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AUSD Approves $659 Parcel Tax on Four to One Vote

At a special board meeting last night that was neither broadcast on TV nor videotaped by the District, the Alameda Unified School District approved a resolution calling for a mail-in ballot on June 22, 2010 for a parcel tax that will cost homeowners $659 per year.

The new tax, if approved, will replace parcel taxes enacted in the past by AUSD Measure’s A and H, which total $309 per year for homeowners. For homeowners, the replacement tax represents a 114% increase over the taxes it replaces. Non-Residential property owners would pay “The lesser of $0.13 per square foot of the total lot [size] or $9,500 per parcel.”

AUSD Superintendent Vital said that the new tax would shift the burden of AUSD parcel taxes from non-residential property owners to residential property owners. Under measures A and H, residential property owners carry the burden of roughly 60% to 65% of the tax; under the proposed parcel tax, residential property owners would carry 82% of the burden, and non-residential property owners would carry 18% The tax, however, still follows a “split roll” model enacted in Measure H that is the subject of ongoing litigation. That litigation has cost the District at least $100,000 so far.

AUSD Board Trustee Tracy Jensen motioned to approve the resolution as recommended by Superintendent Kirsten Vital. The motion was seconded by Trustee Niel Tam, and Trustees Ron Mooney and Mike McMahon voted in favor; Trustee Trish Spencer dissented.

The vote came after much discussion of the resolution and the decisions leading up to it, much of it prompted by questions from Trustee Spencer that either Superintendent Vital or one of the other board members responded to. The following examples summarize some of those exchanges.

Spencer: Proposition 13 is widely viewed as benefiting older homeowners who have stayed in their homes for a long time, and pay lower property taxes and who could theoretically afford to pay more. Why is the proposed parcel tax exemption for seniors not limited to low-income senior citizens? Including more homeowners in the tax would lower the amount of the tax.

Response: That would lessen the chance of the parcel tax passing.

Spencer: Is the parcel tax money intended to fund the Development Director position for $140,000 per year, which is listed in the Master Plan?

Response: No, but the District reserves the right to add or change positions with existing funds.

Spencer: Is this tax intended to fund “Plan A” in the Master Plan? Because there is no language in the parcel tax ballot text that speaks to that. For example, the Master Plan speaks to maintaining neighborhood schools, but there is nothing in the ballot text about that.

Response: We don’t want to tie the Board’s hands for the eight year duration of the tax.

After the meeting, Trustee Trish Spencer told Action Alameda News, “My questions were going to the issue of transparency – I don’t think the language in the parcel tax ballot measure is consistent with the master plan. Since the vote on Measure H was so close, it would give voters the confidence to support the parcel tax if the ballot language was more specific.”

The listed purposes of the parcel tax from the full ballot text are included below:

Moneys raised under this Protection of Quality Local Education Measure of 2010 are authorized to be used only to provide financial support to local school programs in accordance with priorities annually established by the Board and to the extent of available funds, including but not limited to:

  • Maintaining highly qualified and experienced teachers and minimizing layoffs for teachers and school employees
  • Supporting small class sizes
  • Maintaining outstanding core instructional programs that help students succeed and keep test scores high, such as competitive science, math and language arts programs
  • Supporting computers and classroom technology
  • Keeping school media centers and libraries open and staffed
  • Supporting programs and services that help students qualify for college, such as AP programs, and prepare students for careers
  • Supporting Alameda students in Alameda’s existing public charter schools
  • Supporting music, arts and athletics programs that provide a well-rounded education for Alameda kids

AUSD President Ron Mooney also mentioned that the ballot measure includes language for an advisory committee of “citizen stakeholders” to be “appointed or designated by the Board to ensure that the special tax proceeds are spent for their authorized purposes, and to report annually to the Board and the public regarding the expenditure of such funds.”

However, the ballot text does not say how the Board will choose members of the advisory board, the size of the board, or, for example, if the board would be composed of members representing all districts of Alameda. The proposed measure states only that “the size, structure and scope of duties of the advisory committee shall be set by the Board.” It appears that the AUSD Board and the advisory committee will have wide latitude in determining how the roughly $14 million raised by the tax will be spent.

Action Alameda News videotaped portions of the meeting. Excerpts of that video, including the vote on the resolution, are included below.

50 comments to AUSD Approves $659 Parcel Tax on Four to One Vote

  • Barb

    While everyone is facing loss of jobs, hours, benefits, and foreclosure on their homes, we are being asked to pay $659 to exempt AUSD from the belt tightening that everyone else is suffering:

    1. To educate over 100 or more out of district students from areas that will not pay ANY taxes to AUSD;
    2. A $51,000 (plus benefits?) Webmaster who is the child of one of the AUSD trustess who voted for the new tax and to retain that Trustee’s wife as a school secretary;
    3. To fund a $140,000 position for “Development Director”;
    4. To fund an attorney at an estimate of over $100,000 per year in salary plus more in benefits;
    5. To implement a “Master Plan” that is not locked in and leaves the AUSD flexible.

    I think we should ask Judge Bartalini who served on the last citizens committee how that fared.

  • L. Bond

    Do you know what the current budget is and what the cuts represent in percentages? Is 7 million less a 10% reduction? 20%? I can’t seem to locate that information.

  • Have a look at the 2nd interim update, page 4: http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/boemtg/boe030910secondinterim.pdf

    The overall budget is around $80 million to $90 million, depending on what you want to measure.

  • Lori

    My on regret concern with the $659 is that it is not higher. I would hate for them to have to come back for more $$ at a later date. As it stands, a tax of approximately $50/month, with exemptiosn for seniors, seems minimal when compared to the damage to home value that would follow declining schools.

  • I have plenty of reasons to be frustrated w/ our school board and have a distaste for [any and all] taxes.

    But for those of you who want to punish our kids because you don’t like the school system, doesn’t the simple math about housing values trump your ideals? Seems to me it’s insurance, plain and simple. Please tell me how I’m wrong.

  • If someone has the data to back up the correlation between school funding and home values in alameda, can you please share it? Only about 12% of alameda households have kids. That doesn’t seem like enough to sway home values.

    Oakland funds schools approximately twice as much per pupil as Alameda, but it’s not clear it’s reflected in the home values in Oakland.

  • >>> Only about 12% of alameda households have kids.

    Is that dwellings or parcels? That number seems awfully low.

    I don’t have hard data for Alameda, but aren’t home values pumped quite a bit over in the Edison School District? That school has a great reputation (I personally don’t know if it’s deserved or not.)

    In Oakland, the clusters of high-value homes are within the good school districts (Piedmont, Rock Ridge.) Pretty obvious, isn’t it?

    And I can tell you… in the city of St. Louis, where I’m from, when everyone started sending their kids to catholic school and let the public schools go to sh*t, the city went down the tubes QUICKLY. Now the crime rate is as bad (if not worse) than East St. Louis.

  • Barb

    My home value has seriously declined since the last parcel tax was passed. Probably by 30% or more and to a value less than when the first parcel tax passed. Has anyone who purchased a home (not counting all the foreclosures) in the last three years seen the value go up? I have been told that you can’t even dump rental units in Alameda anymore because the cost of a home has declined so much.

    Of the 12% households with children, how many go to private school instead of public?

    Can some explain how it helps the children to hire a full time attorney to defend AUSD’s business practices, hire a development director, web designer etc? Do all school districts hire full time legal staffs?

    These things seem like luxuries that are the first to go in down times. Instead, AUSD is expanding in this area. It just can’t be empirically shown or proven that this money will go for “the children”.

    I understand the concept of insurance, but all this ensures is that AUSD will forever come to the taxpayers for bailouts instead of cutting corners and getting back to basics in these hard times. AUSD needs to start with seeing that our elected officials equalize ADA so Alameda students get the same amount per student as Dublin and Pleasanton. Then if that is not enough ask, but don’t demand in the face of nebuolous unprovable claims. Come with something concrete that the money will be dedicated to paying for, with no way of slipping it away after the voters approve it like the first parcel tax, and to the lawyers for the second.

  • >>> It just can’t be empirically shown or proven that this money will go for “the children”.

    My first grader, in a class of 20, will next year be in a class of 32 if parcel tax doesn’t pass. This is a fact. Would you agree that this is a substantial dis-improvement for his education?

    We might all agree that we don’t like the way AUSD does it’s business, but at the end of the day… it is indeed the youngsters that will suffer.

  • Vania

    Simply an academic comment: It’s not just Proposition 13 but also Proposition 218, both of which are rolled into Article XIII of the California Constitution which is relevant to the discussion of whether this sort of new parcel tax is lawful, even if it is approved by the voters.

    It is worth reading the California Supreme Court case SILICON VALLEY TAXPAYERS’ ASSOCIATION, INC., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. SANTA CLARA COUNTY OPEN SPACE AUTHORITY, 44 Cal. 4th 431; 187 P.3d 37; 79 Cal. Rptr. 3d 312; 2008 Cal. LEXIS 8667 (2008).

    In one of the most blunt and vehement opinions I’ve ever seen written by a California Supreme Court justice, the opinion says that even if a new tax or assessment gets super majority approval of the voters, if it does not provide specific benefits to each parcel of real estate, and the allocation of the tax among parcels is not directly proportionate to the benefit each parcel, the new tax or assessment is unlawful.

    Obviously, the AUSD is not going to disclose what their lawyers told them about the manner in which this new parcel tax is allocated and levied, but anyone opposed to the new tax would be well served by reading the “Silicon Valley Taxpayers” case opinion. That opinion is the current “state of the law” in California on Proposition 13 type issues.

  • Barb is absolutely correct about expensive schools being no guarantee of rising property values. Currently, Alameda residential real estate is between 30-40% depressed since the last bubble began in 2002. Commercial real estate is faring even worse, and that bubble is just beginning to burst. “Great schools” haven’t prevented that decline in value.

    Moreover, the assumption that the best teachers are those who want more money is specious. In my many years of classroom teaching, my excellence was in no way tied to or determined by my salary. When I was voted “Outstanding Teacher” by my students I didn’t even know what I was earning, never read my pay stub, was totally focused on the sheer pleasures and rewards of the work.

    Until schools compete across neighborhood borders on the basis of quality and outcome, rather than location, or even funding, American education will get a failing grade!

    Dennis Green

  • Moreover…regarding class size…there is no evidence that smaller class size results in better outcomes. When I taught, my teaching didn’t change if I had 30 students or 45. Or during a summer session, six! If I had 30 final exams to grade, it took several days. If I had 600, it took several weeks.

    Evidence shows that small class size MIGHT affect outcomes for very young students, in subject-specific classes such as science or math. But those same studies show that computer-enhanced delivery of presentations, and interactive game formats from the best teachers can more than make up for larger class sizes. Alameda makes very little use of the Virtual Classroom, if any!

    DG

  • Jack,

    Based on the MOU that the District signed with the teachers, your first grader will be in a class of 25 next year (2010-11) and in a class of 32 in Grade 2, in the following year (2011-12).

    http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/boemtg/boe030210aeamou.pdf

    Does passage of the parcel tax guarantee a reversal of these agreements?

  • L. Bond

    Where do you find that only 12% of homes have school-aged children?

  • It came from Superintendent Vital.

    One can also calculate it with high confidence:

    About 31,644 homes in Alameda. (census data)

    District enrollment is about 10,000 students (AUSD website)

    Avg. household size is about 2.38 people per house (census data)

    10,000 / 2.38 = about 4,200

    4,200 / 31,644 = 13%

    Your mileage may vary – some households have 1 child, some have 3 or 4.

  • L. Bond

    To clarify, you wrote “Only about 12% of alameda households have kids” when in fact, looking at the census data found here: http://www.bayareacensus.ca.gov/cities/Alameda.htm

    Families with children < 18 = 28.2%
    and children 5-17 = 15.5%

    I think you mean that 12% of the population of Alameda attend AUSD schools. So to answer Barb's question it seems about 2-3% go to private school, or more if you factor in the 18 year olds in school.

  • There is also no evidence that larger class sizes results in better outcomes. I’m pretty certain that jumping from 20 to 24 to 32 (no I don’t know the specifics of when this happens and what kind of guarantees there are) is not going to be good for my first grader and most others.

    I fought alongside many of you — dedicated ungodly amounts of time — in the last election. My kids watched this with interest as I taught the importance of contributing to their community. There are no words to express how it feels to see many of these same people now working against their most basic interests… whether it’s to save $2 per day or to humble an admittedly arrogant school board.

    I really wish the focus was on keeping the CORE curriculum going and instead of double-or-nothing for the “master plan.” Alas, that is out of our control. It’s certainly out of the kids’ control. Just as older voters are piling on the federal debt onto their little shoulders, that our local community would also turn their backs on them (for any number of little petty reasons and justifications) is depressing to say the least.

  • Barb

    There is still no accurate count as to how many out of district students – permitted & unpremitted – Alamedans are being asked to sudsidize.

    The is only one difference I can see in hindsight from my AUSD education PADEN, WASHINGTON, ENCINAL, and my children’s LUM, EDISON, WOOD, BOD. After FRANKLIN closed last time, my daughter was admitted to REDWOOD DAY in the former Franklin building. As she entered 7th and 8th grades, the school put the girls in a girls only math class. It seemed that 7th and 8th grade girls were threatened, or somehow chilled due to the boys presence and better developed spatial skills at that age. (Maybe it was interest in the boys – who knows?) This changed those two years. Her math performance and grades were not keeping up to par with her overall achievement. When allowed to learn only with girls, she soon achieved math scores in the 99th percentile. All the girls learning and scores advances greatly. That would never be allowed to happen in a public school.

    Thanks Vania. I am guessing since the AUSD does not have to actually implement the Master Plan if the tax passes, that they will be free to hire more lawyers with the parcel tax money.

  • Jack – would a parcel tax of, say, $400 have a better chance of passing? And along with some other changes, achieve the same cost savings, without “punishing” the children?

    L.Bond – yes, we’re looking for a documented source to verify the Vital statement. Depending on the number of kids per household, something like 12% to 14% of Alameda households have kids that go to AUSD schools. There are a number of private schools is Alameda – primarily Catholic. Depending on what data one sources from, one can come up with different figures – we referenced this data earlier: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0600562.html

    In your data ( http://www.bayareacensus.ca.gov/cities/Alameda.htm ) those are population figures – 15.5% of the total population, or 11,477 out of 72,259 (11,477 / 72,259 = ~15.5%) not household figures,

    If there are 11,477 kids aged 5 to 17, and about 10,000 of them are in AUSD schools, that means about 1,400 are in private schools – catholic or otherwise. (Ignoring interdistrict students attending AUSD schools.)

    The figure:
    Families with children under 18 8,378 27.7% is a household figure – 27.7% of the households have children under the age of 18. The average household size is 2.35 persons, the average family size is 3.04 persons.

    The argument that we need to fund the schools to support home values is an odd one, because:

    1) It puts finances (home values) ahead of the children. This contradicts the “it’s for the children!” argument.

    2) It tells renters not to vote, or to vote against the tax. They don’t have home values to support, after all, so what do they care about propping up home values? The tax will work against renters as landlords pass the costs along to tenants. 52% of the housing units are renter – not owner – occupied.

    Is 12 to 14% of households having school-aged children enough to broadly impact home prices? 27% ? As others have noted, there have been strong forces at work these past 2 to 3 years that have severely depressed home prices, despite funding levels for Alameda schools.

    Again, if there is strong data to support the correlation of home values to school funding in Alameda, we’ll be happy to review it.

  • Barb

    Sorry to say this, but we didn’t pile the debt on anyones shoulders. Unsupervised government elected by and for the special interests not unlike AUSD did that for us. I would like to be able to retire in the community in which I was born and raised my family. We have lived through the economic ups and downs of the City and AUSD’s finances for decades. It never changes. Until people who value CORE education run for and are elected to office we will just get more incompetent politicians swayed by staff who will try to foist the cost of their incompetence off on the taxpayers. I can’t do that with my budget, why should they be able to do it with theirs?
    I am self-employed and not an AUSD Superintendent or attorney or Development Director, WEBMASTER or even lowly paid teacher. I have no paid health benefits, disability or retirement program other than Social Security. Please ask your children to understand that some of us put ourselves and our children through college and graduate school and now would like to be done paying for education. I will not buy into AUSD’s false justifications of maintaining quality education to keep me working in my old age as my health declines or worse force me to leave my family, friends and roots. AUSD’s history is that whatever it gets is never enough. If this passes, it will immediately spend every penny on whatever it chooses, regardless of what the community oversight committee says or does. Been there done that. Then it will rush back to the drawing board to do what Lori says she hopes won’t happen. Been there done that. Isn’t that why we have 2 school parcel taxes now?

    Wait, wait, wait, I hear the sound of another parcel tax as yet unmentioned from the rumblings of the state mandated retrofit earthquake proofing of Alameda Hospital. How much will that be? Which is more important? Education or expeditious emergency medical care? Do the voters get to choose? Or is it just which taxing agency gets to the public trough first?

  • Jack – some people find it depressing that so many people demand, and prefer, blind obeisance over thoughtful dissent.

    Look carefully at the language of the ballot measure – the stated “purposes” for use of funds are vague (“support small class sizes” – is that 20? 24? ), and the language is “included but not limited to…” – there really are no restrictions on the use of funds, no guarantees on how the funds will be used, not even a commitment to use the parcel tax to fund “Plan A” in the Master Plan, which, among other things called for “maintain neighborhood schools.” The master plan also speaks repeatedly of requiring a parcel tax to fund it.

    The advisory committee size is not set, nor is its composition, (e.g. 1 person from each elementary school district.) nor is a method for determining its size and composition set other than leaving it to the discretion of the board. The Master Plan speaks to the achievement gap between African-American / Hispanic and White / Asian students, but the parcel tax ballot language allocates no money to this purpose. (Nor does it ensure that west-end elementary school districts, which have predominantly african-american and hispanic populations, are represented on the advisory committee.)

    The Board declined to put specific allocations into the measure – and defended that decision the other night – on the basis that they didn’t want special interests lobbying for an allocation of funds in the ballot measure. Instead, those special interests will now lobby the advisory committee and perhaps even sit on the committee.

    The board had time to do a better job – they knew early last year, and admitted as much on Monday night – that they would need a parcel tax. However, instead of coming up with a parcel tax measure and circulating it get feedback, they posted it on Friday at 5pm before a Monday 5pm special board meeting (24 business-hours notice.) for the same day that teacher layoff notices go out. Why do you think they did that?

  • >>> 1) It puts finances (home values) ahead of the children. This contradicts the “it’s for the children!” argument.

    I completely disagree. I am merely pointing out a win-win for residential owners. Myself and other public school parents I’ve talked to think that it’s unfair to commercial but a win-win for res. I don’t have your hard data for Alameda, but it usually shows up in the common sense column anywhere else in America.

    Barb, I can’t argue with your assertions about AUSD, and I think we agree about CORE education values. So while in reality I don’t know if a smaller parcel (equal to those sunsetting, for instance) would pass, I think the “marketing” effort of passing it would (as I’m trying my best to hear you folks) would stand a better chance if it was about maintaining CORE education as opposed to implementing a new master plan? Perhaps this is the $400 question? Thoughts on that?

  • Jack – that’s the thing. This parcel tax is NOT about implementing a new master plan! The language of the ballot measure doesn’t speak to the issues raised in the master plan approved on Feb 23rd. No allocation for closing the achievement gap, no allocation for “maintaining neighborhood schools,” it doesn’t speak to maintaining two high schools, it doesn’t speak to strengthening enrichment programs, it vaguely says “support charter schools, but it doesn’t say specifically how it will “Create a system of attractive school options, Magnets, Small Learning Communities, Charters,” it doesn’t say anything about how the tax will “Raise the Bar for Academic Achievement and Equity” and so on.

    The Measure H ballot language was more specific about the use of funds (http://www.smartvoter.org/2008/06/03/ca/alm/meas/H/) because of concerns over how the Measure A money was handled. This ballot measure returns again to vague language with really no limits on what the funds could be used for.

  • That’s a good point David but first… have we seen the complete language yet? I haven’t.

    I followed your smartvoter link and, indeed, Measure H was quite specific and really made a point to insure that $$’s were spent as intended. Interestingly, the rebuttals (at the bottom of the page) for that specific measure are the same ones we are hearing now.

    Look… I find myself in the unenviable position of arguing for a school board that I am furious with AND for a new tax! Not the way I like to roll. But is $2 per day really too much to spend for the children of your community who we all know are getting royally screwed by the state? not to mention the federal debt being piled on by yes, Barb, “we” because we the people keep voting the bastards back into office?

  • Barb

    I suggest asking retired Judge Bartalini how the oversight worked on Measure A. He was both a spokesperson for the tax, and then against H when it passed because he had actually volunteered and served on that oversight committee. So he has a perspective over time and seeing what has been done that we don’t have.

    We have just started the decline of the financial world. Unemployement is at 12 -15%. Residential income property vacancies are high and stay vacant a long time. There are foreclosures that are ongoing, rental buildings being sold for 1/2 of what they sold for 3 years ago. 1/2. The renters (with AUSD students) are being told to move. The owners are going to have to pass on this $659.00 to the tenants.

    It is easy if one has just purchased a $750,000 home based on qualifying income who has two parents who have retained their jobs, to sit back and say $2 is not too much for the children. But was is $50 a month to someone who has lost their job and is staying to stay afloat? The demand at the food banks has never been higher. Those famillies have children.

    What about those with variable rate mortgages set to adjust, or someone who took out a home equity line to redo a roof? How is the $2.00 a day going to affect their ability to keep from becoming forced to sell their home at a loss?

    The problem with AUSD is all they see is their little world through the blinders of “WE HAVE AN IMPORTANT MISSION AND IT IS IMPORTANT TO FAIL”. Not too big to fail, too important to fail. They haven’t bothered to prove using scientifically empirically proven methodology that the money is needed to provide a good basic public school education. And the way the pacel tax is written it will not even address the CORE subjects. Only new lawyers, Development Director, administrators benefits, perks that most of us already can’t afford.

    If the education provided by AUSD is not there, isn’t it just as easy for the parents to earn a little more money (as it would for for some of us to earn the extra $659 per year) and send their children to private schools that are competently run?

    They say public education is free, but in my experience, it is the value of the work of the parents – not just the formal academic experience – that makes the greatest difference in how children and schools do. So while AUSD is busy demanding mroe monetary compensation, the true adder of value is time of thos who care, and are able to put into the schools. Instead it sounds like many are going to be out hitting the campaign trail and letting AUSD conduct business as usual.

  • Well I guess I have my answer. What a great community we have here.

  • To someone struggling with a mortgage and cost of living increases, whose salary has been effectively flat-lined for more than a decade, those fine middle class families, that $55/month could be a trip to the grocery store. To the majority of voters, who don’t own any real estate, (Here!), there is no incentive to see real estate prices become inflated, as the rents just go up.

    And I have to repeat, as a long-time classroom teacher, it’s a CALLING, folks! The best teachers don’t do it for the money. We once stayed single, lived alone, if that was what it took. We didn’t have unions and job security and retirement perks and annual increases, “prep days” and a far shorter work year and still expected to be paid what other professionals are paid.

    I’m sure Jack is quite sincere in his belief that piling another $14 million a year on top of the $80 million the AUSD already gets will insure his kid gets a great education, but his reasoning is specious. Some of the finest teaching I ever received was in Blue Lake, California, a town of 350 people, where there were two grades in every classroom, at least 30 students, but the teachers really cared!

    And the language of the parcel tax does NOT support the Master Plan, even as much as former parcel tax measures it would replace. Just suppose for a moment that Superintendent Vital’s real objective is to pose a parcel tax which cannot pass, which will then free her to take a meat axe to the system. She will be in high demand by any other school district facing deficits, I assure you.

    And in my last meeting with her, that’s exactly the impression she left me with.

    Dennis Green

  • L. Bond

    To speak to Barb’s question about it whether it’s just as easy to earn a little extra and send kids to private school ~

    I have 3 children. I have priced private schools in the area. The first problem is that we’re not Catholic, nor Chinese, which represents what’s available in Alameda.

    Beacon is in Oakland and an excellent school, and not the most expensive. It would cost me 17,000 a year, per kid, to send my children there. That’s nearly 60k a year extra I would have to come up with.

    And, if I suck it up and send my kids to St. Joes, which supports ideals I’m completely against, it would be 17,000 a year for all three. So I’d have to come up with an extra 20k a year.

    So no, it’s not “just a little extra”.

  • Gadfly Santaclara

    “Spencer: Why is the proposed parcel tax exemption for seniors not limited to low-income senior citizens? Including more homeowners in the tax would lower the amount of the tax.

    Response: That would lessen the chance of the parcel tax passing.”

    This is the thing that most boggles my mind about this “process.” The architects of the tax can exempt a group of voters who are likely to vote against it, yet those voters are still allowed to vote.

    Something just seems way wrong about that.

  • Barb

    L.Bond. Sometimes it is just worth the sacrifice to get your children into great schools and not worry about the day to day politics. Ensuring that they can compete for entry into the UC or other affordable system later. As a single parent it was quite a sacrifice to finally send my own children to private schools after failure after failure of AUSD to live up to even a basic level of education in the K-8 levels.

    Just received word that the premiums on own medical coverage which costs me personally about $500 per month, as I am not an AUSD employee, is going up nearly 35% per year. So I have medical coverage that precludes use of Alameda Hospital ($300 per year) and I am being asked to pay $659 per year for children to go to a school system that is still plagued with the same problems it has had for decades. It does not focus on CORE education, but rather on that which will pay its bills. As long as it can dupe the 88% of residents that don’t use the system into believeing it is TOO IMPORTANT TO FAIL, it will never be forced to become an excellent school district that makes it on its own.

  • R. Beck

    Gadfly,
    There are over 2000 seniors that filed for the exemption last year. The AUSD requires them to fill out a new form every year by a certain date, otherwise they will loose it. Prior to the 2008 election for Measure H, many seniors where contacted by phone and urged to vote for the Measure since it would not cost them a penny. The same happened to 15 SSI recipients that where made to believe they would be exempt and only 2 of the 15 actually where accepted.
    Also keep in mind, many commercial property owners that have property in Alameda but live elsewhere can not even vote on a tax, that in some cases cost them $9500.00 a year, just for Measure H alone.
    Is there something wrong with this system, you bet there is!!!

  • R. Beck

    http://www.alamedasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=vi – [Cached Version]
    Published on: 6/29/2007 Last Visited: 6/29/2007
    Richard Bartalini, a retired superior court judge, told the Alameda school board on Tuesday that he couldnt in good faith say that the 2005 Measure A school parcel tax was being spent in accordance with what voters approved.

    Money intended for school district services and programs paid for other expenses, Bartalini said.

    Bartalini, who campaigned for Measure A in 2005, said the spending no longer was in line with what the ballot had told voters.

    This isnt what I talked about, he said.

    The $189 per year education tax was passed June 7, 2005, with more than 67 percent approval.

    Shortly thereafter he resigned from the oversight committee.He also did not support Measure H. Do we really believe things are different now?

  • Jack – We have seen the final ballot language…

    The final language was approved on Monday night. It’s been on the District’s website since last Friday at 5pm, and hard copies were handed out on Monday evening, March 15th, at the AUSD board meeting that I reported on.

    here it is:

    http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/boemtg/boemeeting_031510_parceltax.pdf

    There is no question about what the language of the ballot measure reflects or does not reflect.

  • Parents who say they can’t afford to send their kids to private schools then turn to the rest of us and ask us to subsidize the education of their kids, which costs in the AUSD currently $8,435 per student per school year, more than many private (Catholic) schools. “Universal Education” is never free, whether it’s provided by a private or public school system.

    If kids from only 12% of Alameda households are attending the public schools, that still means the other 88% of us are subsidizing their educations, whether we own property or not, because if we rent our landlords certainly pass their property and parcel taxes along to us. The majority of us who vote do not own real estate, do not benefit from inflated values, and see very little real return on that subsidy.

    So if you can’t afford private schooling, you’re on the dole, and it’s becoming a massive drag on the 88% of us who have no kids in these schools. The question of fairness remains. But public education is becoming one of the largest entitlement programs of all.

    Dennis Green

  • Dennis – we have heard that complaint from Alameda parents re: Franklin School. It’s typically Franklin School parents at the core of these new parcel taxes, albeit behind-the-scenes, and the predominant view in certain circles of parents is that Franklin parents manage a public school (franklin) as if it was private, and push for parcel taxes to force the rest of Alameda to subsidize it. All the more ironic because Franklin School serves the Gold Coast, where many wealthy families reside, relative to say, parcel tax payers west of Webster.

    There’s a reason so many parents opted for a charter school a couple of years back. We’ve heard from them.

  • poguemahone

    “Until schools compete across neighborhood borders on the basis of quality and outcome, rather than location, or even funding, American education will get a failing grade!”

    Thank you and well spoken Mr. Green.

    This district is run like a fiefdom and is rife with questionable practices and expenditures. In addition, “neighborhood schools” + sibling preferences = passive exclusion and exclusivity based on ones address.

  • Anonymous

    I lived right across the street from Franklin last time it closed. I tried to adapt with AUSD but finally said, OK you win. REDWOOD DAY it is. And I have never regretted that decision, and never went back to AUSD. Everyone complains about the problem nearest their front door or driveway and doesn’t give a rats a– about anyone else or their limitations anymore. It is all about ME ME ME, my children, my children’s education. My children’s education simply became too important to leave to the politicians and administrators at AUSD. Not worth the constant hassle and heartbreak by people only concerned with maintaining the status quo.
    One’s perspective changes as one lives through AUSD’s shenanigans parcel tax after parcel tax, and sees that the administration doesn’t really don’t care about the children, gets in the way of the actual CORE teaching, and that people who really care enough will move on and out of that never ending story. Easier to make the money for private school, than to run for office, get three votes and try to change AUSD administration. Should one succeed at that, it still might not make any difference in the quality of the outstanding educations offered by private schools these days.
    Course they don’t need to hire lawyers, development directors, webmasters, etc. The parents all give back to the schools in service and other resources they are so thrilled with the quality of education their children arer receiving.

  • poguemahone

    Barb,
    Re: “1. To educate over 100 or more out of district students from areas that will not pay ANY taxes to AUSD;”

    It is more like 430 kids or enogh kids from out of town to fill Haight School although all are not K-5 students.

    Most not all of these students go to west end schools.

    It is argued that “They bring in needed money through ADA….” but at current class size and costs as they are it seems the district about breaks even deepending on who’s math you believe.

    This creates an inflated population district wide (concentrated in the west end) that helps justify certain antiquated dinky schools that ought might not be open otherwise. I wonder how much in rent the district would get these days for such a space as say…. Franklin?

  • There is great disparity in the capacity of our elementary schools – from 274 at Franklin to 631 at Earhart – 2.31 times.

    AUSD 2007 Elementary School Capacity

  • I will continue to oppose the new parcel tax initiative because it papers over with money the real problems:
    Poor teaching and mismanagement. I want to see radical reform in our education system, which needs it even more than health care. (Where the real problem is physicians and hospitals, but don’t get me started!)

    There is an outside chance that the entire district will go charter, which would result in the kind of competition I’d like to see, little or no control by the Superintendent, higher standards for teaching, and much better outcomes. If we have to defeat the parcel tax to get there, so be it.

    DG

  • R. Beck

    If the entire district goes charter, they will not see a penny of the parcel tax. In the ballot measure it clearly states,the money will go only to existing charter schools.Vital also stated in a meeting with local businesses on Thursday, that starting next year there will be no more money spend on charter schools. All the parents out there better take note, the parcel tax is not going to pay for your child’s education, if you sent them to a charter school.

  • If the parcel tax fails, the District might take the schools in the direction of “charter.”

    Rumors are that the Franklin School parents will take Franklin charter (protecting the de facto segregation of our schools?) if the parcel tax fails and/or AUSD shuts down Franklin, the smallest capacity elementary school in AUSD.

  • If charter schools are run with very high standards for students, teachers and administrators, the outcomes are far better than non-charter public schools. (See American Indian Charter in Oakland, where 100% of students graduate and qualify for four-year universities. Vital excludes charter schools from benefiting from the new parcel tax, I believe, because she wants it to fail. Just a hunch. In a recent poll by the SF Chronical, 67% feel that public employees are paid more than California can afford and should take cuts in both salary and benefits.

    D’Green

  • R. Beck

    Dennis, just think, if charter schools are successful and and people see their kids doing better than they did in public school, more and more parents would want to put their kids in a charter school, more kids in charter means less kids in public. What are they going to do with all that money from the new parcel tax, remember AUSD will no longer support charter schools financially.
    A devious plan????

  • I’m not sure how she can do that. Chipman Middle is going charter in the Fall, but maybe technically is already. Several elementary schools are already charter and it’s my understanding that the Superintendent has no control over their management or funding, but that it is diverted from AUSD budget. Maybe Action Alameda News can clarify. Obama’s “Race to the Top would require all public schools to be more like charters are now. I believe most of the schools in Harlem have gone charter, and the unions are fighting back, because poor teachers, (and principals), can be fired.

    Dennis

  • Barb

    Any district which can afford its own “General Counsel”, with the unlimited prospect of hiring an $140,00 “Development Director” is in deep financial straits due to intellectual blinders. Get back to the teachers and classrooms. Fire the administrators, lawyers, web designer (this should be nominal position filled by high school science students) and then see how much money is needed. Put some constraints on how any money raised really is to be spent, and then ask. We could have a ballot like in Oakland, where we check boxes for how much we can afford without losing yur homes, medical coverage, or ability to eat, etc. and see which box gets the most votes.

    How much is this mail in ballot going to cost, and who gets to pay for it?

  • Per the AUSD packet on 3/15/2010, the “likely cost of calling this election is between $126,000 and $210,000.” Presumably AUSD will pay for it.

    This doesn’t include consultant costs for the election. We have received a packet from AUSD in response to a public records request that shows a total of $81,871.59 in “open” purchase orders from AUSD to Erwin & Muir from November 2008 to current. Not all of that money has been spent yet.

  • Barb

    So $210,000 plus $81,871 = $291,871. Is that enough for 2 1/2 or 3 teachers? So AUSD is willing to gamble away up to 3 more teachers on this election. Throw out the lawyer, the webmaster and the development director, and we get what another 3 teachers? That’s a great start for keeping the K-3 class sizes smaller. Why didn’t AUSD think of it? I know. They’d rather have the lawyer, the lawyer’s staff, the webmaster, development director, than 6 more teachers. Actions speak louder than words in this case.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Late I know, but in response to “Barb” comments from March 23rd, there is no “lawyer’s staff”. And having a General Counsel for the District has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have otherwise been spent on outside lawyers for litigation. You don’t want a webmaster, but yet the community complains when there is no available material posted on the District’s website! And what is a “development director”?

  • The “development director” is someone identified in the master plan to be paid $140,000/year to try to go out and raise philanthropic funds for the District. Presumably this salary would be paid with funds freed-up by Measure E dollars.

    The “webmaster” was hired at the same time they outsourced website re-development to Erwin & Muir, political consultants that AUSD pays $150/hour/per partner. i.e. $300/hour. AUSD paid several thousand dollars to have the website re-designed by an outside firm at the same time they brought on board a “webmaster.” http://www.action-alameda-news.com/2010/02/27/ausd-superintendent-kirsten-vital-weaves-a-tangled-web/

    As for posting material on the District’s website – AUSD Board Trustee Mike McMahon – the father of the “webmaster,” Becky McMahon, that the District hired – has been posting District documents on his website – for free – for years now. McMahon’s wife and daughter are now on the District’s payroll.

    Action Alameda News has made a public records request for job descriptions and org charts to identify what we have been told are a number of superfluous “executive assistant” type jobs. The District is trying to take as long as possible to respond to this request.

    Oh! The District hires outside lawyers for litigation anyway, even with in-house Counsel. The lawsuits over Measure H have already cost the District well over $217,000 in legal fees alone with an outside firm. http://www.action-alameda-news.com/2010/04/05/borikas-v-ausd-going-to-trial-plaintiffs-file-trial-brief/

    All of the nine cases from April 13th that Action Alameda News could find and review involved an outside litigation firm – in-house counsel does NOT do the litigation, because they still hire experts for that.

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