Posted by Citizen, a resident of another community, on Apr 6, 2008 at 12:43 pm
"* Teacher retention and recruitment YEAH RIGHT, DOES THIS ACTUALLY MEAN THE TEACHERS WILL GET PAID MORE. A SIMPLE YES OR NO ANSWER IS ALL THAT'S REQUIRED, BUT YOU'LL NEVER GET IT" Simple answer--public schools in California can never know year to year how much money they will actually get from the state & federal governments and never know how they will need to allocate their resources. This is a fact. They cannot and should not make specific promises that they may not be able to keep. Sometimes teacher retention means they will be using some of that money toward keeping the teachers' portion of their healthcare costs down--which may mean not as much for raises.
"* School libraries - Go to the PUBLIC LIBRARY instead" I had a library at every school I went to, I'm sure you did too. Every decent school in this or any other developed country has a library onsite for teachers to take their students to. Teachers can guide students' book choices, or just get a sense of what the kids are reading. They go together when they are learning how to do research on papers, so the teachers and library staff can teach the kids how to use the reference materials, look up appropriate books, etc. Yes, a public librarian can do that also, but the fact is that many kids will never get to the public library, and the school can't control that. Also, a lot of the library costs at the schools (like buying new books & equipment) is already being paid directly by the parents at the schools through their PTAs, book fairs, etc; parcel tax money will pay the salaries of the PART-TIME librarians, as there is no money anywhere else to pay them.
"* Lower class sizes - They already are low! FOR PETE'S SAKE I SAT IN CLASSROOMS OF 30 OR MORE MY ENTIRE TIME IN SCHOOL." Me, too, and it was pretty bad. What do charter and elite private schools and the "good" local public schools always advertise as one of their benefits? Small classes, low student-teacher ratios. It's good for them--it's good for all kids. Kids get lost in the shuffle in huge classes with only one teacher.
"* Music and arts programs - FOCUS ON MATH, SCIENCE INSTEAD." Arts education programs have been proven to increase student achievement in many areas, including math. The district has been and is continuing to increase the instructional minutes spent on math, science, and writing. And here again, the arts programs are the result of a collaboration between many organizations. The city pays a portion, PTAs pay a portion, the educational foundation pays a portion, and CSMA contributes a portion.
"* Outdoor education - WHAT!?! I don't even want to know what this is." Science camp, an opportunity for all 5th graders to experience a week at overnight camp learning about the the science all around them. Again--the district helps out with a portion of the costs of this, while parents do fundraising and pay the majority, at least at some schools. The district's portion helps to ensure that kids from ALL the schools--not just the ones with the wealthy parents--can participate in this experience. And yes, the "GOOD" schools all do this, Los Altos, etc.
"* Student leadership classes WHAT!?! Who came up with this wacko list. THIS IS A ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT." This is a middle school elective class for kids who are not interested in music classes or the computer/art/home ec type of electives.
"* Support for English language learners OH PLEASE... HERE WE GO AGAIN FOOTING THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION TAX BILL SINCE NO ONE ELSE WANTS TO PAY FOR IT" Lots of kids come to the district with limited English skills, and no, they are not all "illegal." That is a stereotype. In my kids' school there were families from Japan, Spain, Finland, France, Portugal and several other countries where the parents were professionals working in the Valley. The kids in some cases spoke no English when they arrived. It is true that many of the kids come from lower-income, Spanish-speaking families, but how do you know they are all illegal?
"* Extracurricular sports programs OH PLEASE" Surely you recognize that after-school sports can make a world of difference in a middle-schooler's life. A sense of belonging, teamwork, discipline, structure, the role model that the coach can be, the camaraderie, has gotten many a kid through those tough years. It keeps kids off the streets, engaging in a healthy activity, and if they want to participate, they need to keep a certain GPA, providing motivation to pay attention to schoolwork. And here again--parents pay for much of this out of pocket through participation fees, etc., but the district has certain costs for coach stipends and probably insurance & buses. They need a guaranteed source of revenue, which ain't coming from the State, my friend.
"* On-site intervention specialists NOW WHAT? MORE GANGS IN THE SCHOOLS" You know, kids DO have problems in their lives that don't involve gangs. And if the schools did NOT do anything to try and intervene with the kids that they suspect are being recruited by gangs, you and others like you would be all over them for NOT doing anything. Make up your mind! Do you want the schools to try to help with SOCIETY's gang issues or not? The Los Altos schools have "guidance counselors" -- which are intervention specialists with a different name. Maybe we should call them that?
"* Intersession programming during school breaks THIS IS THE LIMIT! WHAT A BUNCH OF HOG WASH" I thought you wanted the school to do more to help achievement and keep kids out of gangs? Here's an idea--offer supplemental programs for the kids who need some more help to achieve during the breaks. Oh, wait--this means paying teachers more money--I thought you wanted us to do that anyway? Maybe we can just ask the Governor for the money, then we don't have to raise it locally.
"* Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs TAKE THE MONEY YOU SAVE FROM PAY MORE TAXES AND GET YOUR KID PIANO LESSONS" Trust me, my kid's piano lessons cost way more than even the increased parcel tax will cost me, so that's a specious argument. Besides, many GATE kids come from homes where parents lack the resources (in either money or time) to provide outside enrichment activities for kids. Good GATE programs can provide every GATE kid, rich or poor, with a variety of enrichment offerings to keep them engaged. Not every GATE kid is an engaged and motivated learner in the traditional classroom. They come in all varieties. The district is required to offer a GATE program, yet they get only small amount of money each year from the state for GATE programs. Bottom line--parents want to see quality GATE programs, and the state funding is not enough to provide them.
"RECALL THE BOARD, they've obviously lost their senses" On the contrary, the board is doing what they know is necessary. Los Altos has had a parcel tax for far longer than we have, and the citizens in general pay more--a lot more. You'd be paying around $600 per year if you lived there, regardless if you had a 1-bedrom condo or a 10,000-square foot mansion in Los Altos Hills--$600. If you had a kid in their schools, you would also be asked to pay something like $700 or $800 per kid per year to the Educational Foundation. Then you'd be asked to donate probably more than that to your individual PTA's. then would come the fundraisers, silent auctions, etc. Then you'd still be paying participation fees for sports, etc. Of course, with a median income of around $175,000 in Los Altos vs. a median income of around $85,000 for Mountain View, they can ask for all this and get it. Same for Palo Alto. Our ed foundation has been very successful at increasing parent participation this year, and is probably going to raise over $300,000 this year, a new record. Their goal is $500,000 a year in a couple of years. But this won't even make a dent in the reductions in funding coming from the State. Our costs are going up (just like businesses) and the funding keeps going down. The district has no way of increasing revenue other than a parcel tax. The money is being well and honestly spent.
The parcel tax is modest, it is ESSENTIAL, it has been spent on what it was collected for, and it has all stayed in our school district. NONE of it goes to the state, to the feds, or anyone else, unlike some of the other taxes/funds/fees people mentioned. (Gaming, lottery, etc.)