Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 5, 2010

Parents find $8M deficit hard to swallow

School district developing survey to learn donation interests, priorities

by Emily West

Pleasanton Unified School District is now preparing to make $8 million in reductions to next year's budget, and parents aren't happy about it.

Amador Valley High School's multipurpose room was packed Tuesday night for the special board meeting, with many of the parents passionately speaking about services and programs they can't imagine losing.

If the option of a seventh period is taken away from high school students, band parents say the successful music programs will likely be decimated. If physical education specialists are cut, others said it would only overwhelm the classroom teachers that would be required to cover the subjects. The elementary schools were also represented by many parents who say the youngest students are facing disproportionate cuts.

Some of the items on the potential cut list include elimination of reading specialists and the Barton program; class-size reduction; counselors; and PE, music and science specialists.

PUSD's projected shortfall was recently upped to $8 million to account for risky assumptions in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget. Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services, said this includes plans to account for $6.9 billion of the $19.9 billion deficit with new, ongoing and unrestricted federal dollars.

The rest of the district's shortfall is based on $1.3 million of one-time dollars spent on programs in the current year, $2.3 million in rollover costs and $3.3 million in decreased state funding. In looking into the 2011-12 school year, they anticipate making further reductions of $1.8 million in rollover costs.

Responding to those who have said to use reserves for this "rainy day" crisis, Cazares said to use the $3.6 million in reserves would be a "delay tactic, not a solution." The funds would need to be replenished and the action could lead to the county having control over the board and district spending, making cuts as they see fit.

Cazares said that the current crisis isn't necessarily an unforeseen "rainy day" whereas like the instance of mold at Hearst Elementary School was unexpected and unforeseen.

Superintendent John Casey told the audience not to panic yet. There is still time to gather funding and save programs, he said, but the board still needs to identify the $8 million in possible cuts to be prepared. The district is currently in the process of developing surveys to send to parents, asking them for their priorities and how much they would be willing to donate to save the programs. Employee concessions are also being considered, he added.

A parent group is said to be forming, with talk of another fundraising effort, similar to the I Love Pleasanton Schools campaign that took place over the summer.

Long-term solutions being considered include developing a foundation and endowment; petitioning changes in legislation, such as changing the majority threshold of a parcel tax to 55 percent instead of two-thirds; and a parcel tax. The Budget Advisory Committee has also created specific subcommittees to explore various revenue-enhancing solutions.

Resources outlining the potential cuts, the impact of the previous year's cuts for the 2009-10 school year and a draft of the surveys to parents are available on the school district's website, www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us.

The board's regular meeting is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at the AVHS multipurpose room.

Comments

Posted by NYI, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 5, 2010 at 9:52 am

I don't have children but I'm well aware that providing a quality public education for all children should always be our number one priority. I noted that while Amador Valley and Foothill are among the top 400 high schools in the nation as ranked by Newsweek, their respective rankings have decreased annually from 2003 through 2008. It's imperative to maintain the quality public education that Pleasanton has historically provided.
Based on an estimated population of 66,544, if every resident of Pleasanton pledged $10 a month to the school district for 1 yr., that would raise an estimated $7.9M. If every resident with a household income in excess of $100k pledged an additional $10 per month for 1 year, that's icing on the cake. Although this isn't a permanent solution, it's money from the community paid directly to the schools without any red tape. The majority of the residents can afford this amount and there are significant high income households to compensate for households currently experiencing financial difficulties in the current economy.
At the end of the day, the real salvation of the California public education system requires the repeal of Prop 13. It's not about liking it, it's about dealing with reality. Many states have provisions to prevent seniors from losing their homes due to high property taxes. As the evidence shows, the money for schools has to come from somewhere. Prior to Prop 13, the CA public school system was one of the best in the nation and has been in a steady decline since 1978. Every community in the state should be able to offer a quality public education to its residents.


Posted by Agreed, a resident of Highland Oaks
on Feb 5, 2010 at 11:41 am

I totally agree with NYI, if you want something extrordinary to happen we need to do this.
We can make our schools the best in the country if we support our staff and fund this temporary shortfall.
Can you imagine the positive press for Pleasanton if we were to make this happen? We would all reap the benefits of this community truely being a Community of Character.

You can fight about where the money goes forever. At the end of the day most of the cost of education is to pay for educators. I find it interesting that the overall tone of these blogs is to judge and to assume that the people teaching our kids don't deserve the money. It is a message that these people are likely to feel. How many other professionals in your life do you treat this way? I would probably be correct to say none.

Let's just step up Pleasanton! Solve the problem! If you want change to how the district is run that can still be accomplished without all the bad press and negative energy that is being felt now.


Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I too hope that the community steps up. I think that donations can be a significant part of a solution!

Let's not overestimate what might be possible through individual donations, though. The $8.7 million estimate seems unlikely to me.... "Based on an estimated population of 66,544, if every resident of Pleasanton pledged $10 a month to the school district for 1 yr., that would raise an estimated $7.9M."

One thing to take into consideration -- 14,500 of those residents are children between 5 and 18, very few of whom have independent sources of income. So if we deduct children from the 66K population number, we have 52,000 residents, roughly. If they are all employable (and some won't be, because they're past retirement age or disabled -- perhaps 5%?), and 10% are unemployed that takes us down to 48200 people who are potential donors. So the high end estimate of what could be raised through $10/month from every employed adult in Pleasanton is $5.7 million, not $7.9 million.

Keep in mind that an established annual giving fund at a private college rarely gets more than 30% of alumni to donate. Alumni donations to public universities are an even lower percentage.

A more reasonable estimate of what might be realistically raised over one year's time is between $1.5 and $2 million. That would be a truly ambitious goal for the second such district-wide fundraising push (after the ILPS push last summer). Shooting for $5.7 million is aiming too high, I think.

I'd love to be surprised, though!


Posted by NYI, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I think it's self-defeating to calculate the number of children, unemployed vs employed, disabled, etc. Success comes from setting the bar high and expecting excellence, not mediocrity.
The bottom line is that Pleasanton's median household income is $113,345, the median family income is $131,048. Regardless as to how many children, seniors, or unemployed people reside in Pleasanton, the average household unit behind these statistics can well afford to contribute $10 per family member to the local schools. It's a given that parents would contribute for non-working children. Don't be so quick to short change retirees and disabled residents as they're as much a part of the community as employed residents and aren't necessarily destitute. Those of modest means can volunteer to help fundraise as well. Alumni contributing to a school they no longer attend is not comparable to people contributing to schools in the community where they live and would directly reap the benefits.
"Do or do not. There is no 'try'" -- Yoda


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Keep in mind that those numbers are a 2007 estimate based upon 2000 Census data. We don't know what the estimate is for the years we've had this economic crisis... Census 2010 is coming up!


Posted by nutz, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Remember all that stuff Obi-Wan taught you? Forget it.
-also Yoda


Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 6, 2010 at 2:20 pm

According to the original post, there has been a decline in ranking even with "adequate" funding? Sounds like the problem isn't money.

I agree education should be the number 1 priority, this however requires both the teacher's union, administrators, and the community to put everything on the table and develop a solution tha focuses on the needs of our children - and then focus on their own needs only after determing what is most effective in providing a world class education.

Develop a vision for what education in Pleasanton should look like - with input from the community and teachers, then develop a solution that gets us there - which obviously must include funding. But, if the community can get behind the plan, asking for funding from the community will be much easier.

Personally, I would like to see:
- Year round classes
- Mandatory classroom service required by parents (min # of hours per parent per year).
- Private sector assisted education (i.e. corporations sponsering certain classes/onsite learning)
- Mandatory community service hours required to graduate
- pier to pier tutoring
- "Pay for performance" utilizing a non-union workforce that is paid a base salary with incentives for high performance (metrics not to be limited to test scores).
- Eliminate non educational related services



Posted by Parent, a resident of Foothill High School
on Feb 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm

There's plenty of money to be had from us parents. As parents of school aged kids, I like to see a system of service 'fees' for any and all programs outside the core class schedule. I already pay hundreds of dollars for my 2 kids to play school sports and city league sports. Make us pay more. We're the consumers and when our time is up, the next generation should have to pay. Scholarship opportunities are already in place for families whom can prove they need help. I imagine we'd find out that not many families can't afford a couple thousand dollars a year when it comes to their kids. If you doubt it, look around town at all the disposable money being thrown around. Our Leaders need to put a plan together that makes sense and doesn't put off the problem, year after year.


Posted by Thank you Parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2010 at 9:46 am

Parent of FHS community,
Thank you for taking a realistic view when it comes to funding programs outside the core class schedule.
The schools have provided many extra programs and electives just as we parents have provided extras when our finances allowed us to do that.
The community can contribute to resolving the budget problems by being willing to either give up the extras or find a way to fund them or seek them out within the community.
The schools' responsibility is to provide an excellent academic education and provide the classes required by state mandates. Let them focus on doing that.
One of the comments made frequently last spring was that quality of our schools affects the values of our homes. But what is the yardstick that was used to determine quality - API scores. Not whether our schools offered a dozen different sports teams, or half a dozen different art classes. Academic excellence was the yardstick.
As parents, we need to either fund the extras we want our kids to have or be willing to have the extras cut.


Posted by HonestMom, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Feb 10, 2010 at 10:40 am

HonestMom is a registered user.

Most of you responding are like the politicians in WDC inthat you just don't get it. The problem is that the schools and teachers unions are not willing to live within their budgets in these times of financial crisis. Its always "more, more, more". There is no more to give. Its time for the unions to back off their demands, like the 5% pay increase that teachers will get. When's the last time you giot a 5% increase, bet its been a while. Holdteachers more accountable and cut wasteful and under performing programs. yes it willbe tough, but guess what, its tough times and most failies are having to do with less.


Posted by Another Mom, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2010 at 11:46 am

I agree with Honest Mom that the teachers' unions must consider negotiating step and column and make concessions regarding how teachers are retained. I am not in favor of the seniority system which deprives some of our best teachers of their jobs, and our students of some of the best teachers. It's my belief that the good teachers, whether they be 20 year veterans or only on the job for 2 years, have no reason to fear seeing the seniority system dismantled.
Union reps have at times stated that the unions protect teachers from being terminated by principals who just don't like the teacher. I don't see this happening. Parents value good teachers and would rise up in massive protest if a good teacher was being let go for no good reason.
I cannot understand why the teachers' union does not reduce its members fees or actively research other health insurance options which are less costly.
Parents also must do their part by accepting less elective or extracurricular options for their students.
But I realize that the teachers union may not agree with reducing electives since this means reducing teaching staff on the community's terms, not the unions.


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