Who Is To Blame for PUSD's Financial Troubles? Comments on Stories, posted by Thomas Paineful, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2010 at 4:51 pm
According to a story published last Thursday (22 April 2010) in one of our other local papers, The Independent, PUSD's financial troubles include one of Dr. Casey's debacles, Neal Elementary School, aka "The School That Doesn't Exist".
but the main points to remember about Neal Elementary are:
1. PUSD spent $4 million on infrastructure improvements for the school
2. PUSD lost a lawsuit against the developer, Signature and Standard, and owes them $2.5 million (including legal fees).
3. PUSD owes its own attorneys $2 million for the failed lawsuit.
And no, this is not "old news" because it's affecting the financial health of PUSD now. What's worse, I believe that the Neal Elementary School debacle undermined the community's trust in Dr. Casey's leadership, leading to the defeat of Measure G (the parcel tax) last year.
I hope that one of the main criteria the Board uses in selecting a new Superintendent will be prudent financial management. The Casey Administration has been a financial disaster for PUSD in my humble opinion.
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2010 at 6:52 pm
To "Stating the obvious", parents of p-town actually want the same services while they are paying the same amount of taxes. If school employees were not getting raises when there is no money for the raises, we might be able to work out the problems of the services. You cannot increase spending for employees while income is the same or less, without cutting services.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2010 at 7:22 pm
To Longtime parent: umm, did you not hear about the $11 million the state is shorting PUSD?
To say that PUSD's budget is the same as last year is not true. It is MUCH less, and in order to avoid disastrous cuts to the students, ALL members of the community (teachers, parents, and other residents) will need to sacrifice something.
Posted by letsgo, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2010 at 7:39 pm
"parents of p-town actually want the same services while they are paying the same amount of taxes. If school employees were not getting raises when there is no money for the raises"
From what I recall, most of the posts stated that teachers should take a cut in pay because everyone else in Pleasanton has either lost their job or took a pay cut. That which means they are paying less in taxes
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2010 at 8:47 pm
Yes money from the state is down but I have not received a raise plus I am still paying the same amount in taxes. So I am not saying I want more services and to pay less taxes at the same time. That is quite a bit different than "stating the obvious" said. As a parent in p-town, I do not want more services and I am not advocating for paying less. It is not the parents fault on the financial problems of the district.
I see several issues:
1) The State has a messed up tax collection system and taxes the highest income earners significantly more and is thus dependent on the high income earners. They they do not make the same amount of money or do not have houses or stocks to see and pay taxes, tax revenues dry up.
2) When the economy was going like crazy, tax revenue was up, and we knew it would be temporary as no economy could continue that growth forever, but the legislators keep adding new operational costs/programs. When revenues are significantly up, the money should go into reserves or one-time projects; not programs that need funding each year. This is like somebody getting a one-time bonus and then buying a house with a much higher mortgage. It is not sustainable.
3) District revenue is down for a couple of years but each year the district gives out raises. There are three variables; income, costs per employee, services. If one variable changes, one of the other ones needs to change. You cannot have lower or identical income and pay more for existing employees without affecting services. Personally I am not willing to augment the income part of the equation unless the district holds the costs per employee.
4) We are giving out long-term benefits to employees with no money put aside to pay for it. In our district, retiree medical is a significant cost that has not been funded. This benefit should not be given out if there is no reliable present day funding for it. It is not fair to pass this liability on to our kids.
5) We have other district costs that can be reduced but the leadership is afraid to do anything. Like auto allowances, cell phones, etc. Management feels they are entitled and the leadership is afraid to do anything.
Some of these local issues are caused by the district leadership being "yes men" for the unions. The unions are not concerned on the long-term health of the district. They are concerned on receiving the most amount of income today that they can and figure the district will figure out how to fund it in the future. Our elected officials and superintendent are more concerned with the unions than the residents.
None of the above is new but they are the main problem; it is not the fault of the Pleasanton parents. Unless you blame the Pleasanton parents for electing the current School Board Members and the legislature.
“California (score of 3.1) along with South Carolina, and New York are the lowest ranked states, combining a relatively large burden of government with a poorly structured tax system. This double-whammy strongly discourages residents from working hard, saving and investing, which again are the basis for strong and prosperous economies.
It shouldn't be surprising, then, to learn that both California and South Carolina are facing historically high unemployment with shockingly high underemployment. Both are signs of a struggling economy, in many ways explained by the economic incentives embedded in the tax system.”
Posted by letsgo, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2010 at 7:06 pm
"Unless you blame the Pleasanton parents for electing the current School Board Members and the legislature"
Which they did and very rarely showed up to a Board Meeting until financial crisis was already here. There is more than enough blame to go around. It wasn't completely Casey and the district fault regarding Neal School - there was EXTREME pressure from the Ruby Hill community to build the school (there were at least threats of lawsuits if not actual suits) just a couple days ago somebody from Ruby Hill was complaining on these posts how they did nto get "their school." So yes, there is certainly blame to share with the parents and the rest of the community.
I guess the only solution is to bust up the union and start paying teachers minimum wage. We shouldn't be paying them almost as much as BART employees because BART only loses most of the money that the government gives them, the schools lose it all, not bringing in any revenue.
Posted by District owes 4.5 million, a resident of the Pleasanton Heights neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2010 at 10:43 pm
I understand that the District, rather than using developer fees that are supposed to be used to build classroom space to house students in the new developments being built, has been redirecting these fees to pay for lawyers, is this correct?
$4.5 million has been redirected from kids to attorneys?
Posted by letsgo, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2010 at 11:14 pm
Well, the money has to come from somewhere, you can call it what you want, but its still district money. Ruby Hill demanded their school , they didn't get it, the district got caught with their shorts down and it cost us a truckload of money. There's really not too much to dwell on at this point, just make sure it doesn't' happen again.
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 10:33 am
The lawyers are being paid for with the school impact fees so there is less money for facilities. The Ruby Hill issue is more complicated than what is being said above. When Signature Properties was selling properties in Ruby Hill, they told the prospective buyers that there was going to be an elementary school down the street and made this a selling point. So the residents there were promised the school by the developer. Not the first time a developer lied. But that is a different issue.
On Tanya's quote, this is completely misleading. But she was a puppet to Casey during the parcel tax election...
The development will be paying a one-time impact fee on a per square foot basis (up to a certain size) as each house is approved. The state has a maximum amount that can be charged for this. Some of the developers in Pleasanton have signed a "gift" fee agreement which says they will pay higher than the state allowed fee (this has not even been executed for the Oak Grove developer according to the district). So each new home owner will be paying a fee, like all other new homes in Pleasanton. That fee can only be used for facilities since it is an impact fee to pay for the impact that house will have on the schools (i.e., more kids). Those fees cannot be used for teachers, counselors, or other operational items; plus it is a one-time fee. Since that impact fee is paid by the home owner, it will be years before anything is even seen there and it will trickle in as each house is built. But once again, not for operations.
On your property tax bill is a School Bond that you pay. That is calculated by figuring out your properties percentage of the total property value of Pleasanton. This is for all residential, commercial, retail, etc. There is a bond payment that is due each year so that payment is divided by all the property owners in Pleasanton and you pay your percentage. The money that goes to the "schools" (actually goes to the bond company) is the same but it is divided up. So once the 51 homes would be built, the total value of the property in the city will go up and then divided by your percentage. With adding new homes, it is possible that all the other properties in Pleasanton will have their property tax go down by a few pennies. This has been happening over time already. The school district will not receive any more money because there are new homes as the money they receive for the bond is a fixed amount.
For each kid that goes to school, the district receives money from the state. It does not matter what the property values are. Does not matter is it is a new home, or an existing home. The District is currently claiming that they do not get enough per student to pay for the programs we want to offer. That is why they want supplemental income. So by adding new students from this new development, we are actually hurting the schools since the money we get from the state is not enough (according to the district). If we really wanted more students to get more income, our district would allow students from outside of Pleasanton attend our schools. This is allowed by law but our district makes you supply a lot of paperwork when you register your child each year because they do not want the students from outside our district attending our schools because the money the state gives us is not enough.
So technically the new homes do result in some new income to the schools but it does not offset the cost to educate those students. Therefore, the statements that Tanya made were misleading.
Interestingly, there are no school board members who have signed the ballot arguments in favor of Measure D but there is a school board member who signed the ballot argument against Measure D and explained how the fees would not help the district financial situation. Make sure you read the ballot arguments when you receive them, or get a copy from the City Clerk's office (like I did). The people who signed the ballot arguments in favor of Measure D are the some people who were campaigning against Measure PP in the last election that protected the ridges (no surprise).
Posted by Pete, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 10:47 am
For more questions to ask PUSD, there may be lessons learned by viewing this new documentary film called "The Cartel" which reveals the problems of the New Jersey public school system in particular...and the US public schools in general.
Here is the link to The Cartel Movie, including the movie's trailer... Web Link
Posted by resident, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 11:28 am
That was a very well thought out, articulate, and complete response. Thank you.
It also touches on some of the refined points of the “sound bite” debate on education. Specifically it is often asserted by the CTA and other business of education interests that California is significantly lagging in the tally of per pupil spending by state. That comment, which is intended to be an argument ending statement, is always presented without supporting information or qualification. Further research shows that information is inaccurate and additionally represented in partial form. It also fails to mention that enrollment in public schools California has BY FAR the largest enrolled population of students in the country. The next closest state (Texas) has approximately two thirds the numbers of total students, and most states have less than ten percent. If economy of scale is considered on any level, the “per pupil” argument fails miserably. And for total dollars spent, California has no peer in sight.
Posted by Carol, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 11:50 am
Oak Grove will add 53 new students that will increase the class size of classes throughout the District, or will require classrooms or portables to be put on campuses to support them. The school impact fees can only be used on facilities/portables.
Lori Hollister was quoted in Oct. 1993 in area newspapers saying that the Lins "hired guns" went around to sports groups and school board members for their support in exchange for their support for Kottinger Hills. "...And the $1 million the developers say they are spending in school fees are required and they will be used to take care of new kids from Kottinger Hills. That will not add extra money to be used by the schools."
The Lins, land speculators who live over 6,000 miles away, hired a fancy SF-based (Delacorte) PR firm $500,000 in 1993 to try to get the Pleasanton voters to agree to ravage our pastoral ridgelands, then sued the City of Livermore a couple of weeks after losing because Livermore refused to approve a plan to develop Livermore, adding 75,000 new residents. They are responsible for the massive urban development in East Dublin.
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 12:22 pm
Interesting that you heard they will add 53 new students. The Oak Grove advertising (including their website) says the schools will get an additional $300,000 per year for operations. To get that amount of money, they would have to have about 100 new students. So they are figuring on an average household size of four people with two of them being students. That would equate to over 200 residents in that development.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 2:43 pm
Oh, resident, there you go again. And you have the audacity to accuse people of presenting a one-sided argument?
Here are some facts for you, pulled from the ed data website:
--California has more than 6.2 million students, almost 2 million more than Texas, the next most populous state.
--The state has the highest percentage of English learners in the nation and is near the top in the proportion of children living in low-income families.
--Funding and staffing levels in California schools lag behind other states. California has been consistently below the national average in per-pupil spending and above the national average in the number of pupils per teacher and pupils per staff.
Perhaps if you had paid attention in school, you would have deduced that even though California's education spending is higher than other states, it also has the highest number of pupils. When you divide the spending number by the number of pupils, you will find that the per-pupil spending is indeed lower than the national average. You do know how to divide, right?
And you, now that your kids are out of school, want to cut funding even more for our schools?
Posted by resident, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 4:35 pm
Actually my math skills are excellent. But since you felt compelled to insult me I will return the favor. You do know how to read don’t you? Because you obviously didn’t read or understand what I wrote.
Let me make it simple for you:
1) “California has more than 6.2 million students, almost 2 million more than Texas, the next most populous state.”
Agreed. Hence my comment that Texas has about two thirds the enrollment of California. No other state is anywhere near and most are less than ten percent (from memory – look it up here if you wish):
2) “Perhaps if you had paid attention in school, you would have deduced that even though California's education spending is higher than other states, it also has the highest number of pupils. When you divide the spending number by the number of pupils, you will find that the per-pupil spending is indeed lower than the national average. You do know how to divide, right?”
Again if you had actually read my posting you might surmise that what I was saying is that I strongly disagree that this is an accurate or especially telling metric. If you do some additional research (not just read the union playbook) you will find that California is about in the middle of the pack (per pupil) in overall education spending. And since we have (on quickly estimated average) roughly seven times as many students as the median average, we (the taxpayers) are not getting a very good deal on our education dollar. Before you start in, I agree that not all things can be made more efficient by economy of scale, but many things can. Administration, technical resources, facilities, and many more items can (and should) be streamlined for savings. If you REALLY want to put the kids first, then how could you possibly disagree? Cuts will be made. The choice of where is all negotiable.
Get educated! (Yeah, I stole that line, but it is a good one!)
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 6:53 pm
Resident, What is a "median average"? Sounds like phoney baloney terminology to me. Each means something different.
And to quote you: "And since we have (on quickly estimated average) roughly seven times as many students as the median average, we (the taxpayers) are not getting a very good deal on our education dollar."
Californians pay less than the national average as percent of income towards education. Now tell me, are students getting a good deal on our education dollars?
Posted by longtime parent, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 6:57 pm
There is a misconception that schools are paid for by property taxes. It was that way many years ago but now schools are paid for by the state; independent of the property taxes. This was one of the changes so that richer communities did not have more money for schools than poorer communities; equal education for all. Unfortunately the legislature is now trying to force communities to pass local parcel taxes to supplement the state income. This will once again have the richer communities receiving more for education than the poorer communities. If this is what the legislature wants then I believe we should go back to the property taxes being used for education and leave the state out of it. The state does not bring much added-value to our local education.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 7:12 pm
We actually agree on something! That I occasionally make editing mistakes while multitasking! I put in the term median, then decided that I didn’t have time to find that data or sort the table to find out the median, so I switched to average and neglected to remove the term. California spends about 9.5 times the median.
Now, do we REALLY need to spend time on the economics of why the portion of education expense to income is out of whack with Alabama and Alaska?
Get educated … if you have the capacity to use it.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 8:37 pm
Just one clarification, the "infrastructure" costs of $4 million was the amount the city insisted the district pay as their share of straightening out Vineyard Avenue. It's not like the district spent money for infrastructure on the land for Neal Elementary.
As to the original premise of who is at fault, the governance team in place from 2003 to 2009 (I try to leave the two newest board members out of decisions they did not make) chose poorly enough in so many areas that program and students will suffer for years to come. And that was most definitely before Sacramento doled their problems back to all of us.
For Casey to be quoted as saying the district can use portables/modulars for upcoming growth shows how little he cared to plan for anything except his retirement. For Casey to have locked up contracts with the unions and his top administrators for three years shows how little he cared about leaving the next superintendent options for putting the district back on the mend (and I say that knowing the majority of teachers, classified employees, and even his top administrators are good people). Don't get me started on the boondoggle of the lawsuits.
Posted by frank, a resident of the Pleasanton Heights neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2010 at 9:10 pm
To repeat: "For Casey to have locked up contracts with the unions and his top administrators for three years shows how little he cared about leaving the next superintendent options for putting the district back on the mend (and I say that knowing the majority of teachers, classified employees, and even his top administrators are good people). Don't get me started on the boondoggle of the lawsuits." Aaaaammmmmeeeennnnnn, I say!
Casey was a union plant as a school superintendent. They scratched each other's back. That's how astute our elected trustees have been.. to hire union a plant.
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2010 at 5:31 am
For the comments about the Lins and the "our hills" mentality--how are these our hills? They own the land, no matter where they personally live. If 51 homes, 53 students, something shy of 500 acres of parkland, whatever in developer fees to the city and school district aren't good enough for those of us who do live here (Katie bar the door), then every household that seems to have made it into the mix before them should chip in to buy the land from the Lins so that it actually is ours. Otherwise, we're trespassers and perhaps thieves.
As to the cost of educating those students who might move into the development, those homeowners will pay property taxes (higher than any of us are paying . . . Prop 13) and the district will receive ADA money for that growth. And, the district gets additional money (state and federal) for specialty programs (class size reduction, special ed, textbooks, Title 1, etc.). True, it still isn't quite enough, but that has more to do with the unsustainable local decisions.
Heaven help whoever gets the superintendency, and I hope a lot of very bright, no nonsense people step forward to run for the school board.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm
Resident, you accuse me of propaganda, when you've just presented a very weak one-sided argument yourself. No one uses median figures for good reason. They tend to skew towards one side or the other and are not representative of the true "mean" or "average".
I have the US Dept of Education and the National Education Association to back up my figures. Just google "California education spending as percentage of income" and you can see for yourself.
And with China and much of Asia increasing their countries' spending on education, where is there justification to decrease spending on education here in California and across the US for that matter? As much as you and your Tea Party cronies hate increased goverment spending, you advocate spending less across the board, except when it comes to Medicare and Social Security and Defense spending--all things you and your party stand to benefit from soon. Your propaganda is going to destroy the country and take everyone down with you.
"A classic example is average income. The arithmetic mean may be misinterpreted as the median to imply that most people's incomes are higher than is in fact the case. When presented with an arithmetic mean one may be led to believe that most people's incomes are near this number. This mean income is higher than most people's incomes because high income outliers skew the result higher (in contrast, the median income resists such skew). However, the mean says nothing about the number of people near the median income (nor does it say anything about the modal income that most people are near). Nevertheless, because one might carelessly relate "average" and "most people" one might incorrectly assume that most people's incomes would be higher (nearer this inflated "average") than they are. For instance, reporting the "average" net worth in Medina, Washington as the arithmetic mean of all annual net worths would yield a surprisingly high number because of Bill Gates. Consider the scores (1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 9). The arithmetic mean is 3.17, but five out of six scores are below this."
Posted by resident, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2010 at 6:57 pm
The choice of mathematic comparison is really immaterial. California educates more children and spends more than any other state on education by a substantial magnitude. To your point about education revenue to income, California also has a substantially higher cost of living due to real estate, tax assessments, and many other issues. I have argued that our size should make our education system more efficient. You have resorted to insults and mantras. You appear to be arguing that we are getting the best deal possible and the only logical solution is to throw more money at the problem. I vehemently disagree, as many, many people do. I strongly suspect that you depend on the California state education revenue for your lively hood. If not you are obviously very, very naive.
Posted by letsgo, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2010 at 10:44 pm
We all know its easy enough to manipulate statistics to whatever need necessary. I can tell you that CA is last in per student funding, but I can also tell you we spend about the median per student on education. I can tell you that money spent has no correlation on student achievement and I can also tell you that the school with the largest amount of fundraising in CA have the highest test scores.
Whatever it is you want to know about education, I can probably prove it using statistics...and that is our biggest problem in education...nobody knows the right answer. Yes, there are models and guidelines which seem to work for most students, but if we had the right answer for all students we would be using it.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2010 at 11:33 pm
I meant to say "median tends to skew one way or the other around the mean!"
And letsgo is right: you can manipulate statistics to suit your intentions. You, resident, cannot accuse anyone who disproves you as promoting a "propaganda". And I find it funny you find me insulting; after all I'm just resorting to the same tactics you've been using for more than a year now, with all the mudslinging you've been doing towards PUSD and teachers. And no, I don't work for PUSD. I'm just a parent who finds insulting your attempts to place all blame on teachers as you try to justify your declination about paying taxes for public schools.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm
I don’t really have time to continue playing this game today, but I did want to say that propaganda is not a dirty or insulting term. My posts are propaganda. So are the posts you write. The difference in my eyes is that I usually support my statements with credible links. That said I am far from the only person using the handle “resident” on this site. We disagree and that’s OK. I think that a sufficient portion of the voting public agrees with most of my views. And I understand how those supporting an opposing point of view find that very frustrating.