Rent Increase Survey

Have you submitted your latest rent increase data to the rent increase survey?

More Reform Equals More Money

by Dennis Green

Listening to President Obama talk about education in America, I am delighted. He gets it. At one point, he says, “It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. It’s more involvement by parents, but it’s also better schools. It’s more reform, and it’s also more money!”

We have been told over and over again that no reform is necessary, that our schools are already excellent, and just need more money to stay that way. In other words, another parcel tax to protect the status quo. As if no reform in education, and in our local public schools, is needed.

What they mean, when they say no reform is needed, is that teachers shouldn’t be, and CAN’T BE held accountable, that their performance can’t be evaluated, especially if those evaluations are based even in part on student test scores. Teaching is a mystic art.

Why, then, are members of every other profession held accountable? Lawyers are disbarred for poor or fraudulent performance, physicians lose their licenses to practice. U.S. Generals can be asked to step down. Besides teachers, who have tenure and the protections of seniority, only fortune tellers and herbal healers stand outside the law of evaluation.

In any school district, the Superintendent and other administrators, including principals, along with the Trustees of the school board, are responsible for managing the budget, and the teachers. If students do poorly, if low proficiency scores are common to any one school, or throughout the district, those managers must be held accountable. See AUSD proficiency scores:

Two of those AUSD Trustees — Mike McMahon and Tracy Jensen — are running for re-election in November. Both of them were instrumental in failing to anticipate or do contingency planning for a falloff in funding from the State, both supported the inclusion of a back-up plan to increased funding in the Master Plan, “Plan B,” a litany of doomsday scenarios, and failed to take any steps whatsoever toward serious economies, layoffs or reforms.

But even worse, both of them supported Measure E, an ill-conceived school parcel tax proposal that was unfair on three levels: 1) a regressive tax to homeowners, billing a small, humble cottage on the West End the same $659 per year as a McMansion in the Gold Coast, 2) exempting seniors in an effort to win their supportive votes for a tax they would not have to pay, and 3) putting most of the burden on businesses, (for many, nearly $10,000 per year), but capping the tax to shift the burden away from the larger and more powerful corporations that might fight back.

Moreover, they both approved language in the initiative which made no commitment whatsoever to what those new taxes would be spent on, ($14 million per year in the face of a $7 million deficit). The new budget, even in the wake of Measure E’s failure, preserves scheduled salary increases for teachers, the Superintendent and nearly 20 other administrators making over $100,000/year. All this for a school year shortened by five days.

There comes a time in every democratic society when it’s just “time to throw the rascals out!” If we re-elect these obviously incompetent school board Trustees, we are saying we don’t really care about our students, or their educations. Another school parcel tax will be proposed soon, and the only way we can even consider passing it is if we change the management at the very top. Re-electing them means voting for the status quo, and no reform in our schools.

18 comments to More Reform Equals More Money

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ActionAlameda, alamedans. alamedans said: ActionAlameda: New post: More Reform Equals More Money #94501 #94502 #Alameda: […]

  • Smart voter

    What does the President of the United States, Governor’s, Mayors and many elected officials all have in common? “TERM LIMITS”. Why not school board trustees also. Both Jensen and McMahon have been on the board for the past eight years and we have seen no improvements in the Alameda school system. Mike McMahon managed to put three of his relatives on the AUDS payroll, which I think is unethical. He should step down, there are plenty of qualified candidates out there. We need some new people with new ideas and the courage to reform Alameda schools.

  • Hot R

    There you go again…

    How is your math Dennis? The school year has been shortened due to the parcel tax not passing, AND your forgot the three days at the start of the year cut. That means teachers will not be paid for those days too. Therefore they are making less than the previous year. This is contractual.

    The scheduled salary “increases” you referred to are less than the amount of money lost due to the shorter work year. You can look it up. It is not a lucrative profession.

    How about the 75 teachers who were laid off when class sizes were expanded? Did you forget again? That also means teachers were the first to go (and to suffer)in the cost saving measures. That means those teachers are making nothing. It is very doubtful they will ever be hired back.

    Do you have a source for your claim there are TWENTY administrators making $100,000 per year? They are also forced to take furlough days. Please enlighten us if you can substantiate your claim.

    Do you claim that McMahon illegally obtained employment for his relatives by improperly using his position? If so, please cite the Ed. Code section or Penal Code section you think he violated. Otherwise it is really time to shut up about this.

    Oh, and which teachers do you want fired? All the ones at certain schools? Which schools are those? In your opinion, are there good teachers at poor schools? Are there poor teachers at schools with high test scores? If all the highest test scores are in the East end of town, and all the lower test scores are in the West end of town, does that really reflect that the West end teachers are all of poor quality? Or is that the result of socio-economic factors? According to you, the best teachers in the state must be those Piedmont and Atherton teachers, right? They must be teaching the hell out of those rich kids!

    So is it really just about test scores? You taught dumbbell English. Was it really your fault when students didn’t get it? In your other class if every single student did not go on to a stellar career in advertising, would that have been your fault too? Isn’t improvement an issue? If it is just about test scores you have cited in your “article” who will teach at lower socio-economic schools and risk being fired by Superintendant Green?

    And I am NOT apologizing for teachers. There are poor teachers. You must have had a few. You can’t reason or do math.

    I notice that nowhere in your article do you mention actual “education.” When you say “reform” what you mean is voiding contracts. And all this time I thought you meant smaller class sizes, experiential learning, more field trips and community involvement, more money for technology, merit pay for teachers, longer school days like the Japanese, and additional online learning opportunities. But wait, that would cost MORE money than the parcel tax you previously opposed.

    This time, instead of your usual response about declaring “war” or silly attempts to insult your one reader, why don’t you answer the points one by one?

  • Okay, Hot R, against my better instincts, I’ll take your bait, an old, moldy worm on a hook.

    I’m ready and willing to support a potential parcel tax initiative from AFT which would raise as much as $19 million a year, far more than the pathetic and unfair Measure E, for “Excessive.” And it would be fair, which you don’t seem to care about in your twisted value system.

    Yes, there are good teachers everywhere and bad teachers everywhere as well, because of tenure. And without a system of evaluation, we’ll never know. Yes, I support merit pay, and money for lots of things, including Virtual Classroom enhancements, but not reduced class size, which is bogus, or smaller schools, which is more of the same. I would also support major reforms in the teaching colleges, and under “Race to the Top,” we would in California at least be able to track which students do best, who their teachers are, and which teaching colleges they graduated from. Do you want to diss that too? The Governator begged Arne Duncan to approve California’s bid for funding, in spite of the teachers’ unions opposition to any reform. Are you with those partisans on that? I’m trying to figure out where you’re coming from, because half the time you sound like a Snark and the other half begin to make a little sense.

    I’ve bailed on the comment threads for “The Island” and “Blogging Bayport” because of how toxic they are. You’re one of the few commentators who brings that same attitude onto AAN, and I wonder why? Why are you so angry? Why so protective of the schools? I’ve been very clear about the reforms I support, such as elimination of tenure and seniority rules, merit pay, teacher evaluation and firing these two Trustees. Where are you? What are your proposals for improvement? If you have none, you don’t have to “Shut Up,” but you might tone it down a bit, as befitting a bloviator without ideas of his own.

  • Barb

    It is actually Government Code Sec. 1090.

  • Betty

    I think the parcel tax is a bandage. They keep putting bandage upon bandage.

    We are all in this together and the school system needs to deal with it instead of asking for more money. My sister is a principal in Ca. her school was closed because it did not break even.

    If the school board starts doing what it should I’ll vote for a parcel tax.

  • Barb

    If the school board started doing what it should, it wouldn’t need a parcel tax.

    The School Board thinks it is sacrosanct. It is not. Only 12% of households have children in public school. Wait until they need to call the police or fire, or use Alameda Hospital.

    All the public “servants” who have been given deluxe treatment due to their sympathetic nature and bargaining strength are forcing municipalities to make tough choices. (If you thought Oakland was unsafe before, wait until you see the effects of laying off 80 officers.) We can’t afford to keep current employees due to the unfunded retirements of retirees. The trickle down of the economic crash of the rich is turning into a tidal wave/tsunami on the working class.

    Add to that the unfunded annual billion dollar subsidy needed for “mass transit” to maximize profits for developers and none of us will be able to die or retire in peace. We will have to keep working and paying taxes forever. Even from the grave.

    Maybe after Ann Marie Gallant cleans up our City finances, (and gets a non-profit up an running to redevelop the Point) she can take a look at AUSD and tell them what to do. We have been doing it for years, but their well paid administrators just don’t seem to hear, listen or care.

  • Hot R

    Barb-so what if 12% of households have kids in schools? It is likely only 2% of households ever call the fire department, or use police services… I’ll bet only 1% use the Alameda Hospital…so?


    Here’s a few ideas…

    Freeze the teacher salary schedule – there should not be guaranteed raises no matter what happens with the economy or funding. But use the money “saved” to reward good teachers and retrain those who need help. Good teachers need to be paid more not less, and teachers need incentives too. What we really need is a state wide teacher salary system. Why should a teacher employed in Pleasanton make more than one in Piedmont or Alameda? Why should Alameda have less to spend per child simply because a Navy Base closed?

    Test scores are one only one part of judging teacher effectiveness. But most experts call for judging them over a 3 year period, and then only when factoring in for student levels before getting that teacher, so as to accurately track growth. But I also think that there are so many other things that a good teacher does – inspire, counsel, console, advise, recommend, and model… To factor in these items we have to go to a student, parent, peer and administrative review too. I still think that leaves good teachers vulnerable to removal as a result of parents or students who don’t like women, homosexuals, minorities, free thinkers, certain controversial lessons, or those using unconventional methods. That is why teachers still need unions.

    Lengthen (not shorten) the school year – at least as long as the Japanese model. That means paying teachers more. But add a much longer community service component, requiring high school students to do at least 30 days of community service in their field of interest every year.

    Bring in mentors (like yourself and Barb) to help students find career choices. School is not just about education, but about opening up a world of possibilties. Seminars, job-shadowing, field trips, modeling – all these things build a bridge between education and the business community. Alameda should be a beehive of activity welding strong relationships between students and our community.

    Make sure all schools are funded equally. Currently, the schools on the West End get the same amount per child, but the schools on the East End get tens of thousands of dollars more from PTSA groups, auctions, golf tournaments, donations and art shows. This is patently unfair, as this money is used to buy computers, technology, teacher education, fund field trips, buy supplies, and the like. Require the District to fund all schools equally – accounting for “extra” funds or better yet, mandate that all funds raised by any booster groups go to Alameda schools to be distributed equally, not to a specific school.

    We need to dedicate money to keep our pre-school programs as well as our Advanced Placement programs regardless of economic conditions. Kids deserve a good and equal start, and we need to maintain excellence at the top. Currently pre-school programs are on the chopping block, and Advanced Placement classes have been cut due to class size requirements.

    Class size reductions should be retained in elementary school. Studies show that if you can’t read at grade level by 4th grade a student never catches up. That is a community responsibility. In middle and high school we need a system which would encourages college students who want a future in education to come in as aides in the classroom to help grade papers, tutor and conduct seminars with students to help harried teachers with large class sizes. We must find the money for stipends for these volunteers.

    Make much larger use of online classes. Each student in the AUSD should take an online class. This will prepare them for college, where there has been an explosion of online classes. However, these classes need supervision, and should be taken at school until a student demonstrates responsibility.

    Keep tenure and seniority, but require a much larger continuing teacher education component as a condition of retaining seniority and tenure. All teachers should know 21st Century techniques to use in the classroom. This has to be paid for by the District – better yet by the State.

    And I actually like your idea about tracking excellence from teaching colleges…

  • Hot R – the difference is that residents pay taxes for the fire and police departments not for their actual use of those services, but to have those services available in case they are needed. That’s a lot different from the school system – somebody who doesn’t have kids, or whose kids are grown, doesn’t receive a benefit from paying their school parcel taxes for the sake of having the schools available should there be an “emergency.”

    The affluence disparity between east-end and west-end schools is easily solved – consolidate schools so that we have a better mix of income classes in all schools, instead of schools in either one of two extremes. It’s hard to understand Hot R’s and his union’s objection to consolidating schools. Consolidated schools don’t necessarily mean reducing teacher head count. Money saved on facilities and admin overhead could go to keep teachers employed.

    And sure, run school year-round, and have teachers and admins work a full-year like most people. Those expensive fixed assets (schools) are idle for 2 months of the year as it is now.

  • Hot R

    Sorry Alameda – that is not a logical argument. Twelve percent currently have kids in school, but remember that number is constantly changing and rotating. The parent today with kids in school, is the grandparent of tomorrow, or the uncle or aunt of nephews and nieces in the public schools. In addition the majority of residents in Alameda attended public schools in this community or in another. Therefore they have a vested interest in our schools. Public schools promote an educated electorate and prepare students for higher education and employment. If you don’t like our school system and see no relation to property values, then move to Richmond or Oakland where I am sure it will become apparent to you. As a result the schools benefit everyone (even those of you who have never had kids) just as much as police, fire and hospital costs. You get what you pay for, but also what you don’t pay for if you underfund schools. Of course, I am making an assumption you feel some community responsibility toward children.

    Finally, the consolidation “superschools” issue does nothing to address funding disparities – only to make them worse by larger class sizes. And the larger the facility the more expensive it is. The District will actually be forced to spend money to expand current schools just to squeeze more students in. And what makes you think a richer parent will contribute money to help “all” children including those in minority groups or in another part of the city? We will have a radical drop off in contributions when/if your superschools are opened. That is why funding disparities have to be addressed at a District level.

  • Your kumbaya pie-in-the sky argument about “everyone has a vested interest in our schools” falls apart quickly as the amount of the annual parcel tax climbs. Once the cost gets too high, one’s self-interest takes precedence over their nieces or nephews, or fond memories of their own public school days.

    And, you’re making an illogical leap from consolidated schools to larger class sizes. You provide no basis in fact for that. And you provide no basis in fact for the statement “the larger the facility the more expensive it is.” The District has already documented the cost savings from consolidating schools. In fact, that’s what they argue – “If we don’t get more money from the State, or a parcel tax, the only way to save money now is to close/consolidate schools.” Are you saying the District’s promise/threat to close schools next year is an empty one?

    As for “funding disparities have to be addressed at the District level” – how do you propose that the District fix the amount of money local parents give to their PTA? And you missed the point about consolidating schools to better mix low-income and high-income parents within the same school/PTA. If the schools are more socio-economically diverse, than so will the PTAs. Nobody is suggesting that rich parents will give money to PTAs in other neighborhoods, but if the schools are more diverse, then when rich parents give money to their own PTA, lower-income kids will benefit.

    As it is, the District relegates low-income kids to a handful of diverse elementary schools in lower-income neighborhoods, where the PTAs have little money, and other schools with rich PTAs are the province almost entirely of wealthy privileged families.

    The smallest elementary school in Alameda, Franklin, with around 276 seats, is less than half the size of the largest, Bay Farm, with over 600 seats. There’s no justification to maintain this in the face of shrinking revenues. And school capacities should be evaluated both on the basis of with and without the over 400 out-of-district students in AUSD schools. Especially when AUSD actively markets to OOD kids to fill seats left open by maintaining small schools like Franklin.

    Is Bay Farm a “superschool” ? A factory? How to Bay Farm parents who send their kids to such a “factory” feel about other neighborhoods that enjoy the supposed benefits of much smaller schools?

    And yes, we all want good schools, but as Green points out, more money doesn’t equal good schools. Just look at what Oakland spends on schools – it hasn’t made them universally good.

    Let’s face it Hot R, you’re a teacher, probably even a union rep, just advocating your party line here, sticking to your messaging no matter what.

  • Hot R

    Wow – you really hit the nail on the head. “Once the cost gets too high one’s self-interest takes precedence.” What’s the cost of crime, ignorance, prisons and drugs? The answer is lower property values and the spiraling down of democracy. We might debate about the price of an education, but you cannot be making an argument that good schools don’t matter to communities and still be taken seriously…

    “One” of the ways to cut down 10% of the budget is to close schools (if you look at the figures), but that savings is ephemeral, as the schools that remain must be upgraded, and the closed schools must be maintained and insured. Therefore, there will be no savings.

    The “best” or “fastest” way to save money is to cut salary and staff. The District already did that by laying off 1/4 of the work force by increasing class size, and shortening the school year with furlough days both at the beginning of the year and the end. Of course this is a Faustian bargain, as larger class sizes and fewer days in school will negatively impact student achievement. Every industrialized nation ahead of the United States in educational achievement has more school days, not less than us.

    I’m not making an “illogical leap” from consolidated schools to large class sizes. Alameda already went to larger class sizes as a result of the layoffs.

    There is no “active marketing” to OOD kids. They simply come because Alameda schools are good. I would find it doubtful whether your two examples – Franklin and Bayfarm, have any out-of-district kids. Neither is affected by out of town enrollment.

    Alameda does not “relegate” kids to low income elementary schools, as you suggest, those kids live in the neighborhood. Maybe what you are saying is that you don’t like those neighborhoods either?

    Your argument about having a “more diverse PTA” is very unsophisticated. Are you sure you are familiar with Alameda?

    There is no “pro” union line in my arguments. Let’s face it “Action” you’re stuck in your own circular arguments to support your wish that taxes stay low until you can get out and make it someone else’s problem.

  • Hot R, one must really question your reading comprehension or your integrity…

    According to AUSD data, Bayfarm has 1 interdistrict kid, Franklin has 1. Edison, 0, Otis 4, Washington, 30 out of district kids.

    AUSD Inter District Elementary 2009 2010

    AUSD Draw the attendance zone boundaries, so they get to choose which kids in which neighborhoods go to which schools. It’s not just about “[where] those kids live in the neighborhood” but where the AUSD defined boundaries around neighborhoods fall. So the way the boundaries are drawn now, rich, white neighborhoods around Edison, Otis and Franklin schools have boundaries that keep them over-enrolled, with little to no capacity for out of district students, which are not exclusively from Oakland – they come from all over the East Bay – but many of which come from Oakland. So, conveniently, the AUSD boundaries prevent the white privileged schools (Otis: 71% white) from having to accept what is referred to in some circles as “the element,” which presumably means “undesirable” lower-income minority students from outside of Alameda. These boundaries also keep “the element” – and out of district kids – firmly where “they belong” – at the west-end of Alameda, in schools like Washington, Paden etc. Your argument against a “more diverse PTA” seems like an acknowledgment of this problem. (AUSD routinely talks about Washington as a ‘magnet’ school for out of district students.)

    So, yes, AUSD’s discretionary power over elementary school boundaries does relegate students of certain income classes to certain schools and it does perpetuate a racial and socio-economic class divide in Alameda. AUSD’s discretionary power over school boundaries pushes low-income minority kids into low-income Title 1 schools with – which you acknowledge – little PTA money to help, and those kids perform poorly as measured by test scores, graduation rates, college admissions etc.

    As for maintaining larger schools, capital costs to maintain facilities are separate from operating costs to pay teachers, etc. That’s why Alameda taxpayers have “Measure C” on their property tax bills. Money saved from operating smaller schools can shift to the larger schools, and, yes, perhaps some small school sites need to be permanently shuttered and divested. Alameda has too much physical plant as it is. (Or go the other direction – pass a capital cost bond to expand, say, Franklin, to increase it’s capacity, and increase it’s attendance zone as well, to the west.)

    How about a temporary across-the-board salary rollback for administrators and teachers? Why didn’t the District start that process last June, instead of pushing for an outsized parcel tax that ultimately failed? Why not implement temporary salary rollbacks for administrators immediately, to save money?

    At the 100,000 foot level, Hot R, you are asking people to believe that:

    1) Teachers and teachers’ union interests are always aligned with our kids’ interests.

    2) More money for schools always means better schools.

    Not everyone is convinced of that.

    And your specious argument about not passing a parcel tax causing democracy to spiral downward? Please.

  • Barb

    So Hot R is a teacher in the public schools? Makes sense. But not honest or a competent observer. After paying to send my children to private schools, after years in the public system, I still reminisced with their former public school teachers that live in town. It is from one of these great souls that I quote, “The administration building could be shut down for a year and the teachers in the classroom wouldn’t notice.”
    I think Hot R is really Hot Air. There is no benefit to me of the public school sytem at all. It has become a thorn in the side of every taxpayer. Year after parcel tax year. Can’t buy into that specious argument about the schools keeping the property values up. I have Kaiser and don’t use Alameda Hospital. Heaven forbid I need the police or fire department. But I am willing to pay for those services for myself and others just to be there in time of need. I don’t mind AUSD getting its share of the property taxes I already pay. I certainly don’t want to pay any special taxes to a bunch of self-serving “educators” who seemingly only know how to teach about parcel taxes. And poorly at that. They won’t link the parcel taxes to CORE education, demand payment of fees from out of district students, or close superfluous plant. And we have all grown very tired of their ranting over the last years. They have nothing to offer but more of the same sing song whine. “We need more money for our own children’s education. So open your wallets and give it to us”. Everyone I know with real concern about their children’s education has been sending them to private schools, at far greater cost per year.

  • It sure looks like Hot R is a teacher in the public schools, doesn’t it? Maybe even a union rep – see how closely he sticks to his talking points.

    That’s ok, Hot R’s viewpoint is clear – the only solution he approves of is: Maintain the status quo in alameda, keep the number of schools as is, the class size ratios as is, keep the number of teachers in Alameda, maintain job security and tenure for teachers, no real reform of teaching or the school system, and pass another parcel tax just like Measure E to provide more money to do all of the above. We got it.

  • Hot R

    So the President says more parent involvement, more reform, and more money. You seemed to be celebrating it. Are you now rejecting it?

    So here it is in summary –

    AUSD did apply for Race to the Top Money.
    The teachers and administrators and the Superintendant did take pay cuts as a result of furlough days
    Class sizes are larger
    1/4 of the teachers were laid off
    Schools will close next year and the year after
    Each out of district student more than pays for himself/herself with ADA money from the state
    Test scores were the highest they had ever been last year.

    Which part don’t you like?

    Barb with your legal background you should know that the teachers have a contract with the District that can only be amended by a vote of the membership.

    And you are free to reject any connection between property values and good schools, but you would be in a knuckle-dragging minority without economic support. Here is a link which quantifies the connection.

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” ~John Kenneth Galbraith

  • Hot Air refuses to acknowledge that Measure E was defeated for very good reasons:

    1) Totally unfair. Regressive tax. Shifted the burden off the Gold Coast and spread it around to everyone. Hit the businesses much harder than the residents. Businesses have NO “children” in school.

    2) Property values? 55% of voters don’t own homes. So why should we care about property values? Just makes everything else more expensive.

    3) Reform? No reform with tenure and seniority, which both protect the lousy teachers and make the younger, more energetic, often more competent teachers laid off first. That 1/4 of teachers laid off? Probably the best.

    4) Excellence? We’ve been through that. Alameda school proficiency scores are in many instances mediocre at best.

    5) Credit? If teachers can take credit for student successes, they can also take the blame for their failures. Drop-out rate higher at AUSD than the Catholic schools. If he wants to credit the schools and teachers for all the benefits of education, then we have to put the failures, and the costs, of crime, drug use, unethical hedge fund managers, etc. on their debit side.

    We have wised up to the many flaws of the public school system in America, and if Hot Air doesn’t want any real reform, we won’t give him any money either. Watch us defeat the next parcel tax initiative if it’s as feeble and unfair as the last one!

  • ,
  • ,
  • ,
  • Library To Host Creative Writing Workshop For Teens ,
  • ,