they should be allowed to make "donations" that earn their child and only their child extra helpings of same.

You know, if you live long enough to require intensive medical care, assisted living, nursing home care, etc., it's rather unlikely your caretakers will be former private-school kids or the children of Malibu. You know the old saw about a rising tide lifting all boats? Everyone's heard it, but we believe it rather selectively, as it turns out.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:48 AM on April 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


What fatbird said. This crummy system is built on layer upon layer of rot, designed to favor the more affluent:

1. Lobby for lower taxes, so there is less to fund egalitarian public schooling,
2. Lobby for tax credits, so more affluent folks can earmark part of their tax payments, shifting it from general funds to specific educational programs that they benefit from more directly,
3. Lobby for vouchers, so the public school model is further drained of funding,
4. Lobby for more lax regulatory oversight of charter schools, so they compete unfairly with public schools,
5. Lobby for "no" on school bonds and property taxes, to further dry up funding for public schools,
6. Lobby for weaker teacher's unions, so educators become less effective as a voting and advocacy bloc to fight against all of the above,
7. Elect school board, state lege and federal politicians that promote all of the above,
8. Participate in the culture wars that stigmatize science, intelligence and education in general,
9. Donate to your local PTA, an act of disproportionate anti-egalitarian, providing funds not available by less affluent schools,

...and then, in the midst of the toxic environment of inequality and privilege thus created, weep about how your PTA donations might be used to benefit less affluent families.

It's really kind of sickening.
posted by darkstar at 9:58 AM on April 9, 2017 [60 favorites]


Is this really a surprise? These are the same Malibu turdsnaggles that use illegal shenanigans to keep the public off of the public beach. They want theirs and fuck the rest.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:06 AM on April 9, 2017 [14 favorites]


"The issue has bedeviled policy makers who abhor the idea of unequal classrooms, but also do not want to discourage families from digging into their pockets. ...

Total donations — between $4 million and $5 million annually — did not appear to drop in the first couple of years, according to tax returns for the foundation and 15 school-level PTAs, though more recent records are not available."


Well then there's your fucking answer. Now quit being pathetic and stop trying to take money from poor kids.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:17 AM on April 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


Eat the rich. Now, more than ever.
posted by Lyme Drop at 10:26 AM on April 9, 2017 [6 favorites]


To be even clearer: fundamentally, this is evidence that there is broad consensus that schools need better funding (e.g. more taxes need to be raised). The wrinkle is that rich parents are only OK with this if the added funds disproportionately go to their already over-served kids.

Fuck 'em. Ban PTA donations entirely. The rich kids can have gold plated sports facilities when their parents agree to taxes that provide equal facilities to students across the board.
posted by tocts at 10:30 AM on April 9, 2017 [23 favorites]


Malibu is such a bunch of fucking assholes. They would absolutely take the last crumb from a starving childs mouth to ensure their horrible children had a slightly bigger piece of however many entire pies they already have. They will fight every civic duty and compromise with their fellow humans tooth and nail just because they are entitled pricks. I lived one town over for years and some of my best friends still live in Malibu so I feel I can say that with authority. I might send a card of support to the staff at this school district in fact. Maybe some wine too.

If the whole place did fall into the ocean someday I'd cheer expect that it is so nasty from all the un-conforming septics and illegal development that it would probably do Santa Monica Bay in for good.
posted by fshgrl at 10:32 AM on April 9, 2017 [8 favorites]


If anyone down there is putting together an "Occupy the Tidal Zone" group to camp out on the public beaches these motherfuckers are blocking with their ticky-tack houses, I promise I'll round up at least four people from the Bay Area to come down and join. There's an outside chance I can even find someone who can bring a boat.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:39 AM on April 9, 2017 [10 favorites]


okay mostly I just wanted to brag about finally knowing the sorts of anarchist pirates who have boats, instead of just the anarchist pirates who copy software. I'll shut up now.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:44 AM on April 9, 2017 [22 favorites]


To be even clearer: fundamentally, this is evidence that there is broad consensus that schools need better funding (e.g. more taxes need to be raised). The wrinkle is that rich parents are only OK with this if the added funds disproportionately go to their already over-served kids.
Wasn't there some dumb referendum in California that means that municipalities can't raise property taxes to better fund schools? I think that's part of why PTA donations are so important in California.

What's really frustrating is that rich kids don't need all the enrichment stuff. They get all sorts of enrichment at home, even if their parents aren't focused on it at all. Their parents don't think "Otto and Freya need to be enriched, so let's think of some enrichment activities for them." They think "what are Otto and Freya going to do this summer? They can't just sit around watching Netflix. I guess they can go to space camp for the first month, and then they'll go to digital arts camp the second month, and then we'll go on a family vacation in Europe in August and visit lots of museums and other cultural attractions." Less-advantaged kids really benefit from things like arts programs in schools, in a way that rich kids don't, because rich kids get that stuff whether it exists in school or not.

The entire American educational system is a trainwreck, and I don't know what to do about it. Of course, you can say that about the entire American anything system, so yeah. We're fucked.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2017 [24 favorites]


I can't get over the quote from one person calling the pooled-funding "ideological". The shifting of that word into a negative frame as if anything "ideological" is bad. Ugh! YES it's an ideology that all kids should have equal access to a good education and excellent facilities. And that it doesn't do our country/culture any good to stratify. Also whenever they're working hard to lower taxes for the rich the common refrain is "republicans give more charity than democrats! Leave the funding the individuals instead of the gov't". Instead, it's just clear they hate letting ANYTHING go to the poor and marginalized.
posted by asavage at 10:46 AM on April 9, 2017 [7 favorites]


I was just tweeting about income inequality in the next tab over, and found this.

Many passages caught my eye, like:
At this year’s PTA gala for Point Dume Marine Science Elementary in Malibu, 10-person tables cost between $2,000 and $15,000. In an auction, parents could bid on a Las Vegas vacation, private chef services and a pink guitar signed by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
posted by doctornemo at 10:46 AM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Or this, with its fascinating combination of emotionalism and sheer Wall Street gall:
An ideal PTA system gives a parent “the opportunity to put your money where your heart is,” said Mr. Foster, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse. “It has to be an emotional appeal, and it has to be for the benefit of the donor.”
posted by doctornemo at 10:47 AM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


The educational system is a perfect match to the American mentality. There are fifty to seventy million voters each of who will volunteer to live, with his family, in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn’t even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:48 AM on April 9, 2017 [17 favorites]


I can't get over the quote from one person calling the pooled-funding "ideological". The shifting of that word into a negative frame as if anything "ideological" is bad. Ugh! YES it's an ideology that all kids should have equal access to a good education and excellent facilities.

And it's also an ideology that "the rich should be able to buy whatever they want for their kids, even within a government system."

What we have here are two competing ideologies. Don't let them tell you their point of view is "natural" or "apolitical!"
posted by praemunire at 10:48 AM on April 9, 2017 [9 favorites]


To be even clearer: fundamentally, this is evidence that there is broad consensus that schools need better funding (e.g. more taxes need to be raised). The wrinkle is that rich parents are only OK with this if the added funds disproportionately go to their already over-served kids.
Wasn't there some dumb referendum in California that means that municipalities can't raise property taxes to better fund schools? I think that's part of why PTA donations are so important in California.


Yeah. The article : "In California, for example, schools may depend on donations because the state’s Proposition 13, passed by voters in 1978, keeps property taxes relatively low."
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:49 AM on April 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


I wonder when the level of exclusivity means they lose nonprofit status? Part of the statute is that benefits of donations can't be exclusive to members.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:50 AM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


Wasn't there some dumb referendum in California that means that municipalities can't raise property taxes to better fund schools?

Proposition 13, which was at least in part a reaction to the state distributing funds more equally throughout the state.
posted by Candleman at 10:54 AM on April 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


Prop 13 is the root cause of this mess just like it's been the problem for a large number of other issues in California.

In theory Democrats finally have the Super-Majority necessary to undo some of the damage Prop 13 has done by getting large parts of California that have appreciated by a massive amount since 1978 back up to levels that they should be taxed at but inevitably the fear of a backlash will probably prevent that.
posted by vuron at 11:08 AM on April 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


"An ideal PTA system gives a parent “the opportunity to put your money where your heart is,” said Mr. Foster, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse. “It has to be an emotional appeal, and it has to be for the benefit of the donor.""

Mr. Foster does not understand the concept of a gift or a donation. He wants to purchase something. Perhaps he should purchase a private school education, since he obviously doesn't understand how public goods work.
posted by cushie at 11:08 AM on April 9, 2017 [13 favorites]


"We got a nice, quiet little beach community here, and I intend to keep it nice and quiet."
posted by kaibutsu at 11:24 AM on April 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


Most PTAs are set up as 501(c)3 public charities. That means that donations are tax deductions for the donors. The higher your income, the more the tax deduction is worth. Effectively, the Santa Monica taxpayers are subsidizing the donations to the Malibu PTA, a transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy.
posted by JackFlash at 11:25 AM on April 9, 2017 [13 favorites]


Perhaps he should purchase a private school education, since he obviously doesn't understand how public goods work.
The thing is, that threat is one of the weapons that well-off parents have in their arsenals when they fight for their kids to get special advantages in public schools. Everyone knows that they can just opt out of the system if the system isn't working for them. And everyone knows that school systems suffer when they only serve the less-well-off members of a given community. Part of the reason that school districts defer to rich and upper-middle-class parents is that everyone knows that they really can just take their toys and go home.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:25 AM on April 9, 2017 [8 favorites]


with 'a mediocre middle ground,' fucks everything up.

When your basic life philosophy is that inequality and forcibly sorting people into simple categories of winners and losers is excellence, it all makes a crazy kind of sense. It's idiot-think that history and scientific evidence have refuted so completely, you'd have to have deliberately rejected science to accept it, but then, that's included in the package, too, so...
posted by saulgoodman at 11:32 AM on April 9, 2017


You know, if you live long enough to require intensive medical care, assisted living, nursing home care, etc., it's rather unlikely your caretakers will be former private-school kids or the children of Malibu.

Actually your caregivers are more likely to be frustrated ex teachers.
posted by notreally at 11:46 AM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Seems to me like the USA wants the best possible health and education systems, as long as they screw over the most possible poor people. Also explains the military spending, as long as the poor people are in other countries.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:12 PM on April 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


doctornemo: I was just tweeting about income inequality in the next tab over, and found this.

The one I like puts the SM/M school district, income-varied as it is, in perspective to other parts of the country: What other PTA has fundraising goals of 4 to 5 million dollars annually? And they get in a huff when the 200 grand the district is short gets supplied from up in the Palisades. That shortfall would be an absolute windfall back in my hometown public school district.
posted by carsonb at 12:29 PM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


My greatest disappointment in Young Governor Jerry Brown was that he didn't fight back after Proposition 13 passed, saying "well, that's what the voters wanted so let's just see how we can live with it", so I don't expect any changes until Old Governor Jerry Brown has fully retired.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:30 PM on April 9, 2017


I understand the points y'all are making, but it seems perfectly reasonable to me to want my donations to my children's school to advantage my children in particular. My children have to compete in a globalised marketplace with the children who went to private school. I will do what I can to ensure they can do this effectively, just as I started on phonics early to make sure they were ahead of their peers at reading. If it is not efficient to do this through the local PTA I will do it through private school, moving house to an area where the schools have a more affluent intake, or paying for extra-curricular teaching.

It's a classic Prisoner's Dilemma for rich parents like me. We would all be better off as a society sending our rich kids to the poor schools. We would all be equally badly off sending our rich kids to the same schools. But the worst personal outcome is to send my rich kid to the poor school while the other rich parents send their kid to the best school.

Education is a positional good in a globalised free market. I can't afford to let my children fall behind.
posted by alasdair at 1:01 PM on April 9, 2017 [6 favorites]


Do you really want to live in a world where the poor--the people who cook and clean for you, the nurses aides and techs who provide your healthcare, the people who fix your car and your roads and collect your garbage--are undereducated and resent you for making sure their kids are poorly educated so that your kids can get one more cool extracurricular class and one more step ahead in the rat race? Do you really want your kids to live in that world? Can you really look your kids in the eyes and tell them that?
posted by hydropsyche at 1:21 PM on April 9, 2017 [14 favorites]


That's a lot of words to say, "Fuck you, got mine."
posted by stet at 1:21 PM on April 9, 2017 [26 favorites]


What is even grimmer is the fact that the richies of Malibu are the laid-back wealthy.
The hyper-competitive upper classes of the rest of the nation (heck, world!) make them look like doobie smoking hippies wallowing in the filth of their microbuses.
posted by Chitownfats at 1:38 PM on April 9, 2017


What is even grimmer is the fact that the richies of Malibu are the laid-back wealthy.
The hyper-competitive upper classes of the rest of the nation (heck, world!) make them look like doobie smoking hippies wallowing in the filth of their microbuses.


Never trust a drug that 'helps' 'you' work longer hours. It's not 'helping' and the beneficiary isn't 'you'.

um... I heard someone say once.... in a parking lot... MAYBE there was a Grateful Dead show going on , but I'm not going to swear to it.
posted by mikelieman at 1:50 PM on April 9, 2017


While conceding that the parents in the article are likely entitled jerks, I am sympathetic to the idea that donations made to a school should stay with that school.

An elementary school in my district has a jog-a-thon every year.
Same weekend, same time for many years.

They use the money to integrate art into the everyday curriculum. They hire an artist-in-residence from the university, work with teachers, buy supplies.
It's a really great program.

They raise thousands of dollars to pay for it.
The PTO* works long hours, the kids and parents step up.
It is not unusual for parents of kids now in high school to make a point of donating to the jog-a-thon because they believe in the program.

If the money they raised went into a pool, where they had to apply to get their program funded, where the results were not immediately evident, I don't believe their fundraising would be as successful.

The neighborhood connection, the parent/kid connection is vital.
Pooling funds would be a death knell.

*Not a PTA, who has extra money to send to some national headquarters?
posted by madajb at 1:54 PM on April 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


It's a classic Prisoner's Dilemma for rich parents like me. We would all be better off as a society sending our rich kids to the poor schools

It's so amazingly simple to step out of this dilemma. What if there are no "poor" schools?
posted by DreamerFi at 2:02 PM on April 9, 2017 [18 favorites]


Imagine if they could teach their kids the value of supporting the larger community, including kids whose parents don't have the free time to organize such an event or the ability to donate money? What if they developed empathy for their fellow people and wanted other kids to also get to have an arts program, even those kids who live in different neighborhoods from them?
posted by hydropsyche at 2:02 PM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


What if there are no "poor" schools?
That's no good. In that case, alasdair's kids would have to compete with everyone, not just the other rich kids. Inequality gives his kids a competitive advantage!

I don't know. I just reject the framing that says that the point of raising a child is to create someone who will emerge victorious in a zero-sum scramble for success. I don't think that's moral, and I also don't think it's correct. There isn't a lot of evidence that having more fancy programs will make your kid do better in life, especially if your kid is pretty advantaged to start out with. (Like I said, those programs matter much more for less-well-off kids than they do for rich kids.) I also think that raising your kids that way is likely to produce amoral monsters who are super stressed-out because they know the only thing you value is success, and not raising miserable monsters who hate you should be among the goals of parenting.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2017 [23 favorites]


It's a classic Prisoner's Dilemma for rich parents like me. We would all be better off as a society sending our rich kids to the poor schools

It's so amazingly simple to step out of this dilemma. What if there are no "poor" schools?


"Simple" is not a word that I would use to describe the redistribution of funds for education. If it were, Prop 13 would not have happened. Every parent's primary responsibility is to their own offspring and those to whom they have pledged shelter and care. It pays, on paper, to be selfish, because nobody else is going to make sure your kid succeeds. And even if there is a movement to equalize school funding, who wants their kid to be the canary in the coal mine? This is the thought process that keeps things the way they are. The only way to force equality is to ban private school and nationalize the funding of public education, removing state and local autonomy.

Tell me again how that is amazingly simple?
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:48 PM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


Prop 13 is bad and while my parents benefit massively from it they would vote it gone if asked. That said, it only affects those homes that haven't changed hands since 1978 so I'm not really sure it would solve all of the $ problems people claim it would.
posted by atomicstone at 2:53 PM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


the worst personal outcome is to send my rich kid to the poor school while the other rich parents send their kid to the best school

That's actually not at all the worst personal outcome, even in the context of the present system, but for you to understand what the worst is would require you to recognize some values you clearly don't, so.
posted by praemunire at 3:20 PM on April 9, 2017 [8 favorites]


That said, it only affects those homes that haven't changed hands since 1978 so I'm not really sure it would solve all of the $ problems people claim it would.

That's not true; it affects every home. Property which has not changed hands since 1978 and has appreciated in value ever since reaps the most obscene benefits, but if you bought your house three years ago and the value has gone up more than 3% in that time you are benefiting from Prop 13 and participating in the wealth transfer from the poorer, younger, and less-white to the richer, older, and whiter.

But hey, I own a home in California and so am part of the system. I'm all in on getting rid of Prop 13 so I am trying not to be a "fuck you, got mine" person even though prop 13 now benefits me rather than hurting me.
posted by Justinian at 3:38 PM on April 9, 2017 [6 favorites]


Every parent's primary responsibility is to their own offspring and those to whom they have pledged shelter and care.

Primary is not synonymous with only.

On on a sinking ship, if your kid is safely in a lifeboat, you don't have a moral duty to toss other children into the sea to improve your own kid's odds by 1/100th of a percent.
posted by tocts at 3:40 PM on April 9, 2017 [15 favorites]


Goal is to get rid of Prop 13 in 2018 if single payer doesn't eat the political will, I think. This year the big push was taxes for infrastructure; now that's done they're looking at other things. (Call yr state sens and assemblymembers.)
posted by peppercorn at 4:33 PM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'll believe it when I see it. Prop 13 is the third rail of Californian politics.
posted by Justinian at 4:41 PM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


"If I could ban a phrase used in political discourse, the phrase "They just want what's best for their child" would be high on the list of candidates. "

The proper answer to this when you hear it in person is, "If it's not good enough for my child, it's not good enough for any child." They freeze and have no response. "But think of the children!" works both ways.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:45 PM on April 9, 2017 [18 favorites]


atomicstone: "That said, it only affects those homes that haven't changed hands since 1978 so I'm not really sure it would solve all of the $ problems people claim it would."

Except:
1. Children can inherit the low tax rates from their parents.
2. Commercial properties need not ever change hands, so they will continue to pay the low tax rates of 1978 in perpetuity. The quintessential example is Disneyland.

The real problem is that the bulk of Prop 13's benefits goes to the rich, and they scream like hell whenever anyone threatens to touch any of it.
posted by crazy with stars at 4:52 PM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


" And even if there is a movement to equalize school funding, who wants their kid to be the canary in the coal mine? "

Seriously entire communities of parents. My kids go to schools with poverty rates above 80%. We have many like-minded friends in the trenches fighting for high-poverty schools by keeping middle and upper-middle class families in them.

"But the worst personal outcome is to send my rich kid to the poor school while the other rich parents send their kid to the best school."

This is a) not true (the quality of your rich kid's education isn't affected and your kid often gets a college application boost by coming from an underrepresented school) and b) is definitely teaching your child something about your values and morals, but probably not what you want to be teaching them -- unless you do want to teach them that money equates to personal value and that people's humanity is measured by their wealth?

In my opinion the worst possible outcome would be to teach my children, who have many advantages in life, that they are therefore worth more than other people.

I'm way more concerned about raising children who are moral failures than children who don't rise to the top of the wealth heap.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:55 PM on April 9, 2017 [47 favorites]


Y'all are right. Especially about the commercial properties, which is where the real money comes from. I take it back.
posted by atomicstone at 5:10 PM on April 9, 2017


Education is a positional good in a globalised free market. I can't afford to let my children fall behind

Ladies and Gentlemen, Step Right Up and See The Amazing Talking Crab In A Pot!

Seriously, this is exactly the kind of shit that the 0.01% love. Just tax those fuckers at 1970s levels (and make a concerted effort to prevent them from moving capital away) and we can all have nice things without the upper middle class declaring war on everyone underneath them. It's The Inequality, Stupid.
posted by benzenedream at 5:12 PM on April 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'll believe it when I see it. Prop 13 is the third rail of Californian politics.

As someone who stands to probably lose $8000/year when Prop 13 gets repealed may I say: Fuck Prop 13. Kill it. Kill it with fire.
posted by Talez at 5:23 PM on April 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


Education is a positional good in a globalised free market. I can't afford to let my children fall behind.

Then why should my taxes pay for it? I don't have any kids.

I believe the justification for public schooling is that well-educated citizens are necessary for a healthy society. I don't regard my financial contribution to public education to be a favor I do for people who have kids; I think it's a payment I make to further my own self-interest.

Count me in with those who say the solution to this is well funded schools for all pupils. My quibble with the article is that concern with the funding that come from PTA donations is a sideshow compared to the disparity you get by using property tax as the primary source of money for schools.
posted by layceepee at 5:27 PM on April 9, 2017 [19 favorites]


I'm way more concerned about raising children who are moral failures than children who don't rise to the top of the wealth heap.

Well said.
posted by JackFlash at 5:43 PM on April 9, 2017


Prop 13 is a weird damn thing. I would totally stand to lose money if it got repealed, but I'm also married to a teacher whose funding is directly tied to the silliness of 13. Stab it, hang it, burn it, bury the ashes with salt. Maybe it will help stabilize the weirdness of the CA real estate market as well.

But seriously, I live in Pasadena, which for all of it's deeply entrenched liberalism and wealth is so screwy about public schools. PUSD, which for all rights, should be gloriously funded and equipped and serve as a beacon is starved, blighted and continues to serve as a perfect spotlight of how far "fyigm" goes even amongst white liberals worried about their kids going to school with all the black and hispanic kids in NW Pas.

I don't have kids. I'm not going to have kids. But ffs take my damn money and teach other people's kids so the world has a half percent chance of not being a shit ball when I kick off.
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:14 PM on April 9, 2017 [6 favorites]


This is an interview with a journalist who did a lot of work on school segregation. Then moved to Brooklyn and ended up having to decide between a gentrified and a non-gentrified public school for her daughter. It's very compelling to watch. She chose the non-gentrified school. She says, "I don't think my daughter deserves a better education than someone else's daughter."

She also discusses how local school funding basically means that the school your kid goes to is based on private wealth (to be able to afford to buy/rent in a 'good' district), and American racism has meant that a lot of the private wealth of white families is directly linked to the oppression and impoverishment of Black and Latinx families. Also how although we live in a racist 'system' that system is held up by individual choices - and the choices that 'progressive' white families make about schools for their own children are where the rubber meets the road. They want 'diversity' but exactly the right kind of diversity and no more, and the demographics of NYC just do not permit that on any broad level. I don't have children but I'm at an age where many of my friends are starting to make decisions based on the local school district, and it is illuminating, to say the least.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:31 AM on April 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


Part of the reason that school districts defer to rich and upper-middle-class parents is that everyone knows that they really can just take their toys and go home.

I think this is a factor that may not being considered. While some people do exist who are willing to keep sending their kids to the crummy school they are zoned for because they believe it's important for education to be equalized, I would say the vast majority of those who can afford to do otherwise- via moving to a different neighborhood, or private school, will do so if education at the school is below a certain line. So if the school can't keep up with that line, people vote with their feet.

In this instance, donations are down in the wealthy area and up in the middle class area, so it seems to have evened out. I don't know that we can be sure it will be like that for all areas, though, and in many circumstances the drop in wealthy donation will not be met by equal increases. So you would need to weigh the likelihood of the donations decreasing, compared to the benefit of the change you are trying to make.
posted by corb at 8:48 AM on April 10, 2017


So if the school can't keep up with that line, people vote with their feet.

This is far less convincing as an argument for why schools should kowtow to the rich and much more convincing as an argument for why school funding should not be based on local tax collection, but instead be collected either at the state or national level and distributed equally.

You want to vote with your feet and move to a whole other country, be my guest.
posted by tocts at 8:53 AM on April 10, 2017 [7 favorites]


The real crime is that public schools are reduced to dependence on bake sales and charity instead of adequate public funding. The fact that people are even having this argument about PTA charity is an indication of political and social dysfunction.
posted by JackFlash at 9:37 AM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


While some people do exist who are willing to keep sending their kids to the crummy school they are zoned for because they believe it's important for education to be equalized, I would say the vast majority of those who can afford to do otherwise- via moving to a different neighborhood, or private school, will do so if education at the school is below a certain line.
I'm pretty sure that the schools in Malibu are just fine, though, and the kids aren't going to suffer any terrible consequences if they only have ballroom dancing in fifth grade and not third and fourth grade as well. And I suspect that many fancy private schools don't have three years of ballroom dancing, either.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:47 AM on April 10, 2017


What a piss-poor load of sanctimony. Including Eyebrows, an administrator. If you think parents wanting the best for their children is immoral you're every caricature of a foaming left-winger. If you think people telling the truth is morally repugnant you're not going to hear it very often. If you don't know what a Prisoners' Dilemma is and how it relates to public policy... oh, what's the use?
posted by alasdair at 1:04 PM on April 10, 2017


Every parent wants what's best for their kids. The question is what exactly is "best"? In the short term, a school which has cherry-picked the wealthiest, whitest, brightest, best-behaved, least-disabled children might look like the best on paper, but is it really? In the long term, when all of our kids have to live in the same society, is the best outcome going to be achieved by having brought them up through a system with such radical inequalities?
posted by Daily Alice at 1:35 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you don't know what a Prisoners' Dilemma is and how it relates to public policy... oh, what's the use?

Your view is that children are pawns to be used in the playing of some societal-wide game?
posted by Talez at 1:37 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's a classic Prisoner's Dilemma for rich parents like me. We would all be better off as a society sending our rich kids to the poor schools. We would all be equally badly off sending our rich kids to the same schools. But the worst personal outcome is to send my rich kid to the poor school while the other rich parents send their kid to the best school.

I went to high school in this general area in the early 80s, before Malibu had a high school. Back then most Malibu kids went to the public Santa Monica High and SaMo was good enough for the children of the rich and/or famous residents of both Malibu and Santa Monica. Same for a few other nearby high schools in wealthy areas. Most of the (few) kids I knew in private school went to Catholic school, and just a couple went to fancy private schools.

I'd love to know exactly when and how this changed.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:59 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Public Policy Math:

Prisoner's Dilemma
+ Tragedy of the Commons
+ Lack of a regulating cooperative influence (individual morality and/or effective government, etc.)
--------------------------
= Fuck You, Got Mine
posted by darkstar at 2:00 PM on April 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


In the long term, when all of our kids have to live in the same society, is the best outcome going to be achieved by having brought them up through a system with such radical inequalities?

Well duh, the obvious solution for those viewing this like the pure game theory exercise that it so obviously is will be to make sure everyone else's kids don't live in the same society as theirs. Someone's gotta be part of the slave class, that's just common sense!
posted by tocts at 2:08 PM on April 10, 2017


Someone's gotta be part of the slave class, that's just common sense!

Yeah but to get those people up to middle class some of the own their own jet class would have to become first class commercial class and that's just not how we do things in America.
posted by Talez at 2:34 PM on April 10, 2017


If you don't know what a Prisoners' Dilemma is and how it relates to public policy... oh, what's the use?

If you don't know the difference between the prescriptive and the descriptive (*), you might actually think that game theory should control public policy. That would be very sad.

(*) Or how artificial and unrealistic a construct "game theory" is under most conditions. For example, the Prisoner's Dilemma assumes that there are no lasting consequences for the players beyond the ones immediately implicated by the choice and no relationship between the players that survives the game. A very, very simple person might somehow fail to realize how badly this maps onto a situation where one remains indefinitely in society with the "loser" and indeed may find himself relying on the "loser"'s resources for his own good some day.
posted by praemunire at 2:50 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


"If you think people telling the truth is morally repugnant you're not going to hear it very often."

man just lemme lace up my lollerskates here

People wanting the best for their children is natural. Natural does not equal moral, and wanting the best for your children, if framed in a zero-sum manner, implies wanting worse for other children. As every parent is recognized to have an equal desire for their children's success, if you sincerely desire the most for your children, you desire the least for all others, and it's in their interest to thwart you with whatever means they have available, including murdering your children. Of course, most would find murdering children morally repugnant, but if you're sincere in wanting the absolute best for your children… Reread your Hobbes: That's pretty much why we have a government, so we don't murder your children to ensure that ours get ballroom dancing lessons.

The other response that I have to these sorts of reflexive pop-game-theory invocations is that when I hear them, I can't help but think that they reflect a lack of confidence on the part of the parents. If the distance between your child's success and failure is third-grade ballroom dancing classes, you must believe your kid is already such a blockhead that if they don't get every single possible advantage, they're doomed to failure.

I'm also amused by the idea that us plebs don't understand the self-justifications of the wealthy, as if we don't have them shoveled over us at every opportunity by wan rich-splainers that believe that if we just understood the prisoner's dilemma properly, we'd understand that their regrettably self-serving behavior is really all we could ever do if we were in their position. And I do note that it's rarely accompanied by any attempts to challenge the status quo — it's not like the Malibu parents are putting their political muscle behind repealing Prop 13 or ensuring that all the public schools within the district have educational opportunities so numerous that children would attend special programs based on preference and aptitude, rather than access.

But, as seen with the Chicago prof who wondered how people could even, like, live on less than $200k per year, the insistence is always upon the empathy of the poor for the terrible constraints that the wealthy live under, and never on positive action the wealthy are taking to remove us all from the metaphorical prison of the dilemma.
posted by klangklangston at 3:45 PM on April 10, 2017 [21 favorites]


" Or how artificial and unrealistic a construct "game theory" is under most conditions. For example, the Prisoner's Dilemma assumes that there are no lasting consequences for the players beyond the ones immediately implicated by the choice and no relationship between the players that survives the game. A very, very simple person might somehow fail to realize how badly this maps onto a situation where one remains indefinitely in society with the "loser" and indeed may find himself relying on the "loser"'s resources for his own good some day."

Yeah, isn't the optimal iterated strategy to assume collaboration first, then ruthlessly pare cheaters to enforce that norm? One public policy version of that would be to raise taxes significantly, to above the levels required to adequately fund all public schools, then give tax credits to parents who send their children to public schools.

It's a shame that Occupy petered out. Who was that with the boats again?
posted by klangklangston at 3:49 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yeah, isn't the optimal iterated strategy to assume collaboration first, then ruthlessly pare cheaters to enforce that norm?

Yes: cooperate first and punish defectors. "Defectors" being the players who prefer to attempt to maximize private over joint welfare. I don't think this analogy goes somewhere that its advocate would actually like.
posted by praemunire at 7:49 PM on April 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


Upon further reflection (in the shower this morning), I've decided to amend my earlier mathematical theorem to:

Public Policy Math:

Prisoner's Dilemma
+ Fuck You, Got Mine
+ Lack of a regulating influence (i.e., effective government)
--------------------------
= Tragedy of the Commons (AKA "Why We Can't Have Nice Things")


Because it seems to me that the FYGM impulse is one of the contributing factors that leads to the larger problem of trying to have a civil society that promotes general welfare, yet having it fall short when bad/selfish/inconsiderate actors try to game the system for short-term advantage for themselves and their kin.
posted by darkstar at 9:00 AM on April 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


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