What makes this different than a prior year educational "budget crisis"? Schools & Kids, posted by Tony E., a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 9:26 pm Tony E. is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
I think a critical question is what makes this different than a prior year educational "budget crisis"?
1) Simply the sheer amount of the state's revenue shortfall and the rapid pace at which the amount of the shortfall has gotten worse.
2) The state budget passed in February, 2009 actually takes back money that was committed to school districts in the state Budget Act of September 2008.
3) California's revenue continues to deteriorate. As of March 13, 2009, the California Legislative Analyst's Office predicts an additional $8 billion shortfall on top of the $41 billion that the February '09 budget sought to address.
I remember in December of 2007, the state's shortfall was at $14 billion. One year later, in December of 2008 that number was $28 billion. By January 2009, $40-$41 billion. By March, the independent Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) predicted an additional $8 billion shortfall. Our Governor, last I read a week ago, is stating that if the May 19 election initiatives fail (and the critical ones involving extending taxation are polling badly), tack on another $6 billion to that number.
Posted by Facts Please, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 10:06 pm
I can't seem to find the answer and since you are so involved with the schools then maybe you know or can point me in the right direction...what firm did the school district hire to help them with this Parcel Tax and how much is it costing ?
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a member of the Vintage Hills Elementary School community, on Apr 27, 2009 at 10:19 pm
The real cause for the district's shortfall is three years of raises (at the first column first step for teachers, this was about a $7,800 salary increase; at the last column, last step, it was about a $10,600 increase) that the district could not sustain without a growing economy and growing enrollment. They gambled and lost.
The district also spent down reserves rather than trying to reach its original goal of a seven percent reserve. That reserve would give us enough time to work within the community to determine what we value and what additional dollars, if any, we are willing to pay for services such as counselors, assistant principals at the elementary level, and other services.
There are many other examples of mismanagement of taxpayer dollars that show more needs to be done to clean up the district's fiscal house before we provide them additional funding to the tune of $18+ million. There are federal funds coming in the millions. There are suggestions for efficiencies that maintain CSR.
Voting NO now will give us the time to do this right.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 10:28 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
"2) The state budget passed in February, 2009 actually takes back money that was committed to school districts in the state Budget Act of September 2008."
The State budget passed in February also gives some flexibility to Districts in areas where previously they didn't have any flexibility. No one seems to even be discussing these. At the April 7th Board meeting they talked about the new flexibility in using categorical "Tier 1, 2, and 3" funds for general expenses. The State has also lowered the requirement for how much districts must spend on "routine maintenance". In PUSD's Cabinet-identified reductions list on their website, they make mention of how they could have saved $600,000 in "routine maintenance" in a previous year. I wonder how much they will save this year due to the flexibility in Feb's State Budget on that item. Another flexibility item is that the State is allowing districts to access prior-year categorical ending balances. It would be nice to know if PUSD has any excess money in these.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 10:33 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
This presentation from LAO explain the State budget's effect on education funding: Web Link
Here's another presentation from the LAO that discusses options Legislators have with regards to reforming mandates: Web Link The problem in CA is that the State mandates districts to spend money on these things but then doesn't fully fund them. Mandate reform is part of the critical work to reform education funding in CA that needs to be done. I encourage everyone to write to their Assemblymember, especially the ones who are endorsing Measure G, and let them know that they need to get their act together and tackle these large elephants in the room instead of supporting local tax measures.
Posted by more taxes please, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 11:35 pm
C'mon people. Pay raise is a part of every occupation. We need to adjust salaries to account for inflation and what have you. We shouldn't be punishing our teachers and PUSD management just because the economy is bad. Overturn Prop 13 and budget crisis can be resolved. Until then, let's raise more taxes for our schools and our wonderful PUSD staff.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 7:04 am
No doubt Prop 13 was the wrong answer to a real problem. There probably is no willpower to change it though. "Parliament of Whores" by P J O'Rourke is a great read . . . it explains why we are our own enemy.
No one is suggesting that raises shouldn't have been awarded, but giving over 14% in a three year period was more than the district could afford and higher than the San Francisco CPI by a considerable amount. Smaller raises (in addition to step and column increases staff receives as a matter of course) and putting money in the bank was the proper way to reward staff and keep an eye to the future. School funding has always had good and bad years--ask any superintendent. Previous Pleasanton administrations planned for that and handed off a fiscally sound district to the current administration.
The community needs a guarantees about future fiscal policy and action before it votes to give more funding . . . and there are solutions that, at a minimum, stave off the need for a parcel tax at this time. With concrete data and time, the community can determine what it is willing to pay for and at what price. Voting no gives us that opportunity.
Posted by Phil, a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 9:26 am
The entire issue is simple. Expenditures are exceeding revenues for various reasons. In this economy who is getting a raise? There are many reasons for the negative voter reaction to measure "G" not the least of which is the level of poor planning on the districts part. How many of us had 30+ kids in our classes when we were growing up and did just fine. The PUSD needs to do what all businesses need to do to survive and that is to cut costs. Why do we have our own school district with only 2 high schools when Livermore is only 7 miles away with their own school district and only 2 high school. Fremont has 7 high schools with less members in their district office than we do and has one of the highest scoring public high school (Mission San Jose) in the state.
We need to get smarter because tax revenue will continue to drop as more companies and high wage earners leave the state because of high taxes.
Posted by Ann Martin, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Apr 28, 2009 at 2:16 pm
...The problem in CA is that the State mandates districts to spend money on these things but then doesn't fully fund them. Mandate reform is part of the critical work to reform education funding in CA that needs to be done. I encourage everyone to write to their Assemblymember, especially the ones who are endorsing Measure G, and let them know that they need to get their act together and tackle these large elephants in the room instead of supporting local tax measures.
Regarding the above post by Stacey...I agree. We should be writing our state legislators and asking them to reform education funding in California.
Last year at about this time, our local PTA leaders urged us to do this. Many of them pointed out that state cuts in funding would create some difficulties in Pleasanton, but would be nothing compared to what school districts like Richmond and Oakland would face. They often correlated a lack of quality education with an increase in criminal activity and overflowing jails. They reminded us that PTAs speak for all children and we should protest against state budget cuts in education, not only for our Pleasanton children, but the children throughout the state.
One of my concerns with local parcel taxes is that they create a state of have and have nots.
One day our kids are going to grow up and many of them will leave Pleasanton to live elswhere in California. They may have to raise their children in communities that aren't as safe and don't have the wonderful amenities Pleasanton offers. They may have to raise their children in communities where the school districts have been struggling for years - where sports programs and music programs are very limited, there are few AP classes and technology lags behind.
I'd like to see the California Teachers Unions and the California State PTA use their political power and financial resources to demand as Stacey put it that the State "get their act together."
If, as these groups have been saying, the current budget crisis PUSD is facing is solely because of state budget problems, then the focus should be on resolving these problems at the state level.
I don't agree that PUSD's budget problems are solely because of budget cuts from the state. PUSD's budget problems have been exacerbated by the State's budget problems, but the cuts from the State have shone a huge spotlight on PUSD spending and financial planning.
That I believe, is a good thing. Even in a good economy, PUSD should always be monitoring its spending and always be evaluating its financial policies to ensure that our tax dollars are being used for their primary purpose - providing a quality education for our children.
It's been said by many posters that PUSD isn't a private company and we shouldn't expect it to be run like one.
The perks, and some would say excesses of private companies such as bonuses, lunches being charged back to the company, generous car allowances, and cell phones users permitted to rack up thousands of dollars in personal calls - these are also enjoyed by PUSD administration.
Some have said that the total of these expenses don't really matter because they probably aren't enough to make a difference in the PUSD budget. I don't agree. Every dollar spent on non-essentials is a dollar not spent to benefit the schools...it's a dollar not there for teachers to purchase dry erase markers, for the library not to have for new books, and for technology to not be upgraded. It's a dollar not available to hire the people who keep our schools safe and clean, and provide the office support we realize how much we rely upon when phones can't be answered promptly and paperwork is delayed.
I am one person plowing through pages and pages of records looking for ways PUSD can cut expenses and I share what I've learned with PUSD.
But I shouldn't be the one doing this...the PUSD should be going through their budget line by line and identifying the areas where they can make cuts that don't directly affect students' education.
Regardless of what happens at the state level, or the amount of federal stimulus funds available to PUSD, PUSD should work towards putting its financial affairs in order.
I think we should all remember that if want our children and our children's children to lead quality lives in California, we have to think beyond our community, beyond the next few years, and work for and support quality education for all the children in California.
Posted by Get out of the wagon, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm
Logically stated and well done. Thank you, Ann, for doing the work you are doing for this community. The very work the district is not doing. A sincere thank you from a parent, homeowner, and tax payer in the City of Pleasanton.
I would love to see an increase in the amount of people that can do more, because everyone wants not only a solid performing school district, but also one that is fiscally sound. I just wish more of us knew how to go about helping people like you to support reform.
If only we could become an example of fiscal responsibility in our state and show we don't need an exorbitant amount of money to run an excellent school district.
Any ideas on how someone like me can get involved at this point to at least try and solve this emergency in our little town before it becomes a crisis?
Posted by Ann Martin, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Apr 28, 2009 at 2:59 pm
Hi Get out of the Wagon,
If you don't mind emailing me directly (Ann0819@aol.com), I'd be happy to email you PUSD Vendor History Reports I have. I've been going through them and noting the vendors PUSD has used over the past few years, particularly those who have been paid large sums.
That's how I found out that PUSD spent $88K to hire a consultant to help PUSD determine which solar panel contractor to hire.
As I go through the Vendor History Report, I request copies of other consultant contracts and billings and the vagueness of these contracts is an area of concern to me. (for example, one contract simply states "consulting services" but doesn't identify what services are being provided...it is however very specific in regard to how much the consultant will charge on a daily basis!)
I am also concerned that PUSD may be hiring consultants when PUSD staff is available to do the same work. I can appreciate that if PUSD doesn't have someone on staff with the expertise PUSD needs, it may be more cost effective to hire a consultant than an employee. But other school districts have been taken to court for for hiring consultants rather than using employees (San Joaquin School District in 2008) and I don't want to see that happen here.
I'm not an accountant, so it takes me considerably longer to go through records and determine which questions to ask.
So any help going through the Vendor History Report and requesting records from PUSD would be appreciated!
My hope is to identify expenses we can avoid continuing to incur, and by doing that, we can save a few jobs and programs!
Posted by Facts Please, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 3:32 pm
I asked the original poster, Tony, if he knew which firm was hired to help PUSD with the Parcel Tax and how much it cost. I know that you're not an accountant, but maybe your vendor reports show that. He hasn't responded.
Posted by Ann Martin, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Apr 28, 2009 at 4:39 pm
To Facts Please:
There is a contract between PUSD and Lew Edwards Group dated May 10, 2006.
Here's what the contract says are the services to be provided:
Consultant shall, with consultation from Client, provide bond feasibility and communications services related to a potential March 2007 Parcel Tax Measure. Consultant services may include the following:
(a) strategic advice and planning, including a timeline for communications services, benchmark dates, and a project budget;
(b) assisting and overseeing Clients' designated polling firm in the design and implementation of survey research and assessment for Client;
(c) communications services, including - with the input of Client - conceiving, writing and producing direct mail to external and internal audiences;
(d) developing nonpartisan public information materials issued by the District to describe its student support, class size reduction, technology, and curriculum advancement needs;
(e) reviewing the proposed Parcel Tax Expenditure list and making recommendations as to the characterization, appeal or weaknesses of specific funding items; and
(f) working with Client's other professionals and vendors such as district bond counsel or financial advisors in developing a potential ballot question, other voter handbook materials, and a coordinated strategy.
The fee is $37,500 payable in monthly increments of $5,357.14 due on the last business day of each month commencing May 2006 thru November 2006. The only payments I see that have been made are showing (on the Vendor History Report) that they were "last paid 9/24/07" and one payment is for $16,064.28 and the other is $5,357.14. The reports show a last edit date of 6/6/2006. I haven't seen any other payments that would bring PUSD payments to the total amount of the contract.
I will ask PUSD if there are any addendums or change orders to the Lew Edwards Group contract. I will also ask if PUSD contracted with any other companies recommended by Lew Edwards Group to provide parcel tax related services.
I will ask the School Board members if any consulting group, attorney, or vendor has been hired by PUSD to provide any services related to Measure G.
Generally speaking, I have to ask very specific questions to elicit the records I'm looking for. For example, I was curious if PUSD still was paying Lozano Smith, the legal firm PUSD is suing for malpractice.
According to the Vendor History Report, a date of 1/27/09 is shown as the last paid date, but there's also a last edit date of 1/25.05. The amount showing paid is $55,029.54 I thought I could answer my own question by requesting a copy of the contract between PUSD and Lozano Smith.
The contract I received is dated August 1, 2006 and a letter dated June 6, 2007 thanks PUSD for its ongoing relationship with Lozano Smith and indicates that legal fees charged to PUSD will not increase. The scope of work in the contract is whatever matters the Client (PUSD) refers to the Attorney (Lozano Smith).
So I'm still unclear on whether or not PUSD is still paying Lozano Smith, and if so for what.
So I've asked to see the bills submitted to PUSD by Lozano Smith from 2005 to date. When I see the actual bills, I will know what legal matters Lozano Smith has billed PUSD for.
The Vendor History Report is useful in identifying vendors. Besides Lozano Smith, the Vendor History Report identifies the following legal firms: Kinglsey, Bogard Thompson, Stubbs & Leone, and Jon Hudak. However, all legal counsel fees are categorized under legal counsel, not under the issue for which counseling was provided (e.g. special ed, facilities, etc.) So to determine why PUSD was billed, the actual bills have to be pulled.
When I hear back from PUSD, I will post the information, or you can email me directly (email@example.com) and I will forward on to you any information I receive.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 7:43 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Ann Martin wrote: "Even in a good economy, PUSD should always be monitoring its spending and always be evaluating its financial policies to ensure that our tax dollars are being used for their primary purpose - providing a quality education for our children."
Someone in another thread wrote something to the effect that teachers should still get their step and column raises in bad economic times because of all the time and money they have to spend to get the advanced degrees in order to be qualified to teach. I do agree somewhat with that statement (if you put yourself in a teacher's set of shoes you'd agree), but it means that PUSD needs to maintain large reserves to pay for those S&C raises during the bad economic times. Since PUSD did not abide by their own policy, step and column raises are put at risk and should not be off the table. PUSD's financial management hurts not only the community, but their employees.
Posted by Get out of the wagon, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 9:23 pm
Most teachers take a class or internet class over the year or during the summer. I have several friends who took a few of these "classes" to get across the step and column as quickly as possible - darting out of work right at the end of the instructional day to get to "class". While some staff do so to obtain a graduate school degree to not only get over to the bigger money, but also do so to jump to the administrative level where the "big" money is because they will have greater responsibility at the district, there are some that simply do what they need to to get across. There are classes you can attend and as long as you create lesson plans each day, you get credit. As long as you pass with a "D", you get credit. There is really zero quality control over which classes teachers take to move across.
It is all about the teacher and how driven they are. Check out this website
A fair majority of newer teachers go through Chapman because they offer online options as well as local venues for the classes. We have teachers on staff for PUSD who are also Instructors for Chapman.
My point is that, just because the teachers take professional development classes does not necessarily imply we are getting anything as a community for what we are paying for it. The step and column is an incentive for who choose to really serve students and it is a bribe to those who don't.
I guess I am not against freezing the S&C - I just think it should be open to those who are truly doing something with the process. Taking "independent study" classes and lesson planning - what you should be doing in your work year anyway, just doesn't seem worth it when compared to the fiscal situation we are in right now. If someone is actively pursuing a MA in Literature in order to work as an administrator in curriculum development, I am all for it. I think it should be under audit until we have better criteria.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 9:36 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Interesting perspective. One the one hand a salary schedule can be seen as providing incentive considering that the State requires x, y, and z in order to get into the profession, but on the other hand it also tends to reward "bare minimum" effort. I noticed that the Ed Code seems to provide incentive to districts to create other criteria for salary increases in addition to a salary schedule. It would be interesting to create a step and column salary schedule that provided "bare minimum" reward (i.e., smaller increases than what we have currently) and then create some merit pay system on top of that for rewarding excellence.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 9:39 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Someone once sent me a link to one former high school teacher's proposal for a merit pay system that would be fair and not rely solely upon what teacher's fear as a determining factor, "parent opinion". I need to find that again...
Posted by Get out of the wagon, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:00 pm
Just in my experience I can say that I came out of school with a Masters AND a credential. This is an important difference: A lot of teacher's believe because they almost got to 30 units with their credential program, that it is relative to a Masters. It is not and I know from my own educational experience. All teacher's start out the same, because they all have about the same amount of units to graduate from their credential program. It took teachers who came into the district with me only a bit of time to catch up to me in units by taking fluff classes. I mean, they are a joke and the teachers know it and tell each other which ones to take.
I really don't want to denegrade the professional teacher. The dedicated one who really sought out this profession and excelled themselves in their training programs. I APPLAUD those teachers. Unfortuneately, I know first hand how many are not doing their jobs and how many of them went into education because at a lot (not all) training programs the requirements are that academically rigorous. They are not. I took some of my credential classes while I was also in graduate school and it was a stark comparison. Taking the CBEST up against the GRE will give you a little perspective also. I have personally worked with teachers at 3 different districts within the East Bay over 10 years. I am not impressed with the average teacher.
You have to be sure to see the S&C for what it is. In my humble opinion it is a deserved incentive for work well done by dedicated professionals. For others, it is the great secret of apathetic teachers and it rewards manipulation.
Posted by Get out of the wagon, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:21 pm
I forgot to add that if teachers DO conform their classes into a MA, MS or Ph.D, then they get what is referred to as a Masters or Ph.D stipend each year in addition to wherever they fall on the S&C. The S&C basically encourages all staff to take development classes and those that get a higher degree while taking classes then get a 1-2K stipend in addition and that is the incentive in the Ed Code to which you referred.
Some districts also offer incentives if you have a certain type of certificate/credential that they are lacking in a certain area of staffing, like speech paths or psychs, etc.
The Ed Code just lays a foundation and the districts can elect how to build on it, much like the States do with the Federal laws in general.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:26 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
I did notice the stipends in the footnotes on the schedule. It isn't clear exactly what they mean though. Per year? I thought the amounts seemed low. It would be nice to see meaningful incentives presented along with a step and column schedule that didn't reward mediocrity.
Posted by Get out of the wagon, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:44 pm
Wouldn't it? You know, like in the real world? If my husband takes a class for which his company will reimburse him and additionally increase his salary, he better be able to show it in his work performance. Likewise, in my profession, I cannot take classes and get professional credit through my licensure board from the State of California, if I cannot prove it will benefit my students/clients. I cannot simply take a class because I need to fill a hole and then ask for more money.
Again, any teacher who wakes up every day and seeks to improve the educational experience of their students by improving their own understanding and teaching of curriculum should not in any way be offended by what I have said here. They have done their job well and I am proud of them and they should be of themselves, because they are who we are speaking about when we say we want to improve pay for teachers. Education professionals are an amazing group and I have seen them not only educate their students, but educate their fellow employees.
You can read this to mean that if I was a new standard teacher who hasn't taken any professional development courses, I will receive S&C for my years of training and it will be based on units completed.
If I am a teacher that has gone on to pursue and achieve National Certification, I will receive my S& C (based on years and units completed), plus an annual $500.
If I am a teacher, have my National Certification, go on to complete an official Masters or Ph.D, (not just equivalent units in total), then I will receive my S&C for my completed years and units, $500 for my National Certification and another $500 or 650 (depending of MA/MS or Ph.D) annually.
These stipends are low when compared to other districts, but it is relative because other districts may pay a larger stipend, but they get a lower S&C. See this Salary Schedule from another district that is considered a lower SES and you will see a big difference in pay and stipends for advanced degrees.
Posted by Ann Martin, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Apr 29, 2009 at 8:39 pm
To Facts Please
Here is more information on parcel tax related costs.
Memorandum of Understanding between EMC (Evans McDonough Company Inc.) and PUSD dated 5/21/07 for EMC to undertake survey and opinion research for the PUSD.
EMC polled Pleasanton residents for their opinion about a parcel tax -cost to PUSD for EMC's services was $30,600.00
As noted in previous blogs, survey indicated Pleasanton did not support the parcel tax proposed by PUSD. Can't recall the exact amount PUSD was proposing, but recall the tax was for education enhancement.
Specifics can probably be found in PW articles from either late 2007 or sometime in 2008.