Friday, May 13, 2011

The Rich Prefer Cash, Not Good Schools

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
I recently reported on a fundraising drive to raise $1 million in one week to save teaching and support staff jobs in Beverly Hills Unified. The results are in: While they did raise enough to save eleven jobs, according to the L.A. Times, they barely made half of their $1 million goal.

The Times noted that many “middle class hardworking” families made donations, as did one child who found a dollar on the playground, making it seem as though the district is a typical American school district. However, there are more millionaires in Beverly Hills than in almost any other region of the country. Coming up with a million bucks in a week should have been easy. What this failure tells us is that the rich prefer to hold onto their own wealth, even if they have far more than they’ll ever be able to spend on themselves, than to donate a tiny fraction for their benefit of their community or their own children.

Beverly Hills teachers, however, are just as dedicated to their privileged students as are other teachers. To prove the point, their union said it would accept two unpaid furlough days to help fill the remaining budget gap (and help wealthy parents continue to enjoy high quality schools for their kids without making any sacrifices). However, they have not yet checked with their members on this.

Will teachers accept this de facto pay cut? Unlike many other basic aid districts, the median salaries in BHUSD ($55,000 to $65,000) are not that high so it’s possible they might say no. After all, they would be accepting a pay cut so that privileged families can continued to enjoy class sizes of 20:1, while the rest of the state is over 30:1, and so that millionaire parents can avoid paying higher taxes or even making a small donation to their district.


  1. I think it might be going a little bit too far to say this is evidence that rich people refuse to help poor people.

  2. Not evidence that rich people refuse to help poor people, but that they prefer to hold onto their cash than to contribute to their own kids' schools, whether through donations or increased taxation.

    Of course the affluent do in fact contribute far more in real dollars to their schools than do the poor. This can be clearly seen in almost every district, where low income schools struggle to raise a few thousand bucks from families and the community, whereas the more affluent schools have no trouble raising tens of thousands.

    However, the richer one is, the less significant these donations become in terms of percentage of wealth donated. A $1000 donation from a family that earns $100,000 per year is donating 1% of their income, compared with a millionaire, who is only donating 0.1% of their income. For a community of millionaires and billionaires, it should have been easy for BHUSD to raise $1 million.

    Of course all this is really beside the point. If we truly value public education, then we need to raise taxes, especially on the wealthy and their corporations, to provide sufficient funding for all schools. This does not happen anywhere, especially in California, where taxes on the wealthy and on corporations has been declining, and where per pupil spending is among the lowest in the nation.

    (And the rich really don't want to help the poor stop being poor, though a few of them don't mind coughing up a charitable donation here or there, especially if it gets them another unnecessary tax deduction).