California Editorial Rdp
The Sacramento Bee on rising homelessness in Sacramento:
There’s no sugarcoating it: Sacramento’s homeless crisis is getting worse. The number of homeless people in Sacramento County has surged by at least 19% over the past two years, according to a federally mandated point-in-time survey conducted by Sacramento Steps Forward.
That’s a total of 5,570 homeless people, around 3,900 of whom are living unsheltered, according to a story by The Sacramento Bee’s Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Theresa Clift. The count, which is conducted every two years, found a total of 1,905 more human beings living homeless in Sacramento County.
This year’s survey covered a lot more ground than previous ones. Sacramento Steps Forward deployed triple the number of volunteers while doubling the size of the area covered. So, it’s possible that we’re just getting a much better idea of the issue’s scope.
The news comes at a time when Sacramento has finally seemed to embrace the idea that city leaders have a moral responsibility to address this issue. Mayor Darrell Steinberg deserves credit for elevating the urgency of homelessness and encouraging his colleagues to address it.
Steinberg has pledged to move 2,000 people into some form of housing by 2020, and the city has set aside $36 million to create “rehousing shelters.” The county has also spent millions of dollars to move people into housing.
Yet, despite the clear emergency, some in Sacramento continue to resist solutions, like Steinberg’s plan to build temporary shelters for 100 people in each city council district.
According to the latest survey, however, our homeless neighbors are in dire need of action:
? 93% of our homeless people are from Sacramento, debunking the oft-repeated myth that homeless people come from somewhere else. They don’t — they’re from here.
? 20% of the homeless are families with children, and about half of these 372 families with kids are sleeping outdoors.
? One out of every five homeless people in Sacramento County is 55 or older. Some fear this number will grow even larger as California’s population ages over the next 10 years.
? Only 30% are ”‘chronically homeless’ — homeless for more than a year, or repeatedly, while struggling with a disabling condition such as mental illness, substance abuse or physical disability.”
Contrary to common myths about the homeless, the lack of affordable housing is the main problem.
As Sacramento experiences rebirth as California’s new hip and affordable destination, it’s coming at a cost to some in our existing community. The Greater Sacramento Economic Council extols the fact that 24,000 Bay Area residents move to Sacramento every year, but what about the residents being pushed out onto the streets?
The unsheltered in Sacramento constitute a city within a city. Take a walk through the city’s central core, or drive down any of the main thoroughfares leading out to the suburbs, and you will see people struggling to survive.
Sacramento is not alone. Homelessness is surging across the state, and it has increased by over 40% in both Alameda and Orange counties. California’s homeless population was estimated at 134,000 in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Sacramento’s grim homeless survey does provide a ray of hope. The percentage of unsheltered chronically homeless people living on the street dropped eight points, from 39% to 31%. Mayor Steinberg sees it as evidence that investments by the city and the county are delivering results, yet he questions whether these efforts are enough.
“I believe this issue is our number one challenge in our community, and it is among the most significant challenges — if not the most significant challenge — our state faces,” Steinberg said. “There’s so much excitement about what’s happening in our city and our region . and yet this issue, more than any other, threatens not only our quality of life, but also how we feel about ourselves. Because there are so many people out there that are suffering, and there are people who desperately need help.”
Steinberg, who Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed to chair a statewide task force on homelessness, suggested that it may be time for cities and counties to become even more creative in sheltering the unsheltered.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf recently took the unprecedented step of opening the Bay Area’s first parking lot where people who live in recreational vehicles can park 24/7. Steinberg suggested Sacramento may follow suit.
“Those aren’t permanent long-term solutions, but we’ve got to provide people the safety of knowing that there are places where they can turn,” he said.
But as the crisis becomes more urgent and the solutions become more creative, will Sacramento rally in support? Or will some continue in vain to try to push the problem elsewhere as the problem becomes worse?
Sacramento’s choices will set an example for the state. Let’s come together to do what’s necessary to provide dignity, compassion and shelter to all members of our community.
Southern California News Group on taxes to fund schools:
California officials can be slow learners.
They keep offering the same old “solutions” — raising property taxes to boost school systems that already consume more than 40% of the state’s general fund. Voters, however, finally may be getting fed up with higher tax burdens that never lead to tangible improvements in public services.
In June, Los Angeles voters rejected Measure EE, which would have increased parcel taxes to pay for smaller classes and more staff for the ever-dysfunctional Los Angeles Unified School District. The 16-cent-per-square-foot tax proposal needed a two-thirds majority to pass and yet it garnered a 54% “no” vote. That was a firm rebuke.
The problem with passing the tax bailout, as a CityWatchLA article explained, “is that it does nothing to address the endemic dysfunction and corruption that over decades has enabled LAUSD administration . to put bureaucratic interests and profit above” its main goal of “educating students.” Yet the establishment never seems to learn.
Now, unions helped qualify a measure for the 2020 ballot that would undermine Proposition 13′s tax protections for commercial property. It would reassess most commercial properties based on market value, thus increasing revenue to schools and local governments by as much as $10.5 billion annually.
If it passes, 40% of business owners may consider relocating outside of California and 35% may consider cutting payroll costs, according to a new Los Angeles County Business Federation poll. None of those outcomes would be good for the health of Los Angeles or its school system.
These problems are not only in Los Angeles. A recent Alameda County grand jury found that the Oakland Unified School District was plagued by “administrative ineptitude, wasted money and nepotism in what jurors called a ‘What’s in it for me?’ culture,” as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
More tax money will only lead to business as usual. California officials need to spend as much time implementing school and governmental reforms as they do seeking new sources of revenue. Until that happens, expect voters to keep rejecting these misguided tax-hiking measures.
The San Diego Union-Tribune on a proposal that would end the use of phonics to teach reading:
In the late 1980s, California was among the leading proponents of “whole language” reading education theory that abandoned the traditional tool of using phonics in which children string together language and vowel sounds so they can grasp how pronunciation corresponds with spelling patterns. Instead, students were instructed to guess at words and come up with their own spellings and grammar.
The result was a disaster as reflected both in worsening test scores — especially for students from poor families — and intense complaints from parents. In 1994, California essentially gave up on this experiment and went back to emphasizing phonics.
Now the Legislature is considering Senate Bill 614, sponsored by Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, which would promote early childhood education. A newly amended provision of the measure that would remove requirements that teachers in early grades follow established, successful practices in teaching reading has triggered an uproar of sorts in education circles. More than 35 academics jointly signed a letter this week urging lawmakers to not repeat the mistakes of the 1980s. They cited the “rigorous, converging scientific evidence” from many fields of study that phonics works best.
If Rubio buys the old critique of phonics — that it’s dull and stifling — she must offer a thoughtful alternative. Stakes are high given the importance of teaching reading, and changing an approach that works for something unproven would be a mistake.