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Education Matters: Government by committee and board

June 30, 2011|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I got an email the other day that I’ll condense here for you, but it made an interesting point. It listed the number of words contained in well-known pieces of writing, like the Lord’s prayer, 66 words; the 10 Commandments, 179 words, the Gettysburg address, 286 words, and ended with a not-so-well-known document, government regulations on the sale of cabbage — 26,911 words.

I checked it out, and like so many dire messages that go out daily from this medium, it was the figment of someone’s imagination. It found traction with a ready audience of Americans fed up with the bloated size of government and the continued growth of government bureaucracies.

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I must confess that I was one of those Americans, believing as I have for many years that the complexity of government has gotten out of hand — way out of hand.

Twenty years ago, the Little Hoover Commission concluded that “California’s multi-level governmental structure includes more than 400 (presently that number is more than 1,000) boards, commissions, authorities, associations, councils and committees. These plural bodies operate to a large degree autonomously and outside of the normal checks and balances of representative government.

“[They] are proliferating without adequate evaluation of need, effectiveness and efficiency. This lack of control may cost the state not only dollars, but also wasted resources, duplicated efforts and the adoption of policies that may run counter to the general public’s interest.”

That last sentence was painfully true back in 1990, and given the nature of these inherited systems which self-propagate and become more complex with each generation, it is tragically true today.

And nowhere is it more in evidence than in California’s system of education. Until the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, funding and governance of California's public schools was concentrated in local school districts and paid for via property taxes. The tax-slashing Proposition 13, however, dramatically decreased property taxes as a source of public school funding.

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