With their hands out to property owners within the Los Angeles Unified School District boundaries, school board members made impassioned pleas yesterday about the funding crisis in schools.

The comments came minutes before the board voted to place a parcel tax measure on the June ballot. The plan asks voters to approve a yearly $100 per parcel tax - for four years - to help plug some of the holes in the school district's budget deficit dam.

The oratory from the board of education chambers skewered the district's notorious inefficiency, made use of cultural metaphors, and referenced the Civil Rights movement. Board member Richard Vladovic, whose district includes the San Pedro area, said constituents have already complained to him about the possibility of a tax hike. "So be it." He said, as he urged support of the tax.

If the parcel tax drive is to be successful, board member Steve Zimmer argued, the division between parents and non-parents must dissolve. "Schools are not collections of positions, they are communities. They operate as a family and you cannot remove a member of that community, of that family, without affecting the entire family. This is part of our effort to keep our family whole."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gave a speech last week that made board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, rethink an institution's reaction to tough times. "He said, 'In my family when there is financial crisis, we tighten our belt.' Well, in my family we go find another job. We find resources, even if that means selling oranges by the freeway because we still have to feed our kids and pay the rent."

What a vivid analogy. How often do we hear Southern California elected officials - OK, outside of L.A. County Sup. Zev Yaroslavsky - make public cultural references to their immigrant heritage? Which references are safe? Which are institutionalized? Which ones still raise an eyebrow? And does the eyebrow-raising come from the assimilated upper middle class grandchildren of immigrants?

Back to the budget cuts: it's going to take a lot of orange and bagel selling and cotton picking to get classrooms out of the financial mess on the horizon.

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