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Measures A and H are Not Working, No Guarantee that Measure E Will

Dear Editor,

I support public education and schools, but I do not support the replacement school parcel tax, Measure E. I have been following this topic long before it was decided to be put on a ballot. The newspaper articles and letters to the editor are coming across as written attacks on one’s character whether someone is for or against this parcel tax. Why is everyone, including myself, reverting to bullying when someone has a different viewpoint than our own? Everyone has a right to his or her own political belief and vote without being ridiculed for it! I publicly apologize to anyone I have offended.

The current parcel taxes, Measures A and H, are not financially working and there is no guarantee that the replacement parcel tax, Measure E, will either – they all have one thing in common that prevents this school district from creating a sustainable public education system that equally educates and promotes academic achievement for all Alameda children; the money has to go first to maintaining all Alameda School District salaries and future raises (my understanding is that the California Teachers Union makes the school district give priority to salaries over programs and prevents them from dismissing nonperforming teachers and/or District employees, forcing them to keep or transfer them). It is impossible for this school district to keep small neighborhood schools, class sizes and programs. We have been paying school parcel taxes for nearly a decade and in this time tons of great programs have been cut. I believe in all of the children of Alameda and wish this Island would stop fighting to keep it divided so the children would be guaranteed an equal playing field educationally and success for all of them!

Change is hard, but if we don’t change now we are destined to create even greater unfair public education opportunities in the already established academically achieving schools. As already mentioned, the school district cannot afford to maintain the current school configurations no matter if this parcel tax passes or fails – AUSD has been requesting this community allow the combining of schools long before I moved to Alameda and it always reverts to the same answer – NO, we need another parcel tax to our keep our neighborhood schools; but not every neighborhood school is educating our children or funded equally. A “yes” vote (passage of Measure E) will ensure the underachieving low-enrollment schools get filled up with out-of-district students (our tax dollars will be spent educating more out-of-district students than we currently do – but please understand that I do not have anything against educating any child no matter were they live) to keep them open and the successful schools will remain at capacity without space for any child not living in that neighborhood (this seems unjust to every tax payer not living in the K thru 12 successful school neighborhoods – not to mention the kids). Since class sizes have already been agreed to increase, most schools in Alameda will be forced to accept out-of-district students in every grade level unless the school already has a substantial wait list, but if we merge schools, the current AUSD admission policy ensures Alameda residents get first priority.

I also do not believe property values will be negatively affected if this parcel tax fails; most neighborhoods may actually increase in value. I also agree with small business owners that if it passes the small businesses will suffer financially and may be forced to leave Alameda. One more detail, the school district has already agreed on increasing class sizes, eliminating programs, closing schools and marketing to Oakland – it either happens immediately if this fails or in as little as one year if it passes. In the first year after passage they hope to fill the low enrollment, underachieving schools with out of district students for ADA money to keep them open. I believe it would benefit our community to merge schools instead of using our tax dollars to educate more out-of-district students.

How wonderful would it be to have an increase in community parent volunteers for every child in Alameda to benefit from, no matter what neighborhood you live in. And a school district that would be forced to try and bring back the unhappy parents/students that have left AUSD, with a better education plan for all. All teachers at every school would be supported and encouraged by parents. Larger schools and class sizes do not guarantee a bad education – in fact it may give our children more opportunities. If this community is truly committed to the children (and I believe it is) we should all be able to step up to the plate volunteer our time, talents and monetary donations in the new school configurations to make sure all the kids are getting a great education. Let’s come together for our children and support all of their diverse beauties and educate them all without dividing them up into advantaged and disadvantaged economics, race and language barriers via neighborhood schools.

I want to support this tax because I support public education and schools, but I can’t if this school district can take only the already agreed pay cut of 2.7% and change things now if it fails. I will support it only if the district takes the pay cut ensuring the money goes to the kids and makes changes combining successful and struggling schools together immediately, so that all the kids have a chance at getting a good education. Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish anyone to be forced to take a pay cut or get laid off, but we are living in a recession and I find it hard to get behind another parcel tax that gives first priority to maintaining current District salaries and future raises when police, firemen and medical workers are all taking pay cuts. I also think a higher pay cut should be considered to anyone making over, let’s say, arbitrarily, $60K. I also think this district should stand up to the union when complaints are filed and/or an employee is not successfully engaging and teaching our children and dismiss them instead of transferring or keeping them. I know the schools need money; I just want to make sure it goes equally to the right places and benefits all of our kids and eliminating the need for an oversight committee! There is no guarantee this parcel tax will be enough money to keep all of our current programs, schools open and class sizes small – when this district gets hit with more cuts our kids are going to be the first to suffer the blows – and there is no way to avoid this or create a plan to make a sustainable educational system with the current salary stipulations!

I pondered the idea of writing this a long time (but not long enough to stop myself) for fear my family would be ridiculed, but I have so many friends in this community and in the school district that are not allowed to voice their true feelings unless they are supportive that I decided the risk is worth it. The District’s stance – you are either with us or against us – is un-American and forces people to be grouped into categories they may not want to be in. I also think it is shameful for the schools to use children who are not legally allowed to vote to request support for Measure E when they are not being given the truth to share and/or to make their own educated decision. I hope all that know me in Alameda remember my efforts have always been with good intention for all kids, although not always verbalized correctly and for those that don’t know me try and understand everything is not always black and white.

Sincerely,

(mom, supporter of all kids and excellent public, private, traditional, nontraditional, charter and home school education)

[Identity verified by Action Alameda News, name withheld by request.]

15 comments to Measures A and H are Not Working, No Guarantee that Measure E Will

  • poguemahone

    I have come to believe that E is just an ass covering exercise. The last parcel under “good” economic times passed by only 30 or so votes. They have to know this was not going to pass but it will then take some of the heat off of their incompetence. I can just hear the “I told you so’s….” as they are forced to reckon with state short falls and their own inept fiscal house of cards. Of course they will cart out the underfunding issue also. How long since the US Navy notified the city of closure? and with Perata in the state capital at the second most powerful political office they couldn’t get squat down? Give me a break.

  • poguemahone

    TYPO> down = done

  • That was exactly the impression I got both times I interviewed Vital. At one point, she said, “We’ll just have to see how much the citizens of Alameda really care!” I also heard in her comment that losing would give her a free hand.

    She also remarked, “The teachers are giving me a hard time, saying everybody will blame us!” That is, it would weaken their position and power, having a third parcel tax in so few years. So I suspect in the whole dynamic that Vital wins either way, getsnthe money or is free to wield a meat ax, close schools and layoff lots of teachers.

    Dennis

  • Leland Traiman

    If Measure E is passed it will be raising money to be spent on lawyers in courtrooms, not on students in classrooms. If Alameda’s third emergency school tax in the last five years is passed, a significant amount of the money Measure E raises will not go to our school children. Much of Measure E’s money will go toward defending Measure E’s legality because it contains the same legal flaws as Measure H. The School District has already spent over $200,000 defending Measure H, with, as of this writing, no resolution as to its legality.

    The Alameda School Board disagrees with the California Supreme Court. These two governing bodies define a “split roll” for a property tax completely differently. The California Supreme Court said business and residential property can be taxed at different rates using the same method of taxation, that is a “split roll.” However, both Measure H and Measure E do not use different rates with the same method of taxation as the Court has approved. Instead, both use two completely different methods of taxation, a square footage tax for business property and a flat tax for residential property. The Alameda School Board may call that a “split roll” but the California Supreme Court does not.

    Legal flaws in Measure H landed the School District in court. To repeat that same mistake is amazingly stupid. Yet, that is what our School Board has done.

    I invented the concept of square footage taxation when I wrote the Library Relief Act of 1980. I have voted for ALL local tax measures since I came of voting age 40 years ago. I disagree with many of the reasons Alameda’s humbugs have given for opposing Measure E. If Measure E had been written correctly I would vote for it. After all, I have two children ages 10 and 5. But I will not vote for a poorly written tax just so the money can be spent on lawyers. I voted that way once, I will not do it again.

    That is why I am voting No on E.

  • Barb

    What a gracious and heartfelt letter. I agree. Some of the proponents insist upon making this an us versus them. But it really isn’t about my children. I took care of them. It is about THEIR children. They want us to take of their children to the standards set by some less than competent administrators and by those who do not yet fully undestand how poor an education AUSD provides.

    I have to work until I am 66 to retire, yet these AUSD persons are entitled to great benefits, and great retirement at 50 or earlier. Such a deal! Join the rest of the working stiffs. Get a job in the real world, and see how fast you vote for another parcel tax.

  • propubliceducation

    Litigation, yes, the plaintiffs in Measure H will be plaintiffs in Measure E if this passes – AUSD attorneys will be the winners (complimentary of taxpayers). And what happens if the District loses the litigation? Yes, they’re winning at the trial court, but that doesn’t mean they’ll win at the Appellate Court or the CA Supreme Court. By insisting that Measure E be the same structure as Measure H, the Board has made Alameda the test case, and is now asking taxpayers to bankroll the litigation. If AUSD loses, they have to pay back all the taxpayer money which will insure that the State will take over the District. Alameda is not a wealthy district and cannot afford to gamble with our children’s education. There is no “re-do” for Alameda if Measure E is found to be a “split-roll.” It’s gameover, State takeover. The School Board must try again and offer taxpayers a parcel tax that’s clearly not a “split roll.”

  • It’s a real risk that AUSD might be forced to pay back taxpayers on Measure E and Measure H, and of course they won’t be able to, because the money will be spent. Such a situation would force the District into receivership with the State, which is precisely the threat they are using to push people to pass Measure E. Such a huge gamble by the District on behalf of ALL children in Alameda, to appease a small, noisy group of parents.

  • nomoretaxes

    Consolidate schools, eliminate all benefits/stipends/perks paid to the Board of Education, freeze salaries & hiring, add furlough days to existing staff, eliminate all district “executive administrative assitants”, eliminate the “new” District attorney position, excutive pay cuts across the board, freeze capital spending, close Alameda Science & Technology Institute HS (too small), close Island HS (under-enrolled), eliminate all high school courses that are not graduation requirements and/or UC requirements, institute parental fees for all student athletes, existing District employees to be trained to apply for grants, buy used textbooks, ask for donations from Alameda merchants (supplies, food, etc.)………………feel free to add your own cost-cutting measures.

    Will the children suffer if they have used textbooks?

    Will the children suffer if the superintendent’s salary is reduced?

    Will the children suffer if the District executives don’t have personal assistants?

    Will the children suffer if the District eliminates the attorney position?

    Will the children suffer if their parents have to pay a small fee for athletics?

    Will the children suffer if they have to sit in a slightly larger classroom?

    Will the children suffer is District salaries are temporarily frozen?

    Will the children suffer if the Board of Eduction consists of volunteers who are not compensated in any way?

  • propubliceducation

    Island has 206 students (90 from AHS, 105 from Encinal, and 11 inter-district). ASTI has 151 students (42 from AHS, 42 from Encinal, and 67 inter-district). Washington & Franklin each have 287 students; Paden 358; Edison 410; Haight 429; Otis 461; Lum 482; Bay Farm 504; Ruby Bridges 565; Earhart 605. Thus, not all students go to “neighborhood schools.”

    Franklin’s students are 54% white, 18% English Language Learners, 18% free/reduced lunch. Washington 17% white, 43% ELL, 69% free/reduced lunch (highest % of ELL & free/reduced lunch in AUSD). Franklin has the 2nd highest % white (behind Edison at 71% white). Franklin has the 2nd lowest % ELL (behind Edison at 9%). Thus, not all AUSD schools are demographically mixed.

    http://www.greatschools.org/cgi-bin/cs_compare/ca/?level=e&area=d&compare_type=district&street=825+Taylor+Ave.&city=Alameda&district=1&sortby=name&school_selected=16&tab=stud

    P. D-14 Demographics Report. http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/master_plan/demographic_study_final_draft.pdf

  • There are over 400 out-of-district students in Alameda’s schools; the majority of them end up in west-end schools like Washington, Paden and Ruby Bridges. see page 49: http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/master_plan/demographic_study_final_draft.pdf

  • Last I heard, we had more than1,700 Afghani refugees living in Alameda and sending their children to the schools here. No doubt that complicates the outcomes, but the dead can’t speak for themselves. Tell me the truth!

    DG

  • ben

    vote no on measure E lawn signs are availble – e-mail votenoonmeasuree @ gmail.com or see http://www.facebook.com/votenoonmeasuree

  • mom

    I don’t have a solid solution to saving our children’s education, but I do know if this parcel tax passes it’s not going to get better – in fact, my fears are it will get worse (this makes no sense – money is supposed to fix everything).

    When speaking to a AUSD district official, the unnamed, made an unusual statement along the lines that the budget could probably be balanced if everyone took a 10% pay reduction, but even if everyone agreed to these terms for the betterment of educating children – the union would not allow it, so I ran a search and came up with the following. It’s worth viewing! It seems the union could be right up there with the teamsters.

    http://teachersunionexposed.com/

    This is another link to an interesting article in Newsweek, “The Key to Saving American Education” dated March 15, 2010

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/234590
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/234590/page/2

    The supporters are planning a walk through Alameda on May 22nd starting at Edison at 1:15 PM converging on the AUSD offices at 2:PM with signs a plenty.

  • propubliceducation

    East Bay Express had a related article on May 5, regarding Oakland & Alameda having “too many schools” and the fiscal effects. http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/oakland-unified-has-too-many-schools/Content?oid=1725235 Keep in mind, Alameda is physically very small (10.8 sq. miles) compared to Oakland (56.1 sq. miles) and Pleasanton (16.21 sq. miles). Ed-data http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/ shows that Alameda has 10,271 students at 19 schools, Pleasanton 14,847 students at 16 schools (proposed parcel tax for $233/parcel in June 09 didn’t pass), and Berkeley 8,988 students at 16 schools ($21M/year parcel tax). Alameda has a problem – too many schools.

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