Millions of dollars in cuts made last year to the Pleasanton Unified School District budget are now being felt and parents aren't happy about it.
Citing concerns over large class sizes, fewer classes being offered, fewer counselors, unclean facilities and the overall quality of Pleasanton schools, some parents formed a group to do something about the problem of state-funded education. While the group doesn't have a formal name or website, they have been hosting informative presentations on educational funding in hopes to educate parents and the community.
Having raised the concerns to the district, the school board recently scheduled a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 5 to be held in the Amador Valley High School library, located at 1155 Santa Rita Road. There they plan to discuss the budget and seek public input on alternative funding sources, as well as possibly approving a memorandum of understanding for California's Race to the Top.
"The outlook for state funding for education is likely to be dismal for some time," said parent Teri Banholzer, who is a member of the group. "There is a need for Pleasanton to decide if they are willing to sit idly by until Sacramento gets it right and rescues public education or are we willing to take an active role towards finding an alternative source of funding to maintain the high quality of education in Pleasanton."
Members of the parent group say they are not solely suggesting another parcel tax on the ballot, nor are they asking for any money.
"We want people to be prepared," said parent Barbara Kirk, adding that before becoming involved she was 'woefully ignorant' on state funding for schools. "We want dialogue and input. Many people may thing [the presentations are heading towards a parcel tax, but there are other options as well."
While they want to inform people that some solutions aren't possible -- such as taking money from the capital fund, adding sales tax in Pleasanton to cover schools or a usage tax -- that there are other ideas like a big foundation. While this and many solutions won't help in the short-run, the group said they simply wish to get ideas for alternative funding.
"At this point, we are really trying to raise awareness," Banholzer said. "We want to make everyone aware of what the actual cuts are that have taken place at each of the schools."
This effort follows two earlier efforts this year, the Save Pleasanton Schools campaign for the parcel tax and the school fundraising campaign I Love Pleasanton Schools which followed the failure of Measure G in June. With a goal of bringing in $2.8 million over the summer, the ILPS fundraiser collected $463,379 that was put towards counselors, elementary strings and band, and reading specialists. The school board also agreed to delay a payment in order to bring back counselors.
Kirk said that most people don't realize that the programs supported by ILPS won't be supported next year, since the one-time dollars were already spent.
Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services for PUSD, has said that the Legislative Analysts Office has predicted a 20-billion shortfall in the state budget, meaning further cuts to the school budget are very likely.
Critics have said that any other effort, be it a parcel tax or fundraiser, would suffer the same fate as Measure G and ILPS.
Those involved with the Measure G campaign said the number of "yes" voters don't necessarily reflect the number of people willing to support Pleasanton schools. They said about half of the supporters didn't show up to the polls because of confidence it would pass.
"I'm not discouraged, I'm more invigorated," Kirk said. "I feel there is more energy and more ideas flowing now."
Depending on the Jan. 5 meeting, the school board has said it may consider making these meetings monthly, with updates on the school budget.
As far as the board's support for going forward with a parcel tax, they expressed the desire to debrief and figure out what would need to change in order to garner support from the community. Board member Valerie Arkin said she wanted to survey the community, although the online surveys wouldn't provide extensive and accurate feedback. Her desire is to learn more about the people in between the extremes and figure out what's holding them back.