Commentary

Put that rake down!

Public schools often urge parents to get involved with their children’s education. So when 50 neighborhood volunteers showed up at San Diego’s Marvin Elementary School you’d think the school district would be happy. After all, because of California’s dire budget situation, local schools had to cut funding for landscaping. Many campuses became overgrown with weeds and littered with trash and broken sprinkler heads. Too bad such acts of voluntarism violate union labor laws. The union that represents landscapers cried foul saying that schools are prohibited from giving district work to anyone but employees. The district even circulated a memo telling administrators what to do in the event this “problem” of volunteers arose. Now the principal of one school says it was wrong of her to ask for volunteers. Marvin Elementary Principal E. Jay Derwae is one of the few sticking up for the volunteers. “Our nondistrict school foundation decided it wanted to spruce up the school because of budget cuts and because the weeds were five feet tall,” he said. “The union told us we were to cease and desist. But I’m not going to tell my parents and neighbors who live in houses with impeccable yards they can’t clean up the school.” California has other volunteer clean-up programs that work very well. Take Caltrans’ adopt-a-highway program. Volunteers “adopt” a stretch of highway and keep it clean. Good thing the highway clean-up union hasn’t squashed that act of voluntarism. Read the whole story here.

Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.