http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2012/03/16/pleasanton-pta-stumps-for-our-children-our-future-initiative


Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 16, 2012

Pleasanton PTA stumps for Our Children Our Future initiative

Could send $12 million to district by 2013-14 school year

by Glenn Wohltmann

A petition drive is under way at Pleasanton schools that could secure funding for schools across the state for the next 12 years.

Twelve PTA members, some with their children in tow, met March 8 with members of GroundWorks, the company hired to help push the measure, to discuss getting signatures for the initiative, called Our Children, Our Future. The measure would bump taxes and put the money for schools into a lock box.

"We've lost counselors, vice principals," said Jodie Vashistha, president of the Pleasanton PTA Council who attended the meeting at Round Table Pizza on Main Street. "Some of our schools have no vice principals for 700 kids. We have an increase in mental health issues and no counselors."

The initiative would create a dedicated fund that can only be used to benefit public education, and focuses on investments designed to improve academic achievement. Neither the state Legislature nor the governor could divert the money from schools, and control over spending would be local, with school boards deciding where the money would go based on requests from the schools themselves.

"This is a 12-year initiative, so we wouldn't be cutting back every year," said Lea Grundy with GroundWorks, who is also a member of the Berkeley PTA. "The advantage of doing it for 12 years -- that's a generation of kids."

That, Grundy said, would allow districts to measure the total effect of the legislation for kids who enter first grade at the start of the funding and are graduating when it ends, adding weight to a move to bring back the measure for another 12 years.

"The time is now. We have a chance to do it," Grundy said, explaining that this year, with a presidential election, would bring the greatest voter turnout and offer the biggest chance to pass the measure.

"The goal for Pleasanton is 50 signatures per PTA school, so that works out to 400," said Sandy Piderit, also with the Pleasanton PTA Council.

Supporters say Our Children, Our Future could raise $10 billion a year by raising income tax rates on a sliding scale from .04% for some families to 2.2% for multimillionaires. The Pleasanton Unified School District would get more than $12 million in the 2013-14 school year, more than $21 million by the 2017-18 school years and more than $29 million by the 2023-24 school year. A searchable website at http://ocof.advanceproj.org shows how much each school would get.

The initiative would also limit the use of the money that could go toward administration, with 1% dedicated to administrators, and would specify that the funds could not be used for increased salaries or benefits.

Over the first four years of Our Children, Our Future, 60% of the funds generated would be added directly to the budgets of individual schools. The remainder would go toward other things, including paying down a portion of the state's debt.

The initiative is one of three school funding measures that could make the November ballot. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed increasing sales taxes and income taxes to support schools among other things, and the Courage Campaign would raise taxes for millionaires to do much the same.

The state PTA is hoping to change that, according to Piderit.

"The president of California PTA has met with the governor several times to try to work with him on consolidating measures, but we feel like this is the best possible measure," she said.

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