SAN DIEGO -- Becoming governor next year will be a daunting challenge for California's Republican insurance commissioner, but Steve Poizner has surmounted other obstacles, as when he volunteered to teach without pay in an East San Jose high school. After he sold, for $1 billion, one of the technology companies he founded after moving to California from Texas, and after serving as a White House fellow, he walked into East San Jose's school district office, explained that he graduated No. 1 in his class at the University of Texas, earned a Stanford business degree, and now wanted to teach American government to high school seniors. A functionary declared: "Nothing you have said qualifies you to be in the classroom."
Undeterred, he placed calls to the district's 11 high school principals. Ten did not return his calls. The eleventh, whose students were mostly from working-class Hispanic families, gave Poizner the opportunity he describes as the hardest, and most rewarding, thing he has ever done.
On his first day it rained, the roof leaked and he probably violated union contracts by moving a trash can to catch the seepage. When some parents -- they were plumbers -- offered to fix a broken water fountain, they were spurned. The education code, by which state legislators micromanage California's thousands of schools at the behest of teachers' unions, is, Poizner says, 2,000 pages long "and growing rapidly." He is disgusted that more than half of the 600,000 employees in primary and secondary education are not in classrooms. The most "telling statistic," he says, is that in Los Angeles (where one in three school dollars goes to teachers' pensions) 25 percent of public school teachers send their children to private schools. Other signs that tell of California's dystopia are:
Having institutionalized envy in a steeply progressive income tax, California depends on 200,000 wealthy taxpayers for 25 percent of its revenue. The state ranks only behind liberal New York in the number of outward-bound moving vans. More people would flee if they could sell their houses. Between 1990 and 2007, the state lost 26 percent of its factory jobs and 35 percent of its high-tech manufacturing jobs. "Detroit, only with sunshine," says Investor's Business Daily. In Nevada (no personal or corporate income tax; sales taxes lower than California's), a Las Vegas organization lures Californians with a talk titled "California Has Lost Its Mind and Las Vegas Is Providing Psychoanalysis."