Spencer: The Right Path for Santa Ana on Education and Economic Development

Medellín, Colombia, once known as the world’s deadliest city, has become an innovative global leader in economic development by investing nearly 40% of its $900 million annual budget on education.

Medellín’s Mayor Sergio Fajardo is leading efforts to build 5 new libraries, a public science center, dozens of schools, and cable car transportation lines directly connecting into the city’s slums. “Our most beautiful buildings,” explained Mr. Fajardo in a recent interview, “must be in our poorest areas.”

Medellín’s strategy is worth examining, especially for communities like Santa Ana.

In The Orange County Business Journal’s Answers to the $15.6 Billion Question on Education Plan, Chapman University economics professor James Doti reminds us where it starts: “ The fact that only 17% of Latino-Americans complete college in California compared to 51% of white students is something that should not be tolerated.”

Encouragingly, recent numbers at the district show graduation rates increasing by 11.5% over the past seven years yet Santa Ana lacks competitive wages and an educated workforce. We have low educational attainment, and the residents of this city are vastly underemployed. Students in our city need personal counseling to align them between high school, college and movement into the job market.

Overcoming these challenges requires the city to overcome its limited interaction with our local youth and schools. Santa Ana’s economic development leaders and education administrative leaders need to come together to create a strong and effective pipeline for local students to achieve financial success.

Santa Ana’s leaders need to facilitate a citywide talent pipeline connecting local high schools and college programs into local business networks, local industries, and economic development plans. Pipeline programs have astonishing results. The leading case study given in the Orange County Economic Development report was for High School Inc., a Santa Ana-based Valley High School culinary training program. The only Orange County program with a 100% success rate is Middle College High School, an AP program run on the Santa Ana College campus. These initiatives need support – and we need many more just like them.

According to the Economic Development Plan, there was once collaboration between Santa Ana’s three school district groups, Santa Ana Unified, Garden Grove and Rancho Santiago School District and the city called “SA2000 collaboration.” This partnership should be resurrected for a new pipeline program.

By leveraging relations with businesses, regional institutions, and underutilized workforce development tools, a large pipeline can foundationally alter Santa Ana’s economic forecast and permanently alter the life trajectories of our youth.

Education is the first step in fighting violence. In Medellín, libraries are rising on the same land where paramilitary soldiers once fought and died. Such a strategy is a powerful message of hope and dignity. “Fajardo is making a long-term wager by carving out a foothold for the state in areas that were neglected for years,” said Aldo Civico, Director for the Center for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University in a recent New York Times article. He describes Medellín’s strategy as “transformative.” Medellín residents are proud and included in its future; Mayor Farajo’s approval rating hovers around 80 percent.

Santa Ana can make the transformative changes needed. If this city is going to elevate its own productivity, creativity, entrepreneurship and technological advances, we must begin by investing in our youth and connecting them directly into our economic development opportunities.

If this city is going to secure economic and social change and cultivate parity and equity in income so that its constituents can match and surpass the baseline of the region, Santa Ana must return to its old motto, “Education First.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly cited Santa Ana Unified School District graduation rates at 54 percent. The number is closer to 90 percent. We regret the error.

Note:  Written by Madeleine Spencer, Edited by Rachel Potucek

Madeleine Spencer is the Founder of Diamond Heart Enterprises and a post Doctoral Student in Community Ecology and Liberation Psychology. 

Rachel Potucek is the Founder of The People’s Soap Company and holds a Master’s degree in Communications.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

  • LFOldTimer

    “Madeleine Spencer is the Founder of Diamond Heart Enterprises and a
    post Doctoral Student in Community Ecology and Liberation Psychology.”

    What the heck is “Liberation Psychology”?

    What they won’t think of next.

    • Madeleine Spencer

      LFOldTimer, good question: I think you mean what they will think of next. Liberation psychology: An approach to psychology seeking to understand oppressed and impoverished communities too more effectively address socio-political and structural oppression. Holding a belief in a preferential option for the poor. Many psychologist in the American Psychological Association have refused to participate in Psychologist being used by the Federal Governments in torture programs though the CIA. Programs that have been brutal. What this has caused a large group within the field to take up an oath to work with an understanding of their social responsibility toward humanity and the environment. Martin Baro is the founder of Liberation Psychology and Community Psychology was born in 1965 at the Swampscott Conference.

      • LFOldTimer

        I live in an oppressed community, Madeleine. The taxes imposed upon us have become egregious and punitive. Many have a hard time making ends meet as a result. Someone buying a median priced home these days would have to pay about $6500 a year just in property taxes to stay in the home. And now Moonbeam Brown approved another $0.12 gas tax and our vehicle registration fees are being increased by $100 or more per vehicle. $52 billion in more taxes over 10 years.

        If this continues all the producers will leave California and there will be nobody left to pay for free food, free housing and free medical care for all the non-producers. I think you would agree that would be a crisis.

        Is there a branch of psychology that focuses on liberation from punitive taxes? If so I would like to take a class or two.

        • Madeleine Spencer

          LFoldtimer, I am just wondering, how are you defining the distinction between production, or producers and non-producers?
          Many, are suffering from the housing crisis and tax increases I agree. What can be done?

          • LFOldTimer

            Madeleine,

            Producers are those who contribute to society and pay into the system.

            Non-producers are those who don’t contribute to society and take from the system.

            The more the producers are excessively taxed, the more that will flee the state to avoid punitive taxation and the less money there will be to support the non-producers.

            There are unintended consequences that go along with punitive taxation.

            The first thing that can be done is stop punitive taxation. IOW’s when you’re in a hole, stop digging.

            That’s about as simple as I can explain it.

          • Madeleine Spencer

            Dear LFoldtimer,

            You have made your argument, and to make it more explicit, what you are saying is that the “nonproducer” as opposed to “a producer” like yourself, are being propped up via the higher tax burdens given to you which supports them. These nonproducers, I can only assume, are those who you consider as undocumented immigrants, the homeless, the disabled, the elderly and the poor. I just want to make sure this is accurate before I proceed.

            First, we define production differently. Having a 6-figure salary job that enables one to take out a mortgage on a home, which if you live in the home, is actually a liability rather than and asset, does not make one a producer, but rather a “perfect consumer” following outdated “American Dream Logic.” Yet, this is not what I personally consider to be production.

            Let me explain. Not long ago, the former President of Chapman, Professor of Economics, Jim Doti, wrote an article put out in The Orange County Business Journal entitled “California’s Shaky Miracle” what he describes specifically is how it is really Silicon Valley that is holding the California economy afloat. Below is a link in the DailyNews discussing this further.

            Now, if you look closely at all of the top firms coming out of Silicon Valley which are shown propping up our State’s economy you will be surprised to find that the top CEOs of most of its firms are run by non-white immigrants and women you can learn more on this below in the link called: SiliconValley.

            Furthermore, on the front of both domestic and global production our Farm and Agricultural industry which still makes up 20% of the nation’s GDP in exports, as is well described in the book by Ted Fisher called China Inc. about this rising superpower, it shows again that our production in agriculture is staying afloat because of immigrants. Therefore, what we find is that it is the immigrant who is paying your way not the other way around.

            Now if you look at our region you will find an aging population, yet; with 98% of our student population in the City of Santa Ana made up of immigrants and the children of immigrants. If you follow my logic you will find that we have, right here in a microcosm, the future of our country in a nutshell. These young people in one of the youngest cities in the nation with the median age of 27 are the ones who will be producing the products and innovations of the future in both our domestic as well as global product, these are the products which your grandchildren will be consuming. So in the end, you can do the math and tell me now who exactly, is paying your way and who will continue to be paying the countries way by keeping its economy afloat?

            “For the United States as a whole, immigrants’ share of total output was about 14.7 percent over 2009–2011. Note that this is larger than immigrants’ 13 percent share of the population. Immigrants have an outsized role in U.S. economic output because they are disproportionately likely to be working and are concentrated among prime working ages. Indeed, despite being 13 percent of the population, immigrants comprise 16 percent of the labor force. Moreover, many immigrants are business owners. In fact, the share of immigrant workers who own small businesses is slightly higher than the comparable share among U.S.-born workers. (Immigrants comprise 18 percent of small business owners.)” http://www.epi.org/publication/immigration-facts/

            Sources:

            Daily News: http://www.dailynews.com/opinion/20160806/the-economics-of-delusion-joel-kotkin-and-bill-watkins

            Silicon Valley: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregoryferenstein/2015/08/14/ceos-of-silicon-valleys-top-firms-are-often-non-white-immigrants-or-women-in-1-graph/#1098cdfe1763

            China Inc. : https://www.amazon.com/China-Inc-Superpower-Challenges-America/dp/0743257359

            Immigration-facts: http://www.epi.org/publication/immigration-facts/

          • Madeleine Spencer

            Dear LFoldtimer,
            You have made your argument and to make it more explicit, what you are saying is that the “nonproducer” as opposed to “a producer” like yourself are being propped up via the higher tax burden given to you to support them. These “nonproducers” I can only assume are the undocumented immigrant, the homeless, the disabled, the elderly and the poor. I just want to make sure this is accurate before I proceed.

            First, we define production differently. Having a 6-figure salary job that enables one to take out a mortgage on a home, which if you live in the home, is actually a liability rather than and asset, does not make one a producer, but rather a “perfect consumer” following outdated “American Dream Logic.” Yet, this is not what I personally consider to be production.

            Let me explain. Not long ago, the former President of Chapman, Professor of Economics, Jim Doti, wrote an article put out in The Orange County Business Journal entitled “California’s Shaky Miracle” what he describes specifically is how it is really Silicon Valley that is holding the California economy afloat. Here is a link in the DailyNews discussing this further.

            Now, if you look closely at all of the top firms coming out of Silicon Valley which are shown propping up our State’s economy you will be surprised to find that the top CEOs of most firms are run by non-white immigrants and women you can learn more on this below in link: SiliconValley. Furthermore, on the front of both domestic and global production our Farm and Agricultural industry which still makes up 20% of the nation’s GDP in exports, as is described well in the book by Ted Fisher called China Inc. again is staying afloat because of immigrants. Therefore, what we find is that it is the immigrant who is paying your way.

            Now, if you look at our region you will find The City of Santa Ana stationed in the center of a Orange County which is essentially an region of quickly ageing population yet, 98% of our student population in Santa Ana are made up of immigrants and the children of immigrants. If you follow my logic you will find that we have right here in our city the future of the whole country in a nutshell. These young people in one of the youngest cities in the nation with the median age of 27 are the ones who will be producing the products and innovations of the future which your grandchildren will be consuming. So in the end, you can do the math and tell me who exactly, is paying your way and who will continue to be paying the countries way in the future?

            “For the United States as a whole, immigrants’ share of total output was about 14.7 percent over 2009–2011. Note that this is larger than immigrants’ 13 percent share of the population. Immigrants have an outsized role in U.S. economic output because they are disproportionately likely to be working and are concentrated among prime working ages. Indeed, despite being 13 percent of the population, immigrants comprise 16 percent of the labor force. Moreover, many immigrants are business owners. In fact, the share of immigrant workers who own small businesses is slightly higher than the comparable share among U.S.-born workers. (Immigrants comprise 18 percent of small business owners.)”

            Daily News: http://www.dailynews.com/opinion/20160806/the-economics-of-delusion-joel-kotkin-and-bill-watkins

            Silicon Valley: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregoryferenstein/2015/08/14/ceos-of-silicon-valleys-top-firms-are-often-non-white-immigrants-or-women-in-1-graph/#1098cdfe1763

            China Inc. :https://www.amazon.com/China-Inc-Superpower-Challenges-America/dp/0743257359

            Immigrant Facts: http://www.epi.org/publication/immigration-facts/

          • Madeleine Spencer

            As for your comment about freeloading, I looked online to see, and found that it is actually the tax payer that Jerry Brown has called a freeloader. Which directs his attack back on you.

            Meanwhile, the real issue here is: if we as a city, state and nation do not get our economy together. If residents like yourself don’t begin to advocate during the open budget hearings we fought for you to enjoy through the passage of the Transparency law mandating these open budget hearings.

            If you don’t ask for your civic leaders to be fiscally responsible and track the implementation of the city’s monies though Strategic Planning, if you do not advocate to know how money will be spent through a Economic Development Plan, then you find situations like we are currently facing. The city again sits in dire fiscal straits with no plans or investment for future revenues in sight and one union group asking for the privilege alone of receiving 100% of any raises though there are shortages all across the city government. Then we find that in order to make up the difference in their deficits, who do you think they put the burden on? You, the tax payer who are actually paying for the city’s budgetary incompetence and failure to carry out visionary actions or to create a different future with any real imagination catalyzing positive change and relieving you of your tax burden.

            It is easier to distract people and have them pointing the finger blaming each other isn’t it? Time to look at the root causes and follow the money.

            http://www.redstate.com/kiradavis/2017/05/16/gov.-jerry-brown-calls-california-taxpayers-freeloaders/

          • LFOldTimer

            You misread my comment, Madeleine.

            I stated that Jerry Brown called the producers and taxpayers “freeloaders”. Since you appear to be an accomplished woman w/ a higher education and a founder of the Diamond Heart Enterprises his remark reflected upon you and all the other producer/taxpayers in California. I hope that clarifies my comment for you.

            You keep avoiding the fact that California producers and achievers are overtaxed. Why don’t we focus on that basic concept since that was the basis of my entire argument? You keep expanding the discussion. One point at a time, okay?

            You say “follow the money”. Well, why not follow the dirty legal bribe money that goes into Jerry Brown’s pockets and the pockets of all the liberal democrats in Sacramento who impose these punitive taxes on the producers and achievers in California?

            Let’s start there. Agreed?

          • Madeleine Spencer

            Dear LFOldtimer,

            Speaking about one point at a time, my argument in the op ed is about educational pipelines and how they are important to economic development. Your point, on the other hand, is entirely different. I would like to know how you are relating your taxation argument to the original.

            Meanwhile, You stated: ” You keep avoiding the fact that California producers and achievers are overtaxed. Why don’t we focus on that basic concept since that was the basis of my entire argument? You keep expanding the discussion. One point at a time, okay?”

            My direct and greatly simplified response to you is this : Why are your “producers” overtaxed? Perhaps we can agree that tax increases regularly hurt growth and prosperity. We may also agree that often times tax increases are attempts to balance the budget, taking us back to issues in the state of fiscal responsibility. This caused you to bring up government corruption due to money being involved in politics. While you stated this as if a problem only of liberal politicians it is an issue on all sides, because this corruption in the political system is allowed by us to exist.

            We can most likely agree that tax increases often work a reversal, rather than stimulating the economy, they further collapse the economy. We also can most likely agree that when we cut taxes there is more money in peoples pockets so that the economy can take off and focus on generating revenue, economic growth and job creation. Finally it is also probably agreeable to you that it is never a good idea to raise taxes in a weak economy. Am I correct?

            So, another problem in this argument that remains unaccounted for is government subsidies for corporations who pay no taxes, yet still hold great influence and lobbying power and freely use influence to line the pockets of our politicians further corrupting them . Moreover, when you look at the modern situation and recall the uncanny premonition of De Toqueville in his book Democracy in America, who stated that the corporation would become the new state and we see these effects are real and currently tearing apart our country in the advent of globalism with their offshore accounts and job creation no longer benefiting Americas but rather the new and emerging Superpowers in China and India among other countries. In all of this many questions emerge.

            Who pays politicians to raise taxes on the middle class in the first place? Look at companies like General Electric or more locally with the Disney corporation in Anaheim or even Northrop Grummand who caused local taxes to be raised to clean up the water pollution being caused by their plant- we see that these issues are growing and have taken center stage in the debate. While one can make cases for subsidies this is a problem of run away subsidizing of corporations and oddly enough we continue to allow benefits for these corps who hold us all hostage in this way and oddly it is as if we all have Stockholm syndrome rather than stopping them from further corrupting our economy and providing our community with a proper distribution of benefits.

            What we find here, is that beyond nonproduction, these types of entities regularly leach everything that is produced and while people who work under them pay their taxes the tax burden is shifted back onto the middle class and the poor. People who write the rules are not immune from impunity yet we often give them impunity go figure.

          • LFOldTimer

            Your op-ed concentrated on a proposal to invest more in education.

            In California K-12 already gets 50% of more of California’s budget. The problem is that much of it gets siphoned off into fat teacher pensions. No wonder that CalSTRS has a massive pension liability. You must concede that much of California’s education budget doesn’t even go to the children. It goes to the fat teacher’s salaries and pensions. I don’t know one person in the private sector who gets 80% or more of their final salary in pension benefits at the age of 55 or 60. And it’s the private sector that generates the funding (taxation) to keep the public sector alive. I am a BIG fan of Charter Schools and giving parents a choice of where to get their children educated. Perhaps if the public schools had some competition their scholastic achievement performance wouldn’t be so dismal.

            Taxpayers are overburdened with punitive taxation. California is one of the highest taxed states in the union. And when you add in the California fees – it’s just over the top. Producers are LEAVING the state, Madeleine. What are you going to do when there are more non-producers than producers who pay all the bills? Drop back 10 and punt??? 😉

            I agree that corruption in government is a BI-PARTISAN issue. But it’s the liberal democrats that give the public unions (teachers, police, fire, etc…) whatever they want which is going to bankrupt the state sooner or later. They use the nonsense reason of “Well, we have to take care of our heroes”. HAH!! So we have to pay high-school educated (police, fire) government workers like medical doctors??? HAH! And teachers only work 9 months of the year. They hold down 2nd jobs during the summer. How would you like to be compensated $150,000 or more each year for 9 months worth of work?

            Yes, you are correct. It is stupid to raise taxes in a weak economy. And despite housing costs and what they call “full employment” full of Wal-Mart greeters and pizza deliverers making $10/hr. we are still in a weak economy. When you speak of taxes you must compare California with the rest of the nation. And we are getting taxed to death. That is not healthy. The new 12 cent gas tax and large vehicle registration fees are only going to drive more PRODUCERS in California to flee the state. You will end up with more NON-PRODUCERS than PRODUCERS. And that will be the TIPPING POINT!!!

            I agree many of the corporations are crooked. Not only the Disney related corporations. The pharma and medical corporation. The defense corporation. The banks and financial institution that ra*ed Main Street.

            You seem very hesitant to give partial blame to the PUBLIC UNIONS that are going to bankrupt our system through their UNFUNDED PUBLIC PENSIONS. Those are ALSO a BIG part of the problem.

            And we should not have to financially support indigent illiterate illegal foreigners who invade our country from the 3rd world. We have our OWN underclass in America. 45 million people are collecting food stamps. And one has to be INDIGENT to get those. We simply can’t afford to import MORE POVERTY from the 3rd world and force American citizens to pay for it all. How would Mexico like it if we sent all of our indigent population to them for free medical care and education? Oh boy, that would be an ACT OF WAR!!! Wouldn’t it???

            Yes, those who write the laws are immune from the very laws that they write. You are 100% correct. And that’s unforgivable in a nation that is supposed to follow the sacred principle “Equality under the Law”.

            We agree on many things, Madeleine. And we also disagree on a few. That’s the way God planned it. You can accept differences without being hostile. Thank you. I wish all posters were as civil and as educated as you.

            Perhaps you could counsel the poster justanon.

  • Madeleine Spencer

    My apologies, recently, new information came out “SAUSD Graduation Rates Increase 11.5% Over 7 Years” on from the School District who is already moving forward our schools. My apologies about the outdated numbers in this article which are now inaccurate. Perhaps someone from the district can write a opinion editorial telling this story about the graduation rate increase making Santa Ana #1 in the county for graduation rates since this is already moving towards the goal being described here. Please publish the results of this shift in the schools which now surpassing the state average of 83.2% and the county average of 90.8%. Thanks.