In the early part of the century, the district struggled financially because of the state funding formula in effect at that time. During that season, I worked with the Livermore Education Foundation to help raise funds to maintain quality in the educational program. This was before the Great Recession.
Livermore, unlike other Tri-Valley cities, has a significant portion of its student population that lives in socio-economically challenged homes and are learning English. The other communities have grown dramatically more diverse in the last 15 years, particularly Pleasanton, Dublin and San Ramon, but many newcomers are well educated and well compensated. That’s not been the case in the older areas of Livermore.
Voters have rallied around the schools and passed a $134 parcel tax eight years ago. The tax came up for renewal this year and the school board, based upon polling and advice from a consultant, decided to run a mail election instead of putting it on the June ballot. The tactic likely was designed to maximize turnout from supporters who understood why they should continue paying the parcel tax.
Notably, the renewal of the tax—with no rate increase—drew some outspoken opposition in the letters to the editor and other forums. Opponents cited the superintendent’s compensation and argued that the district wanted the tax renewed for salaries. Reading some of the opinions, I was struck by how little the writers understood.
The mail results reported after Tuesday’s election show the measure narrowly receiving the two-thirds vote necessary to renew the tax although there still might be votes that are yet to be counted. The margin is less than 100 votes. Assuming that holds the district will continue to have the $4 million annually that is locally raised and locally controlled and thus not subject to whims of Sacramento officials.
District funding increased after Gov. Jerry Brown convinced the Legislature to change the formula so districts with high populations that needed more help received more funding. Sadly, he did not insist on any detailed tracking of how the money was spent or the results in terms of student achievement or the lack of the same. The recent statewide statistics I’ve seen showed that poor Black and Hispanic students are faring poorly at best, particularly coming out of the pandemic and the shutdowns.
For Livermore officials, the challenge moving forward is to demonstrate to the community that the parcel tax is being well spent and students are achieving—in other words, their tax dollars are being well spent.