Updated: Thu, Feb 26, 2009, 7:30 am
Uploaded: Wed, Feb 25, 2009, 5:24 pm
School board slashes $9 million from budget
Final decision on parcel tax to be made Wednesday
Despite pleas to save positions and programs, the school board officially identified millions of dollars in cuts to balance their budget Tuesday night.
Notices of potential layoffs can now be sent out as the board identified just over $9.9 million to be cut from the 2009-10 budget. It would mean the loss of over 100 jobs for the district. Final pink slips would be delivered to certified teachers by May 15.
Even though the state recently passed a budget, there are still several unknowns keeping the Pleasanton Unified School District from obtaining hard numbers. There will also be other variables from the state on the May 19 special election ballot that would impact education funding. Right now, there is an $8.7-million shortfall in state funding facing the district. It stems from the state deficit of $41.6 billion.
"It could get worse," Superintendent John Casey said. "Not knowing what the bottom is is troublesome."
School board member Jamie Yee Hintzke recently went to Sacramento for the annual PTA conference and was able to share her concerns with legislators. Knowing that the state could continue to cut school funding, she said everyone left feeling depressed about the situation.
School board members as well as educators are urging residents to contact legislators demanding better school funding, as well as education reform.
While no decisions were made regarding a parcel tax initiative, the district said they will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 5 to decide whether to go forward with a parcel tax initiative.
The ballot language draft was also revised: "To preserve educational quality and protect Pleasanton schools from state budget cuts, keep class sizes small, maintain essential reading and math support programs, libraries, counselors, classroom technology, and safe, clean schools with no proceeds used for administrators' salaries, shall the Pleasanton Unified School District be authorized to levy an annual [amount to be determined parcel tax for four years, with guaranteed audits, senior and disabled exemptions, an independent citizens' oversight committee and all funds benefiting our local Pleasanton students?"
Some board members have talked about a tax of about $200, but many speakers at Tuesday night's meeting said they would like for it to be higher. In a notice of public hearing for the March 4 meeting, however, the district said the board will consider the tax "in an amount not to exceed $300 per year." At the same meeting, they would also need to decide the time limit on the tax.
Some new reductions to the budget include Superintendent Casey taking five unpaid days off during the current school year as well as next year. Three employees in human resources voluntarily opted to reduce their salaries--two by 40 percent and one by 20 percent.
The March 5 meeting will be held again in Amador Valley High School's multipurpose room, which is closer to the Del Valle Parkway entrance. The broadcast would not be televised live. Instead, it would be webcast and recorded to be aired at a later time.
Posted by Resident,
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:14 am
Obama, taking on unions, backs teacher merit pay
By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON President Barack Obama embraced merit pay for teachers Tuesday in spelling out a vision of education that will almost certainly alienate union backers.
Educators oppose charter schools because they divert tax dollars away from traditional public schools. Merit-based systems for teachers have for years been anathema to teachers' unions, a powerful force in the Democratic Party.
Obama acknowledged this in his talk to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
"Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though we know it can make a difference in the classroom," he said, delivering the first major education speech of his presidency. "Too many in the Republican Party have opposed new investments in early education, despite compelling evidence of its importance."
But he argued that a far-reaching overhaul of the nation's education system is an economic imperative that can't wait, despite the urgency of the financial crisis and other pressing issues.
"Despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us," Obama said. "The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy, and unacceptable for our children. We cannot afford to let it continue. What is at stake is nothing less than the American dream."
The ideas the president promoted were nearly all elements of his campaign platform last year. He only barely mentioned the reauthorization of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act, which introduced sweeping reforms that schools are struggling to meet without the funding to match. Obama said his administration would "later this year" ensure that schools get the funding they need and that the money is conditioned on results.
Among the principles Obama laid out were:
_Challenging states to adopt world-class standards rather than a specific standard. Obama's economic stimulus plan includes a $5 billion incentive fund to reward states for, among other things, boosting the quality of standards and state tests, and the president said the Education Department would create a fund to invest in innovation.
_Improved pre-kindergarten programs, including $5 billion in the stimulus plan to grow Head Start, expand child care access and do more for children with special needs. He also said he would offer 55,000 first-time parents regular visits from trained nurses and said that states that develop cutting-edge plans to raise the quality of early learning programs would get an Early Learning Challenge Grant, if Congress approves the new program.
_Reducing student dropout rates. To students, Obama said: "Don't even think about dropping out of school." But he said that reducing the dropout rates also requires turning around the worst schools, something he asked lawmakers, parents and teachers to make "our collective responsibility as Americans."
_Repeating his call for everyone to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training, with the goal of highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020.
On charter schools, he said the caps instituted by some states on how many are allowed aren't "good for our children, our economy, or our country."
Obama also spoke at length about what he described his policy toward teachers, what he called an `unprecedented commitment to ensure that anyone entrusted with educating our children is doing the job as well as it can be done." In up to 150 more school districts, Obama said, teachers will get mentoring, more money for improved student achievement and new responsibilities.
Also, Obama said, "We need to make sure our students have the teacher they need to be successful. That means states and school districts taking steps to move bad teachers out of the classroom. Let me be clear: if a teacher is given a chance but still does not improve, there is no excuse for that person to continue teaching."
The president acknowledged that a rethinking of the traditional American school day may not be welcome "not in my family, and probably not in yours" but is critical.
"The challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom," Obama said. "If they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America."
After the speech, Obama stopped at a hotel to drop in on another meeting, an already scheduled and ongoing round-table discussion between Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which involves the heads of education from every state and U.S. territory.
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