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Saving Quality Education

Original post made by Saving the quality of education, Beratlis Place, on Jun 3, 2009

Would it be possible, with the 61% that voted yes on G to start a major fund raising effort to raise the money needed to keep the status quo until the budget crisis is over?

I am not interested in paying more taxes to fund anything additional but I would have paid the tiny tax to maintain what we have.

Since 39% of Pleasantonians are not willing to do that can the rest of us band together and make a real effort?

The 39% will benefit then say that they never needed the additional teachers, small class sizes or libraries but we will know better won't we!

Comments (7)

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Posted by Swami
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jun 3, 2009 at 7:42 pm

That would be great if we can find a way to do so!

Am glad you voiced the idea.

Am willing to pay extra for the high-quality public school education that we would like our kids to have. Willing to pitch in $2K / yr per kid, so am ready to set aside $4K/yr for the next several years.

Would like to see if there is a way to fund public schools from what essentially are private sources. Alternatively we could set up a private network for the aspects of education that may be affected, such as reading assistance, additional science exposure, music and art in elementary/middle schools, and math in high school. This would be especially effective if the public schools could lend us some of these facilities so the locations are convenient for parents, and familiar (and safe) for kids. Don't know if my kids will need any of this, but we need to provide a net for all kids in the community. It takes a village...

For background: we moved into Pleasanton last year, and bought a house in the Walnut Grove area last fall. We are here for the long term and would like to contribute.

Not that things are sound financially at my end - I have shutdowns at work a week every month, so we had to pull my son out of pre-school. But spending on our educational infrastructure is worth it. This would be a way to locally fund what cannot be provided for by government at larger scales (city, state, federal).

This is a wonderful community, and an effort along these lines may pull us together more while helping our kids.


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Posted by frank
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jun 3, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Swami, why do you say you are willing to pay $2K per year per kid (total $4K) into the school system but at the same time you pull your kid from pre-school because you can't afford it? Incredible!!!! You are the poster child of how the teachers union and PUSD management have victimized the citizens with their propaganda.

Hey, forget the $4K and use it to keep the kid in pre-school.


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Posted by Swami
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jun 4, 2009 at 1:59 am

Frank,

Good question, though the sarcasm is a bit unnecessary. Short answer is, I've learned a couple of things over the past few months.

Measure G failed. But it succeeded in getting many people to think deeply about what our kids' education means to us.

The first part of my learning is this: I must invest much more than previously planned, in the K-12 education of ALL kids in Pleasanton public schools, including those that need a lot of support in these early years. Some school programs will have to be cut given the projected deficits and how the system is set up. Many kids will be affected, in direct or indirect ways. That is not acceptable to me, so I have to be willing to pay a price to help improve the situation.

The second and biggest part of the learning is that I should not burden those who do not see value in this, or cannot afford an extra $233/yr.

If you voted "No" on Measure G, you've been heard, and have been spared the parcel tax. That leaves those who voted "Yes", or were willing to pay less than the $233/yr, the task of finding a way to have an impact.

In a sense, Measure G was a return to more "local" government, with a city level measure substituting for state/federal level support (and eventually control).

What was proposed by "Saving the quality of education" is rather powerful - a way to make this even more "local", i.e. only those that saw enough value would pay.

It also leaves those who do not want to pay, in peace, with their wallets intact!

This is how it used to be in the old days in this country. We visited De Smet, SD this last summer - referenced in the "Little Town on the Prairie" in the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of books;

A bit more than a century ago, townsfolks needed to fund any and all schooling of their children. Not everyone in the town paid equally, only those who felt the need and could afford it. In some towns, someone or a group saw enough value in it to make schooling happen, in others there wasn't as much motivation.

Getting wound up about teacher unions and PUSD misses the point of this thread entirely. Many teachers may not be able to afford a pay-cut on the order of the deficit margin of 10% or more; even if they were willing, the union may not let them contemplate it. Unions are in general strange organizations, in that they protect the senior at the cost of the junior in tough times. Their leaders do not have the power to change drastically from past positions without being unseated. Witness the battles within unions in Detroit this past decade before the big meltdown.

However, there is a much larger problem across the economy than the issue of union stasis - Much of our economy and systems have been structured for more prosperous times and will take a while to adjust.

We have great teachers in Pleasanton - in my interactions with my daughter's teacher at Fairlands, I have been impressed with her dedication, wisdom, and positive influence on the kids in her class. I have heard substantially similar feedback from parents with kids in Walnut Grove, and would expect to hear the same level of satisfaction with the quality of teaching in other schools. We are a fortunate community. Our teachers make a vital contribution. It is especially hard to fathom the value of a teacher assisting a single student struggling to read at grade level, or that of an additional science or music teacher spending more time with a gifted student. But it is in helping the first kid out, or challenging the second, that we truly maintain excellence of our kids' education and indirectly and positively contribute to the health and vibrancy of the community. I was touched by the story recited by a dad at one of the school board information sessions - of how his son was assisted greatly with reading, and has now graduated from high school with a decent grade - the dad was grateful to the school district. We all did well as a community in that instance.

If the 9000+ voters who said "Yes" to the parcel tax were to contribute $233 or more to the education system, that would go some way towards helping kids. If a private network formed with a subset of the teachers who get laid off, it is possible the teachers would not be able to substitute for their loss of income from the school district. The arrangement could still be of value to them and to the community, and be worth the investment for some section of residents.

Don't know if this makes sense to you. If you still wonder why, think about why we invest in rescue missions for mountain climbers. Think about why many countries spent hundreds of thousands in multiple currencies to search for the debris of the Air France jet that was lost over the Atlantic recently. It is because at some level we all care about the mountain climber, or folks that were on that flight, and their friends and family. There may be no immediate benefits, but one day you or someone you care about may survive a flight through an electrically active weather pattern because we learned from this experience. Is that worth the expense? How would you know?

Is it worth investing in the kid that could benefit a lot from additional attention? How would we know? But we have to do our share and then hope for the best.

If that still doesn't make sense, hopefully you realize that those who do not want to pay extra (to support Pleasanton public education), have no skin in this game. This is not about Measure G anymore.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 4, 2009 at 5:36 am

One caveat to calculating success for fundraising, some of the yes voters that are being counted are seniors or others who would qualify and likely take the deduction, so the support hoped for may not step forward. I am also concerned about handing money directly to a district, because there is nothing that binds them to spend the donations where you wish (this is true for any district).

Swami, Some thoughts on how to have success in this effort. There already is a foundation, PPIE, where donations could go. Specific programs could be targeted and the money raised exclusively to that target . . . so if the priority to the community is class size reduction at 20:1 in K-3 and that would require employing 50 teachers, people will know what they are giving their money for and you'll know the specific amount needed to make that possible. Maybe it's easier to raise funds for counselors and resource specialists. I just think in the interest of speed and setting priorities, it could be the best place to begin.




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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2009 at 7:35 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Swami,

I don't think you answered the real question on everyone's mind. Why did you pull your child out of pre-school?


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Posted by Ann
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 4, 2009 at 9:19 am

I don't think that is relevant anymore - why the kid was pulled out of preschool or not. Clearly, the focus is "Saving Quality Education." Could be that they found better arrangements for the kid, or he/she is being homeschooled. It is their personal preference.

Great response, Swami. I applaud your dedication and recognition of the quality of Pleasanton schools. I share all of that, and will also work towards keeping our schools that way.

I had almost lost hope in this community after witnessing all the bickering on these boards and the failure of Measure G. But after watching the Board Meeting last night, I was hopeful again. What a wonderful, dedicated, compassionate and efficient Board we have. With the speakers, Dr. Casey, Luz, etc... they represented the community in a very positive, informed and optimistic light. O


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Posted by Swami
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Thanks, Kathleen, for the pointer to the PPIE, and for the specific suggestions. It is also great to know that there may be an option to specifically target certain aspects of the education system.

Will try to get in touch with the PPIE tomorrow, hopefully they can help mobilize the support effort. We will need to seed discussions on what should be supported first, and to figure out what level of support is possible.

Hi Stacey, at that time we felt we could not afford pre-school in the context of effectively 25% lower pay; my wife's job search was going very slow, as you can imagine in this economy - so she decided to stay at home and take care of my son at least till he enters kindergarten. This measure G debate, though, really forced me to figure out my priorities (likely the case for many in this town), so has been quite a different process unrelated to the earlier decision.

Hi Ann, thanks very much for the encouragement and support. Great to hear that there was a positive movement from the school board meeting despite the failure of the measure. Sounds like a classy way to accept reality and move forward.

What do you think of Kathleen's suggestion to maybe engage the PPIE, and to scope out what may be possible to support.

Stacey, Frank, also welcome your thoughts on Kathleen's suggestions.

Regards,
Swami



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