When Jimmy Hoffa was presumed dead in 1975, an irreverent opportunist wrote a ransom note which read, "If you ever want to see Jimmy Hoffa dead again, you'll deliver X amount of dollars, in unmarked bills, to a tree stump in Itchycoo Park."

The FBI was only tempted to deliver the money.

AUSD is effectively issuing ransom notes. For example: "If you ever want your children to play school sports again, you'll approve another parcel tax."

Strange that AUSD would hold sports hostage: The sports budget is heavily supplemented by private donations. How many votes would a ransom note garner if it read: "If you want to keep an obsolete curriculum department, you will cough up a parcel tax."

Or, "If you ever want the school board to receive a stipend again, you will approve the parcel tax."

Authoritatively, much has changed in public education since California responded to the hue and cry for accountability in 1997.

Structurally, next to nothing has changed since 1997. Every meaningful test that establishes our Academic Performance Index is generated in Sacramento; yet we still maintain a flush assessment office. Every standard a teacher is expected to teach emanates directly from Sacramento; yet we still maintain a fully stocked curriculum department.

Why pay for obsolescence and redundancy? There is not enough money for the essentials.


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To separate the sine qua non from the superfluous, visualize a classroom as a one-room-school and ask, "What does a teacher need to keep a classroom running?"

The answer: textbooks approved by Sacramento, copy privileges, dry markers, paper, curriculum and standardized tests handed down from Sacramento and a strong-arm poised to extricate troublemakers.

These are fundamental logistics, the rest are lipids.

We have a tradition of profligacy. We have multi-layered educational bureaucracies.

The ensconced and the fatuous have difficulty visualizing alternative scenarios.

During austerity, encroachment takes places: support for the educational trenches — the classroom — is crimped while bureaucrats continue to blithely cross T's and dot I's.

Archaic administrative procedures are immune to encroachment, modernization and sunsets.

AUSD is stripping combat boots from foot soldiers to buy brass buttons for generals.

If encroachment is to occur within AUSD, let encroachment happen outside the classroom: let I's go undotted and T's go uncrossed.

Proponents of Measure H argue a parcel tax will only fund endangered, targeted, sports and music programs etc. Who did the targeting?

A parcel tax allows AUSD to continue siphoning essential educational dollars to fund an antiquated administration of obsolete bureaucrats.

The time for incrementalism is over: This crisis is a call to radically restructure, to move into the 21st century. If not now, when?

I have had one high muck-a-muck enter my classroom since 1997; my CST pass rate is higher than the district mean. If I, an average teacher (actually "the worst teacher at Encinal" according to Barbara Mooney), can achieve a modicum of success without stick and rudder from AUSD HQ, what is essential about the services they tout?

I say we do vote on a parcel tax, but designate 100 percent of the tax money to keep AUSD HQ on life-support.

In the meantime let Sacramento tax dollars go unfettered to classrooms: with or without the parcel tax.

Should this extortion be titled Measure H, Proposition H or Preparation H?

Jeffrey R Smith is U.S. Naval aviator and lieutenant commander retired and is a math teacher at Encinal High School.