Latino lawmakers once again forced to pretend funding CTA = social justice

The old theory was that any significant reform introduced by a Republican state lawmaker was DOA. So now a Democratic state lawmaker is proposing a freeze on the pay of state workers making more than $100,000, an audit of the Legislature’s spending, and an end to the practice of allowing current and retired state lawmakers to get vanity plates for free. So what is going to happen to these populist, sure-to-play-well-with-the-public proposals? They’re going to die without a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and not just because the lawmaker behind them, Anthony Portantino, is a thorn in Speaker John Perez’s side. They’re going to die because all the talk about spending and restraint and a new era in Sacramento are pure bunk. And because Appropriations Committee Chairman Felipe Fuentes, above, is yet another Los Angeles Latino Democrat who talks up social justice on the campaign trail but in office defines social justice as protecting a status quo devoted to helping public employees, especially teachers. If the safety net is shredded, so be it.

SACRAMENTO — As education groups battle over which California tax initiative would give the biggest boost to schools, advocates for low-income residents fear safety-net programs remain vulnerable no matter what happens on the ballot in November.

Proponents for three competing tax measures are focusing heavily on schools because voters prioritize education funding most. But it remains an open question how other programs will fare.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal raises several billion dollars for the state’s general fund that he says would help protect schools from severe reductions. But he has proposed deep cuts in welfare-to-work and child care in the first year even if his taxes pass.

That’s from the Sac Bee’s coverage last week.

But wait, Chris, that’s not fair. If you help schools, you help Latinos, so isn’t Felipe Fuentes doing his bit for social justice?

Give me a break, unseen interlocutor. In case you haven’t been following the news the last few weeks, the school district that covers Fuentes’ district is in the middle of a massive scandal over perverts preying on kids, often young Latinos, with the adults responsible being protected by rules set up to insulate teachers from ever losing their jobs and LAUSD’s sluggish, indifferent bureaucracy.

And then there’s this key point:

The proponents of upcoming ballot initiatives argue that taxing California’s Scrooges will restore our education system, thereby restoring our best path to income equality. But anyone who’s spent any time at school board meetings knows that the interests of children – especially the children in poverty and their families – are down near the bottom of the list, after the interests of the adult groups who got the board members elected. Give districts more money and sure, they might restore school days, summer school, and intervention programs for our state’s millions of Tiny Tims – but only after they’ve finished satisfying pent-up salary demands, backfilling pension and benefit obligations, increasing their reserves, paying off early retirement incentives, and recalling employees by seniority.

That’s from an essay by Arun Ramanathan, a liberal education reformer with The Education Trust West.

Does any of this matter to Felipe Fuentes? Does he care that respected Los Angeles Latino Dems like former Sen. Gloria Romero have jumped off the CTA bandwagon because she concluded the CTA doesn’t give a damn about fixing schools, only funding them?

I doubt. Fuentes wouldn’t have advanced if he were more like Romero than like Assembly Speaker John Perez, also a Los Angeles Democrat. The difference between Perez and Romero being, of course, that Perez sailed up the career ladder because he agreed to pretend funding the CTA equals social justice, while Romero was sandbagged by the CTA as “dangerous” in her bid to be state superintendent of public instruction. Details here.

The chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee would be ousted within hours by Perez if he indicated he really would fight for social justice instead of public employees, backed Portantino’s measures and took on the status quo. But at least Felipe Fuentes’ conscience could get a rest after his years of being a cog in a political machine that holds his constituents in contempt.

Here’s another take on Fuentes’ from one of his hometown’s newspapers.

As for John Perez’s conscience, I see no signs it exists. He remains the enforcer of a diseased education status quo, and seems to enjoy this role.

Keeping the CTA happy: It’s rewarding work! Just ask John Perez.


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