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Scool Budget Crisis: Have we really thought outside the box?
Original post made
by Al Cohen, Amador Valley High School,
on Jan 12, 2010
A couple of months ago I resigned from the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) due to a growing frustration that this was an ineffective committee. The assumption I had, after being asked to join by a school board member, is that the committee was in need of parents from the community with business experience. I was amongst several parents with corporate backgrounds that came on board for the '09-10 school year. Of that group several no longer attend meetings or have resigned.
When several parents expressed our frustration with the BAC to a board member, we were told to go to the school board meeting and propose the same issues we had at the BAC meeting so that there was a public record. This recommendation in itself spoke volumes as to the effectiveness of this committee. The reality is that the BAC is given the role of ambassador to the community to carry the message that comes down from the district and the school board. It is given a Hobson's choice of cuts that there is simply no good answer.
In my last meeting back in the fall, I had suggested several potential revenue enhancing ideas to the committee. I had mentioned 1) selling of non-core assets (such as the Neal property in ruby hills.)This is standard practice in the corporate world to refocus your business 2) looking at increasing revenues from the school facility use by clubs and other groups during non-school hours. These were just illustrative ideas since we had no real picture of how revenue is generated beyond taxes.
At that time the mention of a sub-committee for revenue was brought up. I volunteered to join and subsequently never received any info that I had asked for. As stated I have since resigned due to a great frustration with the glacial pace of this committee. Today I spoke with a member of the BAC and he stated that they just decided at the meeting last week to get this sub-committee organized and appoint a facilitator.
I have spent over 30 years in business and 10 years as a volunteer at various school sites in PUSD. The difference in sense of urgency is astounding. I have heard board members state that you can't run schools like a business. I don't particularly agree (that is a subject for another time perhaps), but at least show a sense of urgency when it comes to thinking outside the box. Be open minded and allow non-traditional thinking to be encouraged. Think of different scenarios other than cut expenses and initiate a parcel tax. What would it hurt to convene some business minds and let see if there are things that can be done so we don't have to layoff teachers, custodians and counselors?
We are facing yet another year of difficult choices for the Pleasanton schools. The outlook for the next several years look grim. I encourage all parents to get involved. The schools are paid for by our tax dollars for the primary service of educating our children. My experience at the school sites working with teachers and administrators gives me comfort that they are doing the best they can given the situation. Hopefully with new leadership at the district and new board members, we can get Pleasanton schools back to where we feel that we are giving our children the best education possible.
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Posted by To Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2010 at 10:54 am
"You can hardly blame this entire budget crisis on teacher unions. It is primarily a funding issue."
You are kidding, right? Like I said, Sacramento is a problem and funding issues exist. However, look at the teachers' unions: they negotiate collective raises and benefits, whether a teacher deserves them or not. Step and column is out of control, teachers get too many days off, and if you read another discussion on a different thread, a teacher actually posted their right to elective time off to go on field trips and such. Without the unions, I am sure we would have: less costs AND better teachers.
"Don't you know that Californians, as a whole, contribute LESS as a percentage of their income to education compared with the entire nation?""
But our incomes are higher so our taxes are higher. In fact, look at Texas, where yes propery taxes are higher but there is no income tax. It is all relative. We earn more in California, we pay more for a house. My taxes on my house are 12K per year. Someone in Texas with a much better house will pay that much or maybe even less (even with prop 13 our taxes are high because of the cost of housing here). But in Texas they do not have income tax, in California we do. Texas is not a welfare state, California is. I could go on and on but you get my point, right?
"Also, even though Prop 98 guaranteed a minimum amount of funding to the schools from the state, the schools have been shortchanged for the last few years. Currently, the state is being sued for failing to provide the minimum amount."
I agree. But again, this is only part of the problem. In fact, some districts that do have parcel taxes are going to use that money to pay for COLA and will not fund what they promised their communities in order to pass the parcel tax. COLA will be in the negative this year and there is a reason for that. Districts across the Bay Area are getting ready to cut programs that their parcel taxes were supposed to fund, but step and column will be saved. Now this is a problem!
"Yes, teacher salaries make up the bulk of PUSD's budget, but that is the case for all school districts. Their is a large personnel cost, because that is bulk of a school's "product"--teaching."
Why do you think that is? All that time off, all those guaranteed raises (step and column), generous benefits overall. If we could do without unions our expenses would be lower. If instead of keeping ineffective expensive teachers (my family has dealt with quite a few) who have been here forever and cannot be laid off because of their UNION, we would save money and our kids would be better off. If we got rid of so many elective teacher days off, we would save money. If we got rid of teacher work days, we would save money. If we ended the school years 5 days earlier, we would save money. But guess what? The teachers UNION has to agree and they won't.
"And, no, I would rather have a certified teacher teaching my child, who has passed all requisite exams, not someone who feels entitled just because they have a PhD."
I would rather have the knowledgeable teacher. Have you taken the CBEST? It is a very easy test (I did subbing a while back before going back to work full time in the private sector).
The CBEST is so easy. It does not compare with the GRE or LSAT. The classes the Education majors take are very easy compared to other majors. Teaching credentials, by the way, are very easy to get and many teacher who have all kinds of credentials still DO NOT know how to work with kids, and on top of that, lag behind in Math and difficult subjects (speaking from experience, my kid had a teacher who taught that if you calculated 9+4X10 the answer was 130! When I told her that NO, multiplication comes first, she argued, I had to tell my kid to ignore the teacher when it came to Math)
"And even though San Ramon cannot keep CSR, they may have to go up to 25 (which is what we're at now), rather than 30, which is what we're facing."
Let's wait and see. San Ramon passed their tax for programs, so why are they even talking about cuts? Oh yeah, they too have a union to deal with, and step and column and all that.