Updated: Sat, Apr 11, 2009, 7:23 am
Uploaded: Fri, Apr 10, 2009, 5:58 am
Measure G debate heats up
Opposition maintains low profile, accuses school district of campaigning
Until voters decide the fate of Measure G, a $233 per year parcel tax that would bring in just over $4.5 million to fund specific education programs, the hot topic is not likely to cool off before the June 2 special election.
The Save Pleasanton Schools campaign is in full force, walking precincts last weekend and holding a town hall meeting this past Wednesday in support of Measure G. The group's website boasts collecting $37,200 toward an $80,000 goal as well has having hundreds of names on its endorsements list, which includes several public officials and all five school board members.
The opposition, however, hasn't started a formal campaign, which has made it difficult to gauge how much support they have. Instead, they have used email and online posts on the Pleasanton Weekly's Town Square forum to offer what they call an "informational campaign."
Eight members of the public, including former school board member and City Councilman Steve Brozosky and former City Councilwoman Kay Ayala, have signed ballot arguments against Measure G with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. The web home of the group can be found at www.pleasantonparceltaxinfo.com, which the group hopes to have up and running sometime next week.
Measure G has proved to be a sensitive issue that some claim is dividing the community. Those contacting the Weekly to voice their opposition don't want their names used for fear they would be viewed as opposing teachers, kids and the schools. One such person who feared retribution if he/she were named said it would be better to put campaign contributions toward the schools.
"We think it is irresponsible that the campaign for the parcel tax is planning on raising $80,000 for their campaign when there is no organized opposition," the person said.
Dorene Paradiso, who signed a ballot argument against Measure G, agrees.
"I think, especially in these economic times, it is a lot of money wasted on the campaign," she said. "Donate money towards the schools."
Doug Miller, another who signed the ballot argument, said it's the "wrong tax at the wrong time," adding that the school board and district were irresponsible and hardly looked for ways to cut the budget.
"[Board member Valerie Arkin proposed some [cost-saving ideas, and I don't think the school board gave much thought to those proposals," he said.
Paradiso said her anti-tax stance doesn't take away her support of Pleasanton schools.
"I'm very sensitive to our children and our teachers," she said. "One of my daughters is a teacher and I have two grandchildren in Pleasanton schools."
Miller, who moved to Pleasanton for the schools and whose children have graduated from Foothill High School, said, "I'm against the parcel tax, but I am certainly for good, solid schools."
He also added that the core group of "intensely involved" people in their group is about a dozen, plus another 20 who contribute on a regular basis. That number, he said, is expected to increase as people become more aware.
Paradiso believes the district is scaring people to garner a yes vote.
"The fear they're putting into people, I don't believe that it's necessary," she said. "They are scaring the children into scaring the parents. It's really wrong. I don't believe another tax is going to solve the school district's problems."
Recently, an anonymous document titled "The Real Facts Regarding the Pleasanton School District (PUSD) and the Parcel Tax" has circulated (page 1, page2). It alleges that PUSD has threatened to cut teachers and programs "to create a crisis and force a perceived need for a parcel tax."
In response, on March 24, Superintendent John Casey sent out a memo on PUSD letterhead through the district's "e-connect" responding to the document (page 1, page 2, page 3). He addressed eight statements made in the anonymous document, which the district claimed to be "inaccurate in its presentation of facts." The superintendent's memo was also made available at a recent Leadership Pleasanton Alumni luncheon, where Casey answered questions regarding Measure G.
The memo caused a stir among Measure G opponents, who accused Casey and the district of campaigning. They claimed it was a violation of the California Education Code 7054, which restricts a school district from using services, supplies or equipment urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure or candidate.
Paul Thompson, attorney for the school district, spoke at a special budget workshop last Tuesday in an effort to clarify the issue. He claimed the district has the right to issue factual information regarding Measure G, saying the memo didn't include campaign language.
Casey said the district has an obligation to inform the public of factual and neutral information about the parcel tax the district has proposed. While he acknowledges the potential of gray areas in doing this, he said a group of district employees as well as Thompson review information prior to it being sent.
"We're going to try to stay out of that gray area," he said. "Some people may think [we are in it and we can make adjustments accordingly."
pleasanton unified school district
Posted by Get the facts,
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm
"Get the facts: I wasn't here in '78, but Prop 13 was the wrong solution to a real problem."
- I agree completely, solved one problem but created another.
"That would be the same for Measure G. The "small minority" in our case is pointing out Measure G also is the wrong solution."
- I disagree. This solution puts matters into our own hands, providing a small piece of stable funding. We cannot count on stable funding from Sacramento, this has been proven over and over again.
"Prop 98 also locked up 40% of the state budget and that in turn is causing other problems."
- Isn't locking up funding a good thing? If we had locked up funding, we wouldn't be talking about a pracel tax.
"Nobody can say for certain what will happen in May and what the impact will be to PUSD."
"The state merely, and only, compounded the problems the district caused for itself."
- The district is well run, has never before needed a parcel tax (despite virtually all local communities asking for one), and is willing to look for solutions. But make no mistake, this is a Sacramento caused problem, not a district problem.
"There is still a debate on how much needs to be cut and how to accomplish a systemic correction (a parcel tax is not long term or systemic)."
- There is no debate, we are short 9.7 million, so we need to cut 9.7 mil, or 5.2 with a passed parcel tax.
"This administration is at fault; it did not hold the line on raises nor did they set aside funds for economic uncertainty. They abandoned a goal of a 7% reserve."
- Teachers got a 0% raise this past year. How is that not holding the line? 7% was a goal, it was up to 4.5% (I believe) at one point, but then the econimic skies started falling, and 7% became unrealistic.
"I've spoken with Valerie; I understand her dilemma, particularly because she has been on the board only four months. She offered solutions (and the BAC has asked for a chance to offer others) and was ignored. She, too, must have felt she had no alternative. The recommendation is a one drum solo and rather than suggest real solutions the drum just gets beaten harder and the mic gets turned up."
- She had an alternative, and it was to say no. But she voted yes. She was quoted in the weekly as saying that a PT is still a good thing in that the econimic forcast is no better in the next few years, and that stable funding is a good solution (I paraphrase from memory.)
"Even I would work for a parcel tax after (emphasize)
An in-depth look at the budget by a new auditor
A survey of the all stakeholders about what it values and is willing to pay for or some other method of input by all PUSD employees, parents, and anyone else living in P'twon
All possible cuts are made"
-Let's talk about "all possible cuts". The ed. code requires a district to have a superintendant, a principal for every school, and a teacher for every 33 kids, nothing more. So, we could say goodbye to counselors, music, sports, librarians, CSR, custodians, and everything else. We would save a ton of money and have a 25% reserve! That's not what I want, and I'm guessing it's not what you or most anyone else wants.
" The parcel tax lists specific purchases (X counselors, reading specialists, etc.)"
- It DOES list specific purchases!
" The parcel tax includes no COLAs/raises for the life of the tax (and I would suggest three years maximum). I personally would leave step and column alone, if it is possible."
- The parcel tax DOES include a provision for no administrative raises, and they have already taken a cut in pay. The teachers I can guarantee you are expecting no raise in the next 5-10 years, and have taken a pay cut for next year. The classified staff is also considering a pay cut for next year, and they have already been cut back.
"Pleasanton will continue to attract great teachers because it is a great community with children (as much as kids ever like going to school) and parents who value education. It makes the job more rewarding. Great pay to make it financially rewarding as well is another discussion I hope we can get to some day soon."
- It may continue to attract good teachers, but we are forced into laying off good teachers now! And many teachers cannot afford to live here, hence the large number (58%) of teachers that live outside of Pleasanton.
"(To respond to a subsequent posting of yours: tenured teachers are very costly to remove even when an administrator does the work. It's easier to move the teacher around. It's done. We all know it.)"
-I know it's done, but that doesn't make it right. Do the paperwork and get rid of the bad teacher, you will save money in the long run by hiring a less-expensive 1st year teacher. Please don't complain to the teachers about getting rid of the bad teachers, we don't like them either, but we can't remove them.
To Agree w/Kathleen:
I am a proud teacher in this district, I have never hid that fact. I have issues with the administration on many levels, but not on finances. We have always been known as a well run district, I feel lucky to work here. Let's please stop bashing the district for the problems we have, it's not their fault, look to Sacramento.