Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tonight's PUSD Board of Education Joint Meeting with Sierra Madre's City Council

"They are going to redraw the attendance boundaries. This means the busing of more out-of-town kids to Sierra Madre. This means more air pollution in our city. This means more traffic in the neighborhoods surrounding the schools. This means greater demand for our library services for these kids. This means more trouble makers (like the ones who were fighting and stealing downtown) in the city when school lets out early because these kids don't go home. This means our after school programs will go to cover babysitting until 7 pm when these kids finally get picked up. This means providing transportation on the Round About for these kids to go to the YAC. This means the PTA will need to raise more money for programs because the parents of these kids won't life a finger. This Pasadena Unified School District was ruined 40 years ago when the idiots redrew attendance boundaries. Now that we have 2 somewhat decent schools in town, the Board of Education wants to drag them down into the mud with the other PUSD schools. The district offers nothing to the City. The CC is too stupid to realize that." - Comment #5, which nailed it.

Judging from what we learned during the recent - and quite rancorous - Selinske vs. Baggett runoff election, there are really two Pasadena Unified School District Boards of Eduction to consider. There is the one led by the Selinkse - Honowitz faction, who pretty much represent the old guard big money establishment. And then there are those who side with the Scott Phelps and Ramon Miramontes point of view. One that is more concerned with actually running a school district with the needs of parents and children in mind.

And with Ed Honowitz, the Vice President of the Board of Education on hand to speak this evening, this will definitely be the establishment speaking. Ed being, along with political operative Peter Dreier, one of the leaders in the effort to re-elect Selinske.

And since Board of Education President Selinske, who won handily everywhere else, came to within less than 30 votes of losing Sierra Madre to Sean Baggett, it would appear that the establishment believes it has some fence mending to do here. Especially after having run one of the nastiest re-election campaigns in modern memory. A truly horrific effort, and in a Board of Education race no less.

This evening Board of Education Vice President Ed Honowitz, along with PUSD Chiefs David Azcarraga and John Pappalardo, will speak to the Sierra Madre City Council on such topics as school construction, test scores, budgets, and what exactly they are doing with all of that Measure Y and TT money. With Measure TT coming in at $350 million, and Measure Y at $240 million, you'd suspect there must have been quite a lot of school repair and new construction going on.

Think of it this way. If Sierra Madre is having some difficulty coming to grips with $19 million in water bond debt, how exactly are PUSD area property owners going pay off $590 million in education construction bond debt? This truly is a staggering sum of money, and unless educational Taj Mahals for our children are in the process of being built throughout the area, people really do need to be skeptical.

Now I personally do not expect much in the way of controversy from Ed and his guys. Tonight's meeting is designed more to chat up the citizenry, particularly in a town where what they have been pushing is not particularly popular. Sierra Madre parents have been in large part voting with their feet, with many taking their kids out of the Public School System and putting them into private and parochial schools. And often at great personal financial sacrifice.

But what should really be asked about tonight (and in the name of civility probably won't) is the latest fraud scandal to hit the PUSD. That being the payment of over $800,000 in Measure TT bond money to a recently fired one-man consultant firm that apparently didn't do very much for all that money. With similar fraud allegations a few years back over Measure Y money still fresh in the minds of many, this is yet another indication that the Board of Education and PUSD might not exactly be the most dutiful stewards of our money.

On May 11 the Pasadena Star News published an article that broke this latest scandal wide open. Two PUSD board members that didn't support Selinske (and by extension Honowitz), Scott Phelps and Ramon Miramontes, have called for an investigation. Honowitz, along with Selinske, for whatever reasons, have not. Perhaps because it happened on their watch when both were Board of Ed Senior Executive Officers? Apparently that political divide in PUSD's Board of Education extends all the way down to corruption investigations.

Here is how PSN staffer Brian Charles laid it all out:

PUSD consultant paid $824,690 before being fired - School board officials Tuesday called for an investigation into $824,860 in payments to a consulting firm working on the Pasadena Unified's Measure TT construction bond. The district will open its investigation into the matter in closed session on May 24. SCMC Incorporated of Thousand Oaks, a one-man consulting firm, earned the large sum during a three-year period.

(Later) However, some school board members question whether the district was looking close enough at the actions of SCMC, which prompted the probe. "First of all it's a lot of money and second it begs the question of where this money is going," PUSD board member Scott Phelps said.

(Later) But Phelps and Miramontes want a thorough investigation of SCMC's billing. And both want to know why PUSD ended its relationship with the contractor. "It's not just the amount of money paid to SCMC," Phelps said. Elected board members also want to know what caused "the separation."

Central to Phelps' and Miramontes' concerns is an August 2010 invoice where SCMC billed PUSD on 28 or 31 days that month, including a stretch of 13 consecutive days. From Aug. 16 to Aug. 28, SCMC's consultant billed for four 11-hour days and one 13-hour day. "You have to question the quality of the work ... if someone is working 13 consecutive days and billing for 11 and 12 hours. We have to question whether the work we asked to be done was completed," Miramontes said.

A second Pasadena Star News article, "Invoice details consultant's work on PUSD's Measure TT bond," can be accessed by clicking here. References to previous fraud controversies involving Measure Y money are made as well. You will also be able to examine the actual Measure TT billing documents in question.

Of course, these are not topics that our guests this evening will wish to discuss. I am certain, should the matter come up, all will claim that they cannot speak to a matter that is currently under investigation. But even that should be an uncomfortable experience for them, I'm afraid. Because the purpose of tonight's get-together is to convey the message that everything is OK, and no one needs to worry themselves too much over such things.

A message that the establishment politicians of the G4 City Council will be more than glad to help them convey, I'm sure.

Correction - Tomorrow night: In a meeting taking place elsewhere, the selection of the 4th of July Grand Marshal will be made. We will post any information here just as soon as we get it.

64 comments:

  1. "Chat up the citizenry" is exactly what tonight will be about. The CC-1 will laugh and slap backs and praise children, the PUSD reps will smile and pocket any spare change they see lying around, and unless the parents show up and demand accountability, there will be none.

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  2. Honowitz and Selinske are the by products of citizen indifference to public education. I can't help but think that it was all that bond money that attracted them to the Board of Education in the first place.

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  3. Ok, Tatts, once again this is your chance to actually do something constructive instead of just spouting off on this blog. ATTEND the City Council meeting tonight, and speak in favor of John Shear being made Grand Marshall, and ask some tough questions of the PUSD representatives, which I'm sure G4 won't be asking.

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  4. How nice! A little show for the residents. Everything is just fine. Now get along, you!

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  5. They are going to redraw the attendance boundaries. This means the bussing of more out- of-town kids to Sierra Madre. This means more air pollution in our city. This means more traffic in the neighborhoods surrounding the schools. This means a greater demand for our library services for this kids. This means more trouble makers (like the ones who were fighting and stealing in the downtown)in the city when school lets out early because these kids don't go home. This means our after school programs will go to cover babysitting until 7 pm when these kids finally get picked up. This means providing transportation on the Round About for these kids to go the YAC. This means the PTA will need to raise more money for programs because the parents of these kids won't lift a finger. This Pasadena Unified School District was ruined 40 years ago when the idiots redrew attendance boundaries. Now that we have 2 somewhat decent schools in town, the Board of Education wants to drag them down into the mud with the other PUSD schools. The district offers nothing to the City. They only take. The CC is too stupid to realize that.

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  6. the YAC should have two prices

    one for local kids (address verified with utility bill)

    and a triple high price for kids from outside Sierra Madre

    it's just plain stupid business to provide inexpensive and almost free babysitting to non local kids for the benefit of deadbeat parents

    but running a stupid business is on par for out city managment

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  7. Caroline Dapper for 4th of July Grand Marshall!

    ahem, excuse me I had some phlem caught in my throat and my meds haven't kicked in yet....

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  8. Does anyone on the council have a child or a grandchild who attends school in the PUSD?

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  9. No good deed goes unpunished. The harder the teachers in Sierra Madre public schools work, the more students they will have, with a wider range of training and support at home. Good luck.

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  10. John Bonds did but he couldn't stomach PHS for the fruit of his loins so he like everyone else opted out.

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  11. Hope Joe isn't stupid enough to do that for his kids.

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  12. Interesting. We are being told we need to build a homeless shelter on E. Montecito so that Pasadena's excess homeless population can come live with us. And now we are seeing the expansion of PUSD's facilities here so hundreds of Pasadena's at-risk kids can be bused to our schools. I guess Bill Bogaard has come up with a solution for some of his biggest problems. Dump them on us.

    Nice to see that Mayors Mosca and Buchanan are taking such good care of us.

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  13. YAC cost .03 an hour for babysitting.
    YAC attendance is 15 to 20 kids a day.
    YAC staff is 2 to 3 paid adults.

    Most of the kids that go to the YAC are not from Sierra Madre.

    Cost the City over $1,000 a month+.

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  14. Maybe Bogaard has pictures that Joe and John don't want anyone to see?

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  15. Who was responsible for the YAC scam in the first place?
    I seem to think it was that "fine" citizen Glenn Lambdin.
    It's hard to say who the worst Mayor of Sierra Madre has been. There is such a long list of dirtbags.
    The only two decent mayors the people have had are Kurt Zimmerman and MaryAnn MacGillivray.
    The rest are marginal at best and highly destructive at worst.

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  16. I hear that a solution is in the works. Sierra Madre will hire more cops.

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  17. I recall speaking to Buchanan once and he was speaking about public schools, how his kids went to them and that his oldest son would go to PHS

    guess he was lying about that like he lied about the water rate hike reasons

    slimy

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  18. I'm surprised our cops haven't arrested kids in downtown yet for loitering

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  19. Not so fast to judgeMay 17, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    I hate to burst the bubble of out of town youngsters gathering in "downtown" for purposes of malicious mischief. Locals also loiter and grab, litter and rip off merchants, and generally cause mayhem while their parents talk about what a great town where their kids can hang out at the "library" and "beantown" after schoo. And working parents whose children are picked up at Sierra Madre School and dropped off at the YAC are just as likely to be from Sierra Madre as not.

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  20. if Mr. Shear or someone NOT in the political circle isn't named Grand Marshall, I will boycott the parade

    it's a joke anyway, poorly operated and mostly just a caravan of ads

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  21. Expanded schools, expanded PD, expanded City Hall, expanded infrastructure. All of which means expanded development. The signs are all around us.

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  22. Same complaints about the creme de la creme of students from La Salle and Alverno hanging in Albertson's - theft, graffiti, litter. Seems that kids are kids regardless of the amount of money their parents pay in tuition...

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  23. Hey not so fast to judge. Why don't YOU take some of these darling childre home with you and bake cookies? But make sure that you leave your watch and jewelry on the bathroom counter and your cash in plain sight.

    It was determined by the schools and the police that the kids that were stealing and fighting were NOT Sierra Madre kids. They were from the Sierra Madre Middle School. That is the reason the City now sends staff over to Kersting COurt of Fridays to entertain these brats.

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  24. Sierra Madre tried to disconnect from the PUSD and was turned down.
    Somebody who knows more about that can fill us in - but that was the time the whole community should have fought for a divorce.

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  25. They are probably going to start laying the groundwork for the next bond. Measure HaHa

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  26. If we are going to become Pasadena's dumping ground for kids and the homeless then we should be compensated. For a City that charges a fee everytime someone in City Hall breathes, we sure are getting awfully generous all of a sudden. Maybe that poster with the pictures theory is right.

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  27. Why didn't we know about the bond debt when we all signed the petitions against the water rate hike?
    Or better question yet, why didn't we know about the bond debt when we passed Measure UUT?
    We've been had, Sierra Madre.

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  28. It's the money. The PUSD needs to demonstrate success for the money, and will pour kids into any school that can give them higher numbers.

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  29. Good question 11:55
    I remember post cards we got in the mail a few days before the UUT vote.
    I'm pretty sure Crawford was one of the group who sent them.
    These sharp residents spotted this UUT as a huge scam. They were right.
    Why didn't we listen to them. They knew.

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  30. Anyone know where there are specifics on the redrawing of the attendance boundaries?

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  31. 12:01, this might be the language for it, from the agenda for tonight:

    "Charter Task Force on Geographic Subdistricting Update"

    Try the PUSD website,
    http://www.pusd.us/

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  32. rev, rev, rev--start your motors to bash public schools. But wait--each and every one of you is remembering imperfectly what you were like in Junior High School. I was punished for faking a fight with my best friend while walking on our way home from school (just went to her 50th wedding anniversary!). We had to ride the school bus home for the next two weeks to curtail our outrageous behavior.

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  33. You can thank Michelle Keith for the YAC, it was her baby. She took funds that were scheduled to go elsewhere in the City, and then took funds from county and the feds. That means we can't restrict use to Sierra Madre kids. Now we have an expensive babysitting service that few use.

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  34. Come on, you know it as well as the next guy you can pay the tax dollar one way or the other: on public schools or prison space.

    Do you really want a society where only the well-to-do can send their children to school by paying private school 'fees'? As it is now, the obvious correlation to school achievement is the level of education of the parents-- those that have a good education have children that get one, too.

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  35. 11:09
    In the late 1980's a group of parents called Sierra Madre Parents for a Better Education tried to remove Sierra Madre from the Pasadena Unified School District. The schools that our children attended were not safe, bad education, and very little if no discipline in the classrooms. The School district and their attorney Caroline Carlsberg said the group was racists and only wanted to raise their property values. The joke was the Caroline send her daughter to Westridge School for Girls They PUSD also claim that if Sierra Madre students left the district that would upset the racial balance. The PUSD included white students in their head count that had never been or ever be enrolled in the PUSD. Finally, the group made it to Sacrament to a hearing. The word from the State Board of Education was, "a bad education is not reason to secede from the district.

    Here are seven articles from the LA Times. You will need to scroll down to see all of the articles.
    http://articles.latimes.com/keyword/sierra-madre-parents-for-a-better-education

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  36. Nobody is bashing Public Schools, 12:04. What people are upset about is how the public schools have been run into the ground by crooks whose only concern is the half a billion dollars in bond money sitting their for the use of themselves and their cronies. I'm certain you know who I am talking about.

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  37. Judging from the turnout for the school board elections, I'll bet there will be few people in the audience tonight - it seems no one cares in Sierra Madre about the public schools, thinking what they do doesn't effect them. How silly and wrong of them! Property values, taxes and a good education for those who can't afford private schools are some reasons we should all be concerned.

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  38. 12:04, I don't get public school bashing from the majority of the comments. It's more like people are trying to protect Sierra Madre public schools.

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  39. A group of businesses give an educational award, and here's who won around here:
    "Hamilton, Roosevelt and Webster received the Star Schools Award, distinguishing schools with significant populations of socioeconomically disadvantaged students that have shown a substantial increase in grade-level proficiency and achievement gap reduction over four years. Sierra Madre School received the Scholar Schools Award, which recognizes high-achieving schools that do not have a significant socioeconomically disadvantaged student population."

    It's clear Sierra Madre needs to be brought into line with Hamilton, Roosevelt and Webster.

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  40. The "public schools or prison space" diversion is interesting. Isn't that we're trying to protect Sierra Madre's schools from the godawful PUSD?

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  41. Masters Degree in EducationMay 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    12:10

    You are so full of yourself. Neither my dad or my husband's parents graduated from high school. Both my husband and I paid for our college education. No hand outs from the government. We worked and went to college. Our parents valued education. Public Education is free and it is up to the STUDENT to take advantage of it.

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  42. Interesting, 12:20. What business organizations gave the awards? Was the BIA one of them? Awards, as anyone with emotional maturity beyond that of an 8 year old knows, are generally feel good crap that have little connection to reality.

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  43. diversion or question/observation?

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  44. The only reason business organizations care about Pasadena schools is because of the half a billion in bond money sitting there. It's like sharks circling a swimming elephant.

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  45. From the PUSD web site, "California Business for Education Excellence"
    "The annual award is supported by businesses and organizations including State Farm, Macy’s, Edison International, Wells Fargo, Southern California Auto Club, the California Business Roundtable, and United Way of the Bay Area."

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  46. Our schools are run by people who do not care about Sierra Madre. Our city government cares more about them than they do us!

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  47. Everyone gets and award.
    Most improved, Most likely to.., none of them means a darn thing. What counts is dropout rate, truancy rate, graduation rates, SAT scores, and where the kids are accepted for college.

    Why are the PUSD scores high in the primary grades and go down the longer the kids are in the district? It's called the DUMMING EFFECT.

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  48. Thomas Elias, writing in the Star News, says that the reason some high school drop out rates have declined is because more kids are leaving during their middle school years.

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  49. I believe it's called the DUMBING effect, 1:23 pm.

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  50. Ah 4:06, the dumming was pretty funny.
    What is clear about the posting today is that people feel very strongly about the issue of public education and the mismanagement thereof.
    I favor public education, but I'm not going to sacrifice the well being of my children for it.

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  51. What benefit does Sierra Madre get from being hooked up with any of the institutions in the wider area?

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  52. That's grim 3:29, because it is the people who do not have high school diplomas who are the highest percentage of the unemployed. Then comes the college degreed, then the graduate degreed - they have the lowest unemployment rates of all.

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  53. We get no benefits from being chained to PUSD. They benefit by being linked to us. It is a parasitic relationship.

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  54. Education for kids is vastly overrated. Kids will outgrow and survive anything you throw at them, and that includes being hovered over by nervous parents who fear their child is doomed if they don't learn trig by the time they're 10. Kids are much better off learning the survival skills of public school attendance then they are sequestered from the world in some sort of Special Boy School.

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  55. Not all private schools are Special Boy Schools, and not all public schools are Holding Cells.
    The role of the parents is too often overlooked, and negligence is an accepted norm.

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  56. It is 90% kid, 10% parent. The kid that is going to fail will fail no matter what the parents do. The only difference being it is the parents will take the blame for something that was going to happen anyway.

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  57. I disagree with your percentages 5:17. Parents can really make a difference most of the time.
    But it takes an enormous effort and very little sleep.

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  58. You can't make a pig's ear out of a silk purse.

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  59. 4:06 you must forgive me. I graduated from PHS.

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  60. I attended the Handsome Boy Modeling School. It wasn't very strong on academics, but I do know how to behave at a party.

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  61. All stats lead to parental involvement.

    Early reading, speaking, conversation, playing with puzzles, EVERYTHING WE DO/DO NOT DO WITH OUR CHILDREN FROM BIRTH THROUGH ALL OF THE YEARS OF EDUCATION HAVE A DIRECT IMPACT ON THEIR SUCCESS.

    Go to your local library and read up on educational success and parenting. And, just ask a teacher.

    Education begins at home.

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  62. Given the state of public education in California and what has been done to it by the idiots in Sacramento, for many people home is the only opportunity left to get an education.

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  63. @12:10
    you said, "the obvious correlation to school achievement is the level of education of the parents"

    The problem we have is that the stupid are breeding faster. We are doomed.

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  64. @tf, found you. :-)
    poorer people tend to have more children. they also tend to be less educated. maybe if we want to avoid the effect you touch on we can figure out a way to get more people a good education. one thing for sure, i bet it wouldnt hurt

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