Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Will Sacramento choose progress or status quo in City Council race?

Is Sacramento really growing up and getting better? That’s an open question right now.

Vibrant public schools are a key piece of any regional economic strategy because schools produce the workforce, entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow.

On this front, Sacramento schools are regressing. The Sacramento City Teachers Association runs roughshod over the local district and fights any challenges to improve schools if those improvements conflict with sacred-cow union issues: teacher seniority, teacher accountability.

The teachers union prefers that the entire district be graded by outdated federal education standards in which the vast majority of schools will be labeled as “failing” rather than have teachers evaluated more rigorously. It’s never about the kids for them. It’s always about the grown-ups.

Meanwhile, Sacramento schools rank well below those from the Bay Area or Los Angeles, according to state Academic Performance Index scores. Can it be a coincidence that Sacramento economic development prospects lag behind those regions as well?

These issues are central to the future of the region, and this column will regularly feature conflicts between the same-old-way for Sacramento – and the need to support growth and evolution.

One way is to reject teacher union politics at the ballot box. Jay Schenirer, an effective problem-solver on the Sacramento City Council, is being challenged by a candidate named Ali Cooper, who seems to be little more than a union stooge.

Cooper is supported by the SCTA and the Central Labor Council. His campaign slogan is “Putting Neighborhoods First,” which is hilarious considering that neighborhood leaders in council District 5 never heard of him.

A campaign hit piece spells out how Cooper is the instrument to exact retribution against Schenirer for supporting the conversion of Sacramento High School to a charter school when Schenirer was a school board member – 12 years ago. Yes, 12 years ago. Never mind that 93 percent of Sac High seniors are going to college today. The union can’t forget how they lost control of Sac High years ago.

What has Schenirer done in four years on the City Council? He’s led a series of tough decisions that helped get the city to a balanced budget. Cooper hits him for taking Wal-Mart money because unions hate Wal-Mart, but Schenirer has put that money to great use. He started an organization called WayUp, which sponsors health screenings for kids in Oak Park, has resulted in two dozen community gardens and connects Oak Park families with medical coverage.

What has Cooper done? “I’m running for City Council,” he said at a recent meeting, apparently with a straight face.

This is one of many examples of a fundamental choice for Sacramento – between a do-nothing and progress.