Guest opinion: Voters Should Flunk Measure C Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Danville Weekly Online, on Apr 17, 2009 at 8:21 am
Despite widespread layoffs, foreclosures and broken retirement nest-eggs, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District wants a 60 percent, seven-year parcel-tax increase, from $90 to $144 annually - another taxpayer-funded bailout for another spendthrift public agency.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 17, 2009, 12:00 AM
Posted by Teacherman, a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 17, 2009 at 8:21 am
I have heard so much about you over the months, I was very glad to have read this artcle composed by you. I certainly respect your opinions and values as a community member however I don't find that your number rambling really proves any points. People who vote for education (Measure C) vote for it because they value good schools in the community in which they live, not based on the fact that "the general fund income is at least $8,221-ie $205,525 in annual operation dollars alone." I don't think these figures mean much to people. We know public education costs a lot of money. In addition, I also find your numbers to be very misleading as well. As I don't claim that the supporters of Measure C are exact either, but clearly you are using numerical formulas that either are too confusing to understand or don't add up to support your argument.
Whatever you think your numbers prove, the fact is is that many, many people have strived and are striving to move to this community so they can send their children to the SRVUSD schools because of their consistent results of high student achievement. Talk all you want about fiscal responsibility, the fact is that we as teachers and supporters of education in this community have a duty to reach the needs of our students and maintain educational excellence. And that need right now is met by passing Measure C.
Posted by Janet Orgill, a member of the Monte Vista High School community, on Apr 17, 2009 at 5:30 pm
I have already voted YES on Measure C, and would recommend that everyone in the SRVUSD do the same. Mr. Arata, you do realize that reserves are one-time money--if we spend it this year (and we will spend much of it just to make up for mid-year cuts by the state) we will simply have to make all of these cuts next year. Teacher salaries and benefits (87% of the district budget) are ONGOING expenses! Last year's raise was a whopping 1%. I would be willing to bet that many teachers would happily give that back to save the jobs of hundreds of their peers--even though their income taxes and sales taxes just went up with the rest of us.
A few other facts, just for fun:
1. Funds that have been designated for a certain "category" cannot be spent in another category. That is why building projects continue at district schools while teachers at those schools are receiving pink slips.
2. If categorical restrictions get lifted by the state, the swapping around of general fund money is exactly the kind of resourcefulness that we are looking for from our district. Yes, they are robbing Peter to pay Paul, and many of us are doing exactly the same with our personal finances WHEN THERE ISN'T ENOUGH TO GO AROUND.
3. Enrollment numbers are very difficult to predict. How many new homes will actually be built in the Tassajara Valley? How many will house school-age children? Yes, there are new dollars that come from new students, but you can bet that gravy train has slowed WAY down.
4. Every school district in the state must let teachers know in March if they MAY NOT have a job in the fall. With the state budget a moving target, and mid-year cuts creating a mockery of prudent planning, every district plans for the worst and hopes for the best. Better than recinding those pink slips is knowing that you don't have to issue them in the first place!
Your arguments seem to be that the district is wasting money, teachers are overpaid, and the education in SRVUSD just isn't that good. The facts would show just the opposite to be true. All available data suggests that this district is very efficiently run, teachers make a relatively low salary for this area, and standard measures of performance indicate great success for our students on an individual and collective basis.
I'd love to think that the new state taxes have "engorged" the treasury, but in truth, an even larger state budget deficit is looming, about $8 Billion, so look for further cuts to education. I for one would like to grant a little bit of financial stability to this school district so that we can focus on academic goals and 21st century learning, instead of the budget. My paltry $12 per month is a step in the right direction. I will vote for the schools that brought me to Danville to begin with, that are helping my home to retain its value, and that are giving my children an excellent public education.
Posted by Teacherman, a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 19, 2009 at 8:58 pm
Interesting, in all my adult life, I have never been branded a liberal. I'm not sure if I should be flattered or frustrated. I am not a fan of tax increases however in this situation since the state has cut 16 million from our district's budget, it seems only appropriate to ask the citizens of the Danville community to continue to chip in to help maintain exceptional schools that most people in the bay area and California strive to be a part of. Note: The 1960's bore more changes in our social, political, economic make up as a society than any other decade in the 20th century. The 1920's being a close second with the inclusion of women in the voting process.
Your "feel good" criticism holds no merit just as Mr Arata's numbers ramblings do not support an argument. I have been researching and reading all sides of the Measure C issue and I have yet to come across an argument against it that holds merit. Next year , the district will have 16-20 million dollars less than recent years for overall operating costs. Somebody please propose a legitimate, understandable argument against asking the citizens of the community to support the schools their children attend.
Lastly, its a shame that you label yourself and your community "too dumb to understand the numbers." I encourage you to seek out information and dialogue with your community about the importance of high achieving schools in regard to property values, college admissions, car insurance deductions, crime rates, and community relations. Surely it doesn't take a genius to understand that high achieving schools in our district contribute to a prosperous, safe, valuable community....does it?
Posted by Schoolmom, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2009 at 9:57 am
Good schools preserve your property values, folks. Education is always a sound investment. The fact is, most of the schools in our district are designated as "Distinguished" and our test scores are among the highest in the state. SRVUSD may not be perfect (who is?!), but something sure is working and the kids DESERVE our support, so please, Vote YES ON C.
Posted by FreeToChoose, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2009 at 11:50 am
Measure C is a perfect example of Public Choice Theory, fathered by Duncan Black, Gordon Tulluck, and the Nobel Prize-winner James Buchanan. While the theory of public choice can be broadly applied, it is the ideas of “special interests” and “rational ignorance” that are useful in understanding Measure C.
Here’s an example of public choice at work. The “special interests” (teachers and politicians) have substantial personal incentive to see that the bill is passed. Teachers, who benefit directly, will use time and money to lobby for the bill. And lawmakers will expect campaign contributions, votes, or both, in exchange for their support. But the taxpayer will remain “rationally ignorant” of the whole process. Why spend time even thinking about an issue when the cost is only $15 per year?
This is why government will tend to grow in excess of what a true democracy really wants. That is, until those $15 hits accumulate to such a level that people have finally had enough. And then, in a seemingly spontaneous eruption, the average voter finds the energy to fight back. Apparently, this is what happened last week in the grass-roots Tea Parties. What’s interesting is that many who did not have the energy or ability to attend a tea party last week still wanted to watch on TV. And the coverage of the events by Fox News (which highlighted the protests) attracted more viewers than MSNBC, CNN and CNN Headline News COMBINED. This shows that millions more were paying attention, and suggests wider support for the protests.
Mr. Arata has laid out a convincing set of data points that illustrated the overspending of the SRVUSD - in particular the spending on salaries and benefits. This trend is currently present in our state government, which after all the whining and crying about budget deficits and the "cuts" that will be enacted, employs even MORE full time employees today than it did one year ago. Absolutely frightening and maddening.
Furthermore, the data point of spending per pupil is not established to be causative w/regard to student performance. Admittedly, it "feels' right to spend an ever increasing amount of money on "education" and or "the children", but the data shows there is not a clear and convincing corelation between spending and results. We need to stop blindly throwing money at the education system and "feeling good" about it, without seeing results.
As an aside, I would LOVE to see a pareto analysis of the state's education spending and where it goes. The details of that secret I suspect are not being broadcast widely because they would cause a revolution among the population. In this regard, the opponents of increased spending on education have done a disservice to themselves and the voters. EDUCATE us with the data points, and base your arguments on them. The rational voter will follow you and the data, compelling change in the bureaucracy...
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 20, 2009 at 2:37 pm
Help me out here folks. Other than Mike Arata, I can't think of another No on C supporter that hasn't hidden behind their anonymity. How many Yes on C signs do we see in the community? Hundreds. Maybe thousands. How many No on C signs? Zero. The only No on C signs to be found are actually illegally posted on public property. Who are the criminals doing that? I've been sure to tear down every one I can get my hands on. Behind your anonymity it is awfully convenient to make this argument, because you must feel awfully ashamed and embarrassed to publicly argue such a morally corrupt position. Stand up and show yourselves. I challenge you. And to put my money where my mouth is, here I am. I earn a very good living working in Financial Services. I'm ashamed of how much I make. My brother is a school teacher in Sacramento. He makes less than half what I make. Sure, perhaps he works fewer days a year, but he works far harder than I do and the work he does is exponentially more important than the work I do, although that is not saying much considering the kind of work I do. But, what could be more important than a teacher of our children? Maybe a Doctor or a fireman, but not many other jobs, if even those. Living in this area is expensive, we all know that. How can we expect to retain the best teachers if they can't even afford to live in the area that they teach? Why is it such a dirty topic to suggest Teachers actually are underpaid or deserve pay raises? I wholeheartedly will give $12 a month in property taxes to support measure C. Quite frankly, I'd give $120 a month in property taxes to support measure C. How is it possible we're arguing about $12 a month, in such an affluent area, when the school systems are facing such dramtic funding cuts from the State? Is common sense dead? Perhaps just for some in Alamo since it seems that is where much of the opposition is coming from. I hope you prove me wrong. Show some common sense people!
Posted by Teacherman, a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 20, 2009 at 3:06 pm
1. I would like to see a pareto analysis of the National defense budget and see where it goes.
2. I would like to see a pareto analysis of the State Transportation System budget and see where it goes.
3. I would like to get a pareto analysis of almost any gov't funded program and see where it goes.
If we all saw those numbers, I am sure people would be outraged. But we don't see those numbers and maybe that is better. Either way, don't single out education and argue it as a waste of taxpayer money. Give any average educated citizen an expenditure list for government programs and any one of us could probably identify $1-100 billion in cost savings.
This is why Mr. Arata's argument does not hold. People have values and they willingly pay taxes in their community to support those values. All people value good schools in their community and a YES vote on Measure C does nothing more than support those values.
Given the history of high student performance in our school district, no one really cares about the numbers, they care about their values, they care about their students, and they care about our collective future.
Posted by Worker Bee, a resident of the San Ramon neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2009 at 5:23 pm
I was kind of hoping that someone would explain the fact that the district is buying the votes of people who can exempt themselves from paying C taxes.
I guess it's one of those "value" things that Teacherman is describing. He says it's better that we don't see the numbers for various government programs and that "no one really cares about the numbers" for the district.
Yup, very familiar. Don't think, just feel. Don't question, just accept. Don't analyze, just believe.
Surprise! I care about the numbers, and there are one or two other people who also care about the numbers.
Posted by Terry W., a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 20, 2009 at 9:24 pm
Worker Bee, I believe Teacherman's point regarding not "seeing the numbers" for various government programs was due to the likelihood that we would not have enough information to understand their significance or how they rated when stacked against each other even if we did. In addition, where you derived a negative message when he said "no one cared" about the numbers, it appeared to me that he was making a point that the people in this community place more value on the students and would be unlikely to deny them access to a decent education in order to save $12.00 a month (sorry if I am speaking out of turn Teacherman).
We can all interpret information in different ways in order to support our views for or against pretty much anything. I find the information presented by Ms. Orgill and Teacherman to be succinct and I don't feel like it is being manipulated in order to further their position. They are just a mom and a teacher who care about kids - my kids! I can't say that about Mr. Arata. My ballot went in today, along with my husband's - we voted YES on C!
Posted by jake farsh, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2009 at 10:58 pm
1- Have you noticed that when there is a down economic cycle the private sector cuts cost, reduces the size and sometimes goes out of business. In contrast the public sector facing similar situation just asks for more money or raises taxes to get it!
2- Here we go again. If we don't hand over our wallets to the school district the world ends and all our kids become illitrate! Somehow the schoolies have repeated the unsubstantiated claim the there is a direct, one-to-one, corelation to the quality of education to the point that it is accepted by the sheep as gospel! They use per capita spending to make their point while not mentioning that their base of comparison is other school districs or other states within USA that are engaged in the same con! Why not compare to places like India or China that are producing scientists and engineers at a rate much greater than ours at a fraction of the cost!
3- Ever have these folks in the "education" racket wondered why within the same school and within the same classes some students excel while others fail? If you follow their logic that more money produces better education, then shouldn't the childern of the the richest have always have the best grades and grow up to be Nobel orize winners? The facts don't support this and we know better!
4- Yes I can exempt myself from Measure C, but sorry schoolies, my vote is not for sale. Somethings are matters of principle!
Posted by Jack, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2009 at 11:23 pm
In reading the comments, It is interesting that, both, the opponents and proponents of measure c say $144 is insignificant. This reminds me of the car salesman not wanting to discuss the price of the car but focus on the monthly payment. I suggest we look at our property tax bill for the full price.
Posted by Worker Bee, a resident of the San Ramon neighborhood, on Apr 21, 2009 at 8:17 am
So none of the people in favor of C want to address my question:
Here's what I asked:
"I understand that the old-timers can get an exemption and won't have to pay the Measure C taxes. Doesn't this kind of broadly infer that the District is buying their votes in a secondhand kind of way?
Suppose I say "Vote my way and I'll give you money." How is that different from saying "Vote my way and I won't take your money?" The distinction escapes me."
Paying for a vote is illegal (except in Chicago). Why is not taking a person's money for the same vote perfectly ok? The voter still ends up with more money.
I know a large segment of our society wants to ignore the 14th Amendment (you know - equal protection) but I wish you wouldn't.
Posted by Teacherman, a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 21, 2009 at 8:56 am
I would like to place my bet. I would like to bet that the opponents of Measure C who are arguing that it is better "to think, not feel" DO NOT possess or have analyzed any expenditure lists from the past 5 years of the school district. You are arguing that the numbers do matter but you have never seen the numbers, except for what Mr. Arata has displayed in a kaleidescope fashion that make no sense. Therefore, my bet is that you are voting on a feeling, a feeling that renewing a tax is wrong. You haven't looked at the numbers, you don't know what SRVUSD has spent money on, you just believe, you just feel that it is probably wasteful because of what your friends, what your chosen biased media sources, or what Mr. Arata are telling you.
I did look at the expenditure list the night the school district approved a budget that laid off or released 500 teachers, librarians, counselors, and pyschologists. It cancelled music programs, coaches stipends, and drastically cut physical education programs. Why? Not because of wasteful spending, because the state has cut 16 million from the district budget. That is why it is going to take the renewing of the parcel tax to continue SOME of these programs or save SOME teachers jobs.
So again, don't use the numbers that you haven't seen to argue any points here. Numbers can always be manipulated to meet a certain need.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 21, 2009 at 11:41 am
Let's try something new here. Think about it this way:
If measure C loses, it is a guarantee that it will hurt the SRVUSD district. Teachers will lose their jobs, programs will be discontinued. Property values will be adversely impacted. I'm just stating fact. Plain and simple. With the State budget cuts, you'll be kicking the school system when it is already down.
Whether you like Measure C or not, what possible benefit can be derived for anyone from a No vote other than $12 a month extra you get to keep? You don't have to like it, you just need to try and look at it objectively. Whether you have kids in the schools or not, voting No will hurt everyone in some way. Please put personal feelings about the SRVUSD or tax increases aside here and do the right thing.
Posted by Terry W., a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 21, 2009 at 2:31 pm
Mr. Farsh - you are correct that during critical economic times the private sector loses their foothold and companies go out of business. I can handle losing a Starbucks or two, but impacting the lives of the children in my community by letting a school district lose teaching and counseling staff ( or go out of business, to stay consistent with your metaphor) does not sit with MY principles. There is a reason why the educational system is set up to provide curriculum based (and, if lucky, arts/sports/cultural programs) from ages 5-18. It is during these critical years that children have the opportunity build upon their education one year to the next, each grade expanding on the knowledge of the grade prior, all in keeping with clear developmental milestones. Impacting the quality of education for even one year adversely affects every year following.
I don't feel as though contributing $12.00 a month is "handing over my wallet" to the school district. I feel it is making a very small contribution in helping to sustain an award winning school district during near impossible economic circumstances. As a bonus, your property values (which, like it or not, are increased due to the success of the schools) will benefit.
Posted by Raymond, a resident of the San Ramon neighborhood, on Apr 21, 2009 at 3:38 pm
Just to put these discussions in context, I did some research and found that about one third of my taxes goes to SRVUSD - about $2,000 a year in my case. This doesn't include another $250 for some sort of bond payments.
Contributing $12 a month is probably not "handing over my wallet", but forking out over 2 grand each year is.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 21, 2009 at 3:48 pm
Raymond, $2,000 is forking over your wallet? Do you have any idea how much a good private school's annual tuition might be? As much as $10k a year or more. And that school may not even be as good as the public schools we currently have in SRVUSD. If $2k is an accurate amount (and I don't know if it is or not) of taxes we pay each year for these great schools, we're getting a bargain as far as I'm concerned.
Posted by Schoolmom, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 21, 2009 at 9:32 pm
For the record, the local (non religious) private schools cost from $13,500 to $22,000 per year (per child). I know. I've researched them. And that is all the MORE reason to pass measure C and give the "little people" a chance at a quality education.
Posted by Barbara, a member of the Stone Valley Middle School community, on Apr 22, 2009 at 10:03 am
I am a senior who voted NO on C even though we can be exempted from the tax. The reason is very simple: When there is accountability in our schools and there is the removal of tenure in the job, I will then feel more inclined to vote for tax increases. In fact, I think that our teachers should make more money than they do but not until they are willing to get paid for performance (just like we should be asking our corporate CEO's to do) and that they are willing to get rid of the tenure process which keeps deadwood in the system. The good teachers are getting a bad deal because of the bad ones - Teachers get a clue!
Posted by Schoolmom, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2009 at 10:26 am
While some of you "no on C" folks may have some valid arguments, NONE -- I repeat NONE -- of them is sufficient to warrant a denial of our kids, today or in the future, to have anything less than the very best public education we can give them. What good could you possibly hope to see when the starting point is a district with no funds. These are not small consequences, and shame on you for playing out your utopian politics on our kids' education.
Posted by Teacherman, a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 22, 2009 at 2:11 pm
Trust me, as a relatively new teacher, I hear your remarks! I believe that incorporating competition into the teaching profession will 1.improve teacher performance and 2. increase teacher salary, just like in every other field.
However, what you and many others have done is meshed the issues. Measure C is not about teacher salaries or performance. Its not about unions or parking lots. Its about maintaining the budget as best as SRVUSD can in the wake of one of the worst budget cuts to the district by the state of California, $16 million and counting.
What you and the others who have voted NO on C have done is potentially reduced this community's children the same access or programs that students of the past have been able to pursue like sports, music, counseling services, after school tutoring programs, etc.
When the Merit Pay for Teachers battle begins, I will likely stand by your side. However, right now is just a battle to maintain the excellence of our schools for our children!
Posted by Alamo Old-Timer, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2009 at 8:00 pm
I hope everyone looks at their recent property tax bill (which doesn't require much 'research') Raymond stated he is "forking over $2,000 plus another $250 for some bond payments" equaling one third of his total property tax bill each year. My annual property tax is $7000 (similar to Raymond's) of which the three local school-related assessments total $412 per year - LESS THAN 6%. Quite a bargain compared to private school tuition and the fact that all the SRV high schools are viewed as rigorous by top tier university admissions departments.
Worker Bee, Arata, and others who are flying the banner that "old-timers can get an exemption and won't have to pay the Measure C taxes inferring that the District is buying their votes in a secondhand kind of way" My husband and I have qualified but did not exercise (along with many of our friends and neighbors)the exemption available for the 5 years of the current $90 parcel tax. By being frugal with unnecessary expenditures we believe an investment in the education of the upcoming generations is one of the ways we can "leave the world a better place."
Posted by Community courtesy, a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 23, 2009 at 3:25 pm
I received several comments from Alamo region neighbors who have adult children as SRVHS and MVHS alumni. They point to the volume of donations, fund raisers, volunteer hours as fund raising and the parcel taxes they have paid. One very active fund raiser from the 1990's noted that she had contributed more than $20,000 personally during her children's middle and high school years and raised more than five times that amount via fund raisers.
She supports Measure C and fully supports the senior exemptions because most seniors gave a great deal during the years their children were attending SRVUSD schools. Her question deserves community comment: "Isn't time that current parents and newer residents inherit the burden of our schools' finances?"
Posted by Janet Orgill, a member of the Monte Vista High School community, on Apr 23, 2009 at 4:55 pm
It is absolutely time for the newer residents and parents to step up and support the schools, and I think that we are doing so to the best of our ability. After all, we moved here for the quality schools! Believe me when I say that we are funding and fundraising at a level that meets or exceeds past participation--as the president of Monte Vista Academic Boosters, I have the historical documentation to prove this.
Keep in mind that the newer residents who paid over $1 million for their homes are paying many thousands more in property taxes than the numbers mentioned here. If someone paying $15K a year in taxes can see their way clear to sign up for more, you old-timers ought to think twice, just like the Alamo resident above who qualifies for and chooses not to take the senior exemption. (Worker Bee, the senior exemption isn't a way to "buy" votes. It is a way for seniors on a fixed income to do the right thing in spite of their circumstances).
Barbara: Measure C is not the right arena to fight the tenure issue. SRVUSD is the employer, and their contracts are legally binding. It is an absolute shame that the teachers pink-slipped had to be the newest, where the tenure system once again protected those who might not survive in a meritocracy. This is rightfully a fight with the teachers union, and the government officials who have received funds from them over many election cycles.
I have spent some time looking at other high-achieving districts with parcel taxes. Here is the data that I have collected:
As a substitute teacher, I spent today with 140 or so of this communities' children. I will tell you that they are worth your investment, because they are our future.
Posted by Michael Arata, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2009 at 1:10 am
I appreciate Danville Weekly’s publication of “Voters Should Flunk Measure C.” My thanks as well now to “Worker Bee,” “Susan,” “Free to Choose,” “Dawn”, Jake Farsh, “Jack,” “Raymond, and “Barbara” for sensible comments and for “NO” votes on Measure C. The Public Choice Theory commentary by Free to Choose was literally right on the money!
And yes, Worker Bee, a senior exemption does indeed represent SRVUSD’s cynical attempt to buy votes. Fair-minded seniors will recognize the inequity in supporting taxes they needn’t pay themselves. So please continue to spread the word about Measure C, and please refer voters to www.NOonC.info.
Meanwhile, the all too eponymic “Teacherman,” apparently a would-be beneficiary of the new series of retroactive raises which Measure C would enable (on top of existing step-and-column increases, and without regard to merit or lack thereof), doesn’t know quite what to make of having “been branded a liberal.” But he considers Measure C an absolute entitlement.
And the innumeracy and illogic he exhibits here are certainly among the common antecedents and/or symptoms of liberalism. Basing notions about public-agency spending upon feelings rather than facts is another co-factor, indeed a hallmark, of the liberal condition.
Specifically, Teacherman finds dollar figures (“number ramblings”) which gainsay his enthusiasm for Measure C “too confusing,” or that [allegedly] they “don’t add up” — oh, and that they’re “misleading as well.” So after all his “researching and reading,” no argument against Measure C holds merit for him.
He can admit, though, that “We all know that public education costs a lot of money.” The more perceptive among us recognize that whatever that amount is now (in this district, presently $8,221 in general-fund spending per student, or over $205,000 per 25-student classroom in operational dollars alone), it keeps rising in constant-dollar (inflation-adjusted) terms, and that so far as the public-sector spending lobby is concerned, it’s never been and will never be enough (as Susan observes in these postings).
So even if SRVUSD per-student spending is a more than a third higher in constant dollars now than when the district failed to pass a parcel tax in 1991-92, then the [Teacherman-alleged] end, “consistent results of high student achievement,” supposedly justifies the means — however costly.
Naturally, thereby, the Teacherman-postulated “need right now is met by passing Measure C” — i.e., a 60% increase in the existing parcel tax!
Even if SRVUSD were to experience actual budget cuts (not just reductions in planned increases), the district would have to lose nearly $60 Million from its current $215 Million budget to regain parity with the effects of inflation and enrollment increases since 1991-92.
Teacherman does eventually try his hand with some numbers. He claims, for example, that the “district approved a budget that laid off or released 500 teachers, librarians, counselors, and psychologists. It cancelled music programs, coaches stipends, and drastically cut physical education programs… because the state has cut 16 million from the district budget.”
But the 9-month-employment salary and benefit cost of 500 certificated district employees, were they to be laid off (which they have not been and will not be) would be on the order of $40 Million, not $16 Million.
Meanwhile, asserting “high student achievement” begs the question. In fact, as my article observed: AMONG SIMILAR SCHOOLS, SRVUSD’s Academic Performance Index ratings average just 6.9 out of 10. And as in most districts, SRVUSD high school juniors perform poorly in State testing of college readiness — averaging only 43% proficiency in English, for example. SRVUSD’s performance deficiencies are featured in “Not As Good As You Think,” published by the Pacific Research Institute.
[And the CSU system, which administers the college readiness tests, still laments the fact that about 50% of matriculating students require remedial English -- and that about a third of CSU freshmen need remedial help in math.]
More talk about numbers, I realize – inconvenient, distasteful, and “confusing” to Teacherman. They underscore the fact that dollarwise, taxpaying citizens long ago “did our duty to reach the needs of our students.” But it is unionized teachers, often more focused on indoctrination than instruction, who’ve failed to “maintain educational excellence.”
All too frequently, they’ve displaced facts with feelings (a substitution “Teacherman” advocates presently as a voter response to Measure C) — and teachers of knowledge and skills with propaganda shills. “Values”? A classic illustration of teacher-union values is the booklet "Guidelines for Academic Freedom in the Public Schools," published by the California Teachers Association in 1984: “Who dares take on religion, free enterprise, patriotism, and motherhood? We do — and we must!” (p. 32)
But to Dan Parnas, it’s adopting a “NO on C” position which is “morally corrupt”! And to Mr. Parnas, it’s evidently OK for “Teacherman,” “Schoolmom,” “Terry W.,” et al. to maintain anonymity (and that’s fine with me, by the way), but not for opponents to Measure C. Furthermore, nine other individuals signed the public ballot arguments opposing Measure C, realizing they could face the scorn of determined tax promoters.
As for common sense, that’s what voters demonstrate when they realize that SRVUSD spending represents a local microcosm of public-agency spending in general — in both cases, spending which far exceeds the combined and compounded rates of enrollment growth (or population increases) and inflation over time.
For such voters, it’s thereby also common sense to begin calling a halt where they can — in this case, to a 60% parcel-tax increase while much of America is suffering layoffs, foreclosures, bankruptcies, huge investment losses, and retirement delays.
One or more homeroom mother(s) at Greenbrook School (where Mr. Parnas is a parent) has/have again been using privileged classroom e-mail addresses to promote Measure C — and that’s illegal, as is the use of other public resources in urging “yes” votes on C.
Janet Orgill apparently opposes any use of 2008-09 budget-year reserves ($6.9 Million set aside for “economic uncertainties”), unencumbered reserves ($5.6 Million, likely set aside to fund the first new retroactive raises sometime next year), or $1 Million more in discretionary “carryover” funds.
Last year’s 1% increase was the fourth of four raises since passage of the current parcel tax in 2004 (when both the superintendent and SRVUSD’s public relations chief said Measure A was unconnected to raises, while we opponents predicted the raises which have occurred). Cumulatively, the raises have amounted to 20% — again, on top of existing step and column increases.
And a few other facts, also “just for fun”:
1. The general-fund spending I’ve documented does not pertain to capital improvements. Indeed, that category of the budget is entirely separate, involving additional taxpayer expenditures over and above the $8,221 per student this year, or $205,525 per 25-student classroom.
2. In my world (and from the perspective of a 20-year classroom and coaching veteran), that’s plenty enough to go around. The title of one article I wrote while I was still a full-time teacher identified then what’s needed now: “Better Schools, Not More Taxes.” Having worked directly for and with children (students and athletes) and parents in high-achieving private and public schools and swim clubs, I know first hand that more and more money isn’t necessary for improving performance.
3. Predicting enrollment numbers from new construction and other demographic factors isn’t so difficult. And as Ernie Scherer demonstrated in 2006, SRVUSD’s 2004 vastly understated enrollment-increase projections at the time of that earlier parcel-tax campaign were an exercise either in terrible incompetence or rank dishonesty, leading to a fictitious funding deficiency, just in time for misleading parcel-tax promotions. We’re seeing a replay of that tactic now.
4. 225 pink slips (notices of potential layoff) were issued in 2004. Ultimately, nobody was laid off — and nobody would have been laid off had Measure A failed. Instead, the measure brought in $3.8 Million in its first year, and the District then implemented $3.8 Million in the first of four retroactive raises. As part of 2009’s tactical replay, 228 teachers have received pink slips this year.
Janet Orgill is correct about some of my essential arguments: indeed, “the district is wasting money, [some] teachers are [hugely] overpaid [relative to what they accomplish], and the education in SRVUSD just isn't that good.” And the facts do support those arguments.
Regarding (increasingly test-experience-boosted) API scores and parcel tax amounts, or school spending in general: as Jake Farsh points out, and as Eric Hanushek and other researchers have demonstrated, correlations between school spending, per se, and achievement are questionable, ranging to poor or even negative. Far more important correlates of achievement, at least in the U.S., are the professionalism and dedication of teachers and the socioeconomic situations of families with kids in school.
Finally: “Farmer Dave” wants “to see a notation on each comment against Measure C stating whether the individual has children that attend school in the district (private school doesn't count). If you can read this comment, thank a teacher.”
Parcel owners generally pay large real-estate taxes now, and Measure C would cumulatively increase those taxes by another $1,008 over the next seven years. Many parents pay not only the taxes which fund public schools, but additional sums for tutors — and in many cases, large tuitions for private schools so their kids can escape the problems of public schools; or in some cases they invest personal time in homeschooling their children.
Farmer Dave’s invidious demand for marginalizing the comments of such taxpayers is unfortunately a common one, and one that is at least implied by some other commentators in this forum — in so many words: sit down, shut up, and pay more new taxes now, whether you think the purpose is legitimate or not.
And Farmer Dave’s citation of a teacher-union-favorite bumper sticker reminds me of another: “If you thing education is expensive, try ignorance.” Unfortunately, we’re trying both. We’re already paying a great deal of money, for an unsatisfactory educational product.
Again, readers should look to www.NOonC.info for additional information.
Posted by Repeal Prop 13, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2009 at 6:45 am
When I started graduate school 11 years ago (where I earned my Master's in Education) my first class was all about how education should be run like a business. It never made sense. Education is the cornerstone of our Republic. SRVUSD is the best of the worst, meaning, we are tops in CA, but CA is in the bottom 3 of the 50 states in student achievement. We spend money on rehabbing District Offices (not in SRVUSD per se) and leave our kids in crappy portable classrooms. Why is CA at the bottom? Two words: Prop Thirteen. It is nonsensical for a homeowner whose home has valued more than $800,000 over 15 to 20 years to be paying only $2000/yr in property taxes. That is discriminatory towards those of us who are buying now. If you can't pay the extra $54 a year, maybe the Repeal Prop 13 Movement should get a bit more serious. I am not an advocate for throwing money at schools to "solve" problems, but a well funded, stable budget is what the schools, and our children deserve.
Mr. Arata et. al, you really need to get a life. I am sorry that you are so angry. Maybe you should pick up meditation or drinking to relax. Your numbers are skewed and really, when put into context, aren't so persuasive.
Yes, lay offs are happening in the private sector, they are happening in the public sector too. If you don't like how the Assembly is handling things, vote out your State Representative, quit voting in people who run on national platforms like war, abortion, and Gay marriage. Vote for people who actually give a damn about our state.
Everyone has the right to vote their conscience on Measure C. But it is astounding that people really think that teachers in SRVUSD don't deserve better job security. They are confounded with state mandated testing, continuing their own personal education at their own cost and being at their students' parents beck and call 24 hours a day (thanks to email). And people want to bitch about the 185 work year? Teachers in this district are the most underpaid in the Bay area. All districts have their salary schedules on their websites, feel free to check them out if you don't believe me. We had two yes votes come out of our house for Measure C.
For those of you who vote No, I hope the nice family next door to you moves away to a better school district that cares about education and some really crappy neighbors move in next door and park their car in the front yard. And then Prop 13 is repealed. It's all about Karma.
Posted by cardfark, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2009 at 8:08 am
While many of Mr. Arrata's letters to the CCTimes have resembled the waste water about which he consults, he has convinced me here with a logic-filled, platitude-free set of arguments. Well-written, too -- nicely done!
As for Mr. Parnas, you are free to assuage that guilt by either making voluntary contributions to SRVUSD, or donating any filthy lucre directly to your brother in Sacramento.
Posted by Terry W., a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 24, 2009 at 8:38 am
Mr. Arata - You seem to live in your own private Idaho, where schools don't suffer from the economic issues that are crippling much of the nation and therefore need the support of community.
You appear to have quite a bit of time to form arguments intended to sway voters to your point of view (and you have every right to do so - I don't begrudge you this opportunity). I wonder if you would put some of your energies into working on a solution? If measure C does indeed fail, will you accept your share of responsibility when teachers and counselors DO get laid off, programs are cut from the curriculum and our children suffer as a result? I wonder if couched inside your angry expressions and contempt for those that oppose your viewpoint, there lies a willingness to work for the students in this community rather than against?
Posted by Schoolmom, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2009 at 10:04 am
Bravo, Terry W. I second that. Mr. Arata, how about becoming part of the solution?
I have two kids who are certain to be negatively impacted if class size reduction goes away, effective Aug. 2009. Short of paying tens of thousands of dollars for a private school and/or moving, what is the best immediate solution to preserve the smaller class sizes they now have? I am absolutely willing to direct my time and efforts toward that objective. In the meantime, I don't see the cost of ONE restaurant meal to be too much if it betters the chance that my kids won't be crammed into a classroom like cattle.
Posted by Danville Resident, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2009 at 10:36 am
Have any of you asking for a 'no vote' actually walked on a school campus in SRVUSD AND walked on a campus in say Oakland? I have. The difference is amazing! There is a reason our home values have stayed relatively speaking level compared with many of the values in California. It's our schools. Families still want to move here even in these economic times.
I for one would like to see our school district have some control over how the money is spent. They are not perfect, but they do try to balance the budget with what they are given to work with.
I have already voted YES on C and encourage those that have not voted to do so as well. At the very least, go take a look at what our schools could become before you begrudge them $12/month from your pocket.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 24, 2009 at 10:36 am
Wow, not sure where to start in addressing Mr. Arata's rambling post. It reminded me of Bush's argument for invading Iraq. You can manufacture any kind of "intelligence" to support your argument if you take data from sources that you are not responsible for their accuracy, but feel free to question the accuracy of data from sources that refute your position. Nice try, but the nation already rejected that failed/flawed strategy back in November. This issue is so incredibly simple.
1) In the midst of the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes and with huge cuts in education spending coming from the state, if measure C fails, the SRVUSD will lose teachers, class sizes will grow, programs will be eliminated like art, music, counseling, etc...
2) With schools deteriorating, our property values will drop. When I moved to the area in 1999, from another part of the East Bay where public schools were poor, I sold my house for roughly 50% of what I paid for my home in Danville. They were of similar size, both nice homes. Why was the one in Danville twice as expensive? A big part of that was the SRVUSD. That is the #1 reason why I moved here and why I was willing to pay twice as much for a similar home.
It just takes 2 points to cover it all. I just detailed the damage that will be done by Measure C failing. It is a fact, not opinion. Now, what benefits will we achieve by Measure C failing? Hmm, let me think..... Oh yeah, we all get to keep $144 a year (that's the only positive, if you can call that a positive), but our property values may drop by thousands. By the way, my day job is as an executive in Finance & Accounting. I think I understand numbers and economics pretty well. This is one of those rare opportunities to make an investment decision that is a no brainer.
As far as Mr. Arata's statements regarding my position on anonymity, you missed my point (again). There are Yes on C signs on front lawns and car windows throughout the district. There is a face on the Yes on C movement. Just look out the window. Of course it is everyone's personal choice whether to be public about their position. Perhaps it was unfair to single out the No on C voters that have been anonymously posting here, but you're all we've got to debate with. Nobody else has had the courage or conviction to take that position other than Mr. Arata. The contrast was just too stark to miss pointing out. There are zero, count them zero, No on C signs on anyone's front lawns or car windows. The only ones out there are illegally posted on public property (at least they were until those of us in the community tore them down). And I do not condone Yes on C illegally campaigning either. Fortunately, there aren't any Yes on C signs posted illegally anywhere. I wonder why that is? Perhaps because there were too many people that were perfectly happy posting their signs visibly on their own private property. Generally when a movement does not have the courage and pride to stand up for what they believe in, it says a lot about the merits of that movement.
And I totally agree with the last couple of posts on finding solutions to our problems. I posted in another forum yesterday the following: "...That's what being a member of a community is all about. You don't point fingers and blame someone else for your problems, you work together to solve those problems. Passing measure C is one step in that direction. Working to fail measure C simply contributes to deepening our problems. I don't want to be a part of that."
Posted by cardfark, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2009 at 10:44 am
Although it's unfair to call-out Mr. Arrata simply because he's chosen to make the case against this new tax, I hope all readers -- pro and con on the issue at-hand -- will look into their hearts to see if there's some space that volunteering might help fill.
That said, I also recall having tried to volunteer to develop and champion a conflict resolution course in my daughter's SRVUSD middle school. I was met with sufficient bureaucratic resistance that I took my heart-space elsewhere. I hope others find this outlet more receptive than I did.
Posted by Member, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2009 at 1:28 pm
Measure C will surely pass, the numbers, facts and amounts don't matter. It is an emotionally packed issue and people vote with emotions not facts. If people think schools will be better with higher taxes, then they will vote yes. Teachers are just like everyone else, they go into it because of non-salary perks: health benefits, shorter workday (they don't work more than 35 hr week on average), long vacations, tenure, and good retirement. Teachers and their strong union don't have it as bad as they would like everyone to think. If it is so awful why are there so many getting into teaching? The credential programs have waiting lists at most state colleges. Oh, those are facts.
Posted by Michael Arata, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2009 at 1:56 am
Projection, the unwitting or manipulatively conscious assignment of one’s own failings upon others, appears to be standard operating procedure for Dan Parnas and some other Measure C tax promoters.
But indeed, “the issue is so incredibly simple,” as it boils down to two simple facts:
(1) SRVUSD understates its fiscal position; and
(2) SRVUSD overstates its academic performance.
These deceptions become especially obvious — and particularly worthy of public notice — whenever the district seeks new taxes.
The data which exposes the district’s misrepresentations is available in (1) SRVUSD’s own financial statements and (2) postings by the California Department of Education — though Mr. Parnas will likely reject any source which doesn’t confirm his preconceptions. Summaries of the data, with related links where available, can be found at www.NOonC.info/pages/spending09.htm and www.NOonC.info/pages/academic.htm
In 2004, SRVUSD’s then superintendent and the district’s then-and-now PR spokesman both denied that 2004’s parcel tax was about raises. We opponents said they were deceiving the public. Four retroactive raises later: we were right again, as we’ve been uniformly in challenging the district’s expensive gamesmanship.
But if Mr. Parnas’s financial wizardry leads him to believe the district and its tax promoters, that's certainly his option. Perhaps he’ll notice some day that SRVUSD is always in a state of fiscal crisis — until it’s time for the next retroactive pay raise. Sadly, the district will always manage to convince some substantial number of parents and other voters to support and to assist its latest Chicken Little, sky-is-falling, dialing-for-dollars manipulations of public opinion.
Meanwhile, if home values depend on education spending, then we should all consider moving into the Oakland USD or the West Contra Costa USD. They both spend over $10,000 per student annually — and yet there are some terrific, hugely price-depressed real-estate deals to be had in those districts.
As for multitudes of “yes on C” signs: they aren’t surprising or unusual. One illegal Greenbrook School message, using privileged class-parent e-mail addresses, mentioned a $250,000 campaign — and that buys a lot of signs.
Whatever its final dollar size this time around, the tax-promotion campaign is again being funded and powered by easy-to-mobilize PTA and teacher-union troops, and likely once again by vendors of goods and services to the district. Underlying direction, rallies, and deluges of printed material are again being coordinated by professional campaign agents — likely the same outfit the district itself hired with many thousands of taxpayer dollars to undertake push polling as a preliminary step to rolling out what became the Measure C campaign.
In marked contrast, the grassroots opposition doesn’t have professional campaign agents, taxpayer-financed push polls and spin doctors, slanted media coverage — nor illegal school-based campaigning. (By the way, perhaps Mr. Parnas’s zealous illegal-sign-removal campaign can include the sign posted at the Diablo on-ramp sign for 680N — even if officially, “there aren't any Yes on C signs posted illegally anywhere.”)
The present “yes on C” campaign coordinators appear to be a little more discreet than the district’s previous hucksters. The book authored by one of those earlier promoters worries that “by using our sophisticated tools to target, analyze, and segment voters, we are in fact hurting the democratic process.... New technologies allow campaigns to target various subsets of voters and to ignore others.”
The other earlier agent’s own co-authored book urges school administrators pushing new taxes to “create cognitive dissonance” and to consider “the ‘theater’ associated with media contact.” SRVUSD is already a practiced master of such tactics, whether or not the present campaign agents are overt about such things.
In 1995 – 97, the district spent $237,000 trying to defend and to rehabilitate a number of illegal bond-measure ballots, only to see its expensive team of ten lawyers lose the case in two courtrooms to two non-attorneys acting in propria persona — Ernie Scherer and myself.
The $144 amount? For one, it adds up to $1,008 over 7 years. Secondly, defeating Measure C would be one small but important step in beginning to require spendthrift public agencies to live within their means — for example, to restrict spending increases to the combined rates of inflation (to which public agencies contribute mightily, by the way) and population (or enrollment) growth.
Were some programs actually to be defunded (as unlikely now as in 1991-92, when the district tried and lost its first parcel-tax campaign, but wound up with a surplus which it applied to raises), it wouldn’t be the fault of already overstressed taxpayers or because SRVUSD lacks the money. Since the district is way ahead of the inflation-enrollment curve, dropping programs would simply be another case of educrats attempting crudely to hold children and parents hostage, while assuring the next round of cross-the-board raises, without regard to merit.
One of my local contributions to education, by the way — following 20 years of full-time teaching and coaching — was to substitute-teach during the 1990 teacher strike here, when the teacher unionists who claimed they did everything “for the children” in fact deserted the children, and then did their best (worst) to disrupt the educational process.
The SRVEA union received CTA’s “Joyce Fadem Chapter in Politics” award after following the strike with orchestration of a recall and election of a new union-compliant school board. Since then, successions of union-friendly board majorities have gratified their SRVEA campaigners and funders, while betraying the interests of parents, other taxpayers, and children.
Also in the time since, I’ve exposed perniciously inappropriate programs, salacious classroom and library materials, and some of the unprofessional and / or malfeasant teachers who put such garbage in front of kids — and have seen some of the junk removed and some of the offending teachers move on.
And for the benefit of “wondering,” I didn’t leave teaching because of money. I put aside early admission to medical school, in fact, to become a teacher and coach, after some related volunteer work my junior year of college. In other words, I became a teacher by deliberation, not by default.
My departure from teaching, after what became 20 years of highly successful results, was motivated by accelerating administrative dereliction, increasing numbers of non-academic interruptions of the instructional day, the frequent substitution of R-rated indoctrination in place of instruction, the suffocating mediocrity induced by union strangleholds on American education, and the prospect of happier circumstances in other realms of endeavor.
Much remains to be done now in terms of converting indoctrination back to beneficial instruction in knowledge and skills; in insisting upon rigorous grade-level standards, and implementation and enforcement of same; in better overall utilization of 186 paid teacher-employment days annually; and in efficient application of existing dollar resources.
I recognize that many voters have been dragooned into a “yes on C” position through school-based promotions or simple unfamiliarity with the legitimate arguments opposing Measure C. Here’s hoping that those who haven’t yet returned their vote-by-mail ballots take time before voting now to read the ballot arguments, and to visit www.NOonC.info.
There, among other informative pages, both sides’ ballot arguments are posted, with explanatory annotations.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 25, 2009 at 8:52 am
So in other (many) words, let's bring the school system to its knees at a time when it is most vulnerable, so that the change that you, Mr Arata, think is necessary can occur. So your argument then I suppose would follow that for our country as a whole, which is also in dire straits, you would suggest allowing the country to implode and anarchy to reign so that it could rise from the ashes and become the pure and true institution that you believe it should be. As principled and idealistic as that sounds, we have to operate in the world we know and within the confines of reality. As hard as it might be to admit this, I actually agree with some of your points in principle, the problem is that I don't believe the way you are going about trying to institute change is realistic, nor on point.
I'm a believer in fighting for what you believe in, and in that I respect your position, clearly you are passionate about it. But, as members of a larger community, we need to be careful about assuming that our point of view is right and just and therefore everyone else should (and must) feel the same way. That is how I view your argument, that you are trying somehow to invoke your viewpoint on others because it is the right and just thing. When I start to hear comments like "R rated" and "salicious", I see the slippery slope you are on and I want no part of it. The religious right has no place in politics and it frightens me to hear that kind of thing pop up in my community. Yet another reason I live in Northern California is to stay away from bible belt politics, biases and bigotry and to keep my children away from that as well.
As far as any other points that you assigned to me, I'll leave that for the readers to determine, partially because I have no idea what you are talking about. I've taken some shots at you, so only fair for you to do the same.
And I will head over to the Diablo onramp and remove that sign. I haven't been over there, so did not know it was there. I don't agree with that tactic for either side. But for those No on C supporters, just so you know, the pen to express your support that writes on car windows costs $2 and can be bought at Boswells. Those of us that support a Yes on Measure C paid for them ourselves (talk about the definition of grassroots), so please do not argue that a funded campaign has anything to do with the reason why Yes on C support can be found visibly and legally throughout our commmunity while the No on C supporters hide behind their anonymity for clear reasons.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 25, 2009 at 9:30 am
Another thought after reflecting on Mr. Arata's long post.
Has Mr. Arata, or anyone else that supports his arguments given any thought to what if they are wrong? Are you so steadfast in your position that you refuse to consider that you might be wrong? Just for the fun of it, consider that for a second. If you are wrong, and Measure C fails and the consequences are as the rest of us believe them to be, what then? It will be too late and the tailspin it will send the schools into could take years or even decades to recover from. Your argument operates under the assumption that with Measure C failing, the SRVUSD board will be forced to become fiscally responsible and will find the funds necessary to maintain and/or improve the quality of education in the SRVUSD. Is that accurate? Now, in the real world, how often does that happen and even when it does, isn't there generally a long period where things get worse before they get better? I'm trying to think of a single instance where that kind of approach has happened successfully in the public sector. Generally when that approach is taken, the institution fails completely and becomes extinct. Do we really want to gamble with the school systems in that way, particularly at this time in our economy where the state is not available to come to the rescue?
If I were to take the opposite approach and consider "what if" my position supporting Measure C is wrong. OK, I'll give it a try. So, I'm wrong, and I give $54 a year more in property taxes than I'm giving now, am I substantially harmed? I'm out $54 a year. I can live with that. Is the school system harmed in any way? Are my property values harmed in any way? The answer is no. But, if I'm right then my $54 a year (in addition to the $90 a year I was already paying) will have gone a long way to helping to keep our school system at its current level (which I'm very happy with) and strong. Clearly that is the right choice for me. I would never gamble like that on our school system over $54 a year.
Posted by Terry W., a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 25, 2009 at 9:48 am
Mr. Parnas, I so appreciate your thoughtful response to Mr. Arata's post. I'm frustrated that an historical "win" against the school district seems to be fueling a campaign that could cripple our schools and devastate funding for teachers and programs.
On a brighter note, I attended a production of "Into the Woods" last night at SRVHS. The performance was sold out, teachers, staff and volunteers were supporting the event, and I have no doubt that these same individuals have contributed countless (unpaid) hours to make this such an incredible production. I was amazed at what these individuals accomplished, along with a supremely talented and dedicated cast and crew. What will happen to this and other arts programs is measure C fails? I, for one, would hate to find out.
Posted by Dawn, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2009 at 12:19 pm
Mr. Parnas -
You stated, "Behind your anonymity it is awfully convenient to make this argument, because you must feel awfully ashamed and embarrassed to publicly argue such a morally corrupt position.'
From personal and practical experience, I have learned that publicly displaying my fiscally responsible (IMO) views results in property damage. Those who, like you, argue so emotionally about issues do not seem to have an 'off' switch.
I have had my car keyed twice for displaying 'No on...' messages in past years. I have had tires punctured while sporting a 'NOBama' magnet. I have friends who had their car physically destroyed, and others who had paint thrown on their lawn and house for displaying a sign against the LAST school measure.
It's entirely possible that you, yourself, do not engage in these behaviors. I know for certain that I do not.
Perhaps many people who feel as I do will let their NO votes do their talking for them for good reasons.
Posted by Michael Arata, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2009 at 6:14 pm
More false dichotomies: pass Measure C or (allegedly) we will “bring the school system to its knees at a time when it is most vulnerable” and “cripple our schools and devastate funding for teachers and programs.”
Meanwhile, we’ll supposedly be “allowing the country to implode and anarchy to reign” [hellzapoppin’! — and I must presume the missing antecedent premises here...] unless we close our eyes to the vote-buying irresponsibility of the Carter-era Community Reinvestment Act (1977) and the Clinton administration’s expansion thereof (1995); approve of taxpayer-financed bailouts and bonuses for government-sponsored enterprises (e.g., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), absorb GM “legacy” costs (i.e., exorbitant UAW wages and lifetime benefits) and accept other negligent institutional behavior; and halt opposition to public-agency spending which vastly exceeds the effect of natural escalators (population and inflation — though the latter is itself largely government driven).
So in other words, in the present context: drink the Kool-Aid, or they’ll come for the kids. It’s a worn argument, and an invalid one. Parents and other taxpayers should reject the Xeroxed and cutout ransom notes of the tax-increase extortionists, tell them to get the job done with the vast resources they already receive — and then fire them if they don’t.
Ah, but after all, shouldn’t we realize that Measure C would raise “local funds that will be spent only in the SRVUSD, to reduce class sizes; to restore elementary and secondary library programs; to restore computer and technology programs; to restore elementary reading specialists; to restore the elementary music program; and to restore other essential programs"?
Also after all, “Senior citizens may apply to the SRVUSD for an exemption.... The school board is required to review Measure C expenditures annually in an open, public hearing.... Measure C is an investment in our children, in education, in our property values and in our community.”
In fact, those are all false-alarm ballot arguments from 1991’s Measure C parcel-tax campaign. With California facing a massive legislature-created fiscal crisis then as now, the measure FAILED — but SRVUSD finished that year with a $3.6 Million surplus anyway, and implemented or continued all the programs besides.
In today’s dollars, SRVUSD’s general fund expended $6,092 per student in 1991-92. By 2003-04, BEFORE Measure A (first-time ever) parcel-tax dollars kicked in, the district’s general-fund spending was $7,958, again in constant 2008-09 dollars.
The latest SRVUSD interim budget report puts the present figure at $8,221. Without current parcel-tax dollars, it would still be $8,068.
So we don’t have to speculate about “the real world,” or search very long for “a single instance where[in] “that kind of approach [defeating Measure C] has happened successfully in the public sector,” or worry about the hypothecated possibility that “the institution fails completely and becomes extinct.”
Unfortunately, public education’s hulking dinosaurs will lumber on, consuming larger and larger real-dollar sums for an unsatisfactory outcome, and still leaving us a “Nation at Risk,” 26 years after the report of that title.
Still today, “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur--others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.”
And “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that [still] exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.”
I never assume that others will “feel the same way.” But I do keep hoping that others will begin paying attention to the facts.
As I tell newspaper editors and other media persons regularly: concentrate less on “he said / she said” (or Arata said / Parnas said) opinions when facts abound. The truth is out there, for those who want it.
Unfortunately, it’s easier for lazy reporters simply to transcribe the latest press release from Robert Gibbs or Terry Koehne — and then pass off what becomes a one-sided advocacy-journalism puff piece as “news” when at best it belongs on the editorial page.
[In the current Geoff Gillette story, Koehne exhibits either his ignorance or his continuing dishonesty when he claims that "Since Proposition 13 passed, education funding in this state has declined" -- and Gillette laps it up without challenge. In fact, per student education funding in California is at least a third higher in real-dollar terms than in 1978-79.]
Most citizens are tightening their belts these days. But SRVUSD, like other public agencies, wants to keep its ride on the gravy train.
So again: what’s important to me in discussing public-agency budgets and new taxes are FACTS, not the self-serving lamentations of the affected public agency or the captive-audience echo chamber of its self-perceived beneficiaries.
“R-rated” is not my own designation. It’s an assignment affixed by the Motion Picture Association of America to indicate that material contains “adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously.”
I don’t want my tax dollars sponsoring the exhibition of such material in SRVUSD classrooms — nor do other sensible taxpayers. An example: the showing of “Last Temptation of Christ,” a blasphemous and obscene insult to Christianity, shown during Holy Week several years ago, in a Monte Vista English class.
Other examples of inappropriate SRVUSD matter presented to students over the years — under the union-sponsored banner of “academic freedom” — are too numerous to catalog here. Mr. Parnas can place obscene material before his own children at home, I suppose — but he could thereby draw the attention of Child Protective Services.
Such irresponsibility on the part of offending instructors reminds me of my own M.Ed courses. Overall, they were a worthless collection of time-wasting nonsense, but occasionally they would veer into some common-sense acknowledgment of the reality already understood by students with any brainpower.
An example was the recognition, treated as a profound revelation in Educational Psychology 101, that “children do not think like adults.” Children operate largely in the concrete; adults can operate in the abstract. That’s among the reasons that "adult" material doesn’t belong in front of kids.
But unfortunately, the district has some significant number of teachers who apparently believe that children do think like adults -- because they are adults who think like children.
If only there were as much concern in schools about polluting children's minds as there is about Al Gore’s views on the environment!
Meanwhile, Mr. Parnas is now more overt about wanting to shut down opposing views. It’s another marker of the liberal condition, like wanting to substitute feelings for facts, or like telling “NO on C” voters effectively to sit down, shut up, and hand over your money.
But the present assertion is more dangerous, because a desire for outright exclusion of opposing political views is a manifestation of Stalinist/Leninist instincts.
[Since Mr. Parnas wants to introduce sidebar issues: silencing speech which those in power don’t like reminds me as well of the Orwellian “Fairness Doctrine,” and of attempts by the SRVEA teacher union and a homosexual-activist teacher at Charlotte Wood to shut down the “Valley Citizen” when it published commentaries they didn’t like.]
Specifically here, Mr. Parnas asserts that “the religious right has no place in politics.” We can’t be sure, but apparently “the religious right” is to be understood as those who espouse “bible belt politics” and undefined “biases and bigotry.”
So one wonders: are we meanwhile to lay out the scarlet carpet to welcome the licentious left into the political discussion?
[And are we to applaud Mr. Obama’s nomination of David Ogden as deputy attorney general? After all, Ogden volunteered to assist a challenge to the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which was intended to shield children from access to pornography on school and library computers. Oh, but I forgot momentarily: it’s opposing Measure C which is “morally corrupt.” ]
In particular, regarding Mr. Parnas’s obdurate insistence that a lack of widespread “NO on C” signs somehow indicates that opponents to the Measure C scam are “awfully ashamed and embarrassed to publicly argue such a morally corrupt position” (! — Yes, he really said that, in his Apr 20, 2009, 2:37 pm post above –- and posits the same “clear reasons” now):
Dawn tells forthrightly of the consequences sometimes visited upon those who speak up in opposition to local tax measures.
I hear frequently myself, via phone and e-mail, from school parents and other taxpayers who fear direct retribution or negative consequences for their children from teachers (especially those sporting “yes on tax measure” buttons) if the parents et al. publicly oppose the measure.
And Free to Choose himself answered Mr. Parnas correctly and articulately, specifying the spot-on applicability of Public Choice Theory in his post of Apr 20, 2009 11:50 am, also above.
Here’s hoping that a sufficient number of people will do as Dawn suggests, and let their “NO” votes on Measure C do their talking for them. More information remains available at www.NOonC.info .
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 25, 2009 at 10:24 pm
I think after that mind numbing diatribe, the No on C campaign (or at least Mr. Arata) has taken the leap into the waters of full blown insanity.
I think and hope the readers and voters can decide for themselves (if they haven't already), what makes sense.
You can take Mr. Arata's position that clearly with dramatic cuts in education spending by the State of California and the current parcel tax expiring further reducing funding for the SRVUSD, that they should have no trouble finding the funds needed to keep our schools strong and growing. You can bend and shape all the numbers (as you attempt above) you want to support that position, but truthfully, does that make sense to anyone? Not me.
Or you can take the Yes on C position that with the unprecedented cuts in school funding by the state and the current parcel tax expiring, if Measure C is not approved, class sizes will increase, programs like art, science, science and school counselors will be eliminated. If those things are important to you, then you should vote Yes on C.
If you're willing to gamble on the No on C position simply to save $12 a month, that's your choice. Remind me again how that benefits anyone?
Posted by jake farsh, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 12:35 am
Dawn's comment about intimidation and property damage must be taken seriousely and these types of behavior must be condemned by all,especially those in favor of "C". We can strongly debate, yet wishing one's good neighbor to move and be replaced by a nasty person demonstrates a lack of civility. While I can understand the frustration of having to confront a well researched and well reasoned arguement put forth by Mr. Arata, it does not excuse the behavior of some who wish ill on the opposition nor it can condone property damage.
Posted by Michael Arata, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 1:24 am
There he goes again. Once more, Mr. Parnas illustrates what happens when hot air meets thin ice.
In fact, from 1991-92 (when SRVUSD failed in its first parcel-tax scam) to 2003-04 (the year before funds from a finally passed parcel tax kicked in), the district not only survived but thrived financially — again, with no parcel tax.
Then, consistent with its long prior record of deceiving the public, SRVUSD implemented a series of four RETROACTIVE raises which the district's superintendent and PR spokesmen had said the new parcel tax would NOT enable.
District spending, already clipping along at much faster rates than inflation and enrollment growth combined, took another accelerated leap upward -- so rapidly that the district's tax promoters apparently suffered an illusion that the sky was falling.
As with 1991’s Measure C and 2004’s Measure A, the present Measure C parcel tax campaign is once again about cross-the-board raises, without regard to merit.
With SRVUSD already spending over $205,000 on average per 25-student classroom this year (in operational expenses alone), any elimination of essential programs (with or without the current Measure C) would simply be another exhibition of misplaced priorities and fiscal irresponsibility -- and not an indication of insufficient funds.
No wonder that Mr. Parnas and some other tax promoters don't like seeing, hearing, or speaking the relevant numbers.
Ultimately, this isn’t just about saving $12 a month. In a time of taxpayer layoffs, foreclosures, bankruptcies, huge investment losses, and retirement postponements, rejection of Measure C will save each non-exempted parcel owner $1,008 cumulatively over 7 years. And defeating Measure C will amount to one small step in forcing one public agency to live within its means, i.e., to begin limiting its spending increases to the combined effect of inflation and population (here, enrollment) growth.
And that would be a very sizable benefit — a start to reining in out-of-control public agencies at large, and an illustration of the fact that when public agencies say “jump,” taxpayers ought not simply to respond “how high?” For details on Measure C, visit www.NOonC.info.
Posted by Danville Mom, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 3:29 am
From teacherman: I did look at the expenditure list the night the school district approved a budget that laid off or released 500 teachers, librarians, counselors, and psychologists. It cancelled music programs, coaches stipends, and drastically cut physical education programs.
Can somebody please tell me what are the planned cuts at the administrative level? At both my husband's and my employers the managers have taken pay cuts. I have read nothing about planned layoffs or cutbacks of school or district administrators or staff in response to this fiscial challenge.
It seems like the district is aiming all the planned layoffs where there would be a direct impact on the students.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 26, 2009 at 9:22 am
Thanks Mr. Arata, you're making my job easy here.
So, to my earlier post, you are agreeing that my summary of your position that clearly with dramatic cuts in education spending by the State of California and the current parcel tax expiring further reducing funding for the SRVUSD, that they should have no trouble finding the funds needed to keep our schools strong and growing. Welcome to the No on C bizarro world. You can produce all the historical numbers you want, but in the end, does that make sense to anyone? Use your common sense people.
As far as going to a No on C website to get "objective" "facts" about this argument? Uh, no thanks. I'd no sooner go to a Nazi website to get objective facts on Jews.
Just as with the past presidential election, people used their common sense and found facts from objective sources to make informed decisions. The last place anyone should be going to get "facts" about a ballot measure is the website specifically developed to sway voters in one direction or the other.
Posted by Dawn, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 9:52 am
Will you please provide the facts (numbers) on which you're basing your stance? While I have not visited the web sites suggested by Mr. Arata, he has made a concise argument for his position here in these forums.
Your wishing that my lovely neighbors be replaced by ones that I, in your opinion, would find less desirable is not something I consider supportive of a yes vote on Measure C. Your suggestion that my unwillingness to print my last name in this public forum stems from my 'morally corrupt' outlook is also unproductive. Telling, perhaps, but in no way persuasive.
Fear can be an excellent motivational tool, Mr. Parnas, and it is fear on which you appear to be basing your position. For example, I am quite open about being fearful of the consequences of publicly stating my opposition to this measure - I fear further property damage. This angers me but I am being practical about recognizing my unwillingness to continue to get my car repainted or risk my home being defaced (see my last post).
So please, Mr. Parnas, if you would list the factual - not emotional - reasons for your position, I would be quite willing to read and learn.
Posted by Dawn, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 10:17 am
PS - quoting from your April 20 post, Mr. Parnas:
"And to put my money where my mouth is, here I am. I earn a very good living working in Financial Services. I'm ashamed of how much I make. My brother is a school teacher in Sacramento. He makes less than half what I make. Sure, perhaps he works fewer days a year, but he works far harder than I do and the work he does is exponentially more important than the work I do, although that is not saying much considering the kind of work I do. "
If you truly are 'ashamed' of how much money you earn, change jobs. Give it away. Better yet, take on the burden of those who are disinclined to give their own hard-earned dollars to more taxes - and fund Measure C yourself.
Ashamed of how much money you earn? Disparaging your own worth? Your clients should know this about you, sir.
Posted by cardfark, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 10:20 am
Excellent point, Danville Mom. I've always heard that called the "Washington Monument Strategy" after the Park Service's tactic of threatening to close the WM first, any time budget cuts were proposed. It's a classic bureaucratic move.
Having passed two offspring through the SRVUSD schools, I believe the District is very long on administrative overhead, relative to actual teaching. We've seen businesses everywhere "flatten" their structures by making better use of technology and recognizing fat from muscle -- I think our education system here needs a similar rethinking and re-engineering.
It won't happen if we simply keep on feeding the bureaucratic beast.
Posted by Shelby, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 10:54 am
Wow, Nazis and Jews? Mr Parnas, can you be a little more offensive? It's people like you that detract from your cause as, it appears, facts and figures have no place in your argument, while emotion and innuendo take center stage.
The issue is NOT emotion, it's about fiscal responsibility, and the lack of same, in ALL state agencies. I read article after article about families having to tighten their belts and cut their spending, but I have yet to see one article that applies that same reasoning to the government.
I am tired of the government continually taking more of my money and producing less. Based the arguments I see here, this is just more of the same.
Posted by Terry W., a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 26, 2009 at 11:06 am
The axes that Mr. Arata grinds in this forum are just too many to keep up with. It appears that SRVUSD has been scapegoated and now represents, to him, the (real? imagined? really, I can't keep up) misuse of funds in ALL taxpayer funded agencies and programs. That he would work toward convincing others to jump on his bandwagon and chance depriving the children in this community access to a decent educational environment doesn't surprise me in the least. That people DO jump, well, that does.
People will vote how they will, and some do appear convinced by his angry rhetoric. Though I'm still baffled by those who are convinced that the current financial crisis (we don't debate this, correct?) and looming reductions in school funding do not necessitate additional taxpayer assistance - and would, in fact, deny our children $12.00 a month worth of support.
So I ask, if you vote no on measure C, how will you then contribute when our schools suffer as a direct result of your vote? That you could have helped to avoid such a blow may awaken a conscience that you didn't know existed - so what will your contribution be? The resulting detriment to our schools and community will be very hard to rectify.
So, please plan on taking responsibilty for your "no" vote now - what is your plan?
Posted by Shelby, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 11:14 am
After reading Mr. Parnas's diatribe about being ashamed of his high income, I have wonder if he's a real person, or just an alter-ego based on the James Taggert character from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
As for shutting it down, it is actually my hope that Mr. Parnas will respond with actual facts and figures, but I also had hoped that Obama wasn't just another tax and spend Democrat. So far I'm 0-1, probably headed for 0-2...
Posted by Shelby, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 11:33 am
For those that missed cardfark's "Godwin'ed" reference, it's a reference to Godwin's Law - "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one"...
Posted by Terry W., a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 26, 2009 at 12:02 pm
Hello Cardfark, and thank you for asking! I plan to step up the considerable volunteering that I currently enjoy, as well as contribute more to ensure our underpaid teachers are not contributing even more out of pocket for critical classroom supplies.
Are we to assume from your response that you will take no responsibility for your vote? I appreciate the joke about mowing the field - with the closure of sports related activities we would no doubt not need your assistance in this area anyway.
I do, however, feel you have missed my point. The bulk of the responsibility for the reductions our schools will face lies in those that vote NO on C (I don't have time to connect the dots for you, I thought that was obvious....).
So, I've given my response. In spite of the fact that I have already voted yes and have done what is in my power to maintain the quality our schools, I will gladly give more of my time and money to the schools in my community.
Posted by cardfark, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 12:22 pm
Terry -- I wrote above about my prior attempt to assist, that was thoroughly rebuffed by one of those many superfluous administrators abroad on the District's payroll. I've also substituted in many of the District schools -- only one of which actually expected/gave me the opportunity to teach something. Finally, I'm not aware of any organized community outreach from the schools, outside of parent groups.
Without intending to compare the respective sizes of our ... commitments, my own volunteering is currently devoted to other innocents in far more dire and fundamental need of help than even our SRV students. My house and I are full.
All of which is very much beside the point. Always, but especially when times are tough, we need to examine our institutions and choose between the Vital, the Nice-to-Have and the Why-in-the-World-are-we-doing-THIS? In my experience, most bureaucracies, including the District, will only Really do that when they Have-to. The tax structure may seem a dull tool to employ to prompt that reflection, but it's what there is.
This would be an appropriate time to Have-to make some choices. And I know where I'd start.
Posted by Terry W., a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 26, 2009 at 12:51 pm
Cardfark, I'm sorry you were rebuffed by the district when you tried to assist - I have had the opposite experience myself, and find I have more requests than I can ever fill (I work full time, and primarily contribute my time to the schools after hours and on weekends to give the other parents who give of their time during the weekday a well deserved break). However, you and I have something in common in that we seem to both be involved in substantial volunteerism to at-risk populations (outside of our schools). I commend you for this and can derive that you have some sense of social responsibility. I also appreciate that you also seem to acknowledge in this same sentence that our SRV students are in need of help (though we would clearly disagree on how to ensure this help is available).
The difference is that I will not begin my "have-to" reductions in deciding which of the many needy causes I will contribute my shrinking paycheck to in a way that will clearly hurt the youth in my community.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 26, 2009 at 2:05 pm
Wow, off with my kids to Sunday school at our Synagogue (yes I'm Jewish, not that it has anything to do with this discussion) to find myself becoming more a topic of the discussion than the issues at hand. Yes, I'm a real person, I'm even listed in the phone book.
Perhaps I am partially at fault here for this discussion getting too personal. If so, I apologize. Those of us that post here clearly are passionate about our position, present company included. I am apalled that anyone would vandalize someone's property or verbally abuse someone simply for their position on this matter. I have never heard of this ocurring over Measure C and certainly denounce that kind of behavior.
I can't promise I won't provide any more impassioned posts here, but am going to attempt to focus on the issues at hand here and avoid any further personal insults or innuendo and would appreciate everyone else doing the same.
And yes, I am ashamed of how much I make in comparison to other jobs that I feel are of much more social value. And in that same point, I'm also ashamed of how little taxes I pay in relation to my income. Tax breaks like mortgage interest and others allow individuals like me to get virtually a free ride in my opinion, which is another reason why I have no problem paying a miniscule parcel tax to help keep our schools strong. And yes, I am actually currently in the process of transitioning jobs as my current employer outsources more jobs to India, so that I can find work that I feel better about the contribution that I make so that I do not feel embarrassed for the balance of income to contribution to the betterment of our community and the world we live in. All valid points that have been made about previous comments that I made.
Hopefully now we can focus back on the merits of Measure C instead of on me personally.
Posted by Dawn, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 3:01 pm
Mr. Parnas -
Well... you're appalled? You have verbally abused people here, so it's difficult for me to believe that you haven't heard of that happening in connection with Measure C.
And while my position is 180 degrees from yours vis-a-vis embarrassment and shame about my earnings (every dollar of which is honestly gained of of which I am proud), and paying taxes (I pay a combined income tax rate of over 50%, with miniscule opportunity for direction of its expenditure), I respect your right to feel poorly about your lot in life.
I am, however, awaiting the factual presentation of your position on Measure C, and I mean that sincerely.
Posted by Patricia, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2009 at 3:17 pm
Dawn, the text in quotations below is copied from a post from Greg Marvel on another forum. Is this what you are looking for, or are you asking for D.P.s opinion in particular? Anyway, hope this helps to clarify why parents and other interested community members feel so impassionate about this measure. It certainly helped me better understand the situation. I voted yes on C, but would really like to ultimately affect change in the antiquated policy that still has us underfunded per student in comparison with other districts.
"Finally, I could not agree more with the comments about how other states fund their schools. California is dead last in the country, even behind Mississippi. It gets even worse. Within California districts are funded at different rates based on a formula from the 1970's when the San Ramon Valley was mostly rural. The San Ramon Valley Unified School District is second from the bottom amongst K-12 districts in California. We get about $5,500 per student from the state. Compare that to Oakland Unified (over $11,500 per student from all sources) and L.A. Unified (about $10,500) and you get the picture on our funding problems. New York averages over $17,000 per student and some districts in other states easily average over $20,000 per student.
I don't believe that money is the sole answer to quality schools. A school board that enforces high standards, caring and involved parents, teachers and administrators are factors that rate higher in my book than money. Having said that, being funded at a rate that is now approaching 25% to 33% of many other states does make it extremely difficult to delivery a quality program.
The final piece of the puzzle is that the state's budget folly has resulted in massive cuts to education this year and next. Our $5,500 per student that we got at the start of this year is dropping to around $5,100 for next year, with a strong possibility that it will drop even further to below $5,000. In other words, we will be funded in the 2009-2010 school year at the same level that schools in New York were receiving in the late 1970's."
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 26, 2009 at 4:11 pm
Thanks for contributing that Patricia! Frankly, I don't feel compelled to rehash over and over the factual arguments that have been made here that clearly demonstrate the merits/benefits of Measure C. That's not my job, I'm just a concerned parent/community member. I find it hard to believe that it is not already obvious to anyone that is making it a point of being informed about this Measure.
As far as me verbally abusing anyone, I don't believe that is the case, but we can agree to disagree on that. But, as I said in my previous post, no doubt my posts became more personal than I intended and I regret that. I did not/don't want to stoop to that level and particularly when Mr. Arata started throwing out comments like "... Mr. Parnas can place obscene material before his own children at home, I suppose — but he could thereby draw the attention of Child Protective Services." it was clear to me that we had begun to debate in a way that I no longer wanted to participate, but clearly I had contributed to.
And nobody can ever convince me that spending a work week moving numbers around on a general ledger (accounting) and creating no value whatsoever for our community is a profession that deserves to be paid 2X or 3X what a school teacher makes. Anybody that wants to make that argument, feel free and good luck. I recognize I'm fortunate in that regard, which is probably part of the reason why I feel so strongly about doing extracurricular things that I feel help to contribute to my community.
Here are a frew other facts not mentioned in Patricia's post if folks like Dawn are still needing compelling facts to understand why those of us in support of Measure C feel so passionately about its success:
1) Recent state budget cuts have reduced state funding the SRVUSD by $16 million.
2) If measure C fails, the previous parcel tax, which is expiring, will cut the SRVUSD funding by an additional substantial amount
3) The SRVUSD is ranked No. 1 in districts of its size in the state
So again, how is it realistic/possible/good sense to fail measure C? I just don't get it. It feels like "tough love" from the No on C folks, treating the SRVUSD like some kind of addict. The attitude that the district needs to hit rock bottom in order for it to reform itself/go into rehab. Quite frankly, I'm quite happy with the SRVUSD as a parent of children currently in the school system. I'd rather not see it hit rock bottom out of "tough love". Wouldn't it make more sense for the No on C contingent to work for change in a constructive way, like, for instance, getting on the SRVUSD board and fighting for change from within?
Nobody can know for certain what the consequences of Measure C winning or losing can be. We all have opinions, nothing more. It is a gamble/investment no matter how you look at it. How can we afford to gamble with our school system at a time like this in our economy the likes of which none of us has ever experienced?
Posted by Teacherman, a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 26, 2009 at 8:42 pm
Mr. Arata. I appreciate all of your criticisms of my arguments and I also want to thank you for proving my point exactly in your post-remarks. You are a rambler and your argument gets lost in a sea of variables that make no sense. I mean really, who read his posts in detail and who skimmed them, truthfully?
At this point, the arguments have been made, there is no need to rehash numbers (in Mr. Arata's case)or emote reasons (in Mr. Parnas's case). Nevertheless, I stand by my statements in the face of Mr. Arata's criticisms that this is not about parking lots and teacher pay raises, its about continuing school district operation costs for our community which values excellence in education and is evident in the amount of parental involvement and property values that define it.
Lastly, I suppose if I am to be branded a liberal because I support a tax for education then I am standing with arms wide open. Liberal does not always equal Tax-Supporting but to the members of this community and country who use ideology to drive their reasons, its becoming clearer that this type of "value pooling" also seems undemocratic. Mr. Arata, I suggest turning off Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and visit reality soon. Its a new world out here. Doesn't the individual play a role any more? As an assumed conservative, surely you can value that.
But I would like to close with this final note, not to argue teacher pay (I support performance pay for teachers) and not to provoke a sense of sympathy for all the teachers out there. Rather, just to let you know that Thursday I will receive my April paycheck. And after I dutifully pay my excessively large federal and state taxes, my unagreed upon union dues, and a small life insurace policy, I will bring home to my wife and baby child a hard-earned monthly income of $3200.00, which probably wouldn't even cover half of your mortgages. And once I pay my rent(because we don't qualify for home loans in this area)of $2000.00, our electric bill of 250.00 dollars (because our house still has the original 1949 single pane windows and probably still just a percentage of your PGE bills), and then the rest of our bills, that leaves me with just enough to...Oh I don't know Mr. Arata, want to run those numbers for me and tell me what you came up with? I am sure you could make those look pretty good too!
Posted by Michael Arata, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 12:37 am
Thanks now for insightful comments by Dawn, cardfarc, and Shelby.
There are substantial problems with Greg Marvel’s numbers:
1. He compares SRVUSD’s state revenue limit (actual amount presently = $5,660 per student this year) with all-sources funding in other places. The comparable SRVUSD number is at least $8,221 per student.
2. And then, so what if Oakland USD, LAUSD, the NYC Department of Education, or some other districts elsewhere spend “over $11,500 per student,” “about $10,500,” “over$17,000,” or “easily average over $20,000 per student” respectively (as quoted by Mr. Marvel, though I lack time at the moment to check his figures)?
All those numbers do is to validate what I said earlier: correlations between school spending per se and achievement are questionable, ranging to poor or even negative. OUSD, LAUSD, and NYCDOE are hardly models of academic achievement.
Spending more money on education — two to three times more, in inflation-adjusted terms, over the last five decades — has not improved the result in any proportionate way, if at all. Far more important correlates of achievement, at least in the U.S., are the professionalism and dedication of teachers and the socioeconomic situations of families with kids in school.
3. In constant dollars, SRVUSD spends a third more annually now per student than the district did in 1991-92, when the district first tried and failed to pass a parcel tax. The present $205,525 spent here per 25-student classroom (operational dollars alone) already provides more than enough to compensate teachers fairly for a 186-day employment year, and for students to achieve at high levels.
4. But like other public agencies, SRVUSD plays a continuous game of compensation leapfrog, funded royally by taxpayers. The result is a public-sector salary and benefit spiral that has gotten out of control — with resultant fiscal crises being proclaimed at all levels of government.
5. The present macroscopic economic problems highlight the microscopic. School-district demands for a further acceleration of the taxpayer-funded spending spiral, escalating even more quickly at rates beyond the combined effects of inflation and enrollment growth, are comparable to Citibank demanding a taxpayer bailout because AIG got one — or Chrysler shouting for more taxpayer funds because GM received its own billions.
(And whatever the sequence in which bailouts have occurred, the underlying problem was one of irresponsible application of existing, already generous resources, with taxpayers now supplying many more dollars to fix a problem they didn’t create.)
5. As I said before, SRVUSD always considers itself in financial distress — until it’s time for the next retroactive pay raise. We opponents of the 2004 parcel tax predicted that it would simply enable a teacher pay raise, without regard to merit.
In fact, there have been four retroactive raises since SRVUSD passed its 2004 parcel tax. And this year’s Measure C would simply facilitate the next series of unmerited cross-the-board raises.
Some additional matters of importance:
6. As always, I encourage independent research into the facts cited here and elsewhere in regard to Measure C. When digging into political, social, and moral controversies, I never rely myself on a series of he said / she said reports, ballot arguments, or proclamations by public agencies and their tax-promotion allies.
Posting website information, with relevant links where available (and with ballot arguments from both sides), is intended merely as a convenience to busy, already overstressed taxpayers — many of whom, like Dawn, already see 50% of their next-dollar income consumed by taxes even before cashing their paychecks.
7. SRVUSD would have to cut nearly $60 Million from its current real-dollar operational budget, not just the claimed $16 Million, to regain parity with the effects of inflation an enrollment growth since failing to pass the 1991-92 parcel tax. The relevant dollar facts and enrollment figures are found in SRVUSD’s budget booklets from 1991-92 to the present. The needed Bay Area inflation rates are posted by ABAG: Web Link
SRVUSD’s being “ranked No. 1 in districts of its size” in California is more an indication of the dismal state of California education at large than of absolute or relative achievement by SRVUSD. Being the best of the worst in a subset of the worst is not necessarily an indication of great or even satisfactory performance.
It’s not especially surprising if most SRVUSD schools rank 10 out of 10 in stanine comparisons to all schools and districts statewide. What’s of interest is SRVUSD’s dodging of similar school rankings — which aren’t so favorable to their template.
9. SRVUSD’s poor performance in the Early Assessment Program (of college readiness) can be reviewed from starting page Web Link .
10. Mr. Marvel candidly admitted in our March 31 debate that the SRVEA teacher union holds far too much sway in the district, after I raised the issue. And from the perspective of someone who taught and coached for 20 years in private and public schools, and who became an educational activist while observing the juvenile, counterproductive behavior of striking “colleagues” (not having gone on strike myself), the SRVEA union has indeed exerted far too much influence, fiscally and curricularly, over the district since installing a SRVEA-friendly board in 1990.
11. Genuinely responsible fiscal and curricular SRVUSD behavior, with union control minimized, could readily draw an interest in volunteer activity. SRVUSD has a very long way to go in all three areas of preliminary improvement.
12. Several times since 1990, responsible individuals with excellent credentials — including fiscal and curricular common sense and relevant professional backgrounds — have run for the school board. But they’ve been targeted by the local and state CTA teacher unions with thousands of dollars and hundreds of dedicated union foot soldiers, and they weren’t elected.
Speaking of curriculum, there was an antecedent which Mr. Parnas fails to cite when complaining now about my “throwing out comments like ‘... Mr. Parnas can place obscene material before his own children at home, I suppose — but he could thereby draw the attention of Child Protective Services.’ ”
The predicate develops from the discussion above:
“wondering”: (and after a separate question about my contributions to local education) “I'm curious why you left teaching. Was it the money? Or the grief?”
Arata: “I’ve exposed perniciously inappropriate programs, salacious classroom and library materials, and some of the unprofessional and / or malfeasant teachers who put such garbage in front of kids — and have seen some of the junk removed and some of the offending teachers move on….”
“…My departure from teaching, after what became 20 years of highly successful results, was motivated by accelerating administrative dereliction, increasing numbers of non-academic interruptions of the instructional day, the frequent substitution of R-rated indoctrination in place of instruction, the suffocating mediocrity induced by union strangleholds on American education, and the prospect of happier circumstances in other realms of endeavor.”
Parnas: “When I start to hear comments like "R rated" and "salicious", I see the slippery slope you are on and I want no part of it. The religious right has no place in politics and it frightens me to hear that kind of thing pop up in my community. Yet another reason I live in Northern California is to stay away from bible belt politics, biases and bigotry and to keep my children away from that as well.
Arata: “R-rated” is not my own designation. It’s an assignment affixed by the Motion Picture Association of America to indicate that material contains ‘adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously.’
“I don’t want my tax dollars sponsoring the exhibition of such material in SRVUSD classrooms — nor do other sensible taxpayers. An example: the showing of “Last Temptation of Christ,” a blasphemous and obscene insult to Christianity, shown during Holy Week several years ago, in a Monte Vista English class.
“Other examples of inappropriate SRVUSD matter presented to students over the years — under the union-sponsored banner of “academic freedom” — are too numerous to catalog here. Mr. Parnas can place obscene material before his own children at home, I suppose — but he could thereby draw the attention of Child Protective Services....”
“…Mr. Parnas asserts that ‘the religious right has no place in politics.’ We can’t be sure, but apparently ‘the religious right’ is to be understood as those who espouse ‘bible belt politics’ and undefined ‘biases and bigotry.’
“So one wonders: are we meanwhile to lay out the scarlet carpet to welcome the licentious left into the political discussion?”
Meanwhile: rejecting Measure C is no gamble, as became obvious when voters rejected 1991’s Measure C.
Also meanwhile: an ever accelerating upward spiral of public agency spending, far in excess of the natural escalators (inflation and population or enrollment growth) isn’t just a gamble.
It’s additionally a prescription for more government-induced financial disasters of the sort we’re already seeing now. What we subsidize, we promote.
To “Teacherman”: I congratulate you on your enthusiasm for teaching. But I suggest you not raise issues — and then keep raising them — unless you anticipate substantive responses.
Whether I’m a “rambler” or not, and whether or not my arguments get “lost in a sea of variables,” are matters of subjective opinion. Others disagree with you, in this forum and elsewhere.
The facts relevant to Measure C, which you studiously avoid once again, are what they are, and in my researched and professionally backgrounded opinion they argue for the rejection of Measure C.
District spending, with or without Measure C or its predecessor parcel-tax measures, has spiraled many millions of dollars ahead of the combined effect of inflation and enrollment growth. And “excellence in education” here is to some significant extent a Potemkin construct.
What I said about indicators of liberalism was that “the innumeracy and illogic [Teacherman] exhibits here are among the common antecedents and/or symptoms of liberalism. Basing notions about public-agency spending upon feelings rather than facts is another co-factor, indeed a hallmark, of liberalism.”
I wish I had more time to listen to and/or watch Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity — but only for audiovisual pointers to news which is surgically altered or spiked altogether in the three newspapers I read daily and from network TV.
I sometimes wind up citing something that appeared on a conservative website or on a conservative radio/TV station — but only after I’ve checked other independent sources, especially liberal ones.
Indeed, individual freedom under Declaration and Constitutional principles is a key, and public agencies (government) encroaches daily upon essential liberties. For me and for other like minded individuals, facts and reason drive ideology, not the other way around.
I’m glad to see again that you support merit pay for teachers. I recommend that for now, you minimize your teacher-union dues at the lowest possible agency-fee (financial core) levels, while you connect with the Pacific Justice Institute and its www.choosecharity.org program to see about getting all your union-dues money donated to charity instead. You’ll need to act soon to control where your dues money goes next year.
I neither entered nor left the teaching profession because of money ($5,400 my first year, $36,000 my last). My students were three times team state champions in subject-area tests of scholastic achievement, three times runners up. My swimmers (as head coach) were three times state team champions, and included 35 All Americans. I wrote the successful competitive grant application for our school’s Science Club to spend several days interacting with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratories. I averaged 80 – 100 hours a week as chemistry / math instructor, swim coach, and aquatics director — etc., etc., etc.
Meanwhile, the physics teacher next door was named NSTA’s national science teacher of the year. None of that added anything to our respective salaries — as I knew it never would so long as the teacher unions controlled the agenda.
As you recognize, apparently, your own income is limited by a CTA-generated and enforced philosophy and practice which requires a single salary schedule for all certificated teachers, with increases based only on how long you stay around and how many (typically worthless) course hours you accumulate atop your BA or BS degree.
So I hope you’ll begin pushing for structural change in a public way, as I did nearly 30 years ago. Providing more money (in huge excess compared to inflation and enrollment growth) to so inefficient and out-of-control a spending behemoth as public education only fuels more inefficiency, incompetence, unaccountability, and a continuation of public-agency compensation plans which are deliberately detached from performance.
Posted by Michael Arata, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 12:48 am
My apologies to Danville Weekly if that is the case.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 27, 2009 at 6:45 am
OK, so you're sticking with your position that with $16 million in state cuts to the SRVUSD and with the previous parcel tax expiring further reducing funding to the SRVUSD that all the talk by the SRVUSD about being forced to increase class size, eliminate art, science, & music programs and let go of many school counselors is all talk, correct? And further, you're asserting that not only is it all talk by the SRVUSD, but that by defeating Measure C, the "tough love" you are showing the schools will somehow miraculously motivate the SRVUSD to reallocate their budget dollars, cut what you consider to be wasteful spending and find the necessary funding to move forward during the unprecedented economic environment strong, if not stronger, correct? Uh, ok. Do you really believe that? Does anyone believe that? Stating the obvious, but I for one certainly don't.
Posted by Calling Joseph McCarthy, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 7:12 am
Mr. Arata- you missed your era, Joe McCarthy would have loved to have had you as a drinking buddy.
I am a room parent at Greenbrook. The teachers do not use their email for Yes on C. I use MY personal email to email the parents of my classroom to encourage a Yes on C. Get it straight man. The teachers could sue you for libel. You are defaming their character and insinuating that they are committing an illegal act, when in fact, they are not. I hope there is disclosure on your No on C Website as to who contributed for those bumper stickers that have littered our towns. Shouldn't your website list where your funds come from? The money you spent on those could have covered the $54 a year. I know, you'd rather be angry and spew venomous diatribes over liberal vs. conservative, etc. Take your anger to Sacramento and DC. Leave my kid alone.
Posted by Tim Joyce, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 7:24 am
Mike Arata's points are all well taken, and he is able to quote figures. How transparent is the SRVUSD about the real numbers. Not very.
Every time someone "dares" to challenge the "Yes"movement, they are branded as being against kids or against higher property values. It is nonsense.
If the SRVUSD really needs the money, then it is their DUTY to PROVE it. So far, they have not. The timing of the election is suspect, the lack of information is insulting, and it just appears like it is a game of seeing how dumb people can be.
Posted by school supporter, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 7:57 am
It's very easy to quote figures without giving context. And it's easy to make figures say whatever you want them to say. The fact is that $8000 figure he gives out is federal money, grant money and other funds that are generally catergorical...in other words can't be spent for general fund. They have specific uses.
I followed the weblink regarding early assessment. It's a report that said in the district only 43 percnet of 11th graders were ready for college. 11th graders? Excuse me but do we have early graduation in this district? If that was a test of outgoing seniors and it said that, then I"d line up right behind mr arata but this is 11th graders. More than a year before they go to college can make a huge difference. And if you look in California figures, srvusd ranks among the highest in the state. There were hardly any that ranked above 43 and almost none that ranked about 50. ARe you suggesting that we all move out of state sicne all the numbers are so poor?
I have seen a number of news articles in a variety of sources where the district has talked about the funds they are losing and the cuts they will have to make. I don't think they've lacked transparancy but it appears that's not enough. I don't know what it will take convince you folks. But I'm voting yes on c.
Posted by Teacherman, a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 27, 2009 at 8:58 am
Again, thank you for spewing out a kaleidescope of unorganized information that proves nothing. I appreciate your advice and recommendations. However, because of your blinding assumed conservative values which blanket any objective remarks you make about Measure C, you have isolated yourself and maybe a handful of others from your community which support schools. No thank you, sir.
Secondly, I am not sure what other issues I am raising? I have merely commented on one (performance pay for teachers) that you have meshed with Measure C. Specifically:
1. "The Liberal Condition"-Wow, do they have medicine to cure this and make me conservative?
2. R-rated movies in classrooms; the showing of “Last Temptation of Christ,” a blasphemous and obscene insult to Christianity, shown during Holy Week several years ago, in a Monte Vista English class."
3. A recalling of numbers from the 1990's obviously for personal reasons "In 1995 – 97, the district spent $237,000 trying to defend and to rehabilitate a number of illegal bond-measure ballots, only to see its expensive team of ten lawyers lose the case in two courtrooms to two non-attorneys acting in propria persona — Ernie Scherer and myself." Hmmmm...argument based on a feeling or fact?
4. Homosexuality. "...silencing speech which those in power don’t like reminds me as well of the Orwellian “Fairness Doctrine,” and of attempts by the SRVEA teacher union and a homosexual-activist teacher at Charlotte Wood." Its just downright wrong, rude, and unsportsman-like that you even labeled this teacher in this free speech argument that has nothing to do with sex or gender issues.
There is one point that you have proven though and that is the fact that many, I assume again because I don't label people, ultra-conservatives like yourself refuse, yes, refuse to look at the bigger picture.
May I suggest to you a reading entitled "The Allegory of the Cave" written by Plato. Perhaps you would be able to connect to the individuals in the story who actually go towards the light at the opening of the cave and cross into the broader world around them, then realize that that world is to complex so they retreat in the comfortable darkness of the cave.
Don't be scared. Its a beautiful world out here, Mr. Arata. I would love to show you around some time.
Posted by Anonymous and Proud, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 10:36 am
Hmmmm. . . . according to Mr. Parnas, I'm morally corrupt because I won't "out" myself as a "No on C" voter. I remain anonymous precisely because of the opinions of Mr. Parnas, and because I know to do so would put my property and my student's standing in their schools at risk. An openly dissenting viewpoint would spell disaster for my family in our community.
Here is what I know . . .
All schools (and I belong to three school communities) are fighting tooth and nail to pass Measure C. They are doing it out of a genuine love for their schools, their teachers and their district. I applaud their passion and efforts, but I do not support their goal.
I believe most are Pro Measure C based on the fear-based rhetoric going around. I believe their are voting out of "fear" because they are being told that if Measure C does not pass, the District's sky will fall. It didn't fall when the last measure didn't pass and it won't fall if Measure C does pass. What will happen is that the District will have to look at the funds it does have, and then make difficult decisions regarding its ability to fund personnel and programs at their present level. In these tough economic times, it is what all organizations are doing, and SRVUSD should not be exempt.
There is always the ever present argument about property values. Hello, people . . . property values are declining because of the economy. My property values have declined and my property taxes have decreased AND we have the parcel tax in place.
The schools ARE using school resources and property to promote their views (case in point: signs being placed in windows that say, "this class will have 30 students next year without Measure C.") While school email addresses are not being used to "send" emails promoting Measure C, room parents who have access to school-wide email lists, are using information obtained from the school to send frequent blanket emails containing pro-Measure C content. While they aren't "breaking the law," they are skirting right up against it. Citizens for Quality schools is a smokescreen filled with PTA members/leaders that are towing the PTA/CTA party line.
What hasn't been discussed here is how much money each school is raising on its own to benefit their own school community. I don't know about you, but I have attended my fair share of auction/dinner dances and have ponied up $175 or more per year for my school communities. If the parents of each school community were really concerned with keeping teachers and programs, why not send every penny it raises to the District? I'll tell you why -- because no school wants to give up its own perks for the greater good of the district.
I have suggestion. For those of you who believe so strongly that Measure C is the answer to our District's woes, then please send your check directly to the District if Measure C fails.
A reminder . . . we are a democracy and each of us is entitled to vote according to our conscious. We should not be verbally abused (branded morally corrupt) if we disagree with the opinions of the other "pro Measure C" posters.
I am anonymously and proudly voting "NO" on Measure C and urge all fair-minded, fiscally responsible and informed voters to do the same.
Posted by Terry W., a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 27, 2009 at 11:06 am
Anonymous and Proud - per your comment:
"I believe most are Pro Measure C based on the fear-based rhetoric going around. I believe their are voting out of "fear" because they are being told that if Measure C does not pass, the District's sky will fall. It didn't fall when the last measure didn't pass and it won't fall if Measure C does pass."
Just wondering - if it does not pass and your prediction regarding the outcome is incorrect, will you take any responsibility for your vote? Surely, with three school communities represented by your family, you will have ample opportunity to contribute support rather than take away.
I'm not trying to be glib in any way - I truly wonder if the opponents have a plan B in the likely case that their hunch is incorrect and the rest of us (who supported the schools) have children that suffer due to your vote.
Posted by Dawn, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 12:19 pm
It is my sincere hope that should Measure C fail to pass, the district will tighten its belt.
It is also my sincere hope that the lauded and much-involved parents of students in these schools will DEMAND that the cuts be made at the administrative level, rather than the classroom level.
Mr. Parnas and other 'C' supporters have stated that it is better to toss more money at the district, regardless of whether or not it will be spent as intended, than to suffer a possible loss of classroom-level services. This is voting from fear, IMO. The schools know you feel this way and pander to it, with signs in classroom windows promising 'punishment' for your No vote.
I believe that the only tool we taxpayers have is to demand fiscal responsibility via our votes... not 'hope' for it.
I also believe that the caveat giving older voters a pass on paying the tax should be illegal, as it is a stark and open offer to purchase votes.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 27, 2009 at 1:23 pm
Dawn, at a fundamental level, there are some aspects of your argument that I agree with. But, timing is everything in life. The timing to pull further funding from the schools is not now. Not when the State has already cut $16 million from the SRVUSD's budget. As I've said before none of us know for certain what the consequences will be of Measure C passing or failing. All I know for certain is that the worst case scenario for either outcome is exponentially worse (for all parties) if Measure C fails, hence the gamble we are all taking. How is that risk worth $12 a month? I just don't see it. It is entirely plausible that you'd find me with an entirely different perspective if the district was flush in funding, but that is cleary not the case today. If there is any one cause that is worth my tax dollars it is the school system hands down.
Posted by Objective Viewpoint, a resident of the San Ramon neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 5:45 pm
I've read all the comments here and have to say that the No on Measure C crowd are the only people looking at this objectively. I have three kids in SRVUSD and have seen how the district is illegally or at least unethically using taxpayer resources to actively promote passage of Measure C. Also, if you are against Measure C you are wise to remain anonymous. In addition to the specific instances cited here of retribution for opposing district tax/bond initiatives I've witnessed Measure C supporters shunning and conducting whisper campaigns against the kids of families who are made it known they are against the measure.
The one thing that is lost in this online discussion is the fact that the state and hence the district is facing cuts now because of irresponsible, unsustainable and unaccountable spending and with ~50% of the state budget devoted to education spending that is where the cuts need to come from now that the government has run amok on overspending yet again.
Like Mr. Parnas, I also work in the field of finance, but unlike him I understand the concept of moral hazard and the need to hold the district accountable for their past financial irresponsibility, particularly in their repeated granting of retroactive pay increases above and beyond what is called for in the union contract. With all the recent parcel tax and bond votes, I've personally studied the SRVUSD's finances for many years (not just the districts; fear-mongering one's from this year) and can tell you that the district isn't doing enough to tighten its belt now or more importantly to set aside funds for a rainy day when they were flush. Did you know that the district board granted a retoractive pay increase 1 month before the parcel tax election last year without even waiting to see if it would pass? That's the type of moral hazard that needs to be prevented with a NO vote on Measure C.
Speaking of the union contract and the board, I noted that someone posted about Greg Marvel. As a district board member, he is part of the spending problem at SRVUSD and he needs to be held accountable as well. I personally heard him categorically reject even attempting to re-negotiate with the union to cut costs even on a temporary basis despite the fact that private sector unions such as the UAW are doing so to save jobs and even the Pleasanton school district union has done so as well. Frankly, renegotiating aspects of the union contract such as reducing paid teacher workdays and rolling back just one retroactive pay increase from the last five years would easily replace the $7 million expected to be raised annually from the parcel tax and would ensure that there would be no layoffs. This is the work that the board needs to be doing rather than constantly pushing their irresponsibility off on taxpayers with tax increases, but they won't unless we tell them that's what they need to do and a NO vote on Measure C will do just that.
Posted by Teacherman, a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 27, 2009 at 6:19 pm
If you will....
Quotes below are from Objective Viewpoint:
1. "...if you are against Measure C you are wise to remain anonymous. In addition to the specific instances cited here of retribution for opposing district tax/bond initiatives I've witnessed Measure C supporters shunning and conducting whisper campaigns against the kids of families who are made it known they are against the measure."
I guess the oppositions "Fear argument" no longer exists, since it seems the NO side is doing the same thing.
2. "...reducing paid teacher workdays and rolling back just one retroactive pay increase from the last five years would easily replace the $7 million expected to be raised annually from the
parcel tax and would ensure that there would be no layoffs."
If I received a pay cut, which I think is a viable option, I would probably have to leave this area because I can not afford to live here. Thus, the district would be losing a very good teacher. And, by all accounts, I am a very good teacher. And the district wouldn't be able to hire any other teachers who live close by. It would have to outsource. Is this what the community wants? Outside teachers who don't know the issues, cultures, and community of the Diablo Valley? Hello. Reality here, the cost of living in this area is one of the highest in the nation. Reduce the cost of living and I would gladly take a pay cut.
3. "...need to hold the district accountable for their past financial irresponsibility."
At the expense of students? Come on, as an obviously educated man, surely you believe the people who will replace your finance job deserve better than being put in the middle between the conservative base and SRVUSD. You remind me of growing up with divorced parents...make the kids pay the price for your inability to get along.
4. Posted by "Objective Viewpoint."
I hardly call your viewpoint objective. You don't even mention the potential benefits of Measure C if the money is implemented the right way. Don't false advertise yourself. Its fear mongering.
As I conclude with this final post, I greatly appreciate ALL comments and criticisms along the way. I remain an advocate for Measure C and for public education. As a collective society,I believe it is an obligation we have to our children, particularly those who can not afford the tens of thousands of dollars for private school costs. It was never my intention to sway votes through this medium, just gain a clearer picture of the issues surrounding Measure C. I have succeeded and even gained a little more.
I look forward to May 5, Cinco de Mayo, when I will be celebrating the passing of Measure C with the many supporters I have come to know and admire through this process.
Posted by Objective Viewpoint, a resident of the San Ramon neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2009 at 7:13 pm
1. The Yes on C folks are the one's creating a climate of fear - hence sky is falling predications, pink slips, pink ribbons, empty chairs set outside for parent dropoffs, their shunning, signs in classroom windows etc., etc., etc.... As they say facts are stubborn things.
2. By your own admission, you are a new teacher so unless this is a job change for you, I'm guessing it might be fair to think that you haven't been working too long full-time on a professional basis, so congratulations on finding a job that allows you to live here. Personally, it took us 15 years of hard work and scrimping after college to be able to afford to live here. I'll accept at face value that you are as you say a very good teacher, but a lot of people have very long commutes, so that's not a particularly good argument and I do think it is possible to understand the issues, culture and community to the extent necessary to effectively perform a job without having to live there. In many years with kids in the district, I've seen comparatively little local culture influences on curriculum at the schools that didn't come from the parents or local organizations. Lastly, the cost of living is dropping everywhere with sales around every corner, less demand for various services making them more negotaiable and vastly more affordable housing. The only cost that is steadily climbing is the cost of government services.
3. You're obviously (intentiaonally?) missing the point that there are real solutions to be had out there if the board had the will to effectively deal with the union. I named just two possibilities to immediately eliminate the need for the parcel tax altogether and save teacher jobs. I'm sure that with an effort equal to what has been spent in promoting Measure C put into contract renegotiations and other cost savings initiavives, more real solutions can be found for even more savings - and yes particularly among the administrative staff. Does the district really need a full-time PR spokesman? That cut alone could save at least 1-2 teacher jobs.
4. I've been around long enough, have been monitoring the district close enough and have looked at both sides of Measure C well enough to make a fair judgement that Measure C funds won't likely be implemented right and that the purported downside of its failure CAN be avoided without impacting student services. The best example of which I already provided - last year's retroactive pay increase on top of regular tenure and COLA increases 1-MONTH BEFORE the board even knew if that parcel tax would pass - that was $4 million annually in and of itself that shouldn't have been committed and could be saving teacher jobs as we speak.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 27, 2009 at 9:34 pm
I agree Patricia. I suppose I can imagine some parents being disrespectful to other parents that are on opposite sides, but I can't imagine that carrying forward to the kids as well. Anything can happen I suppose, but there's no question that although the No on C folks seem to repeatedly cry "fear mongering", the same concept applies when they talk about their fear of violent retribution. Can anyone point me to a local report of vandelism or any other kind of violence around Measure C? I certainly haven't heard of anything like that happening in my neighborhood.
Getting back to the issues though, similarly to Dawn, Mr/Mrs "Objective Viewpoint" makes good points in principle, some of which I agree with, but I just don't understand how you feel now is the time for this reform to occur. The types of suggestions you make around wage concessions may be sound, but they do not occur overnight. They take time in the public sector, right or wrong, that's just the way it is. If you want to change the system, I applaud you in that effort and could even see myself participating, but this is not the way to go about it. You don't kick a school district when it is down after having $16 million in cuts from the state, which amounts to just under 8% of the total budget. Just for some further context, the total 2008/2009 budget for the SRVUSD called for less than $9 million in spending on Books and Supplies. So, how exactly are they going to cut spending to accomodate the $16 million cut from the state? Oh yeah, and now we want to also let the previous parcel tax expire too, further reducing funding by, I believe roughly $4 million. Talk about kicking someone while they are down. We're talking about a school system here. A damn good one. Even if reform is needed, this isn't the time. We need to come together as a community, support Measure C and then focus on the issues in a constructive way, not a destructive way.
Posted by Objective Viewpoint, a resident of the San Ramon neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 9:39 am
Patricia & Dan,
Just because you don't believe that something is happening or haven't seen it yourself doesn't mean it isn't, in fact, happening and for the record, you won't see news reports on vandalism because it either goes unreported to police or because it's not considered newsworthy by the media. To give you a personal example of shunning affecting kids, I have had two play dates for my younger children impacted because of a hyper-activist Measure C supporter not wanting her child to be around families who have vocalized their intent of voting against Measure C. Our reaction was to schedule the play dates anyway with all invitees as originally intended and to enjoy the day with whoever showed up which turned out to not include the Pro-Measure C activist. Such examples are a good reason why PTA & staff activism for Measure C and other such adult topics needs to be left off of school grounds and should not use school resources since it is that school-based electioneering that is making political pawns of our children.
Regarding the need to act at this time I do have a few comments.
First, even in these purportedly dire budgetary times, SRVUSD hasn't attempted to work out labor concessions and doesn't even want to consider it as other districts and the private sector have, so if they can't gird themselves now to address their single largest cost, what do you think is going to prod them to act if the voters pass Measure C? In short, nothing will - that's the economic moral hazard I referred to in my original post - bad behavior rewarded gets you more bad behavior.
Second, you are right that labor concessions can take time, although the Pleasanton school district accomplished it pretty rapidly recently. That is a good reason why the SRVUSD board should have exercised reasonable foresight and not granted multiple, compounding retroactive pay increases during the course of the existing parcel tax which were above and beyond the annual salary increases that are already codified in the contract for tenure and COLA adjustments. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Third, one thing that is conveniently being kept out of the budget numbers is the fact that the district is slated to receive $4-5 million from the federal stimulus plan. These dollars when coupled with the $14 million in unretricted reserves and reserves "designated for economic uncertainties" from the districts's "worse case" budget would be enough to adequately buy time for a meaningful cost containment effort.
Lastly, it is the district that controls timing here. They are the the folks who put this issue on the ballot and launched the campaign, hence that is the impetus for talking about these issues now.
Posted by Dawn, a resident of the Alamo neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 9:59 am
The reason you wouldn't have read news or police reports about the two times my car was keyed, or the time the tires were punctured, is because I didn't file them.
Repair for all three incidents were individually, as they occurred, less costly than my deductible. Had they all happened at the same time it would have been different.
In any event, are you in the habit of perusing the police blotter or hanging out at the front desk asking to see vandalism reports?
I cannot address the shunning/shaming campaign as I have no direct experience of it in this school district.
About why I feel this is the right time to address and demand fiscal responsibility -- it's because it's time to vote. This is not my first, nor will it be my last, call for reining in public spending, but votes are the single tool I have to make my voice really heard.
Posted by Tax Payer, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 11:57 am
I am not the least bit surprised to see ANOTHER measure ballot for the SRVUSD, it seems whenever an existing measure is do to expire, another one crops up! This District is always in need - Why? Because they don't know how to budget their funds- 4 Million dollars for a parking lot!! Have any of you seen the pattern that I see? Mr. Parnas, how long have you lived in the Danville area? While I respect your passion regarding your children's education, there will be a time that you will also wonder- Why? I have always voted Yes to prior measures, because I do want the best for my children and their education, but this time I am seriously considering a No vote, when will the District be held accountable ? If we continue to bail them out, time after time, will it never end or is it just expected. I will continue as always to donate to the school fund and to the classroom funds, at least I know it's going to stay within the school and that it is appreciated! Good luck to all those for and against the measure.
Posted by Patricia, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 1:15 pm
Objective - if your children were shunned due to an overzealous supporter of measure C, then something is wrong with that parent. It is not a reflection of those that support this measure - to make that assumption is unfair to the rest of us. If this measure does not pass and the cuts are made, I will contribute what I can to the schools, gladly benefitting your children and mine - they are not responsible for your judgment.
Dawn - why not file a police report if your car was keyed twice and your tires punctured? The point would be to see if there is a pattern (if people were vandalizing property belonging to people of a particular political mindset, the police could then establish a motive and hopefully find the person responsible). BTW- the reports on these show up in the Danville Weekly, so no need to hang around the front desk.
Taxpayer - I like your attitude. Though I am not chosing this time of economic crisis to withdraw support from the schools, I also wish you and your children the best, regardless.
Posted by Anonymous and Proud, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm
I support education, I love my children and want the best for them. I'm not going to get into arguments with Measure C supporters. As an opponent of Measure C, my goal is provide addition information for voters (readers of this forum) to consider.
I took the time to get a copy of the District's Budget, read it line by line, contact the Superintendent and the Fiscal VP. I took the time to read the Governor's proposed budget and each revision that came afterward. I asked question after question. I spoke with three Board of Education Members. I do not make any statements lightly . . . they are made after careful review and consideration of all the information at my disposal. After that careful review, I voted "NO" on Measure C. I urge each of you to vote according to your own conscious.
The District put out its list of things for the chopping block if Measure C does not pass. When asked directly whether those things would automatically be restored should Measure C pass, one District would not commit to do so. They said they would have to take a look at the final budget from the State, evaluate any stimulus dollars and their impact on the budget, and then decide whether to restore any of the "cut" items. So guess what folks -- your "Yes" vote could still result in cuts to programs and services that impact our students (elimination or modification to class size reduction, librarians, counselors, etc.) in favor of teacher/administrator raises if the Board believes that is the correct course of action.
Passing Measure C does not come with a promise to keep all the items they are saying will go away if it passes. If it did, my vote would likely be different.
I believe that all the monies current on hold (the unencumbered reserves and the "economic uncertainty" dollars) are on hold in the event (1) Measure C doesn't pass so they can continue to fund programs and personnel at current levels; and/or (2) Measure C does pass so they can fund teacher raises.
I'd like to address comments about the teachers who can't afford to live in the communities in which they teach. Most do live in our community, save for the newer, younger teachers. I have worked very hard to be able to afford to live in this community. Living here shouldn't mean a blank check for education vis-a-via parcel tax after parcel tax. Teachers choose their profession. They know the pros and cons. I am here to tell you that whether teachers in this District live within the district boundaries or not, they have it FAR BETTER than most teachers in the Bay Area, hands down.
The teachers union won't even come to the table for discussions until after our vote on the measure. Why? How many teachers would take a pay cut if it meant they kept their jobs and our children could keep all their programs? How many District Administrators would? How about you Mr. Superintendent? If it's really about the students -- put your money where your mouth is.
We parents already contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to our individual school communities through school fund donations, supporting Primos Run, auction and dinner dances, classroom funds, supply charges at each school -- hence taking a "pay cut" to guarantee that our children get the education they deserve. We know that public education in the SRVUSD isn't free, and each family does what they can when they can to enhance education.
Posted by Objective Viewpoint, a resident of the San Ramon neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 3:26 pm
The string of commentary regarding anonymity was started by a pro-C supporter casting aspersions upon those not supporting the parcel tax for posting anonymously.
All that Dawn and I have done is provide you with information on actual experiences we have had with overzealous Measure C supporters with neither of us painting a broad brush over all such people so it appears that the only one making assumptions here is you. I believe that with this information any reasonable person could see and understand why people not supporting the parcel tax would prefer to remain anonymous. In fact, you're doing so yourself and I don't begrudge that one bit.
Just for the record, in addition to our taxes, we do generously support the local schools we are involved with through direct donations to programs and by participating in certain fundraisers where we know that the funds are going directly to the intended purposes which does also help the district as a whole.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm
I too read the budget and the proposed cuts. What does it tell me? That this matter is as clear as mud. I think a lot of the points that Anonymous and Proud makes above are valid, but ultimately do not change the core matter. We're talking about a gamble/risk/educated guess on a Yes or No vote. Nobody can possibly know with any certainty what the consequences will be of the measure passing or failing, all we can do is educate ourselves as much as possible and then vote our conscience as a previous poster put it. Anybody that says they know what the consequences of a Yes or No outcome will be with certainty is simply flat out lying. What my conscience can't get past is the plain and simple fact that we're talking about $12 a month (probably less than a large propotion of our community spends on Starbucks or Peets in a week), nothing more, nothing less. At a time like this in our economy, why is $12 a month such a repulsive gamble/risk/investment in our schools to the No on Measure C crowd? I understand all the points you are making and many I even agree with, it's just the combination of timing and amount we are being asked to contribute that I makes my choice very clear, a resounding Yes vote.
Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm
$12.00 x how many taxpayers a month = a lot of money
In this economy $12.00 may put food on someones table, just because we live in a affluent area doesn't mean that we don't have to watch what we spend or that your neighbor may be a paycheck away from foreclosure.
Posted by Patricia, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 5:09 pm
Objective, these are your own comments regarding your experience of retribution for your opposition to measure c:
"if you are against Measure C you are wise to remain anonymous. In addition to the specific instances cited here of retribution for opposing district tax/bond initiatives I've witnessed Measure C supporters shunning and conducting whisper campaigns against the kids of families who are made it known they are against the measure."
This comment did give me the impression that you were painting C supporters as generally bothersome against those who oppose the measure. If I have misread your point, I am sorry.
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2009 at 6:09 pm
I keep having my comments erased. I'm sorry my opinions are too real for people to take. Your censorship won't stop me. I went to los cerros and monte vista. I'm 27 and I think 75% of the teachers were total losers. I remember my math teacher used to flirt with the 8th grade girls and hide behind the projector screen like a 4 year old. We don't need more money. We need less teachers. When my parents went to school, there were fifty to ninety kids per class, and they learned more. Why? Because everyone shut up and listened. We need discipline in the class. One way to break down discipline is to amp the kids up on sugar. We should not have candy and sodas sold in schools. The teachers unions fought getting rid of jumk food in schools because they want to tax it to give the money "to the schools," ie: to them. They don't give a damn about the kids. Their demands for smaller class sizes is because that means we have to hire more teachers. By the way, we already have plenty of money being sucked from our property taxes to go to our schools. The problem is, we don't spend it on our kids. We send it to Oakland and Richmond, on bilingual education for illegal immigrants and group home kids who murder our children (Rylan Fuchs.) No doubt, 90% of the extra money that they wish to take from us through prop C will within a few years be allotted to other schools.
Posted by Michael Arata, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:15 am
2004’s parcel tax helped enable large permanent spending increases (on large raises) with what was advertised as a temporary tax -- guaranteeing the tax-increase campaign under way now. 2009’s Measure C, were it to pass, would do more of the same.
SRVUSD has a long history of deceiving voters and essentially extorting public dollars for unmerited salary increases, all the while claiming it’s “for the children.” In an abbreviated listing of SRVUSD deceptions and malfeasance over time:
— 1991: In the original Measure C parcel-tax run, the district’s tax promoters sounded Chicken-Little, sky-is-falling, false alarms very similar to those underlying the present Measure C campaign. See Web Link . (It turns out that non-commercial links are permitted here.)
With California facing a massive politician-generated fiscal crisis then as now, 1991’s Measure C failed. But SRVUSD finished the year with a surplus anyway (after predictions of a $1.5 million deficit a year earlier), programs continued, and revenues climbed rapidly during the 90s and on into the present decade — at much faster rates than inflation and enrollment growth combined.
A month after 1991’s Measure C defeat, the Times headline said “School Board to Announce It’s in the Black” (Dec. 9, 1991). The kids didn’t suffer, and teachers and administrators then received a succession of raises, despite 1991’s Measure C rejection. Defeat of 2009’s Measure C will have the same result.
— 1995: SRVUSD suppressed exorbitant (bond) Measure B project costs, including expensive re-roofing jobs for phantom buildings. Eventually, a Times reporter asked to see contents of a particular district office drawer, and found the project cost summary that had been requested by taxpayers -- but which district officials had said didn’t exist.
— 1995-97: SRVUSD and its legal team spent at least $237,000 attempting to defend and rehabilitate illegal (bond) Measure C ballots, including double votes. They lost a recount and then a court case to two non-lawyers, acting in pro per, in Superior and state Appellate Court.
— 2000: SRVUSD drew Grand Jury findings regarding its 1998 Measure D bond: “The District electorate appears to have been, and continues to be, misinformed on [Measure D’s] scope and intent....”
— 2004: After losing a parcel-tax election in November, 2003, District officials pretended they didn’t have enough time to place their next attempt on the (anticipated heavy turnout) presidential primary election. In fact, they had plenty of time, but waited for an expensive special election April date instead, so as better to be able to march “yes” voters to the polls, and hope that other March primary voters would stay home. The scheme worked, and the current parcel tax passed.
They hope a similar scheme will work again now, with a $300,000 special vote-by-mail election, having dodged the high-turnout (much less expensive, consolidated) November presidential election after losing in the Measure D election last June.
— 2004: SRVUSD’s then superintendent and (still in place) PR spokesman said the Measure A parcel tax was not about raises. The SRVUSD spokesman (Terry Koehne) proclaimed “an understanding there will not be a pay raise next year" (SRV Times, Mar. 28, 2004).
We Measure A opponents had predicted exactly what happened then: in fact, 2005’s RETROACTIVE raise was just the first of four raises implemented since 2004's parcel tax passed — the most recent raise being implemented brazenly just a month before last June’s Measure D election.
Similarly, Measure C is all about the next series of raises — without regard to merit — i.e., more permanent spending increases enabled for now by a supposedly temporary tax, ensuring another campaign for another parcel tax increase, in 2016 or earlier. See graph and related data for SRVUSD’s skyrocketing spending trajectory: Web Link.
Now, as in 2004 and in previous tax-promoter campaigns, SRVUSD resources are being used unethically (and in some cases, illegally) to promote Measure C. See Web Link .
The district continues to understate its financial condition and to overstate its academic achievements.
The pro-tax ballot arguments try deceptively to make Measure C sound like a simple renewal. It’s not. It’s a 60% increase, under terrible economic conditions.
As always, a tax-promoter ballot argument says “The argument against Measure C is inaccurate and misleading.” But the Measure C ballot-argument promoters fail to identify any statement that is “inaccurate” or “misleading.” It’s in fact the other way around; it’s the tax promoters who mislead, attempting to project their own failings upon Measure C opponents.
Trying to divert voter attention from SRVUSD’s deceptions and fiscal irresponsibility, Measure C promoters emphasize the “only-$12-per-month” theme. But $12 per month for seven years = $1,008 (plus interest or other return, if you retain the money, while continuing to support the district with thousands of dollars in other tax extractions).
Even if SRVUSD winds up with a $16 million lessening of its anticipated spending increases, district spending next year alone will still be more than $40 Million ahead of the aggregated effect of inflation and enrollment growth since SRVUSD lost its first Measure C parcel-tax run in 1991.
It isn’t the fault of taxpayers that SRVUSD, like other spendthrift public agencies, can’t keep its spending increases within reasonable bounds. Also like other spendthrift public agencies, SRVUSD doesn’t deserve another taxpayer bailout.
More money does not equal better education. As in the title of an article I wrote some 20 years ago, when I was still teaching: parents and other taxpayers deserve “Better Schools, Not More Taxes.” Teachers and schools should compete; students, parents and other taxpayers — and skillful teachers — would win.
Fiscal sanity in American public education has to start someplace. Here’s hoping it’s here and now.
Posted by school supporter, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 6:50 am
I don't know which of you to respond to first. Rick, you claim you're 27 years old. Do you own property here in srvusd? Are you paying parcel taxes? Do you have any proof beyond your own prejudice that srvusd tax monies are going from our district to these others? Show me some proof. Do you have any proof that the teachers are pushing for candy and soda at schools? Our school doesn't allow soda on campus and there are no vending machines of any sort. And vending machine taxes are sales taxes, of which only a small percentage goes to schools. And ask any teacher if they want kids 'amped up' on sugar in their classrooms. That makes zero sense.
Mr Arata, a weblink to your No on C site doesn't qualify as proof of anything. I could make up any facts and figures I want, create a web site and go to town. I don't have time or inclination to go through every single one of your claims but a few stood out. What is this "mystery drawer" the Times reporter got access to? Which Times reporter in which issue of the paper? Give me a date of some sort and i'll go to the library and look it up.
All of your weblinks go to your personal site. You make accusations without offering any proof. Again, I could make up an e-mail going out to parents and claim it was 'sent' to me. I also noticed in the e-mail from xxx rom parent that it says in the first line, if you do not wish to receive these updates let me know. Not exactly forcefeeding it on anyone.
What is this court case you keep citing? Since I assume you were one of the two 'nonattorneys' cite the case number. These would all be on file with the county.
Your 'spending graphs' don't take into account the changing environment, the higher costs of technology, the mandatory programs and many other factors. So that is a misleading statement.
You claim the district understates its fiscal condition. You point to these funds that have millions of dollars in them. So, okay, there's no parcel tax this year and they just use those ONE TIME funds this year. Then what? Next year when those same bills become due what happens? Cut out sports, art, music. Should we return to the days of the one room school house? Some readin', writin' and 'rithmatic so the kids can be home in time to feed the chickens and milk the cows? Our kids are having to be able to compete in areas of technology and knowledge that were unlike anythign we had to deal with growing up.
And overstating their achievements. 10 distinguished schools in this district. 10. Your statement is based on that study you refer to. Only 43 percent of juniors at srvhs were ready for college? They're juniors. I asked some people at district about that figure and was told the district is using those figures to put in a college prep english course in place of senior english as a way of making sure those kids are ready when they graduate a year and a half later. Are 4th graders tested midway through the school year to see if they're ready for middle school? No. Because a lot can change in a year and a half. The same applies to high school.
The one area we are in agreemnt on is the teacher's union. It is harmful and counterintuitive for them to have that much power. There is a line between protecting teachers interests and dictating public policy. The CTA crosses that line frequently.
I don't agree with every single thing the district has done, but I know I don't want my kids having to do without programs and opportunities just because the school district doesn't do everything my way.
I voted Yes on C and I hope that for a change the majority will prevail.
Posted by Community courtesy, a resident of another community, on Apr 29, 2009 at 7:03 am
SRVUSD historically pays attention to district residents, as the owners of the district, when funding via parcel taxes and contributions are significant to classroom operations and facilities rejuvenation. In this election, SRVUSD has been more transparent in presentation, via their website and community presentation, in pursuit of parcel tax funding directly from the district owners.
Commentary should be invited on the benefits, or lack thereof, of the value of parcel taxes in focusing SRVUSD and unions on their needed relationship with District owners.
Posted by Lisa, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 7:17 am
Please vote YES on C and do it soon. Too much is at stake and the cost really is negligible.
What a shame that so much of the energy expended in the arguments above will do nothing to better our kids daily school experience. Never forget that kids are at the center of this storm. Please use your passion and energy for the greater good.
Posted by Lynn, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 7:27 am
You know what I recently found out that seemed quite interesting and disturbing to me? Mike Arata, the one who has been the loudest voice of objection to Measure C doesn't even live in Danville or San Ramon... he doesn't even live in the boundaries of the San Ramon Valley Unified School district. Yet he is the one who keeps trying to convince the rest of us what to do in our own backyards?
When making the decision in our home as to whether to vote yes or no on Measure C is as easy as looking at my three children sitting at the breakfast table (two that attend schools in San Ramon, one in a couple years)
Our ballots have already been mailed in. YES ON C.
Editor's Note: James Michael Arata is a resident of Danville, per his Letter to the Editor address and 411.com.
Posted by Sarah Palin, a resident of another community, on Apr 29, 2009 at 7:47 am
I just want to personally thank all of the No on C supporters. In a time in our country and our economy when things are at their worst, I applaud you for channeling all of your small mindedness, hatred, and greed toward the SRVUSD. Sure, some people could argue that at a time like this, we should all come together and support our schools and our communities, but what fun is there in that? We've got a lot of anger and frustration to get out after getting that whooping back in November and who better to take it out on than small children? Nice work all of you, especially those of you in Alamo, where you've got more money than god. Hang on to that $12 a month and after 7 years, you'll have over $1,000. That should be enough to cover a months payment on your lease of one of your 7 cars. I'm so proud of you all. Sorry, gotta go and shoot some small defenseless animals now. It's kind of the same thing you are all doing, just substituting animals for kids and instead of shooting them, you're just helping to injure their school system.
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 7:51 am
Hey School supporter, you claim to be intelligent. I can safely assume you're not. I am 27. I know I sound too articulate and that some of you would think I'm some old crank. I'm actually a 27 year old who's written two books. I'm one of the smart ones who had to fight against the system that tied me down. My intelligence and my political efficacy, coupled with my anger at the school system should be telling. I'll be making the rounds at city council soon to discuss my severe anger towards those group homes, which resulted in the death of a kid who was friends with my cousin. So you'll see soon enough that I am who I claim to be.i would've done it already but I have a job and a life. I am you liberal adults worst nightmare - a youth who gives a darn and can mentally spar with you. Yeah, the schools don't have candy NOW, after the teachers fought people like Schwartzenegger tooth and nail. I saw firsthand how the teachers were just plain inept. Not all mind you. For instance, I was in Mr. Feslers History class in high school. He was the best teacher I ever had in high school. I had him in his first year there, and he made an impact on me and the whole class. Guess what, all the other teachers came down on him for disobeying the allotted syllabus and sure enough he was reigned in. This is indicative of the whole system, no bringing out the best, no creativity, just staying in balance with the mediocrity. I also had Mrs. Haag in 2nd grade at Vista Grande. Another awesome teacher. I would be specific as to who I saw not only being poor teachers and administrators, but straightout crossing the line, but I know that will get my comment stricken. I will say that I think most teachers and administrators are infantile head cases who often want more to be popular with the jerks in the class than to encourage the intelligent and physically adept. I believe that such teachers are actually envious of intelligent but mildly rebellious students as I was. Thank God I didn't let their abuse keep me down. There are a lot of good teachers out there that deserve to be paid more, twice as much even, at the expense of 3 or 4 bad ones who should be purged. We need more physical education. Kids should not be sitting inside florescent-lit rooms for hours on end. They could learn just as much in half the time if they blew out their bodies with athleticism, ate proper and came back into the class fully engaged with teachers who knew how to engage them. Finally, stop spending our present money on other school districts. We owe them nothing. My dad hauled his own butt out of Hayward and everyone else can do the same. He earned the right to provide HIS KIDS a safe neighborhood and a proper education. He did not get a leg up, nor should he be expected to provide one for others under some veil of false guilt. Finally, I've done enough arguing with people who provide me no evidence that I'm wrong and demand I provide evidence that I'm right. The evidence is abundant. Shall I provide a link proving the Earth is round, that the Sun provides heat? Do your own research. Let's find out how much of our kids' money since the 1980s has been sent to other districts. You'll find I'm more than accurate.
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 7:59 am
Hey Sarah Palin, I'm a vegetarian. I hate hunting. Don't be a drama queen. You take ten of our dollars meant to go to our kids, give nine of it to Oakland, then come back asking for another ten and we say "No, use the money we already gave you on OUR KIDS." So now we like shooting defenseless animals and children. Keep the stupidity flowing. You prove your side's ineptitude. NO ON C!!!!!
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 8:06 am
By the way, Mrs Palin, it ain't about the $50 per year for this specific issue. It's about the millions of ways that you libs nickel and dime nice areas for the benefit of Oakland-type areas. California, in general, would have no budget crisis if we weren't spending $30 billion a year on illegal immigrant benefits, such as emergency healthcare to pay for their thirteen kid families, each labor costing the state tens of thousands of dollars, such as educating their kids (one third of the students in Los Angeles County schools are illegally here or were born here to illegal parents), such as imprisoning their disproportionately gang-ridden population (just imprisoning illegal immigrant gang members, murderers, rapists, general thugs from Mexico costs CA $10 billion a year.) Now run along and do some research.
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 8:09 am
Hey Lisa, I gave plenty of ways to turn around our school for the better. I have plenty more if you ever wanted to do anything but keep throwing money at an intolerable system. Stop your whining and open your ears.
Posted by Jayne, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:54 am
NO on C! The union led education cabal cries poor mouth all the time, yet never shows clearly how much money they take in already nor how it is spent. We all are doing with less these days, but the schools just got a "stimulus" infusion that we are already on the hook for that will necessitate the raising of taxes. The state just raised many taxes, and no doubt more is to come since they won't control spending. Due to our high property costs, our property taxes are sky high as it is. The pro C argument is that our property values depend on this additional tax, if that's so, then seniors should not be allowed to exempt themselves as they will benefit without having to pay. If we're so desperate for the money, how can we do without the seniors contribution? Additionally, many seniors have lived in their homes a long time, so their share of paying for educational costs is already low.
All the PTA energy for ever more school financing should be focused on changing the Democrat's funding system that shortchanges our district on a per pupil basis rather than trying to squeeze more money out of already strained families. They should also demand the ability to retain good teachers and get rid of bad ones regardless of union rules. After all, the goal is what's best for our kid's education not what's best for union members and their favored politicians, or so the PTA says.
Posted by Sarah Palin, a resident of another community, on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:12 am
You go Jayne & Rick. Get all maverikcy, I love it! All us rich people loved it when GWB, our savior, reduced taxes while increasing spending, particularly on a war that we had no reason for being in. How can you not love that American ingenuity? Why, he wiped out a federal budget surplus that the Clinton administration oversaw in no time. Nobody thought it could be done but he did it, which just shows what a one of a kind son a gun GWB, our savior, is. Why, I think he could be called the mother of all mavericks if you think about it. But thinking is hard, ok? So now we find ourselves with the worst federal deficit in our lifetimes, but should we raise taxes and contribute our share? Heck no, we're rich and we want to hold onto every penny of our money, let the poor and the kids suffer. Sure, those who don't agree with us will argue that us rich folk already pay the majority all tax revenue, but they don't get it. What they should really be arguing is that proportionately, we earn a heck lot more than that as a percentage of national wealth. How do I know that? Well, I sure didn't read it anywhere, that's
for sure, because I don't really read much, other than the great posts from people like Jayne & Rick and that Mike Arata guy. If I lived in the SRVUSD, which I don't, I'd hold onto that $12 a month if it was the last thing I did, because if you think about it, that's really all us Right wing conservatives have left isn't it, our money?
Posted by Stop Drinking the Kool-Aid, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:33 am
Dan - You are exactly the type of voter that the SRVUSD targets! You buy their emotional arguments hook, line and sinker and then amplify them. Since we're talking about $7 million on top of $200+ million annually, I think voters need to exercise a bit more diligence than your proposed latte test. By the way, did you hear that coffeehouses are going out of business by the hundreds? You may want to look around for a new funding source for those school tax hikes! The one thing that does seem puzzling though is that you seem to agree with almost everything that the people against the parcel tax propose for fiscal reforms, yet you don't want to do anything about it because "now isn't the time". When is the the time and where have you been while others have been attending school board and comittee meetings to try to bring fiscal change to the district? I'd guess never and at a coffeehouse that gives you a free shot of Kool-Aid!
Lynn - Nice attempt at character assassination there on Michael Arata. As everyone seems to be demanding of him, WHERE IS YOUR PROOF? Apparently the editor found out you have NONE and are lying. Frankly, the guy deserves a lot of credit for working tirelessly to make sure that we voters hear both sides of the story so we can be better informed.
School Supporter - You've really got no clue and worse yet you don't care! If you at least took the time to look WITHIN Michael Arata's website, as I did, before you attacked him, you'd see that it is loaded with sources, footnotes and direct links to what he is talking about that clearly support his positions. If your crazy paranaoia about made up facts, websites & e-mails allowed you to do so, you could even look up his source information yourself directly at the websites referenced or at the library instead of using "his" link, but I guess that would would be too much trouble since ranting is so much easier without knowledge.
Aside from your aspersions against Mr. Arata, I do have a couple of specific comments.
Regarding the room parent e-mail you referred to, when you read it you can readily see that it was sent in that person's offical capacity as room parent and that it refers to a more orchestrated on-campus effort at promoting the parcel tax. Parents provide their contact info to the classroom for legitimate school purposes, not for political campaign purposes, so this is an obvious misuse of school property by the Measure C campaign.
As for the district's refusal to use reserve funds, there are lots of reasonable suggestions on how the district can cut costs without impacting programs on this one forum alone - if they try, which they haven't. You assume the district and the union won't change their ways in the face of a parcel tax defeat - now there's responsibility and accountability for you!
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:44 am
That's Mr. Parnas to you! I don't buy any emotional arguments, I vote with my conscience. And where am I spending my time? Certainly not in coffee houses, lactose intolerance makes those $4 lattes a bad idea and I prefer brewing my own to save a little. Instead, I spend a lot of time volunteering at Greenbrook Elementary between lunch yard duty, working in the school garden, driving on field trips, building my son's classroom auction project and more. I see first hand what an extraordinary school we have in our community, which is all the proof I need to know that $12 a month is a GREAT investment. As I've said before, I'd gladly pay $120 a month.
And also for the record, if you're going to regurgitate my previous posts, I have said I agree with some of the arguments of the No on C folks, but not close to "almost everything". One of the positive outcomes of this "spirited" debate though is that I have learned a lot about the weaknesses of the SRVUSD and do plan to get more involved in the future to see if there is anything I can do to help in supporting positive change.
Posted by Joe Biden, a resident of another community, on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:48 am
Sorry, I've been posting as Sarah Palin and BO's teleprompter just informed me that I have both a mental disorder and a cross-dressing problem. Please forgive me. Gotto go - need to lookup that website number for Ebay to bid on FDR's TV. LOL!
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 3:19 pm
I hated George W. Bush Ms. Palin. He was Mr. Amnesty and yes he wasted the hell out of our money on a needless war. That's called having true beliefs. I voted for Obama and I still think he was a better choice than McCain, who would've gotten us into a war with everyone. So, don't think I'm a 2-dimensional imbecile like many on your side of this debate.
Posted by Jayne, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 4:50 pm
My kids went to a private non religious school in southern Cal. and public schools here. The difference in quality of education was amazing. The private school was $4000.00/year/student about 6 years ago. Our local religious private schools are about $7-8000/year/student. Athenian and some others are overpriced.
The Yes on C arguers keep talking about "our kids" when it's really about "our teachers". Some are really fine, some mediocre, some are horrid, but they all get paid the same and none can get fired. An 8th grade history teacher, just recently retired (with those great benefits), wore "code pink" shirts to school and went on anti-Bush rants most days. Judging from some commentators here,that would suit many of you just fine, but it was really an abuse of power and inappropriate to do to 8th graders in a U.S. History class.
It's nice, but not necessary to have librarians, we have a fine town library not to mention everyone does their research on the Internet anyway, The quality of families here ensure that kids get books and are encouraged to read by their parents. (And that is a significant reason why our school ratings are what they are - the quality of the people who live here). The counselors are nice, but not a necessity, and class sizes can go up without negative results. The teachers in elementary have aides and so many parent helpers, they have to try to find things for them to do.
The cost of public ed is astronomical when you count in all the federal money, state money, what happened to that lottery money?, local money, all the costs for the bureaucracies. As long as government is running it, it will be wasteful, inefficient, and there will never be enough money. If money was the answer, Washington D.C. would have the best schools.
I couldn't help but notice that the high school did not hype the LGBT very disruptive "Day of Silence" in the high school this year like they did last year. Perhaps they didn't want to annoy any parents who were on the fence about Measure C.
Finally, as someone else pointed out very well earlier, it is just impossible to tell what money the district has or really needs. And since they can almost always rely on more funding from hopeful, panicked locals they don't have to be fiscally responsible.
Posted by Stop Drinking the Kool-Aid, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 5:18 pm
Mr. Parnas - Da' Nile apparently isn't just a river in Egypt. You can call it "conscience", but your arguments in favor of the parcel tax are clearly emotional and you can feel free to kick-in that $120 anytime. I'm glad to see you do have some frugality in you with your coffee and do hope that you'll find that time to work on getting some of that thrifty spirit working at SRVUSD.
I think it's great that you're volunteering at your school (we do the same) and I think that parent volunteers are really a difference maker in the schools. It's just a shame that once you get into the later years of elementary school and into middle/high school, SRVUSD schools look at volunteers almost solely as fundraisers and tax/bond campaign workers. Making better use of volunteers could go a long way in helping with financial issues too.
Posted by Michael Arata, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:45 pm
“School Supporter” requests sourcing for several statements of fact regarding SRVUSD's long history of misrepresentation.
It’s certainly a very good idea to look briefly (again, at "School Supporter's insistence) at SRVUSD’s past money-measure deceptions and the District’s attempt to carry a bond election with illegal ballots in the present context of:
— SRVUSD’s late-breaking Measure C gamesmanship with enrollment numbers (and resultant fictitious deficit figures), explained at Web Link ;
— attempts by ballot-argument tax promoters to divert attention from both SRVUSD’s skyrocketing spending curve and the fact that Measure C attempts a 60% increase from the present parcel tax, at a time of severe financial distress for taxpayers; and
— the District’s determination to deflect attention from a new series of unmerited raises that Measure C would enable — etc., etc., etc.
In 1995, even the SRV Times finally asked (AFTER the election), "What did school officials know -- and when?" (lead editorial, 3/9/95).
Regarding District suppression of the Measure B bond project list, the Times commented: "By January, opponents' charges were having an effect, and the Times was pressing the district for more information.
“But officials did not give the press the Oct. 26 report. Instead, they released a revision, dated Jan. 10, which omitted the crucial cost information.
"That's clearly a violation of state law guaranteeing public access to public records," the Times continued.... "Concealing information from the public is a serious breach of officials' responsibility."
The cost data, when finally it became available, included things like re-roofing an area larger than 5 football fields, including at least 45,000 square feet of non-existent buildings, at Monte Vista High School.
As the Times noted: reporter Susan Dowdney accepted the school board’s challenge to find evidence of concealment, “even to the extent of going through the file drawers in the district office….” [A]nd that’s where she found the October surprise.”
(By the way, the County Library archives the CC Times but not the SRV Times. So I’ve arranged for a copy of the editorial in question to be posted at the bottom of Web Link .)
The court case involving SRVUSD’s attempt to win back the subsequent Measure C bond election with illegal votes, after Ernie Scherer and I had commissioned and overseen a recount which overturned the original election result, was Contra Costa County Superior Court No. C96-00160.
The subsequent California First Appellate District case was A075812. Ernie Scherer and I, two non-attorneys, prevailed against SRVUSD’s $238,000 legal team in both courtrooms.
The SRV Times asked for a lengthy in-person follow-up interview at Times offices, then spiked the David vs. Goliath story that was to result.
When kids in earlier California days actually learned “readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic” — say, in the early part of the last century, inflation-adjusted per-student spending was a small fraction of today’s $8,221 per-student spending (=$205,525 per 25 student classroom, in operational dollars alone). How much is enough?
Those interested in seeing real SRVUSD academic achievement numbers (with links to state sources) can visit Web Link .
Distinguished schools? I taught in one. The award depended more on the paperwork persistence of administrators than on actual achievement.
Like others here, “School Supporter” wants to sidestep SRVUSD’s long history of saying one thing and doing another, especially when it comes to making dollars available for salary and benefit increases.
At one school board meeting preceding the board’s adoption of what became 2009’s Measure C, SRVEA / CTA’s local teacher-union president proclaimed to the board that they would not balance their budget “on the backs of teachers.”
Translation: You won’t mess with our next series of unmerited cross-the-board raises. There were smiles all around, and the union-dominated board followed its marching orders.
As SRVUSD has proven repeatedly: The District is always in “desperate” fiscal condition — until it’s time for the next retroactive pay raise.
One of SRVUSD’s classic such reversals was that of 1995:
"For the first time in a long time, we're not having to pit teachers against maintenance against programs. We've taken care of the things we need to take care of this year." [-- Rob Kessler, SRVUSD Superintendent, endorsing a 5% raise (Herald, 12/15/95), just 9 days after "desperately needed" Measure C was undone in our recount.]
This turned out to be just the first of three retroactive raises of 5% or more in just the first 24 months following Measure C's recount demise, while the District spent $238,000 trying to rehabilitate illegal “yes on C” ballots, including double votes.]
More recently, Kessler and still-in-place SRVUSD P.R. spokesman Terry Koehne said in 2004 that the Measure A parcel tax was not about raises. The SRVUSD spokesman (Terry Koehne) proclaimed “an understanding there will not be a pay raise next year" (SRV Times, Mar. 28, 2004).
We Measure A opponents had predicted earlier exactly what happened next: 2005’s RETROACTIVE raise became just the first of four raises (atop existing contractual step-and-column advancements) implemented since 2004's parcel tax passed — the most recent raise being implemented brazenly just a month before last June’s Measure D election.
2009’s Measure C has precisely the same ultimate purpose: a series of permanent spending increases through new raises, enabled by the $7 million annually (with housing growth, more than $50 Million in total new bonanza bucks over the next 7 years).
Here’s hoping for a “NO on C” outcome on Tuesday, even though SRVUSD has expensively gamed this (vote-by-mail) special election by avoiding November’s heavy-turnout general election.
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:59 pm
Maxwell, you obviously haven't read my points. I said that our present money is being fractioned up to other districts. If all our money up until now had been spent on our schools we wouldn't need measure C. If I was to give you a hundred dollars for my kid and you took 90 of it and gave it to some kid in Oakland, then came back looking for more money saying that all the new money will definitely go to my kid, I would say, "Well that's great, why the hell didn't you give the original amount entirely to my children." It's incredibly simple political manipulation. Create a void, then fill the void with more money. One must look at how our property taxes have been used to fund other districts since the 1980s and before. If all that money had always been used on us, we'd have better schools and a fiscal surplus. You need to learn to dig beneath the surface. You need to understand that politics is not something you can superficially glean. Let this be a lesson to you to not always take things at face value. Including myself. Ask these questions, pry deeper, and you shall find the truth. Unless you're a child of a teacher and you have a vested interest. I'm not going to get into it with you why throwing money at poor areas has never and will never work, for if you are a highschool senior, you're just too young. As they say, if you're not a liberal when you're young, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative when you're old, you have no brain. I am 27. That's not old, but my brain ages me. When I was 18 and naive, I felt the same way you did. Life was extraordinarily simplistic. I now support myself. I have a kid. And I needs my money.
Posted by Lynn, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:08 pm
I'd like to make an apology for making an error with regards to Mr.Arata's residence. I was not, in fact, trying to make a "character attack" but rather was told (inaccurately) that he was not a local resident.
It's unfortunate that what we are dealing with in regards to non-support of C is lack of trust for a possible mismanagement of funds in the past (quotes from the opposition website that goes back to 1991)
But from what I have read and clearly understand about Measure C is these funds do NOT go to raises for teachers OR to administrative costs at all but right back into the programs they're intended for. This funding is NOT intended for other cities, such as Oakland, etc. but a LOCAL parcel tax.
Also, unlike suggested, this is not a secretive ballot process to sway voters. The cost of a mail-only election was considerably less than a special election that requires polls and pollsters. The district saved approximately $200,000 by going to a mail-only ballot.
Bottom line, it's sad that the children are the ones that are in the middle of the mudslinging.
Posted by Sarah Palin, a resident of another community, on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:13 pm
Rick, I don't know who the "they" is/are that you attribute "If you're not a conservative when you're old, you have no brain.", but clearly that couldn't hold true. I'm conservative, but I don't have a brain. I've gotta admit that after reading many of your posts, which is more reading than I'm accustomed to, there are a few things that seem clear to a Maverick like me.
1. Your ego is larger than the collective egos of the rest of the people that have posted here, which is saying a lot
2. One of the things that comes with age is maturity and humility. You do appear to be a very intelligent person, but you lack both of those attributes completely. Until you start showing a little of both, you're no less a kid than Maxwell.
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:41 pm
Lynn, let me restate my point above. I said that our present money is being fractioned up to other districts. If all our money up until now had been spent on our schools we wouldn't need measure C. If I was to give you a hundred dollars for my kid and you took 90 of it and gave it to some kid in Oakland, then came back looking for more money saying that all the new money will definitely go to my kid, I would say, "Well that's great, why the hell didn't you give the original amount entirely to my children." It's incredibly simple political manipulation. Create a void, then fill the void with more money. One must look at how our property taxes have been used to fund other districts since the 1980s and before. If all that money had always been used on us, we'd have better schools and a fiscal surplus.
Posted by Michael Arata, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2009 at 12:44 am
Rick, I appreciate your opposition to Measure C — but you’ll be far more effective if you slow down and clean up your language. By the time some others see this in the morning, your comment about Churchill may have been removed. It’s offensive, inaccurate, and has the effect of weakening your arguments besides.
For Lynn’s benefit:
Now that she mentions but denies her earlier purpose — what is it in fact BUT a character attack (as “Stop Drinking the Kool-Aid” observed) to transmit disinformation which alleges falsely that I don’t live in the SRVUSD, yet that I supposedly keep “trying to convince [everyone else] what to do in [their] own backyards”?
If Lynn wants to question someone from outside the district who has tried to influence Measure C's outcome, she could start with the District's San Francisco and Oakland-based tax-election election consultants, who cost local taxpayers $39,838 for push polling orchestration and campaign strategizing before Measure C was even on the ballot.
Meanwhile, “looking at [her] three children sitting at the breakfast table,” charming as that scene is, gives Lynn no monopoly on caring about children. I skipped early admission to medical school for what turned out to be a 20-year first career of teaching and coaching children ages 3 – 27, and I still receive copious thanks from kids and parents for that involvement now, many years later. My two kids are themselves happily situated in excellent, societally beneficial careers today.
And as time allows, I still expose school programs that could readily harm children, brought their way by their seemingly friendly but ignorant or malfeasant teacher-union activist.
None of that qualifies me for a monopoly on caring about kids either. But it certainly doesn’t disqualify me, or others with Measure C sentiments similar to mine.
In so many words, what I’ve been saying is that caring about children and their education doesn’t mean that when it comes to SRVUSD school budgets, we should somehow become so indulgently open-minded that our fiscal brains fall out.
I can’t think of a money issue in which SRVUSD has not misled voters about the intent and the ultimate outcome. Presently, Measure C, like its Measure A predecessor in 2004, and with the same tactical gimmicks now as then, is in fact all about cross-the-board raises.
That’s because parcel-tax money is fungible. It goes into a (let’s call it) column A to fund programs that all schools should be prioritizing and funding with their core financing already, as standard operating procedure [i.e., to “retain qualified and experienced teachers, prepare students for college and careers, prepare students to compete in a global economy, (and) maintain strong math, science and literacy programs.”]
Meanwhile, since parcel-tax money becomes general-fund revenue, money now freed up in column A transfers over to column B, whence the next series of cross-the-board raises, without regard to merit, is funded. And the “citizen oversight [crony] committee” reports, meanwhile, that everything is fine, don’t worry, be happy.
We don’t have to guess at this outcome; it’s the standard template over time for SRVUSD, and for other public agencies as well.
And what about the expense of the current parcel-tax elections? SRVUSD was billed $152,737 for last June’s first act, Measure D. That election was consolidated, as what the Election Office calls a “direct primary.” Seeking a given measure’s passage in a consolidated election lessens the related district’s taxpayer cost, because expenses are shared with other entities participating in the same election.
In contrast, a November 17 letter (i.e., just after the November presidential election, and pointing to some prior inquiry by SRVUSD) from the Elections Office to SRVUSD’s Superintendent secretary estimates an unconsolidated “All Mail Ballot Election — May 2009) as costing $3.50 for each of 83,565 voters registered as of November 3.
83,565 x $3.50 = $292,478 — almost double the cost to taxpayers of SRVUSD’s preliminary parcel-tax round last June, and before any new registrants since November 3 are added to the electorate.
That’s because it’s a single-issue election, by design. So the claim of “saving” $200,000 by avoiding in-person voting is simply another of SRVUSD’s many cynical deceptions of voters.
The District and some significant number of its dedicated in-house tax promoters and professional consultants don’t care about saving local taxpayer money; they care about passing the parcel tax, and thereby about freeing up lots of dollars for more cross-the board raises.
If Measure C passes, one wonders if contributors to this forum who question the motives of Measure C opponents, their concern for children, their support for education, etc., etc., etc. will apply their efforts to trying to halt the series of unmerited teacher-union raises that Measure C would enable.
If perchance they do make such an effort, in the unfortunate event of Measure C passage, they’ll find that the train carrying the cashbox has already left the station, headed straight for a hold-up as soon as it travels out of sight around the first bend in the tracks.
Posted by Community courtesy, a resident of another community, on Apr 30, 2009 at 7:26 am
Michael James Arata brings the focus back to voters' intent for SRVUSD sources and uses of funds. In e-exchange review of voters' preferences in the Iron Horse corridor neighborhoods, more than a 2/3rds majority is satisfied with the fiscal responsibility of SRVUSD and their application of funding to education, operations and facilities. Such satisfaction comes primarily from the very open display of budgets and related narrative on the SRVUSD website.
Mike also focused on campaign jargon associated with the Measure C campaign and appropriately such jargon was not a function of voters' decisions. If the Measure C campaign had been only jargon like the Measure A incorporation campaign in Alamo, we would see a majority for voters' prepared to vote NO.
In affect, Mike has invited pro and con commentary on the reality of budgets and citizens' oversight as the basis of Measure C voting consideration. With such budgetary information available, it would be a community courtesy by all forum participants above to provide detailed fiscal and management opinions.
Posted by Dan Parnas, a member of the Greenbrook Elementary School community, on Apr 30, 2009 at 7:38 am
The quote being attribted to Churchill, although not uncommon, is not accurate. Churchill started out conservative in life and became a liberal as he got older.
From the Phrase Finder: "The quotation usually attributed to Churchill is, "If you're not Liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not Conservative when you're 35, you have no brain." However, the attribution is false. There is no record of Churchill ever speaking these words, and it is highly unlikely that he would have because Churchill himself did precisely the opposite. He entered politics as a Conservative and was a Conservative at age 25. He switched to the Liberal Party at age 29 and was a Liberal at age 35. (He returned to the Conservatives at age 49.) Also, his beloved wife, Clementine, was a life-long Liberal, and Churchill would hardly have delivered such an indirect insult to her. "
I have found myself as well moving from a conservative when I was younger, more concerned about myself and cash preservation and conservative on social issues. As I got older, had kids, I found myself less concerned with how much money I had or how much in taxes I paid and instead about leaving the world a better place for my kids environmentally and socially. I am not a democrat or a republican, I find that labels polarize people. I try not to make decisions emotionally, as others have suggested here, but instead to make individual choices on issues based upon their respective merits and applying an extremely large dose of common sense, which I find sadly in short supply these days.
When I look at Measure C, I try to filter what I read and hear and then apply that common sense meter. There's so much rhetoric and numbers being thrown around, it is hard to know what to believe or not believe. Many have made convincing arguments on both sides. Ultimately, what it comes down to for me as I apply my common sense meter, which I've said here before, is that I love the school my children go to and think it is fabulous. I see that first hand from all the time I spend there. I do not see any wasteful spending with my own eyes. I don't see teachers driving to school in BMWs like many of the parents. Teachers are not getting rich off of this current budget. They deserve better in my opinion. Greenbrook was fully rebuilt a couple years back. It is not lavish, it has everything the kids need and nothing they don't. It even has a solar energy system. I see that the state has cut funding to the school by $16M, roughly 8% of the budget. I see that if measure C fails, it will cut roughly another $4M from the budget. I see that all I'm being asked to do is contribute $12 a month. My common sense tells me that is a small request and I'm happy to contribute my share. Plain and simple. Am I overlooking other points here? Perhaps. Does that make mine an emotional decision? I don't see it that way.
Posted by Terry W., a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 30, 2009 at 9:07 am
Mr. Parnas - glad to see you are still hanging in there, though I think most of those on this forum have made up their minds one way or the other. I also don't get the rhetoric around "no on C" during the economic crisis we currently face and taking the chance that denying the parcel tax will cripple the schools and be devastating to our children, but folks have a right to hang on to their $ no matter how callous their reasoning. I would hope that even if I saw things their way I would pick another economic climate to take my stand.
Mr. Arata, you and I are worlds apart (I'm extremely happy for this fact as no doubt you are as well), but I am delighted you have tried to help "Rick" put some boundaries around how he expresses his issues. Maybe coming from you he will learn something, as you are of like opinion in this forum. Maybe it is his young age, but somehow he has the mistaken impression that he is appearing intelligent and well informed, when he in fact appears quite the opposite and angry at just about everyone. I do see from your comment to him that there are many ways to educate, and you have made an attempt there. Bravo (for that).
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2009 at 9:12 am
So, who did say it Parnas? Wow, that was really important that you prove me wrong on a quote from Churchill (edited). Churchill had many good quotes though and I'm sure he did say something to this effect, regardless of his wife's stance. (your phrase-finder is not the absolute fact either, merely some opinion writer, besides the fact that it said he switched from liberal to conservative later in life) Whether or not he did is irrelevant, because the quote still stands as true in terms of its content. I originally just referred to the proverbial "they" when quoting that, but Palin asked who said it, as if no one's ever heard the quote. So, I said what I had seen on the History Channel, which is that Churchill said it. I have no vested interest in making it a Churchill comment or not, so nice try splitting hairs. It's also telling that you think everything on the internet is the written-in-stone truth. That's pretty naive. You keep wanting to debase this argument to simplicities that aren't true. "The school needs more money (false), therefore we must give it to them (false.)" If someone has been wasteful and irresponsible with our money in the past, then we don't throw more at them. I'm glad Greenbrook has solar panels. That doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a lot better if we weren't wasting money prior, and that of course goes for all the schools. We would have a local fiscal surplus that could pay for your teachers if they're money wasn't wasted other places. But, now that it's gone it's time to take a look at what we could cut, rather than what we can spend. This has nothing to do with a measly 12 bucks. The Federal, state and local government find millions of ways to just take a few bucks from us, which adds up to intolerably overbearing taxation of far more than just prop C. We have to nip all these small things in the bud and attack the true problem, which is the wasteful spending of the state as a whole. But, you don't want to go there, or least say "you're right, the state wastes billions of dollars a year on illegal immigrants. let's definitely stop that and in the meantime pass prop C." No, I've not heard one person on your side of this debate acknowledge the state's wasteful spending. The local government is also wasteful, sending our money since the 1980s to other districts. You just say, "who cares, look to the future." Sorry, you don't get to waste our money for decades, then come back looking for a handout.
I forgot what I wrote about Churchill that was so offensive. I have my argument style, which fires up the base, others have their own, which is fine if you want to distinguish yourself from me, for I am a bit of a firebrand. I do have to say, I've seen countless insulting words thrown around from the other side of this debate, calling people such as myself greedy right-wingers, which I am not (I voted for Obama, Kerry and Gore). I did not whine about it being offensive. I just took them on. I have to say, you adults may need to thicken your skin. That's not a snipe at you Arata. I know that, as the face behind this cause, you need to be the moderate voice and people don't know who I am (though they soon will), therefore you need to show that my words are not yours. Let it be stated that I have never met Mr. Arata, i don't even know what he looks like. I don't care. This is my cause. My words are my own. My passion is my own. I'm a researched young man who is passionate about saving America in general. So, let us all gain a bit more intestinal fortitude.
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2009 at 9:21 am
Oh my God, I just figured out what you guys were mad at - me calling Churchill a d-bag. Oh my God, that's pathetic. That is so pathetic. You all can't tolerate a mild insult at Churchill. Since when did the left become such defenders of Churchill. I'm so sorry I said what I didn't even know was fowl language, in terms of it being so fowl that you had to strike my comment. I've stayed away from cursing, but I didn't think what I said about Churchill was that big of a deal. Oh my God, I've seen far too much splitting hairs on the other side of this debate. I'll make sure to make my comments as cutsie-wutsie as possible next time.
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2009 at 9:43 am
By the way, I have much respect for Arata's stance on this issue, so none of my angst in these last paragraphs is aimed at him. I'm the type of person that, even if my opponent is cursing and boiling mad, I will look to the content of his debate. I will then address that, often with my own share of fervor behind it. I sense that you all want some drone. You cringe at passion from a politically efficacious young man. Stop trying to find a million ways to come down on my style, or my harsh words towards some long-dead Britich prime minister, and argue with the content. You're akin to a debater who criticizes his opponents apparel. I could be running about in the street naked with war paint all over my body, but that wouldn't change the content of what I'm saying. Those who only judge by such superficial things are just that - superficial.
PS. I've engendered quite a following amongst young people as myself. Maybe that's what they want, instead of drab, monotonous speech. I've won many over with face-to-face debating. So, my style has served me quite well thank you very much. Stop worrying about educating me on how to argue and worry about educating yourself about the issues.
Posted by Rick, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2009 at 9:46 am
In summation, if we make the changes to the school system that I've suggested a dozen times on all these threads, I absolutely know that our schools would need less money, that the kids would be better educated, and everyone would be better off, except for some inept teachers who shouldn't have been teaching our kids in the first place.
Posted by Michael Arata, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2009 at 11:14 am
Again, I appreciate your opposition to Measure C — which deserves to lose, for numerous substantive reasons.
But meanwhile, like it or not, believe it or not: “running about in the street naked with war paint all over [your, or anyone else’s] body,” whether literally or figuratively — or posting rapid-fire serial messages which come across in too many cases as wild-eyed and irrational — distracts from your content and diminishes your reach in these environs.
Misdirection of huge dollar supplies already extracted from taxpayers and ostensibly allocated for the education of children is indeed an issue. And already overstressed taxpayers should not be called upon continually to compensate for such legislative and administrative irresponsibility.
But such observations can be made calmly yet effectively — and thereby, without alienating some large portion of your potential audience (which likely includes many individuals who are following this thread but not commenting themselves).
Indeed, NO on C (!) But at least in this kind of forum discussion, that message is best conveyed with substance, not shouts.
Many can agree readily with your summation: schools spend too much already [here, an average of $205,525 per 25-student classroom in annual operational dollars alone]; kids can be better educated [with fewer minimum days and other distractions, improved test scores, and enhanced real-world results]; and everyone — students, parents and other taxpayers, and skillful, successful teachers — would be better off with lessened union control of education and more efficient application of existing resources.
Contrariwise, meekly feeding the public-agency beast every time it demands a bigger meal of taxpayer dollars only encourages a perpetuation and spiraling escalation of the same behavior.
Posted by Teacherman, a member of the San Ramon Valley High School community, on Apr 30, 2009 at 11:26 am
It is not my intention to re-enter the dialogue around Measure C but rather to acknowledge Mr. Arata's graceful criticism of Rick's emotionally charged, vindictive entries.
Mr. Arata, I may not agree with your stance on Measure C, but sir, I deeply respect your research-based arguments and unemotional input. Perhaps you should take Rick under your wing and show him "the way" before he gets ridiculed by the lefties and isolated from the righties.
Posted by Stop Drinking the Kool-Aid, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2009 at 5:33 pm
Lynn – Nice half-hearted “apology”. Mr. Arata summed it up well himself, but it bears repeating – it was your clear INTENT in attempting to slander him with information which you made no attempt to substantiate that makes your post a hit piece. It’s good you’ve made an attempt to take some responsibility here and hopefully you’ll tell the person giving you the bogus information and others that it is, in fact, a false accusation.
On the issues, once again, Mr. Arata does a great job of pointing out the district’s repeated and unrepentant fiscal mismanagement including their reckless retroactive raise granted in 2008 just one month BEFORE the last parcel tax election and their refusal to place the 2nd parcel tax on the 11/2008 ballot which would have substantially cut the cost of the do-over with ALL jurisdictions voting.
Since it seems you haven’t done so, despite your assertion, you need to actually read the text of Measure C, which by the district’s own admission through their PR man, was purposefully made overarching to cover virtually any type of spending. This would include teacher raises and anything else the SRVUSD chooses to rationalize under 2 of its legal purposes as per the actual text “to maintain academic excellence” and “retain qualified and experienced teachers”, both of which are simply code for yet ANOTHER huge union giveaway. In many ways this particular parcel tax is much worse than the last one in that it is not set-aside for specific programs. Even if it were, a dollar is a dollar and a new dollar frees up and old one or as Mr. Arata puts it with the economic term, dollars are fungible.
Oh yeah, by the way, on that supposed “independent audit” – it only applies IF there is parcel tax money left unexpended at the end of the year and even if prepared it can be buried in the district’s regular paperwork going to the state – good luck ever seeing where this money goes if Measure C passes.
You don’t have to trust me – you can read it here yourself by clicking on the Measure C link and reading pages 8 & 9 (note the PDF pages are a page number ahead).
Lastly, it's the school board, district staff, union and PTAs that are putting kids into the middle of this debate by orchestrating their coordinated campaign efforts at schools and using school resources and property.
Mr. Parnas – Congratulations on keeping those blinders on and only looking at Measure C through the district’s prism – it’s a truly remarkable feat to do so for someone with so much common sense – I guess that sleazy car salesman’s gimmick of “it’s only $12 a month” cloned and introduced into school tax politics by paid political consultants is a winner. Since you can’t make heads or tails of the financial impact of Measure C, I suggest you vote NO or at least abstain. A prudent voter would recognize that if they are uninformed, confused or conflicted on the facts they should NOT use their vote as an insurance policy for their own parochial interests, but rather should respect the fact that they are potentially obligating ~50,000 families to pay $7,000,000 ANNUALLY in taxes with a vote based on gut feel. This shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone which is why I take the time to keep informed on a DAILY basis year-round and not just whenever the district comes crying for more money to give away to the union.
Now, step away from the punch bowl, put down that glass and vote NO on C!
Posted by Jayne, a resident of the Danville neighborhood, on May 6, 2009 at 2:58 pm
Now that Measure C has passed, can we move onto the real problems in the schools that money doesn't fix. The California Teacher's Association testified for Harvey Milk Day to be honored in the public schools. It's things like that which expose the CTA for the far left promoting organization that it is, and cause property values to drop as families who don't want their kids indoctrinated to continue to leave California, while families who might want to come here have second thoughts and decide no. With the sorry state of education, the CTA should be focused on basic improvements, not social agendas.