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Measure A and Reduced Class Size

Dear Editor,

AUSD argues that it needs another $12 million in parcel taxes, on top of the $73 million per year it already receives, in part to preserve “class size reductions.” They say that smaller classes permit greater individual attention to the students.

But in reality, reducing a class from 32 to 20 students actually cuts a teacher’s workload by 37.5%. more than a third fewer students per class, but also requiring more than a third more teachers to staff a school. And now the taxpayers are being asked to make up the difference.

Most of us paying those taxes did just fine in larger classes, and have been asked by our employers to be more productive during the past decade, not less. How many other “reforms” at AUSD said to benefit the students really benefit the teachers more?

— Dennis Green, Alameda, Former Teacher

38 comments to Measure A and Reduced Class Size

  • hobnob

    I disagree with this argument. Have you seen some of the children/youth of today? They are snivelling, ill-mannered, insolent snots. Not all, but some and that range goes through the gammit.

    With today’s morphed societal rules and behaviors, punishing a student by ways beside detention is about the only way teachers can stop disruptions in classrooms. I don’t know what other methods are currently being used, maybe standing in a corner with a dunce hat?

    With some delusional parents thinking their children cannot be as insufferable as some teacher’s say or that the “disrution” was due to an overly unattentive teacher (insert any excuse)… I think having more students per classroom may be a bad idea.

    If you’re going to have a 32:1 teacher, then the teacher will most definitely need an aide.

  • hobnob

    disrution = disruption

  • Barb

    I think there is a definite difference between the students in Alameda and those of some nearby districts. Which is why I am concerned about all of the out of district students that AUSD spends $180,000 per year recruiting from Oakland to fill AUSD’s empty schools. And the $300,000 once or twice every year for new parcel taxes. And hiring a webmaster, a “General Counsel” and so on. None of these people are in the classrooms teaching. They are overhead. No wonder the district wants more money. They need more supervisors for their overhead and administration.

    I think every parent ought to watch the documentary “Waiting For Superman” before deciding where to enroll his or her child. Take a look at Piedmont where people fall over themselves trying to help pass taxes becasue they have really good schools. And no burdensome administration to detract from CORE eductation. Their parcel taxes go to the students in the form of education. Not for a lawyer to protect the district from parental complaints, or a Board member’s family.

  • James

    I agree Barb’s statement that the school district is wasting the taxpayers money for hiring more administration instead of spending the funds to improve quality education for all students.

  • Karen Zimmerman

    I keep hearing that AUSD brings in students from Oakland, but can someone point me to an independent source? When arguing with Pro A people, “I heard” doesn’t make much of an argument.

    thanks.

  • AUSD has 400 to 500 out-of-district or “inter district transfer” IDT students, as documented by subsequent AUSD-funded demographic studies over recent years.

    And the don’t ALL come from Oakland – they come from cities all over the East Bay. However, their parents don’t pay the parcel taxes.

    They are concentrated in West-end schools – in Encinal High, in Paden, Washington, Ruby Bridges etc. Very few of them make their way into east-end or Gold Coast schools (Franklin.) Wonder why that is?

    http://www.freeppts.net/powerpoint/alameda-unified-school-district-509469.html

    http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/master_plan/demographic_study_final_draft.pdf

  • Karen Zimmerman

    Thanks!

  • See page D-16 and thereabouts in the most recent demographic study. In that section, it breaks down out of district students by each school type – elementary, middle, and high school – and shows that although a number of them do come from Oakland, they come from all over the east bay. More than two dozen cities – I lost count.

    I think, however, that wealthy parents in the east-end and the Gold Coast fear that out-of-district kids are going to be exclusively poor minority kids from Oakland, and they don’t want those types mixed in with their little darlings, so they manage to keep the IDT students pushed to west-end schools. Just look at the demographics of east-end schools.

  • Hotr

    Action Alameda: The reason out of district students go to West End schools is that they have open enrollment, and East End schools do not. They are coming to Alameda because the schools in Alameda are much better than in all the surrounding communities, with the exception of Piedmont, an area with a much higher socio-economic level than Alameda.

    The District receives money from all these IDT students. You seem to be suggesting it is not enough to justify their attendance. But it stands to reason that the District has done a financial analysis upholding the financial efficacy of this policy even given the fact the parents do not pay parcel taxes. Of course, they do pay taxes in their own communities even though their kids don’t go to school there.

  • Yes, but the taxes they pay in their community don’t necessarily flow-through to AUSD.

    The argument against out-of-district kids is that AUSD uses them to keep open brick-and-mortar facilities that should have been consolidated long ago. And they don’t pay AUSD-levied parcel taxes, pure and simple.

    And the irony is that some of them DO come to Alameda schools because they think Alameda schools are “better” – but they don’t get into those “better” schools. AUSD diverts them primarily to lower-performing schools that they don’t invest in to ensure excellent and equitable outcomes for all.

  • Reduced class size is just one of the stated objectives of Measure A designed to inflate the AUSD budget. “Keeping Neighborhood Schools Open” is another. Keeping under enrolled schools open, even with the out of district students imported, is a waste of money. Those schools should have been consolidated long ago, and ironically, under “Plan B,” they would be.

    Governor Jerry Brown declines to present a Plan B Doomsday Scenario because, he says, it would show them terrible disrespect to threaten them with outcomes should tax extensions not pass. AUSD has no such respect for Alameda voters.

    Likewise, Measure A would provide money for “Excellent Teachers,” but with tenure and seniority in place, current staffing, somewhat less than excellent, will remain in place.

    All in all, we get politics and propaganda from AUSD, and very little else!

  • Pepperdine Report on K-12 California Schools

    “In Alameda City Unified [School District], 28% of the FTE teacher positions are in excess of the number necessary to meet the reported average class size…”

    Full Report
    http://publicpolicy.pepperdine.edu/davenport-institute/reports/

    Oakland Education Blog Breakdown
    http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/files/2011/02/Copy-of-Pepperdine-breakout.xls

    AUSD section of report
    http://www.alameda-no-on-a.com/pepperdine-k-12-analysis-ausd.pdf

  • Betty

    Alameda has 9,000 school age children and the AUSD annual budget is 80 million and this tax will increase it to 92 million. How much of this goes to the actual education of the child and what goes to administration?
    My sister is a principle in CA and her school was closed due to the fact the max. students the school could hold was 330 and it needed 360 students to break even. Are these small schools like Franklin in this situation?
    I have a real problem with AUSD because it seems they spend alot of money unwisely.

  • Barb

    During the last school closures, Franklin and Paden were both closed due to the fact that they didn’t break even. Although the parents there were more vocal (as now) AUSD couldn’t show that is was cost effective to keep those schools open. In effect, both receive a subsidy from the other schools, and students at those schools.
    Thank you Action Alameda for the Pepperdine Report and Analysis. It makes perfectly clear that the teachers unions have the most to lose if the Parcel Tax doesn’t pass. Not the students.
    It goes much farther than this. Apparently the parents buy the school district’s spin, hook, line and sinker, without questioning it. The parents are so indoctrinated by AUSD’s “the sky is falling” approach, that they don’t look to the facts such those in the Pepperdine report prepared by real educators seeking solutions.

    Instead of campaign pieces of happy children sitting in classrooms, the Alameda Education Assocoiation should send the Pepperdine Report to every voter so that they know truly what the are voting for: More teachers not teaching, and more administrators.

  • hobnob

    Is that 9000 school age children that are going to the public schools only? Or do they include the children that go to charter schools and the catholic school we have in Alameda (didn’t eve know we had a catholic school in Alameda!)

    At the very least, I don’t think it’s necessary to have 10 elementary schools in Alameda when there is only 2 middle and 2 high schools, the math does not compute… so unless we have a bunch of students going elsewhere for middle and high school, why 10 elementary schools?

    I would have probably approved the tax increase if AUSD was considering closing 1 of the 10 schools…

  • >>Is that 9000 school age children that are going to the public schools only? Or do they include the children that go to charter schools and the catholic school we have in Alameda (didn’t eve know we had a catholic school in Alameda!)
    That’s AUSD. There is St. Philip Neri Catholic School (elementary) and St. Josephs Catholic School (elementary and High school) – another 750 students or so.

    >> why 10 elementary schools?
    Because some parents and AUSD insist that “we must maintain neighborhood schools!”

    >> I would have probably approved the tax increase if AUSD was considering closing 1 of the 10 schools…

    They refuse. Franklin is the smallest school by capacity and therefore the most expensive to operate per seat – when you add in administrator, teacher AND facility maintenance costs. But AUSD Trustee Ron Mooney literally lives right next door to Franklin.

  • NoOnA

    Barb, what is this new Alameda County Schools $180 parcel tax??????? Is there a website with this info?

  • It’s the New Haven Unified School District in Union City. Union City is in Alameda County, so Alameda County runs the election for it.

    http://unioncity.patch.com/articles/school-board-moves-forward-with-parcel-tax

  • Barb

    It was voted on at the last Alameda County School Board meeting and will be on an April ballot. More than that I don’t know.

    The Catholic schools have a good curriculum, mandatory parental participation and accept children from non-Catholic homes. When the island was divided by high school, Encinal and Alameda High districts, the Gold Coast was required to feed into Encinal. (My Alma Mater). People who value high quality education and had the ability to pay for private, rarely chose to send their children to Encinal. (For example Mayor Gilmore who lives in the Gold Coast sent her children to private school). So children then fed into St. Joseph’s, Bishop O’Dowd and other really good high schools. One of the criteria for getting into these schools, was whether or not the child had already attended catholic schools, and if so, how he or she did.
    Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, Head Royce, College Prep, and a host of other high schools, have many Alameda students.

  • Hot r

    Barb: You do not know what you are talking about. Encinal has ten advanced placement classes and was ranked by Newsweek Magazine among the top 5 percent of high schools in the nation over the last five years (look it up- Newsweek Magazine, America’s Best High Schools) It’s top graduates go to Stanford, Harvard, Brown and all the UC’s. The District has chosen to put every IDT kid there, most special education kids there and most ELD kids there, all of which hold down overall test scores. but Encinal is still a 6 on a scale of 10 when compared to all high schools, and a 9 when compared to high schools with similar populations. It is rated much higher than all the feeder schools it serves. Therefore, that school is doing it’s job.

  • Barb

    Read the whole article. Newsweek compared public high schools, not private. Apples and oranges. Not a true comparison. Encinal has always had some students go to Stanford, the UCs, etc. But when one compares O’Dowd, or College Prep, Piedmont, it is not just the top 5 – 10% that go on to a great college education, it is 95 – 99% of the entire student body. So why the need for a parcel tax for Encinal? I graduated from EHS, but did not send my children. I wanted them to have a better than 5 -10 % chance at a great education. So they went to a great private high school and had 100% of success in college. Mayor Gilmore also chose to give her children the chance at 95% -100% of success from private schools. Not EHS. Hot r you can preach to the sun goes down, but you are never going to convince some parents to accept what they perceive to be mediocrity for their children. Maybe there is some other reason the Gilmore children chose to go to private school? Any ideas why they would turn down a free high school education from Encinal with 10 AP classes? My personal experience may be dated, but it seems that times have not changed that much.

    AUSD and its administration/promoters talk a good parcelt tax game, but until you can convince the Mayor to send her children there, you cannot convince others. It is fine to endorse the parcel tax as she has; but is still doesn’t make AUSD’s schools good enough for her children. She’ll gladly pay the tax as long as she doesn’t have to send her children there.

  • Anon

    Hot r: For those of us who aren’t AUSD administrators, what are IDT and ELD kids? Some kind of special young goats?

  • IDT = Inter District Transfer – kids who attend AUSD schools but don’t live in Alameda. a.k.a. out of district students

    ELD = English Language Development – kids for whom english is a second language. a.k.a. ESL

  • Hotr

    Wrong again Barb:

    In Encinal’s open-enrollment Advanced Placement Program where students receive college credit for passing national exams, 432 AP exams were taken by students in May of 2010. 44% of those tests received a 3 or higher (college credit). 30.5 per cent of the senior class received a 3 or higher on at least 1 AP exam during their tenure at EHS. The state average is 22.3 percent passing rate, placing California 4th among all states.

    And your private school educated child went to what college? You should have saved your money. Encinal is well worth the parcel tax money.

  • Hot R, as usual, exaggerates and distorts the truth. While I’m sure Encinal High does okay compared toother public high schools, that’s not the point. They graduate far fewer of their students than O’Dowd, and far fewer of those who do stick it out go on to a quality college or university education. When I taught freshman English Lit at UC campuses, the public school graduates were far less prepared in composition and critical thinking than their private school graduate peers.

    That’s when I first realized that public high school English teachers are, more often than not, a real drag on their students’ learning. Could be their training, could be managers like Hot R, who think they know it all and pass that arrogant ignorance down through the entire system.

  • Hot r

    We both know you saw the students who did not take AP English Dennis. You undermine your own argument.

    O’Dowd costs $17,000 a year plus a mandatory contribution and significant parent time. the reason so many graduates go to 4 year colleges is because their parents went to 4 year colleges not because of anything magical that happens at school. The same cannot be said about AHS or EHS where many students are first in their families to go to college. That is one of the most exciting things in education for even old warhorses like Barb and Dennis. Argue we have too many elementary schools instead…

    Exeter Academy in Massachusetts sends 40 percent of it’s graduating class to Harvard.That makes O’Dowd look like chopped liver. So what? The point is that both AHS and EHS do a good job of preparing students for college and the community should continue to be proud of it’s high schools. If the point of high school is to get students ready for college, as opposed to making social connections, then AHS and EHS and ACLC do a fine job.

  • Once. Again, Hor R lies and misrepresents, not a kudo to his already tattered reputation. He knows that all of the students I taught at UCSB, Westmont Baptist College, Hayward State and UC Berkeley had all taken the AP English exam, and that a majority of those graduating in the top 12% of their class from California public high schools flunked the English composition entrance exams. Not a great recommendation for either them or the AP exam!

  • Mike

    Hot R means depends on family history. If the parent did not go to 4 year colleges, the child doesn’t qualify to go to the 4 year colleges. Do you have study statistics to show that? Do you denigrate those students whose parents didn’t go to 4 year colleges?

  • Hot r

    Dennis- there you go again… students who score at least a 2 on the AP exam do not have to take subject A classes like the one you taught so long ago. and students at Westmont Baptist ( very prestigious) and Cal State Hayward are not in the top 12 percent nor did they take an AP exam and end up there. You really don’t know anything about advanced placement.

    Mike- on the contrary, I venerate the students who excel and overcome family circumstances, but you have to admit it is much harder, and will become even more complicated if the parcel tax doesn’t pass.

  • Hot R, don’t go quoting Ronald Reagan. I once rode an elevator with him, and you’re no Ronald Reagan!

    I take many classes besides Subject A, students who had taken the placement courses and passed. They had also been required to take the English Composition Entrance Exam at Cal campuses, even if they scored high on the APs. So you’re the one who doesn’t know Jack about placement and entrance exams.

    And even in advanced freshman English classes, I could tell the public school graduates from those who had gone to private schools, and were far better educated on the whole. Nothing they couldn’t overcome. I graduated from a public high school, struggled my first year and eventually excelled, so it can be done, weak teaching can be overcome!

  • Correction: “I taught many classes besides Subject A…”

  • Barb

    The catholic schools such as O’Dowd, St. Mary’s, the Chinese Schools, the Christian schools and home schooling all do better for children in general than public education. They are worth every penny. Another parcel tax for a dozen more AP classes at every school won’t raise AUSD from the mediocrity in which it is mired.
    It has too much plant, for too few students. Way too many administrators and too much overhead. General Counsel? Webmaster? Sadly not a joke.

    Teachers and administrators work can retire at 50. Their medical and dental are paid. It is time to close a few schools, consolidate and focus on CORE education.

  • Hot r

    I’m not sure why I take the time for this, but this is from the Cal website…

    A score of 3, 4, or 5 on the English AP examination satisfies the university Entry-Level Writing (Subject A) requirement.

    Once again, There you go again…Are you sure you were an instructor?

    and Barb, what alternative universe do you live in? Only police and fire get deals like that. Teachers and administrators have had their medical costs go up so high they are making much less money than they made 5 years ago.

  • Ah, there YOU go again, Hot R, quoting bogus statistics. 99% of California public high school graduates have to take the Subject A Entrance exam at UC campuses, so you’re talking about the rare, stray duck. And of those who take the exam, the top 12% of their classes, 66% fail the exam and have to take Subject A, remedial English composition. Yes, I was a very successful lecturer at UCSB for ten years, and a lot more useful than an AUSD top administrator like Hot R, with all his useless propaganda!

  • joel

    Children! Children , Please pay attention indeed Mr Green is right as my kid went into the UC system and faced exactely what Mr Green described ,Money do not buy education plain and simple. Money does not buy intelligence , money buy food for thought.
    I always have a kick of peoples quoting “celebrities” can anyone list R Reagan achievements beside B movies and breaking the UNIONS, well his first one was to train Bin Laden , the Berlin wall fell on it’s own Reagan had nothing to do with it , Since 1967 in the Hospitality industry I had the task to host Leaders fromm all over the world , one fact was always consistent with the fearsome Soviet , they were afraid to sleep alone in their luxurious suite and always dragged down their matress in the lobby to be together much to the secret services dismay , {Reagan had nothing to do with it period he was still trying to be a B actor}.
    As far as the taxes AKA measure A it is like drug more they have mopre they want , sdadly the Alameda Power and Telecom blew 10 of millions of dollars my understanding 150 , no one ever questioned their operations , nothing is different with the AUSD they are accountable to no one and the first to suffer are the one in most need the Teachers . NO ON A IT IS A FRAUD ./

  • According to former city council member Frank Matarrese, Alameda Power & Telecom lost $90 million. That’s why I worked to prevent their conversion from “Bureaunof Electricity.” I’d seen their business plan. Most of those millions are tied up in the courts in lawsuits by bond investors who say they were lied to, but eventually we ratepayers will make up the millions in losses because of insane decisions by the PUB, unfortunately approved by a margin of 250 voters.

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