I am deeply concerned over the proposed level of cuts being proposed to the Pleasanton schools. The disaster that is coming upon our community’s schools is compelling. I have read the full detail of what is being proposed on PUSD website. I also attended the community forum held this past Tuesday night at Walnut Grove Elementary school where Dr. John Casey the PUSD superintendent further clarified the expected enormous cuts to come over the next 18 months. We as a community cannot allow this to happen to our children, our schools and to the collective economic health of our community in which our real estate values are intimately interconnected to the excellence of our schools.
It is easy to abstract the global economic meltdown until you realize the direct impact it is going to have on us very soon. Pleasanton schools have a budget shortfall of 8.7 million dollars over the next 18 months which is already after present cuts have been made. We have already exhausted the Pleasanton schools reserve funds and the very real impact of many cuts will happen starting in a few months. It means our K-3 elementary classes next year will have 33-35 students. You know as well as I that 35 students in a kindergarten class is not school, it is at best overcrowded daycare. It means reducing by half our reading specialists and counselors. Our ratio of counselors to students in elementary will be now 3000:1. This is not counseling, this is crowd control. It means eliminating athletic and enrichment programs, coaching stipends, language programs, high school class size reduction in math and language arts, loss of vice principals, high school campus monitors, librarians, administrators and many many teachers. Many of these people are our friends, our children’s mentors and fellow residents of Pleasanton who will be caught in the cross fire of dismal economic times. To see more detailed information on the proposed cuts, I will refer you to both the Walnut Grove green sheets and PUSD website.
I reject that we need to subject our children to substandard education and destabilize our children’s schools and futures. I reject the notion of shortening our school year, increased class sizes and firing many dedicated teachers and school administrators in order to balance the budget that is being proposed. I also reject the need to eliminate counselors, coaches and student academic and enrichment programs. Education should be the absolute highest priority for us as a community and society to protect and cherish. It is also integral to our collective economic health as a community.
Pleasanton is highly sought after for being a family friendly community committed to our children and educational excellence. As was discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, this is why our homes, one of our greatest individual assets, have not seen the devastating drops in value that many other communities have experienced. Over the past year, the average house in Alameda County lost 35 % of its value. Simple math tells us that if you bought your home in Alameda County for 650K, you would have lost approximately 230K in one year. Over the last year, Pleasanton has seen a 12 % loss, which means the above home would have lost 78K. That is quite a difference. This is in no small way as a result of the world class education provided by Pleasanton schools. Our real estate value is directly and intimately interconnected with the ongoing health of our schools.
So why aren’t other Trivalley school districts experiencing this pain? Why aren’t the schools in Livermore, Dublin and San Ramon seeing anything like this in Pleasanton? Because all of these communities have already passed parcel taxes in the past few years to guarantee funds for the schools. All of these communities have passed a Parcel Tax measure giving this dedicated money to the schools in a town election receiving 66% of the favorable vote. Pleasanton has never needed to have such a parcel tax and so has never passed one. Historically, our schools have been spared the drama of tumultuous economic times until now. We are living history right now and we need to come to action to ensure our community continues in a manner we can be proud of.
So what can you do? You can get involved and help support a Save Pleasanton Schools Parcel Tax proposal to continue stable funding for Education and our schools. This annual fee would not have to be paid by those who rent apartments or homes, and I support an exemption for retired people. This money would ensure that our community can continue to provide educational excellence for our children and is an investment in our continuing economic strength as a community. There are already many groups of parents who are forming at Pleasanton schools to work on this issue through a forming a grassroots organization called SAVE PLEASANTON SCHOOLS.
No one likes taxes. But just think about what spending one dollar a day is to guarantee your child’s education and your community’s economic health. This would be the equivalent of 2 first class stamps. I am sure many people may not want to hear about a parcel tax in these times, but I don’t see that we have any other choice. It is absolutely necessary and urgent. Additionally, it is rare to see the direct impact of the tax money we give every year to the state and federal government. This parcel tax fund would directly benefit our kids, period. It will also be an investment in the continuing economic health of our real estate values.
I urge you to get involved and protect your children’s future. This potential disaster to our schools is real and it will happen if we don’t act together as a community. Please join me and many others already forming to Save Pleasanton Schools. Thank you, Laura Foster, MD (proud mom of soon to be 3 roadrunners at Walnut Grove Elementary School)