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Teacher layoffs ahead as MP district plans cuts

Original post made on Feb 26, 2010

More than 17 teaching jobs are on the line as the Menlo Park City School District struggles to close a $2 million shortfall for the coming school year. Close to 100 people gathered at Laurel School in Atherton on Feb. 25 to hear district officials' proposal for slashing the roughly $30 million annual budget.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 26, 2010, 11:51 AM

Comments (197)

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Posted by WillowsGal
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Thank you, Almanac, for printing the facts. The parcel tax is a crucial part of our community effort to keep our excellent schools strong in these uncertain times. All of the choices to be made are difficult ones, but it is a comfort to know how many people are deeply concerned. In the end, it is all about our kids and our community.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I wasn't wild about another parcel tax but now that I understand the ramifications of not passing it, the choice becomes obvious. 50 cents a day to keep these teachers employed and these programs on track is a bargain.
I need to cut back on my ice cream consumption anyway.


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Posted by Property Owner
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 26, 2010 at 2:15 pm

It's also about our property values. Strong schools = strong property values. No one wants to pay more taxes on top of what we already have, but the reason our houses are worth what they are is because people want to move here for the good schools. If we have to cut this many teachers -- including classroom teachers, art teachers, science aides, librarians; increase our class sizes to 30 kids; lose enrichment programs, etc. -- it is going to show up in lower test scores. And that sends home buyers away to better performing communities like Palo Alto and Portola Valley. An extra few hundred dollars a year for a parcel tax makes the house you live in worth tens of thousands more. Not to mention the opportunities it provides for the children of our community.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I wasn't wild about another parcel tax but now that I understand the ramifications of not passing it, the choice becomes obvious. 50 cents a day to keep these teachers employed and these programs on track is a bargain.
I need to cut back on my ice cream consumption anyway.


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Posted by Jeanne Wangsness
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Thank you for pointing out how we as a concerned community can mitigate some of the consequences of the MP Schools' revenue shortfall. If it takes a parcel tax to bring in timely revenue, I'm in favor of it. Hopefully, when it sunsets in 7 years, our economy will be more robust! Our children have one life to live, one period to learn the necessary basics to make them healthy, informed, productive citizens. I'd happily sacrifice $.50/day to keep our teachers employed and doing the job they so ably do on our behalf! And.....as a Realtor, I know the quality of our schools directly relates to people choosing to live and raise their families in our towns. In turn, our property values are retained.


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 2:40 pm

The Ken groupies are back again, this time with different handles. It wouldn't be so annoying if your posts sounded a little less rehearsed.

I have no doubt that our kids will do just fine if a few teaching positions are cut. Yes, the class size may expand by a child or two -- even Ken isn't talking about as many as 30 kids per class -- but that's hardly worth taxing the entire community. And if home buyers move to Palo Alto or Portola Valley, hooray for us! Since our property tax revenues are allegedly flat, it sounds as though the new home buyers in Menlo Park/Atherton aren't adding to the tax base anyway.

Any bets on when (or if) the district will post the numbers behind this tax? I'm not holding my breath.


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I will happily vote no for any additional tax. We have a spending problem. NPR ran a story about how tax collections for San Mateo county will be similar to 2006. That was only 4 years ago and I think the schools were just as good in 2006.

If we cannot make due on that, then it is pretty clear we have a spending problem.


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Posted by Local Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm

The meeting last night really made me understand how much is at stake with the upcoming parcel tax. As a community, we need to pass this parcel tax to protect our schools and our kids education. The superintendent outlined potential cuts of 25 teachers and staff, not to mention the districts growing enrollment which will result in even more kids to educate next year. Our kid's education is one of the best investments I can think of. I can't imagine a better return on 50 cents/day.


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Yea, I cannot believe the return on .50 a day either, but this is not the argument.

I currently already pay $40.00 a day (7 days a week, 52 weeks a year) for the privileged of owning in menlo park. There is something wrong if this is not enough.

The problems with this and most parcel tax votes are that all residents get to vote not matter if they own or not. I also would like to vote for something that provided me greater benefit for my investment.

Can I vote that renters should have to pay a renters assessment tax next time the city or schools cry for more money?




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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm

"Our kid's <sic> education is one of the best investments I can think of. I can't imagine a better return on 50 cents/day."

Adding another parcel tax to the existing school parcel taxes, already in excess of $500/year as I recall, is not an investment, any more than buying apples is an investment, so talking about a "return" is irrelevant. An incremental parcel tax is an economic choice, and when families in our district need to choose between putting food on the table and keeping class sizes small, which do you think they'll select?

I was a district resident the last time the economy went south, when one of Ken's predecessors was at the helm, and I remember class sizes increasing and cutbacks being made. Did our kids' education suffer? Nope. Those kids kept on learning, blissfully unaware of budget cuts, continued having successful high school experiences, and got accepted to places like Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley, where they have done just fine. Scare tactics bore me. You'll have to do better than that.

By the way, anyone heard whether or not Ken is taking a pay cut?

Meanwhile, time to return to the Ken groupie show. Retired Resident, shouldn't you be checking in just about now?


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Posted by Be Skeptical of the Skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 26, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Skeptic:
"when families in our district need to choose between putting food on the table and keeping class sizes small, which do you think they'll select"

Uh, skeptic, this is Menlo Park, not inner city Oakland. The closest thing to a calamity around here is having to trade in the Beamer for a Ford.

And, yes, class sizes do certainly matter, especially in K-3. Recommended sizes are 12-17 students. MP is at 24 in Kindergarden right now and climbing. That's certainly not a selling point when you go to sell your house. So voting with your pocketbook actually means voting for the tax in this case.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Yeah, you gotta love a union-stacked thread. You guys are painfully obviously. Skeptic is right on. Infantile class sizes are not now and have never been necessary for the benefit of the kids. That is such malarkey. It benefits the teachers

SMALL CLASS SIZES= HIRING MORE TEACHERS

And we wonder why the teachers unions want small class sizes...

Can we say "brazen self interest?"


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Oh and our community is great because of the parents who raise good kids as opposed to criminals. The schools are good because of us, not vice versa. The teachers unions are a bunch of usurpers, taking credit for what the people of this community created


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Posted by District parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 26, 2010 at 8:59 pm


I don't think I'm a Ken groupie; I'm definitely not a member of a teacher's union. I am, however, the parent of 3 children in the MPCSD district and a Menlo Park property owner. I am concerned about my property value and my kids' education.

I know lots of people believe government spending is out of control. I'd like to make sure people understand something about the school district: the district doesn't need more money because spending is out of control. In fact, per pupil spending is going down. The problem is that the district is experiencing explosive growth at a time when the amount of money it is receiving in (from the state and from property taxes, primarily) is going down. The reason the district feels it needs a parcel tax increase is basically to keep per pupil spending from declining further.

I am incredibly happy with the education my kids are receiving in the district. It is great, by California public school standards. However, kids are resilient, and I am pretty certain that my kids could deal with larger class sizes. I'd be bummed for the enrichment programs in the district to go away, but my kids could deal with that too. However, given that most of my (our) net worth resides in our house, I want to protect that investment.

No one has a crystal ball, and it is very hard to know definitively how much our property values are affected by the quality of the education offered in our district. What I will say is that young families looking to buy houses on the Peninsula look very seriously at whether their kids can go to public school in a community they're interested in. If a community has outstanding schools, they're willing to pay a premium. If our schools keep pace with some of the options surrounding us (Los Altos, Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Woodside, Las Lomitas), our property values will continue to command a premium for the schools. If our schools don't keep pace, our property values will move closer to values in nearby communities like Redwood City, Belmont, and San Carlos.

To me, it feels like an easy decision to pay an additional $200 a year to safeguard the hundreds of thousands of dollars we have invested in our house. It's a bonus that my kids then get to take advantage of outstanding schools.


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Posted by lead by example
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 26, 2010 at 9:23 pm

did anyone ask if Ken would cut his $250K annual salary by 10%,
which, by the way, Stanford's Prez and Provost announced last year with their belt tightening.
What about the Facilities/Construction Mgmt. payroll?
Lot of new oversized buildings for music, art, science, but not enough teachers to make use of them.
Sometimes you have to speak up to be heard.


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Posted by Mel
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 26, 2010 at 9:24 pm

This is in response to "New guys" comment - "We have a spending problem. NPR ran a story about how tax collections for San Mateo county will be similar to 2006. That was only 4 years ago and I think the schools were just as good in 2006"

If we had the same number of students this year and next year as we did in 2006 and received the same amount of funding from the state, then I'd completely agree with you that similar tax collections should be sufficient (with a slight bit extra for inflation). Unfortuntately, we have hundreds of additional students enrolled this year (and projected for next year)over 2006 and not only are we not receiving any more money from the state to support the huge increase in enrollment, but the state has just decreased our funding by $1.4 million.

So, the reality is, there's no way we can provide the same quality of education with the surge in enrollment and decreased state funds, without the passage of this new Parcel tax.


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Posted by District parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 26, 2010 at 9:59 pm

to lead by example:

the new buildings are primarily housing students, not enrichment classes. the two-story buildings that you see at encinal and oak knoll are to house 4th/5th grade students, and at least at Encinal, the building will be full or almost full (with a teacher in each classroom) when it opens this spring or next fall. in fact, encinal and oak knoll are so full that they are ending up having to add some additional portable classrooms at laurel to accomodate the growth in the district.

the district has a construction manager on staff during the course of the construction (hard to imagine any business or other organization that wouldn't have at least one person dedicated to overseeing the expenditure of $90M in bond funds on construction). i don't know what his salary is but i am guessing it is competitive with what others in similar roles make. he will be employed just through the construction projects and i believe his salary is funded as part of the construction budget through the bond measure.


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Be Skeptical, there are plenty of people who are hurting in our district. You may not run into them at the Circus Club or Draeger's, but they are among us. I suggest you move out of your comfort zone and open your eyes.

I would like some clarification on the financial impact of the hundreds of new students. There's been some turnover in my neighborhood in the last few years, with original owners paying low property taxes, typically under $1,000, selling their houses to people whose tax bill is about 20 times that amount. With so many new families in town, our property tax base should not be flat. It makes no sense that we have an increase in students without a concomitant rise in property tax revenues. What gives?


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Posted by District parenet
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 26, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Property tax revenue to the school district has been rising for many years at a rate of almost 8% per year. This year the district budgeted for a 2.5% increase (sales have definitely slowed down in the past year, and values have dropped, particularly at the high end); however the most recent data shows us tracking at only around a 1% increase for the year. For p.t. revenue to increase year over year homes need to sell (slow market isn't good), property values need to have a net increase and another factor this year have been re-assessments. For the first year they hit, large reassessments (like Larry Ellison's home) get spread across all school districts in SM County, so our district took something like a $30K hit just from that!


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2010 at 10:56 pm

There's plenty of money. Just stop wasting it on infantile class sizes. Raise to 40. End of story


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Posted by Be Skeptical of the Skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2010 at 9:30 am

Skeptic:
"there are plenty of people who are hurting in our district. You may not run into them at the Circus Club or Draeger's, but they are among us. I suggest you move out of your comfort zone and open your eyes."

What, you mean the homeless that you step over in entering Pete's for you $7 latte that you won't be able to afford if the parcel tax passes (oh, boo hoo!)?


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2010 at 10:16 am

Homeboy, in case you didn't know, this parcel tax is just the LATEST in the endless nickel and diming of the taxpayer. Already we pay tens of thousands of dollars a year in property taxes for schools, on top of every other tax. If this parcel tax were the only thing we paid towards schools then yes we might forsake a latte for our schools. But this will go on forever, with you perpetually asking for more year after year until we're once again forking over 70% and more of our income to your bloated education system. We don't agree that more money is needed to make our schools great. We don't owe the teachers unions money just cause they want it.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 27, 2010 at 11:48 am

Smartboards in every classroom, bond money used to put up massive buildings, refusal to consider opening O'Connor to reduce congestion, TERC facility eating up Encinal space, plans to tear down Hillview and rebuild from scratch. I voted for the last bond, but Ranella & the board's shortsighted decision making worries me. NO on this parcel tax.


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Thanks for the info, District parent. If property taxes were rising at 8% a year until recently, seems that the district could and should have built up a substantial reserve. But I (a district parent since before Ken's reign) have instead seen a lot of spending, the level seemingly accelerating every year. The whiteboards are an obvious example, but we bought them so they aren't consuming operating funds. On the other hand, I'm seeing teachers taking a lot of time off for training and conferences during the school year, sometimes for most of a week. Back in the pre-Ken days, school year training was confined almost exclusively to in-service days, where there is no school and hence no need to hire substitutes.

Don't get me wrong -- I think it's great for the district to offer the teachers development opportunities. But I also see that as an example of one expense that you can cut during down times without any hardship to the students. In fact, having the teachers around more often would be better for the kids, as it seems as though the non-illness level of teacher absence has gotten to the point that it impairs the learning experience. The subs often don't teach at all.

Skeptical, I do not patronize Peet's (or Starbucks) and I don't drink lattes or step over homeless people. The people to whom I'm referring live in the district and send their kids to the same schools my kids attend -- your kids too, if you're a district parent. How arrogant and selfish can you be?


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Posted by Mel
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm

To: 'Don't fire...'

I'm not a fan of unions either, and I'd prefer if we didn't have teachers' unions or tenure, but rather appropriately compensated the many fantastic teachers we have and were able to let go of ineffective teachers, but this Parcel tax isn't about unions or about teachers asking for or receiving benefits. The Parcel tax is on the ballot because the School Board, after already making cuts to the budget this year, determined there was no way to come close to maintaining the district's quality education while having to support a huge surge in enrollment and weather $1.4 million additional cuts from the state without raising additional funds. And, on a side note, unlike teachers in some other districts, the teachers in our district have received minimal to no increases in salaries/benefits over the past couple years.


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Posted by Teacher Sub
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I have subbed in Menlo Park, as a retired teacher and the kids were taught all day long. I have many credentials.

Would still sub there, b ut Palo Alto and Portola V alley pay more.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I actually want to pay teachers more so that capitalism ensures we have great minds at the helm of our classrooms. We get that money from raising class sizes, which was the most useless waste of money in the history of the world


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2010 at 2:33 pm

don't fire -
you wrote:
"There plenty of money. Just stop wasting it on infantile class sizes. Raise to 40."
Would you please reference the research that supports your claim that class size doesn't affect educational outcomes? You might share it with Stanford too. They and most other private schools have been operating under the apparently false assumption that students learn better in smaller classes. Imagine that - we can cut the cost of a Stanford education in half by just doubling the class size.
You're a genius!


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I'm sure the kids have a slightly easier time in a small class. I'm sure the kids would have a better learning experience if they were personally tutored by Nobel prize winners. But there's a point of diminishing returns for the overwhelming cost. Thats called realism. And considering the tens of billions of dollars we spend on this class size reduction, I'm positive there's a better way to use that money. And I also believe there's plenty of kids who would do better in large classrooms. It's called the auditorium effect


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Posted by Mel
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 28, 2010 at 9:58 am

Skeptic - I tend to be skeptical as well and asked a number of the same questions you're asking. Here's what I found out:

RE: the reserves - While property taxes and other sources of revenue were rising or holding steady over the past few years, in addition to supporting the 570 plus increase in enrollment and expanding some enrichment programs including technology, the school district did grow the reserves. The proposed options for addressing the upcoming year($2 million deficit due to economic downturn at end of '08 causing flat property taxes, decreased funds from the state and continued increases in enrollment)include reducing expenditures further (already reduced approximately $500,000 in '09/'10) and using approximately $500,000 of the reserves. And, for the '11/'12 school year, the projections show the district facing an even larger deficit due to continued flat property taxes, low funding from state and increases in enrollment, so they are planning to further dig into the reserves along with cuts to personnel, programs etc. However, they can only do this for a couple years before they deplete the reserves.

Re: Teachers time off for professional developement - According to the information the Superintendant provided, they already cut back this year and are looking at cutting again next year. However,it looks like that and the related subs only accounts for about $25K in the budget. Also, some of this, at least at Oak Knoll, is provided out of PTO funds. And, on a side note, some of the technology at Oak Knoll, such as the laptops, are also provided out of PTO donations - not district funds.

Re: the smartboards - These were funded by the MPAEF - The Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation. The Foundation raises funds from private donors - about 2/3rds of the district parents donate to the Foundation in addition to other generous donors who feel it's important to bring additional enrichment in to the schools.

Re: class sizes- the state actually mandates class sizes for K-3 (I'm not sure about 4-8) and charges the district penalties if it surpasses these limits.

Given this information and other things I learned, I personally feel like the district is responsibly managing the budget and the Parcel Tax truly is needed to maintain strong schools.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2010 at 10:13 am

Don't Fire-
I personally know all about the auditorium effect. I went to a large state university and took calculus in a large auditorium where the professor lectured to 400 students with no personal interaction. I never learned calculus well and it came back to bite me in grad school. My brother went to a private school with small classes with lots of teacher interaction and went on to get his PhD. I think most research shows that smaller classes result in better education.
The bottom line for me on the proposed parcel tax: if for 50 cents a day I can help the district over a rough patch in a down economy, keep teachers from being laid off, and maintain the quality of education for Menlo Park kids then I consider it a bargain and I fully support passing the tax. If my property value benefits from this, so much the better but that's not the reason I'm in favor of the tax. It's simply the right thing to do for the kids, for the community, and for the future.
btw - my 2 daughters are now at UC-Davis, beneficiaries of good educations that they received at MP schools.


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Posted by Don't fire til you say the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2010 at 10:23 am

In case you didn't know, most of the top universitys have lecture halls. If you're telling me a college student in America can't learn in a large classroom then we're pathetic

And it's not about fifty cents a day. It's about the tens of thousands of dollars per year we already give in property taxes toward public education. It's about the next round of parcel taxes, and the next, and the next demand for lower class sizes, and the next, til we're called selfish for not wanting to spending the majority of our income at keeping class sizes at 10 students

And stop pawning off responsibility to the state mandates, as if the teachers unions were saying "oh yeah the state mandates are lame. I wish they were gone.". They want those state mandates. So they are the reason the state has no money


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2010 at 10:27 am

And why is there a surge in enrollment? Could it have something to do with immigration, especially illegal? You unionists can't defend illegal immigration and the like, then say "oh gosh, there's a surging enrollment. Who's gonna pay for it?"


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2010 at 11:01 am

Don't Fire-
There is only one parcel tax to consider at this time and, for reasons Mel laid out very clearly, it seems fully justified. No one, including the unions, is advocating class sizes smaller than currently exist so your ranting about class sizes being reduced to 10 is just a red herring. Same with your attempt to blame increased enrollment on illegal immigration - again no facts to back up your claim. If anything, immigration is down because the economy is down. (ref. 2009 LA Times article, which summarized "The recession and an increase in workplace raids have forced some unauthorized workers to return to their homelands. After years of rapid growth, illegal immigration is slowing down in California."
The state mandate requiring smaller class sizes was proposed and passed by Republican governor Pete Wilson in 1996. This mandate accounts for about 4% of the state budget, a number that has remained abou the saame since the late 90's.
As for the effectiveness of the smaller class sizes: "every single controlled study that compared students who were placed in smaller classes to those who did not has shown significant gains in achievement. Test scores are up throughout the state in the early grades, especially in the state's large urban school districts, where scores have risen by double digits since the program began. Principals, teachers, and parents are overwhelmingly enthusiastic and believe that class size reduction has been worth the cost."


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2010 at 11:06 am

Sorry- I forgot to include the link to that last quote.
Web Link
This link examines class size reduction efforts in 32 states across the country.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Well Steve, what I like about you is that you actually know how to debate, unlike most of your condescending, arrogant, bossy unionist homeboys. So let's debate

We spend nearly half our state budget on schools. Being that teachers make up nearly the entirety of the budget of k-12, and being that we needed about twice as many teachers to maintain these infantile class sizes, that means nearly half our budget for schools goes to maintaining these class sizes. Also, about 25% of students k-12 in California are those born to illegal immigrants, or even illegals themselves. These students require far more cash per capita for their bilingual education and other similar "special needs" programs. Universities are still instituting affirmative action programs, which is illegal but they find surreptitious ways to do it. For instance, instead of just straight out saying that they're going to let in a black or Mexican kid over a white kid, they say they'll be easier on kids from certain area codes (Richmond) and with the knowledge of a "second" language (Spanish), when they don't test if they know English. So they don't know a second language. They know their first language- Spanish. These affirmative action programs account for at least a quarter of the universities' budget.

Here's just a few examples of how csr, illegals and all your bloated liberal spending programs waste tens of billions of dollars

And you can say a future parcel tax and further lowering of class sizes is a red herring, but it's just not. I could just as easily say everything you claim will happen without this parcel tax is a red herring.

And don't tell me this has nothing to do with the tens of thousands of dollars we already spend towards schools. That's just silly

I couldn't care less about what pete Wilson did.


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Every class size study I've seen, including those referenced by Steve, refer to reducing class sizes to the mid-teens. The magic number I've always heard was 15 students/class. None of the MPCSD classes except for special ed have been that small. Also, the research I've read indicates that small class size is a factor primarily for very young students and for students coming from disadvantaged households.

The funny thing about class size is that it cuts both ways. I remember going to a school board meeting when one of my children was transitioning from third grade (mandated small classes, 18-20 kids) to fourth grade (average 25-26 students/class). Ken, the board, and teachers all assured parents that a big jump in class size would not impair our kids' ability to learn. And you know what? They were right. As the research suggests, bumping up the class size doesn't jeopardize the learning because most MPCSD kids come from "advantaged" homes with well-educated parents who provide a lot of enrichment.

By the way, with the K-3 classes, my understanding is that the district receives a bonus for keeping them small vs penalties for exceeding the maximum. I may be wrong on this, but if I'm correct, then I'd assume that state subsidy has probably diminished substantially. It may make a lot more sense to increase those class sizes and recruit parent volunteers to fill in.

Mel, I appreciate your providing some data. I still want to know why that information isn't readily available. I can go to Palo Alto's school website and get a book's worth of financial information about the PAUSD. If the MPCSD wants this tax to have a hope of passing, Ken will have to open the books a little wider.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 28, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Keep the class sizes the same, just pay teachers and staff a lot less. The only justification for a salary is if it was impossible to hire qualified people for the job at less than that rate. Given the state of our economy and unemployment, it is hard to believe the current wages and benefits are appropriate.

Until everyone involved earns true market compensation, not a corruptly inflated pay package designed to buy union votes, taxpayers would be insane to support more parcel taxes.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Skeptic -
I was surprised to see your mention of 15 students/classroom since I'd not heard of this in California. I looked on-line and found a reference that does talk about about class sizes of 13 - 20 students. Web Link
3 states were studied: Tenn, Wisc, Cal. Tennessee had the smallest class size - 13 students - which produced these results:
". . .students in the small classes significantly outperformed students in regular classes on standardized reading and mathematics tests. . . Subsequent studies found that students from the smaller classes continued to outperform students from the regular-size classes on achievement tests through middle school, with some indication of improved performance and behavior through high school. A critical finding from Tennessee's STAR program was the effect of smaller classes on minority students.Test scores of minority students improved more than those of non-minority students, narrowing the performance gap between these two groups."
Wisconsin reduced it's class size from 20 to 15 and achieved notable improvements, though not as good as those achieved in Tennessee with just 13 students.
However, here in California, our class reductions only achieves the starting point for these other states. Under the 1996 mandate, California had to reduce K-3 class sizes from around 30 to 20. This was a vast improvement and produced measurable improvements for the students. However, California still trails much of the nation in class sizes so let's not kid ourselves that 20 students is the magic number. The study mentioned above mentions a survey of class size studies done in the 1970's that "concluded that the optimum class size is less than 15 and that the effects are greatest for children under 12 years of age." The Tennessee results seem to corroborate this.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2010 at 5:36 am

You see, the unions will keep pushing for lower class sizes. The states you mentioned stevo are relatively culturally homogenous. So the parents there can know that their
moneys going to their kids, not a bunch of illegals or ungrateful urban youth. Those results are not balanced off against classes with larger size but greater physical activity before and after and proper nutrition. The hand behind such studies are pushing for small class sizes to break the American bank. As the pharmaceutical companies phrase it:

"What do the studies say?"

"What do you want them to say?"


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2010 at 5:44 am

So you gotta ask yourselves taxpayers, are you going to let these unions tell you that the only way to teach kids is in an infantile class size, at a cost of $40 billion a year to the state? Especially when 25% of the states students are born here of illegal immigrants? Or are you going to allow greater discipline in the classroom achieved through giving the kids proper amounts of physical activity and nutrition? Remember:

SMALL CLASS SIZES= HIRING MORE TEACHERS

And we wonder why the teachers unions push for class size reduction, ignoring the many better and less burdensome ways to achieve the same results.

Can we say, brazen self interest...


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 1, 2010 at 9:29 am

It is really simple. If you wish to support your school, they will gladly accept your money. Please send every penny you have. I know I will once I have children of my own in school. Until then the thousands I already pay should be sufficient.

What you in favor of new assessments really want is for everyone else to pay for your benefit. These organizations all go to the same conferences every year to learn how to "game the system". Just look at the number attached to this assessment. It was chosen with a finger in the wind to as to pass since the powers that be know they should not be asking for more. It is not the actual amount needed. If we truly need to have a new tax, put the whole amount needed to maintain the "high quality that leads to high property values" to the election.

Once we as taxpayers stop going for the "we will lose teachers (firefighters, police, etc.)" unless we pay more. We will end up with the same thing oh every 2-3 years.

In good times we have to pay more because the town next door is paying more. In bad times we have to pay more because unless we do, there will be layoffs. This has to end.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 1, 2010 at 9:47 am

You may be new, but you certainly expressed it perfectly.

Welcome to the war...


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Posted by Enough already
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:47 am

The giveaway to the Tinsley program has gone on for long enough. Class sizes could drop by 1-2 kids per class if this program was ended tomorrow. We are basically being asked to pay a parcel tax to fund this scheme. I would rather make my own choices for charity programs.


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Posted by fred
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm

I'm not going to vote for this.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I don't know why people keep bringing up the teachers' unions as being the only support behind reduced class sizes. When Pete Wilson proposed it in 1996 it was widely supported and passed the legislature easily. The reasoning then, as now, made sense to people: SMALLER CLASS SIZE PRODUCES BETTER EDUCATED STUDENTS. I believe most people understand this concept intuitively and continue to support small class sizes, even in the face of the current economic downturn.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Here's a reference that studied the importance of class size on learning: Web Link

One phrase from the report on how reduced class size improves reading scores in California:
"How big an impact do class sizes have? For example, based only on this variable, reducing California's average student/teacher ratio (21.1 students) to the national average (15.6 students) would be expected to produce a 30% increase in the percentage of students scoring proficient or better."


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Ya, based on only one changed variable small class sizes are better. But we're not going to let the unions dictate the variables anymore. Changing a variable such as increasing discipline produces far better results than small class sizes. And no one cares what pete Wilson did. He and the legislature probably caved to the powerful unions who badgered the hell out of Arnold because he dared take them on. And no Steve, I think people intuitively understand that class sizes shouldn't be the end all of an education. Most of us went through larger classes without caring one iota. Most of us intuitively get that classes need greater discipline. I'll repeat myself. Like big pharma execs have quoted:

"What do the studies say?"

"What do you want the to say?"

I'm relying on peoples intuition to see through your skewed stats trying to tell us the emperor's not a naked fool


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Posted by Ethan
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm


New Guy: "Can I vote that renters should have to pay a renters assessment tax next time the city or schools cry for more money?"

Sure, as long as the renters without kids get a tax break for not adding to the problem, and landlords aren't allowed to raise rents to recoup any new taxes (which they most certainly will otherwise). When it comes to self-interest, everybody gets to join in, right?

While we're all worrying about our "investments," this just in: An ever-increasing population means higher property values, but also more pressure on schools--and pretty much everything else, including the environment. The only real fix is population stabilization. But hardly anybody wants to talk about THAT elephant standing in the middle of the ol' McMansion. Maybe it could be the subject of an enrichment course. . .


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

The research shows that classes need to get to 15 +/- 2 to have a measurable impact. Perhaps someone can find some research that indicates that there's a huge difference between a class size of 24 and one of 26, which is (realistically) what we're talking about. I haven't seen that research. I suspect it may not exist.

Many of us are sad at the prospect of the district laying off teachers. But given that almost every company in the valley has also had to lay off employees, teacher layoffs are neither surprising nor tragic. The only really appalling aspect of the imminent layoffs is that, unlike private industry, tenure rather than competence will determine who stays. But we'll manage. In fact, I think our kids are pretty resilient and will do just fine.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Don't Fire -
I understand that you don't like the results of these studies because they don't support your opinion. However, dismissing the studies as skewed, without providing any evidence at all that they are, is not really a valid response. After all, a 30% increase in reading skills is pretty hard to fake. If you have facts that support your opinion that smaller classes don't improve educational results, please provide them. If this were a debate, you'd be scored down for that one.
Also, I'm getting a bit tired of your unsubstantiated claims that it's the unions who are the main power behind reduced class sizes. Provide some evidence that that's the case so we can judge the truth of your claim or just dismiss it as reflecting your personal prejudice.


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Posted by Caroline
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm

We should look at the parcel tax as a stop gap measure to keep our schools going.
But, just think if you sent letters to your respective government representatives telling them that you want them to do away with our 3 strikes law, which has made our prison system unmanageable. We spend more money on prisons than schools. Shouldn't we be rethinking that? What if we demanded that there be changes in tenure for teachers - there has to be a fair and unbiased process for firing ineffective teachers? What if we add incentives to attract teachers for those neighborhoods which consistently come up short in the talent pool? What if instead of complaining that government not working, we get involved and start making it work. One lesson we all must have forgotten is that we ARE our government - we just don't want to do the work...
Therefore, we get what we settle for...Stop complaining and do something.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I'm getting tired of repeating myself [portion removed]. I said that yes, if class sizes were the only variable you'd be right. But they're not. Discipline is the ultimate variable that's best for our kids in the classroom. I've also explained numerous times the simple and inexpensive ways to attain discipline in the classroom. [Portion removed] SMALL CLASS SIZES= HIRING MORE TEACHERS

And we wonder why the teachers unions want smaller class sizes...

[Portion removed]


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Don't Fire -
Yes, you keep repeating yourself but never providing a shred of evidence that what you're saying is supported by facts or studies of any kind. We're all very clear on what you think but I don't know that anyone is convinced that you're right.
Your statement that "discipline is the ultimate variable that's best for our kids in the classroom" seems especially unsupported. One study please that comes anywhere close to supporting this conclusion.

And no, you actually haven't explained numerous times any simple and inexpensive ways to attain discipline in the classroom. You did mention something about better diet and more physical activity but I'm not sure what that has to do with discipline.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 1, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Caroline has the right idea, except that she views the parcel tax as a positive step. It is continuing to give the drug addict the heroin he craves.

The first step is to say NO to the continued ravaging of the taxpayer at the behest of public unions, in their corrupt bargain with our elected rulers.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Mr. Davis-
More than 70% of voters believe reducing class sizes is a very effective way to improve public schools. In supporting Class Size Reduction I'd say that our elected officials are doing exactly what the vast majority of voters elected them to do.
It is regrettable that an additional parcel tax is needed to help offset the loss of state funding during the current economic downturn. But 50 cents a day is a small price to pay to support our young people, the future of our community, state, and country, and yes, to maintain our property values. In fact, it seems a bargain that for less than 1/3 the price of a cup of coffee I can support all of that!

Parents and teachers know smaller class sizes work. Smaller classes mean students are getting more valuable one-on-one attention from teachers – leading to higher academic performance. This is a program that works and that needs our support if it is to achieve the 2/3 majority that parcel taxes need to pass. It's unfortunate that the minority can derail the will of the majority but that's an issue for another forum.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 2, 2010 at 8:00 am

The way to get to smaller class sizes is to whack the ridiculous wages and benefits that our "public servants" receive. Why should any taxpayer be forced to pay for above-market compensation for government employees?


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 9:12 am

Mr. Davis -
Any references to support your contention that our teachers are overpaid? Or are you just making things up as you go along?


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Posted by NT
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 2, 2010 at 9:14 am

For those of you who say the class size doesn't matter - see it for yourself. Our public schools are looking for volunteers to help out in the classroom. Go to any of K - 2 classrooms and see how a teacher handles a class size of 20+ kids. You realize that the classs size DOES matter, and the smaller teacher - student ratio is critical in maintaining a quality of teaching.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 10:25 am

NT -
Absolutely! Smaller classes are especially important for K-3, when kids are learning appropriate classroom behaviors. Without close attention, these kids never learn appropriate behaviors and struggle through the rest of their years in school. By 4th grade, kids can handle larger size classes because they've learned how to learn.
The sad thing is that other states are reducing class sizes to 15 or so per class, with measurable improvements for their kids, while California struggles to maintain a class size of 20.
My daughter is teaching a 2nd grade class in Sacramento and sees first-hand the importance of being able to give individual attention to students.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:01 am

70% of the community does not support CSR. That's called push polling. The vast majority of people reading your statement are saying "What? Really? Most people I know don't support that. Show me the exact stats and questions that say that stevo


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:16 am

Oh by the way [portion removed], it's funny how when I said the unions wanted even lower class sizes than what we have now, you said that was a red herring. And now you're talking about 15 kids per class. Believe me people, that's where they're going with all these taxes, even to 10-13 kids per class, at a cost of $40 billion per year to the state.

And other states school sytems aren't completely overwhelmed by illegal immigrants, or even legal immigrants whom we all provide welfare to, such as biligual education. We pay for universities that our kids don't even get into beause of affirmative action programs and immigrant schooling visas


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Don't Fire -
Your statement "Most people I know don't support that" suggests you are guilty of hasty generalization. You need a more representative sample than your circle of friends.
Glad you asked about references. The CTA has a web page devoted to Class Size Reduction (CSR) that is very well documented. I include several pertinent facts from their page. Check it out for the particular references: Web Link
1) California had the largest class sizes in the nation in 2007-08, with an average 50 teachers per 1,000 students.
2) There is clear evidence that smaller class sizes raise student achievement, and the positive effect is even more prominent in schools serving predominantly low-income students.
3) Smaller class sizes have improved future job earnings for millions of students.
4) A cost-benefit analysis of the STAR project in Tennessee estimated that reducing class sizes from 22 to 15 in grades K-3 resulted in a $2 return on every $1 spent.
5) Class size reduction is widely popular with parents and school staff, many of whom report marked improvements in classroom learning environments and working conditions for teachers.
6) In a 2007 poll of American's views on public education, 95% of respondents called smaller classes a very effective way to attract and retain public school teachers, ranking it higher than all other options surveyed, including pay incentives and more professional development opportunities.


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Again, we are not talking about 15 students/class. Our classes have never been that small! Without this tax, the class size in grades 4-8 would probably increase by two, maybe three students, so instead of 24 kids in a class there would be 26 or 27. Will that truly affect their learning? I doubt it. Remember, the research not only indicates that you have to get down to the mid-teens in class size to have an impact but that the impact is greatest for kids from disadvantaged families. Most of our students don't fit that description!

Whenever you run across a policy study that references one of the many class size research projects, the issue is invariably the tradeoff between cost and performance. At some point, the diminishing returns dictate your decision. Don't Fire is correct in that the greatest advantages of very small classes, especially in the non-primary grades, redound to the teachers. Hence, the teachers' union loves them. The older kids seem to prefer having larger classes -- most would rather interact with their peers than get a lot of attention from a teacher.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Don't Fire -
A couple of other corrections to claims you made above in the following statement: "So you gotta ask yourselves taxpayers, are you going to let these unions tell you that the only way to teach kids is in an infantile class size, at a cost of $40 billion a year to the state? Especially when 25% of the states students are born here of illegal immigrants?"
First, children of illegal aliens constitute 15% of the student body, not 25%. Web Link
Second, Class Size Reduction now costs the state about $1.8 billion a year, not $40 billion that you obviously pulled out of thin air. Web Link

Facts matter.


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Posted by TB
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 1:05 pm

If you missed it, here is the Wall Street Journal article from February 24 concerning how San Mateo County lost $155 million when Lehman Brothers went under. Public school losses amounted to $38 million.

Web Link


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 2, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Perhaps the district should re-direct funds from 'recreational' activities and apply it to real educational activities, with emphasis on math and science. Our children will be unable to compete - now and in the future - if their skills are limited to soccer goals. Middle class jobs have been exported for the past 15 years.


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Posted by Dawn
a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Mar 2, 2010 at 1:22 pm

I would like to add that many many parents are also fond of small class sizes. I think the repetitive blast of teacher's unions as the primary force driving small class sizes is misleading and woefully misinformed. The conversations among the board members - all not members of the teacher's union - indicate concern for the balance between class size and enrichments as they deal with this economic conundrum. Class size at the primary level where early intervention for kids who are struggling (not comprised solely of minorities for whoever took us down that inflammatory path) makes a difference in the level of individualized support those kids get. And those academic super stars - they get more support and individualized instruction in a smaller class as well. As kids get older, they become more independent and much less attention needy. However, class size is looking to become 4 or 5 students more per class at the upper grades if the parcel tax fails - not 2 or 3 as a previous poster stated. That's a whole reading group of kids - which means less time for everyone else. Will they survive? Absolutely. Is it the best this community could do for them? Not so much.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I can tell a lot of you are new to this whole forum thing. Word of advice, don't waste time trying to rationally discuss issues with Fred Davis or POGO or the white of the eyes. They are single issue folks who want nothing other than to bash unions and blame everyone in town for our current predicament.

Think Jim Bunning...but local.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Thanks Truth -
I was reluctantly coming around to that conclusion myself.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Thanks for the personal attack, truth but I do applaud your consistency for failing to argue the merits and attacking the messenger.

You couldn't be more wrong about me. Not only am I a life long Democrat and an active member of a union, both of my uncles were senior officials in the Amalgamated Clothing Workers union in New York City. I was too young to remember much about them, other than I was the only five year old kid in my neighborhood who owned a suit.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm

And as far as I can see, I only posted once on this entire thread and then for a total of 14 words.

Oh, the controversy!


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm

[portion deleted.] I was talking about your stats claiming 70% of the community wants small class sizes. Please provide that.


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Posted by Do t fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Uh, and excuse me CSR costs 1.8 billion? [portion deleted.] CSR forced us to hire more than twice as many teachers. Teachers salaries make up 85% of the school budget. The school budget is 60% of the states budget, at around $50 billion. Thus, CSR at present costs the state around $20 billion dollars a year. If we were to drop class size in half again it would cost the budget near twice that. Get it? [portion deleted.]

And it's funny that you bring in stats that say californians thought CSR was the best thing to retain teachers, not benefit students. Thats assuming we need to retain teachers. That's assuming the options you mentioned are the only options. See that's called a push poll stevo

And you claim that illegals ONLY make up 15% of the school system. That's neglecting the ones with stolen identities

CSR is not widely popular with the californians. That's a lie. I want to see a poll taken where they ask "are you willing to pay billions a year for small class sizes?"

So show me the stats where it says 70% of this area supports CSR


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Don't fire -

If you reduce class size from 25 to 20, you don't need TWICE as many teachers. Reduce class size by 20% and you need 20% more teachers.

I do think smaller class size is important... to a point. It is certainly attractive to parents!


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Apologies for my sloppy math. I hit the "submit" button too fast.

A 20% reduction requires 25% more teachers.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Don't Fire -
I provided links that supported my statistics. Would you be helpful and provide references that support yours?
And think about what you just wrote: "CSR forced us to hire more than twice as many teachers." if class size went from 30 students/class to 20, that's only increasing the workload by 50% so why would we need to double the number of teachers. Typical of your statements - lots of rant but not much fact.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see te whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 3:09 pm

CSR has been going on a lot longer than Pete Wilsons legislation. In the fifties we were at 50 kids per class on average. Slowly but surely the Marxist regime demanded lower and lower over many different legislations. Recall the property tax revolt was in the 70s, long before the CSR legislation that we all think of under Wilson.

And stevo, I guess you don't have that 70% stat out of all your clever little skewed stats huh? Because that's one you can't skew. [portion removed.]


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Posted by Numbers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 2, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I got bombarded with Information about Measure C, so I thought I would look up some numbers to inform myself. After some time of digging through numbers at www.ed-data.org I'm not sure what to think. I now know that the number of students went up from 2039 in 2002/3 to 2,089 in 2004/5 to 2,409 in 2007/8. I now know that local property tax contributed $8,147,148 to the budget in 1999/0 and rose to $16,968,206 in 2007/8. I also know that the highest teacher salary went up from $67,370 in 1999/0 to $88,297 in 2004/5 to $101,029 in 2007/8. I also know that the General Fund Expenditures for Board and Superintendent went up from $396,223 in 2004/5 to $613,075 in 2007/8. For this area the function code 7150 (Superintendent) went up from $244,132 in 2004/5 to $309,260 in 2007/8. The function code 7110 (board) went up from $58,827 in 2004/5 to $215,020 in 2007/8. Unfortunately there are no newer numbers so I don't know how much the student population increased in 2008/9 and 2009/10 or how the other numbers changed. Does anyone have these numbers for the last two years that show the need for Measure C?


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Don't Fire - Thanks for the reminder - is the Wall Street Journal an acceptable reference?
"Class size reduction, which refers to the practice of reducing the number of students in a particular classroom assigned to one teacher, is a politically popular educational reform. It is also popular with
the general public, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in 1997 reported that 70% of adults believe that reducing class size would lead to significant academic improvements in public schools. In the 1999/2000 federal budget, Congress authorized $1.2 billion to hire 30,000 new teachers nationally in early elementary grades to reduce class sizes in Kindergarten through 3rd grade to an average of 18 students."
Referenced in the discussion paper: Web Link


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Nice recent poll there [portion deleted] (not). Got any ones from this decade? Got any specific to this community like you originally said?


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Don't Fire -
What I said: "More than 70% of voters believe reducing class sizes is a very effective way to improve public schools." Nothing in there specific to this community.
Still waiting on you to provide any reference to any of your claims. Waiting . . . but not holding my breath.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Got any stats from this decade [portion deleted]? And your original comment was that this community specifically supports it by 70%. Yes, [portion deleted], all communities are different. I want you to back up the claim that 70% of voters in this area support CSR.


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Posted by Be Skeptical of the Skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Steve,

Please stop responding to Don't Fire - he's one of those tea party activists that you can never win over, plus he'll never give up attacking you (kinda like those small dogs that won't let go once they bite you).

First he'll ask for "facts" - then when you give them he'll dismiss them as biased, out-of-date, etc.

On the other hand, from his end, facts don't matter - mere opinions are good enough without the need for any evidence to back them up.

You can't win, so just ignore him and he'll eventually just go away to work on his "Palin in 2012" shrine using just one hand.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Be Skeptical -
You're right of course. Truth said as much earlier. I guess that I'm just a sucker for a debate - though this back and forth is more like the game "Whack a Mole" than a real debate.
I've never run into anyone so unconcerned with facts as Don't fire.
If your right that he's a Tea Party type, I don't know whether to be relieved or concerned. On the one hand, most people won't be fooled by his anti-intellectual bluster. On the other hand George W. was elected president not once but twice.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 9:41 pm

For one thing, I voted for Obama and I think Sarah Palin is mentally challenged. So careful who you pigeonhole. Sorry if I don't want stats from the last century. Sorry you don't get that. Sorry you can't back up the one claim I ask you to Mr. Statman


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Poll released Jan. 27,2010 -It's not specific to RCS but it clearly shows a sizable majority of Californians willing to be taxed to support our schools.
"Two-thirds of adults surveyed in a Public Policy Institute of California poll say they support higher taxes to maintain funding for K-12 schools. And a full 82 percent, including a majority of Republicans polled, oppose cutting K-12 education to reduce the state budget deficit. No other part of state spending comes close to engendering such support in the poll, which was released Wednesday."
Full story at Web Link


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Ya, you're right. That's not specific to CSR. My whole point this whole time has been that broad push polls concerning paying for education do not translate to funding CSR. Once people understand how much CSR costs, which most are shocked to hear, and understand the true other options, they consistently want the other options. And I'm speaking of options such as those I've presented, not the unions. But you have no intuitive sense, unlike most people, so you can't understand how diet and physical activity are linked to discipline, which is why I bet most people reading this don't trust your opinion


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Oh and I'm still waiting for that one specific stat, the only one I asked for, which was your original claim that 70% of this specific community, the people of this specific area, support CSR and a parcel tax. And you won't find that stat. Because that claim was a giant load. [Portion removed]


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Posted by Caroline
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:58 pm

There is no doubt that the public school system does not work the way it should. We need new thinking to get to a new system. The unions are not looking out for what is best for our children, but then, neither are we.
In the "old days", class sizes were generally larger, but the student population was much more homogeneous. Teachers were also allowed to use physical punishment for kids who were not behaving. Mentally disabled children were not mainstreamed, nor were physically disabled children.
Our "modern day" student population is incredibly more diverse. The smaller class sizes, especially at the lower grade levels, allow for more immediate, direct, and personal attention to the students' needs. With smaller class sizes, the teacher has the ability to follow the individual more closely and guide the individual student to success in their lessons: social and academic. At the K-3 level in particular, smaller class sizes offer a good start to a good foundation of knowledge and effective learning habits.
I don't have numbers and statistics to back up my statement. I have been in the classroom and seen how good teachers utilize the small class sizes to the benefit of each individual student.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2010 at 12:20 am

Then we should go back to the old days. I'm sorry but it's not up to the average citizen to pay through the nose for the issues of a problematic minority. Oh wait, that's the whole liberal paradigm.


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Posted by Mel
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 3, 2010 at 1:16 am

Don't fire- Have you spent any time in the Menlo Park City School District's classes recently or ever? If you have (which I realize is extremely unlikely since you live in another community), you would realize that discipline is a non-issue in our schools. As Caroline and Steve and others have mentioned, maintaining relatively* small class sizes means more individual attention for each child which means greater learning which benefits everyone.

Skeptic - unlike Don't Fire, it sounds like you have spent some time at school and are interested in facts, but probably aren't aware of the distribution of students in each class throughout all the schools (as most parents aren't). However, if you look in the directory,you can see that some of our 4th grade classes already have 25 and 26 students in them. And if you spend time in these particular classes, you can see how much more difficult it is for the teachers in these classes as compared to the teachers in classes with 22 or so children to give each child adequate attention. If Parcel Tax C doesn't pass, we're looking at 28 plus students in a number of 4th and 5th grade classes. This absolutely isn't conducive to a strong education for our children. Yes, they'll survive, yes, most of them are resilient, but is this really what you want for our children when for 50 cents a day we can do so much better?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 3, 2010 at 7:11 am

Those are pretty amazing numbers quoted by "Numbers" above. Did anyone look at them?

It looks like there were enormous increases in staff and superintendent spending and in the highest teacher salaries. This may reflect the doubling (from $8 million to $16 million) in property tax revenues during an eight year period. Unfortunately, the number of students was relatively stable (only increased 20%).

Did anyone notice this disparity? What's going on?


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 7:53 am

POGO -
Mel included some numbers for a marked increased enrollment recently and in the coming years (Baby Boom Echo?). To repost a paragraph from his earlier posting:
"If we had the same number of students this year and next year as we did in 2006 and received the same amount of funding from the state, then I'd completely agree with you that similar tax collections should be sufficient (with a slight bit extra for inflation). Unfortunately, we have hundreds of additional students enrolled this year (and projected for next year)over 2006 and not only are we not receiving any more money from the state to support the huge increase in enrollment, but the state has just decreased our funding by $1.4 million."


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 8:04 am

Caroline -
I don't know if I fully agree with your statement that the Teachers' Union are not looking out for what's in the best interests of our children. Certainly, there are issues where teachers' interests take precedence but, by and large, the teachers want what's best for their (our) kids and the unions go to bat for the teachers to support these efforts. Check out the California Teachers Association web site to see what issues the unions are concerned about. Web Link Seems to me many of these issues have to do with supporting better education for our kids. And yes, the teachers benefit when our kids benefit - they're all part of the education system.
Their page on CSR is also filled with useful facts: Web Link


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 3, 2010 at 8:57 am

I haven't counted the numbers of kids/class in the directory. But it's mostly irrelevant. If we decrease the number of teachers by 10% (I don't know what the actual percentage is, since finding accurate numbers seems to be such a hit-or-miss exercise, and the state site only includes high level data) then the class size will grow by a couple of kids. Skilled teachers -- and I realize that unfortunately we have more than a few tenured teachers who are past their shelf life -- should be able to handle the extra kids without even breaking a sweat.

I have actually spent a lot of time in classrooms because I have a bunch of kids (I realize that's imprecise but I am trying to remain anonymous) both current and alum MPCSD students. Prior to Ken, parents helped out a lot with science, math, art, and computers. Remember, this is a highly educated community, and my purely anecdotal and biased observation was that kids, parents, and teachers got a lot out of having PhD physicists helping out with science, MBAs helping with math, etc.

But I agree with what POGO is saying: when revenues started going up rapidly, spending rose to match. Although some money was set aside in a reserve fund, it seems to me that Ken took advantage of the windfall to hire more specialists and buy more toys. That was great, until it wasn't, but I guess no one ever believed the housing market might tank although some of us had been predicting it for years.

Here's what I suggest to the board and Ken: pull out the documents from the year 2000. Think about what you'd have to cut to get back to that level of operation. No duplicate textbooks for middle school students, fewer conferences for teachers, more parents in the classroom, larger class sizes. Our kids got a quality education in 2000, even without smartboards.

Whether true or not, many parents seem to think that Ken is an empire builder who'd rather ask for more money than cut out the fat. All the chants of "but it's only 50 cents a day" do nothing to dispel that image.


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Posted by donna
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 3, 2010 at 9:03 am

maybe 50 cents a day doesn't seem like much to some however what accounting has been done on the last 2-3 parcel taxes. it's more than I'm willing to pay since I don't have kids. I'm barely able to make ends meet and my property taxes over the last 20 years have gone from 1800/yr to over 5500 per year and I haven't done any kind of renovations to my home. And in this market the values are way down. I feel like I'm being forced to support a community that has not delivered a true accounting of the parcel taxes already on the books. If kids don't get art or music, then parents ought to pay for private lessons instead of asking the community to pay for those things. I'm voting NO to any more tax increases.


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Posted by Another Skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 9:23 am

Part of the problem is that the school board and superintendent's proverbial hands are tied by union rules in ways that make it tough to adjust to changes, most notably the current recession. When an organization can't control its expenses in a responsible way (e.g. lay-offs HAVE to happen in order of seniority rather than competence or performance), then it's no wonder that they have to keep coming back to us asking for "just a little more money."

Here's my suggestion: let's share the pain. If the teachers' union will agree to structural changes (how about changing the tenure rule so that they don't get it until something more realistic like 5-10 years), then the taxpayers will agree to more money. You change the tenure rules and I'll vote for the parcel tax.

If there's not some structural changes, I guarantee we'll just keep hearing pleas for one parcel tax after another. We can't fix the long term problem by just continuously paying more.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 10:43 am

Here's a description of our schools as reported from the Newcomers guide to California communities, which considers the quality of the schools in their assessment of the communities as a whole:

"Menlo Park City Elementary, Two elementary schools in Atherton, one elementary and a middle school in Menlo Park. Scores in the 90s, mostly the high 90s.
In 2006, the Menlo Park Elementary District passed a $91 million bond to replace portables and upgrade facilities. Voters also renewed a parcel tax to pay for smaller classes, for instruction in art, music and science, and for higher salaries.
Every year, the Menlo-Atherton Foundation donates about $1.5 million to local schools — lot of money.
Overall, good support for schools."

Clearly our community looks good in part because our schools are so successful and our schools are successful because we choose to tax ourselves to maintain the high quality.
Donna, I think this addresses your concern about previous bonds & parcel taxes. The bonds are paying for the construction of new elementary schools at Oak Knoll and at Encinal and upgrades to Laurel. Not sure if this money will also cover the construction of the new campus at Hillview. Parcel tax supports smaller classes and enrichment programs. Because of all of this support our kids score near the top of the scale, go on to better schools and end up with better jobs, which will better support the economy of tomorrow.

I see Ken as doing his best to deal with reductions in state funding and reduced property taxes by reducing spending where possible, delaying projects, dipping into the rainy day fund, and as a last resort asking for half the money he needs to maintain the quality programs we, as a community, have asked for in the past decade. In the end it is our choice, as a community, to say that 'no, we really can't afford any more at the moment', in which case 17 teachers loose their jobs and the learning potential of our K-3 students is affected for the rest of their school years (remember, the benefits of small classes is most pronounced for the early years). Or, if possible, we all tighten our belts and say 'yes, we want the improvements of the past decade to continue' and we tighten our belts for a year or two until the economy comes back.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 10:48 am

DOH! Forgot to include to the Newcomers Guide: Web Link


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 10:52 am

One more point: the unions, as much as they've been vilified in this forum, have apparently been doing their part to deal with the funding crisis. As I understand it, the teachers in the district have not had a raise in the past two years. Given that teacher salaries are not that great to begin with, it's clear they're making financial sacrifices too.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2010 at 11:17 am

Steve, you're only preaching to your choir. You're not convincing the public with your massive jumping to conclusions, like the notion that our kids are smart only because we are heavily taxed. Our kids are smart because their parents are smart. No ones buying your teachers union talking points


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 11:48 am

Donna -
Two other thoughts regarding your situation, since I get the impression that you would support the parcel tax if your financial situation wasn't so precarious.
First, if your property values have fallen, I believe you can ask Warren Slocum, the county tax assessor, to have it reassessed so that you may qualify for a reduction in your property taxes.
Second, if you're retired, I understand that you can be exempted from special parcel taxes such as this. Don't quote me on this though, since I read this on one of these forums but don't know if it's accurate or what conditions might apply. Seems to me this was included in the original legislation covering parcel taxes (Prop 13??) to protect senior citizens on fixed incomes.
Does anyone reading this know the answer?


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Posted by Another Skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Be careful about claims like, "no raises for the past two years." In the alternate universe in which the unions define terminology, "no raises" often means that the overall salary ranges or curves haven't been adjusted. It does NOT mean that many, or even most, individual teachers didn't get raises, i.e. their salary can increase based just on years of service or certain training achievements. Salaries (and thus expenses) often still go up even if "there were no raises."


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm

A. Skeptic -
I suspect the terminology is defined more by the lawyers (representing both school district and unions) who write the contract that the teachers work under. A contract is entered into freely by both parties and it can't be altered mid-stream without agreement by both parties.
In this case, I wonder if there is a provision in the contract for dealing with declining state funding. I presume the lack of a raise for the past two years is the cost-of-living raise that most workers get and that management typically has more control over, not the within-grade increases that kick in automatically after so many years of satisfactory (or better) performance.


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Posted by Caroline
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Don't Fire - No, I do not want to go back to the "old days". Too many mentally disabled children never became part of society. Too many dyslexic children were labeled "stupid". No, we are on the right track. One indicator of a "civilized" society is that the society strives for equal rights and equal opportunity for all members of its society. A public school education for all children represents our country's belief in equal rights and opportunity - for all. We're not there yet, but we're trying.
Steve - I should have been more explicit in my comment about the teachers' unions. First, I believe the vast majority of teachers in the classroom are looking out for what is best for each of their students. I have had too many experiences with teachers not to believe that.
My complaint with the teachers' unions goes to their lack of reform in the firing process for non-performing teachers. I recognize the nuances of firing a teacher: Do you use parent complaints to initiate the process? Do you look at student test scores? Do you consider if students like the teacher? I recognize that it cannot be a popularity contest, nor a strict interpretation of the test scores. There does have to be a system in place, however, to get rid of those teachers who cannot teach. The unions have not come up with any worthwhile, effective reform when it comes to firing those teachers who cannot teach.


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Posted by Mama
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 3, 2010 at 1:20 pm

There is an exemption for seniors, just as there is for most parcel taxes. I believe it's an annual application process to get the exemption.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Steve -

You said "teacher salaries are not that great to begin with..." I don't know the average teacher salary here, but I believe it's around $65,000. When you consider that they are paid for 9 months of work, that equates to about $85,000 on an annual basis. Do you still think that an $85,000 annual salary is "not that great"? That would mean a two teacher family makes $170,000 or a teacher/police officer family makes $185,000. Just wondering...

With regard to downward property tax adjustments, there was a rash of adjustments in 2007 and 2008. Mr. Slocum's office isn't doing that so much anymore because (a) they need the money and (b) MP resale prices don't support it. Donna just loses out.

And with regard to Donna's predicament, which is far more common than we care to believe, you have to remember that she has a tight budget and her taxes have increased from less than $2,000 a year to nearly $6,000 a year. At what point do these additional taxes break her back? Not every homeowner is a fast-tracking executive who can absorb another $500 tax hit each year. This is real money to a lot of people, especially those who have lived here for 20+ years.


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Posted by Dont fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm

You have to apply every year to get an exemption? Couldn't they make it a bit easier on our seniors? They should have to do a one time application for any given parcel tax


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Posted by Numbers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 3, 2010 at 2:37 pm

POGO,

You can look up all financial information about our (and other) school district at www.ed-data.org. You will find there for the school year 2007/8 that the average teacher salary for MPCSD was $84,416. You will also find the average salaries for other elementary school districts like (Pacifica - $55,854, San Bruno - $59,179, San Carlos - $64,790, Belmont - $68,226). You will also see that MPCSD paid for "Certified Personnel Salaries" 159% of the average that other school districts in California paid. As I asked before: Does anyone have these numbers for the school years 2008/9 and 2009/10 to see whether this parcel tax is needed. I still wonder how the expenditure for "Superintendent" (can be seen under function code 7150 when looking at Expenditures by Activity) could grow from $244,132 in 2004/5 to $309,260 in 2007/8 or how the expenditure for "Board" could grow from $58,827 in 2004/5 to $215,020 in 2007/8.
Does anyone know?


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Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Almanac staff writer
on Mar 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

Re: Senior exemptions, the county Assessor's office says that requests for exemptions must be made annually to the school district. Web Link


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Thank you, Numbers.

So two years ago (2007/8), the average MP teacher salary was $84,400. This represents an "annualized" salary of $112,533. And I have to assume it's higher today than it was two years ago.

Did someone really say teacher salaries were "not that great?"

Really?


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Posted by Curious
a resident of Encinal School
on Mar 3, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Numbers,

You stated the following: "The function code 7110 (board) went up from $58,827 in 2004/5 to $215,020 in 2007/8."

Which "board" does that refer to? I thought our district board members were elected but not paid?


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Posted by The Voice of Reason
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Forget a tax increase. The bureaucrats will piss it away. If you don't like increased class sizes, send your kids to private schools. The public schools suck anyway.


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Posted by Numbers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Curious,

I'm no expert. I'm only trying to educate myself by digging through numbers on Web Link. Just go on the site, select our school district and the year 2007/8, select "Financial Reports for District", select the tab "Activity" and then click on "Expenditures by Activity". You will find under "General Administration" ($1,904,352) the area "Board and Superintendent" ($613,075). In there you will find between others "Superintendent" ($309,260) and "Board" ($215,020). If you look up these numbers for 2004/5 you will find $58,827 for "Board" and $244,132 for "Superintendent".


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Posted by Numbers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 3, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Curious,

Now that I noticed that Web Links can be copied I make it easier for you. Here are the expenditures for "Board and Superintendent" in 2004/5 Web Link Park City Elementary&districttype=Elementary&commonAdmin=False&DistrictCode=68965&functionDescription=Board and Superintendent &level=06&FYR=2004-05&lowcode=7100 and here are the expenditures for "Board and Superintendent" in 2007/8 Web Link Park City Elementary&districttype=Elementary&commonAdmin=False&DistrictCode=68965&functionDescription=Board and Superintendent &level=06&FYR=2007-08&lowcode=7100
You can see that "Superintendent" went up from $244,132 in 2004/5 to $309,260 in 2007/8 and "Board" went up from $58,827 in 2004/5 to $215,020 in 2007/8.


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Posted by Numbers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Curious,

Here are the links again. I hope it works now

2004/5 Web Link

2007/8 Web Link


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Numbers -
I noticed that each function code had a link to a description of what that expenditure covers. For example:
7110 Board -
Activities of the elected body that has been created according to state law and vested with responsibilities for educational activities in a given administrative unit. Costs in this function include:
Activities of the members of the Board of Education
Activities of the district performed in support of school district meetings
Legal activities in interpretation of the laws and statutes and general liability situations
Activities of external auditors
Services rendered in connection with any school system election, including elections of officers and bond elections
Activities concerned with staff relations systemwide and the responsibilities for contractual negotiations with both instructional and noninstructional personnel

and function code 7150 for Superintendent:
7150 Superintendent -
Activities associated with the overall general administration of or executive responsibility for the entire LEA. Costs in this function include:
Activities performed by the superintendent and such assistants as deputy, associate, and assistant superintendents in generally directing and managing all affairs of the LEA
Personnel and materials in the office of the chief executive officer
Activities associated with community/public relations
Activities associated with developing and maintaining good relationships with state and federal officials
Activities associated with grant procurement

So is this even a salary category? Sounds more like funding for operating expenses for each position.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Here's the link that shows raises for the past 10 years (called supplemental salary). Web Link
It shows that raises dropped to zero during the last recession (2002/03), went up to 4% for the next 3 years, up to 5% for 06/07 and 07/08, and dropped to zero again during the recession of 08/09. Presumably, as the recession continues the raises stay at zero for 09/10, which isn't posted yet. That is consistent with the 2-year hiatus in raises mentioned above.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 6:00 pm

That last link didn't work. Try this: Web Link=


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 9:30 pm

POGO -
Yes the average salary for a MP teacher is $84K but that "buys" a teacher with 13 years of teaching experience, 6 of those years in MP schools. Annualizing it to $112K over 12 months can be misleading since many teachers (most?) don't work over the summer. In fact many have their 9-months of pay spread over 12 months so they'll always have a monthly check coming in.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Anybody else notice the headline on today's San Mateo County Times: "Burlingame voters OK (parcel) tax". The $180 tax is similar to the $178 tax that MPCSD is considering. It will raise $1.4million/year to be used to protect math, science, reading and other programs, as well as to retain teachers in Burlingame schools.
The paper also noted the San Mateo/Foster City School District passed it's own $181 parcel tax last week to extend the current tax set to expire this June. The voters raised the current parcel tax by $96 and expect to generate $6 million/year for their schools.
If he's still reading this, Don't Fire might be interested to learn that the Burlingame tax passed with 71% of the vote; the San Mateo/Foster City tax passed by 67%. Both tallies are remarkably close to the 70% community support that he denied existed in local communities.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2010 at 10:40 pm

For a different perspective on our debate on local education, here's a paragraph from an article in today's New York Times Web Link
It's about an educator in George W. Bush's education department who supported No Child Left Behind but has since had a change of heart.

"Dr. Ravitch is finding many supporters. She told school superintendents at a convention in Phoenix last month that the United States' educational policies were ill-conceived, compared with those in nations with the best-performing schools.

"Nations like Finland and Japan seek out the best college graduates for teaching positions, prepare them well, pay them well and treat them with respect," she said. "They make sure that all their students study the arts, history, literature, geography, civics, foreign languages, the sciences and other subjects. They do this because this is the way to ensure good education. We're on the wrong track."

The superintendents gave Dr. Ravitch a standing ovation."


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2010 at 4:04 am

Hey Steve, and what was the turnout for those votes?


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Posted by The Voice of Reason
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 4, 2010 at 6:40 am

Open your eyes people. Tax increases don't work. Period. A tax increase may be a short term solution, but we'll be facing another "crisis" within a couple of years. The system needs to change. The government is incompetent.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 7:50 am

Don't fire-
It doesn't matter what the turnout was. It's the people who turn out to vote who count.


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 7:54 am

In both Burlingame and San Mateo, the parcel tax is not an additional tax but the sole school parcel tax -- basically an extension of the current tax. That's a little different from our situation, where the MPCSD is already collecting over $500/parcel in taxes.

A quick search online did not indicate any voter numbers, but I suspect, as Don't Fire suggests, that they represent a tiny percentage of registered voters. A mail-in vote, in the absence of organized opposition, pretty much guarantees that a measure will pass. The backers do their best to ensure that only supporters are aware that the ballot exists; others will discard the voting materials along with their junk mail.

By the way, the possessive form of the word "it" does not include an apostrophe. Hence, "San Mateo/Foster City School District passed its own $181 parcel tax," not "it's own parcel tax." Steve, you've made that mistake so many times that it's <correct use of the word as a contraction of "it" and "is"> clear that it's not a typo. So I thought you might appreciate getting educated yourself on this education-related thread!


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Posted by steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 8:15 am

Skeptic-
Granted, an extension is different than a new tax but it still says that over 2/3 of the voters support their schools. And San Mateo/Foster City voters did approve a $96 increase to their their parcel tax.
It's amazing to me how you can rationalize away a 70% majority as "a tiny percentage of registered voters". I don't know the politics of any of those communities so I can't really say one way or another. But if you're right it makes the rest of the registered voters look pretty apathetic.
Thanks for pointing out the its/it's mistake. I actually do know the difference but my fingers automatically put in the apostrophe. I try to catch it when I proofread before hitting send. Now I've got you and my wife correcting me.


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2010 at 8:42 am

I didn't rationalize away anything. I'm just speculating. If there are 1000 registered voters and only 50 vote, and 35 vote in favor -- well, there's your 70% but do those people truly represent the majority of voters? It's perfectly legal, and perhaps it's also appropriate that the minority that cares enough to vote should have the authority to approve a tax.

I've worked on MPCSD parcel tax campaigns so I know that the strategy is to make sure the supporters vote and to keep everyone else in the dark as much as possible. With an all-mail vote this approach can be particularly effective. If you, the voter, aren't aware that a ballot is going to arrive in your mailbox -- and if you're not a supporter, you're probably among the uninformed -- you are likely to discard the ballot, assuming it's a campaign piece.

Sorry for being so pedantic about the it's thing; that mistake is like nails on a blackboard to me (a cliche that our smartboard-raised children may never understand).


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 9:05 am

Steve -

But they only work nine months, right?

They can vacation or get another job or whatever. Everyone seems to forget that their pay is for 9 months of work.

If you don't think that's relevant, try telling your employer (or having an employee tell you) that you want the same annual pay but you're planning to work only 9 months.

It's absolutely relevant.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 9:10 am

We're not going to tax our way out of this problem. I'm still waiting for someone (a politician, perhaps) to convince me that my 60% tax rate just isn't enough.

I'm reminded of the Beatles song, "Tax Man." One of the lines, "if it gets too cold, I'll tax the heat" reminds me of this attitude. Sooner or later, you run out of people and things to tax and the whole thing collapses of its own weight.

It'll happen here, it'll happen in Sacramento and it appears to be happening already in Washington.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 10:19 am

POGO -
I didn't say annualizing 9-month's pay was irrelevant - I said it was misleading. That's because you suggest teachers are getting the full annualized 12-month salary (~$112K). Some, perhaps, work through the summer and do make that much. Most, I expect, do not. Instead they stay home with their kids, take vacations, or simply recuperate from the stress of teaching classes or 20+ kids (I don't think I could do it). In any case, I suspect that most teachers get by on their 9-month salary, even though, theoretically, they could be making 1/3 more than that.
I wonder if that statistic is available anywhere.


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Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 11:02 am

Donna, get your tax bill out! There is a serious problem between your 1990 and 2009 tax bills and you need to contact the assessor's office. Either they think you changed ownership in there (name change?) or your sewer or garbage is way out of whack.

Like you, I bought in 1990. I dug out my 1991 bill (and my husband said I'd never need to keep this stuff !) I see the tax amount I paid based on the sale price, plus $184 for garbage, $60 of misc fees, and $187 to West Bay for sewers. The property tax rate was 1.0134%.

Looking at my 2009 bill, my assessed value increased 41.2% from 1990, which is just a hair less than the Prop 13-mandated 2% a year. The tax rate increased to 1.1022%. And the educational parcel tax is $565. Then there is about $121 in storm drain, tree, mosquito and other fees, plus $560 for sewer. Ignoring the fees and sewer (we pay garbage by check), my taxes have increased exactly 61.9% since 1991.

Looking at your 1990 figure of $1800 and deducting garbage, fees, and sewers, then working back from the property tax rate, your assessed value should have been about $135,500. Is that what you paid for your house? (I don't remember anything for twice that in MP -- are you sure you aren't talking about the prior owner's bill, which you would have gotten before your supplemental?) Working forward, your current tax bill should be $135,500 x 1.412 x.011022, plus $565, $121, and $560 (and garbage, if you do that) for a total of $3,354.80. If you are paying more than this, either you're being charged for extra sewer hookups (do you have other living units attached to your house?) or for excess water usage (restaurants and laundries are usually the only parcels to get hit heavily with this) or for lots of garbage cans.

When you get this corrected, would you please, please consider voting for the parcel tax with your $2000 savings? Right now, our state is teetering between those people who benefit from Prop 13 (what would your house cost now -- $750,000? multiply that by 1%, and you get an idea of what you would be paying without Prop 13 -- $7500/year) and those who pay for our services, like newguy. Prop 13 envisioned parcel taxes as the way for the electorate to decide what's important locally since capping taxes at a 2% increase was nuts in a period of 8% annual inflation such as the late 70's/early 80's. Those who are paying disproportionately will outnumber those who aren't in just a few years – we need to make all this work so everyone feels they're benefiting.

P.S. My husband just said that maybe you'd misremembered and paid two $1800 payments a year in 1990, for a total of $3600, which would track to $5500 today. In that case, you'd still be in our boat, where your taxes (as long as we include the $565 parcel tax) have just kept up with inflation. In that case, you've done your civic duty (which is, clearly, important to you, since you took the time to post!) and can vote against the parcel tax as being against your self-interest. That's fair. Menlo Park has to decide whether to invest in education and try to keep our standards on a par with Palo Alto and Portola Valley, which spend much more per child, or whether to slide towards Redwood City, which spends much less. You may be more comfortable with being Redwood City-like. But then it's probably not fair to announce that your taxes went from $1800 to $5500 as a reason to vote against the parcel tax.


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Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 11:06 am

Newguy, I see your pain. It sounds like you spent $1,300,000 for a house, are forking out more than 75% of your neighbors in taxes (it's a fact, you are), and now we want another $178 from you. Welcome to the miserable world of Prop 13 economics.

Worse, you are probably (understandably) a little nave in thinking that you'll be able to spend out of this when you have school-age kids in eight or ten years. The good teachers who get lay-off slips in March will start searching out other jobs. We have to hope they don't find them, because those are the ones who will be the seasoned grade-level leaders whom you'll want your kids to have then. (The newest ones always get the ax, due to union rules, no matter what anyone tries to do. Odds are that your kids, even if you can ramp up spending when you want it, will either have newbies who are learning to run a classroom or fifty-somethings who are tired of doing so.)

I know we current parents sound frantic – but we feel we're at an "for want of a nail, a kingdom was lost" time. Menlo Park currently delivers quite a bang for its buck in education. But so much of that is a very narrow balancing act between class size, specialists, and coaching the poor performers. Stop coaching the poor performers outside the classroom and they'll take up more time in it. Do away with the specialists and the teachers will have no prep time. Increase class sizes and you'll see teachers, who are stretching to accommodate the poor performers, deal with the behavior issues, and get papers graded without prep time, simply shut down. At which point your kids will walk through the door, expecting to get something good for the $14,000/year you've been shelling out.

Newguy, I am so, so sorry that we're asking you for more. But please consider giving it. Your kids will thank you. (When they're thirty but that's another story.)


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 11:22 am

News just in: California fails to secure federal "Race to the Top" funding.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other advocates of the reforms had estimated the state could win up to $700 million in the competition. But California's application was not one of 16 that made it to the final round of the competition
"This decision by the Obama Administration demonstrates that we need to be more aggressive and bolder in reforming our education system," he said in a statement. "While the reforms we passed did move our state forward, they did not go far enough because other states were more competitive."
Interesting that Tennessee, which has been experimenting with CSR to 15 students/class, is one of the states to secure funds.


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Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2010 at 11:23 am

Oh it does matter Steve. It matters because the very reason for these special elections is to try to minimize turnout, tp surreptitiously slip a ballot in that few but unionists know about. You're really somethin' else. So what was the turnout? You might not think it's important. But the community will

And you've still yet to show this community a poll that says this community supports a parcel tax, which is what you're pushing for right? For this community to pass a parcel tax?


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Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 11:43 am

Voice of Reason, When you say, "Just send your kids to private schools," please identify which ones have openings. Help us frantic parents. The open houses I attended this fall were standing room only – with admissions staff gently counseling that good grades, great test scores, and excellent extracurriculars would fill their seats twice over. At $33,000/year.

Also, I do have a hard time understanding when people, on the one hand, lament the 'overspending' in the public schools – at $11,000/student – while extolling the virtues of the private schools – at $33,000/student. ($22,000 at the local parochial schools, $14,000 at Peninsula, where parents also have to make sizeable time commitments) Trying to hold at our near the $11,000 level seems like a good investment of everyone's money -- hardly pissing it away, given recent improvements in test scores. Please don't let your hatred of government destroy a generation of school kids.


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Posted by Numbers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 11:59 am

Steve,

Thanks for the information about the other school districts parcel tax votes. I tried to compare the school districts you quote for 2007/8 in some areas.

Average Teacher Salary:
Burlingame: $63,121
San Mateo-Foster City: $62,536
Menlo Park: $84,416

Enrollment:
Burlingame: 2326
San Mateo-Foster City: 10,079
Menlo Park: 2411

Since Burlingame and Menlo Park have similar enrollments I compared the two further:

Pupils per Teacher:
Burlingame: 19.5
Menlo Park: 17.2

Full-Time Equivalents (Teachers):
Burlingame: 123.9
Menlo Park: 135.2

% Fully Credentialled:
Burlingame: 99.2%
Menlo Park: 98.6%

% English Learners:
Burlingame: 17.6%
Menlo Park: 7.8%

Expenditure per ADA (Average Daily Attendance of Students)
Burlingame: $7,899
Menlo Park: $11,548

API Base Score (all students):
Burlingame: 886 (1,746 participating students)
Menlo Park: 914 (1,661 participating students)

API for Students with Disabilities:
Burlingame: 869 (466 participating students)
Menlo Park: 801 (236 participating students)

API for English Learners
Burlingame: 856 (523 participating students)
Menlo Park: ??? (142 participating students) Although the sample size was over 100, this number was not reported)

So for two school district on the Peninsula with similar enrollments I see that the average expenditure per ADA in Menlo Park is 46.2% higher ($11,548/$7,899) with average teacher salaries being 33.7% higher ($84,416/$63,121). The overall API in Menlo Park is 3% better (914/886). But if you are a disabled student the API is 8% worse (801/869).

Finally I compared the home values for ZIP codes 94010 (Burlingame) and 94025 (Menlo Park) on Zillow.com and found

94010: $1,250,000
94025: $970,000

So homes in 94025 (Menlo Park) are 22.4% less than in 94010 (Burlingame)


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Posted by Ram Duriseti
a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Mar 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Numbers,

I want to thank you for your attention to detail and dedication to data. It is really eye-opening for those of us who do not have the time or wherewithal to gather and compare this information.

Please keep it up. Numbers don't lie (pun intended).

I support increasing remuneration for teachers if there are performance measures attached to that remuneration. High quality public education in our area is delivered in a relatively inexpensive manner. If parcel taxes are the only way to do this due to restrictions on the use of funds from bond measures, then I'm okay with it. Speaking from the standpoint of having a family member who is a teacher, teaching is a 10 months out of the year job -- not 9 months. Effective teaching requires prep time.

My concern is the following: when does the dipping and budgetary expansion stop? There are arguments now to support the parcel tax. In 7 years when it expires, what can we expect? Have you ever seen a public agency reduce its budget or do they simply seem to expand into the the fiscal "potential space"?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Steve -

I never implied that teachers made $112,000 a year. What I said is that their salary is equivalent of $112,000 a year. In my world, that's pretty good pay and I would hardly characterize that as "not that great" as someone (you) suggested. The only thing misleading is excluding the fact that their $86,000 salary is for nine month of work. For example, if someone told you that they made $25,000 a year you'd think very differently if you learned it was for one month of work.

You also seem to imply that Tennessee received today's grant because of it's reduced class size. Tennessee is also one of the country's strongest proponents of charter schools (California is not) as are the other states that received this funding. Other states - some who received the funds - actually spend less than California and have better results and larger class sizes (although admittedly average class size data can be difficult to find).

Friendly neighbor -

I realize you are trying to be helpful to Donna but I suspect her budget is to the breaking point. If I were her and I found an extra $2,000, the schools (she has no children), would not be my top priority.

This is the problem with those who want to repeal Prop 13. The original reason for Prop 13 was to protect those people in our community who purchased their homes years ago. When property valuations rise they way they have in our area, these people could never pay a 1% property tax on the current (and wildly inflated)valuation of their home.

If you've lived in your home a decade or more, have you even considered what your property tax payments would be at today's valuation? I know I would have a tough time paying my property taxes if my home were reassessed to reflect today's valuation. On the other hand, if someone can afford to buy a home in my neighborhood today, we know they can also afford today's property tax bill.

Again, I think we're taxed enough in California. Our elected officials need to get a handle on SPENDING.


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Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Isn't this fun! It's like the old party lines with about ten separate conversations going on.

Numbers, thanks for looking into Burlingame. I hope this isn't racist, but is there a chance that their numbers are good because 18.8% of their population is Asian, vs. 6.1% in Menlo Park? And that 32% of their language learners speak Spanish as a primary language, vs. 57% of ours? I also noticed that their disabilities API performance plummeted in 2009 (from 869 to 772), but respect that you couldn't use that data because the financials for 2008-09 aren't available.

POGO, forgive me, but in Woodside you spend $17,165 per child. So coming over and pissing on our desire to maintain $11,615 feels a bit like being told what we po' folk should make do with.


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Posted by Scale?
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Why a flat parcel tax that weighs more heavily on those least able to afford it? If we are going to tax property ownership in the district wouldn't it be a bit more equitable to tax by the square foot? At $.10 per square foot of land my taxes would be in line with what I can afford. There are residents in the district that could easily fit my entire household into their living room or garage(s) who can afford their larger share of the land and their potentially larger share of the parcel tax.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Friendly neighbor -

There are actually five school districts covering Woodside. One spends far less than MP, one far more, and the other three are dead even with MP.

I'll stand pat on my comments about Prop 13.

Scale -

How about having the parcel tax apply only to those parcels that send kids to the public school? Wouldn't that be the absolute fairest way of all?


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Posted by Numbers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Friendly Neighbor,

Looking into Burlingame was triggered by Steve's comment that they passed a parcel tax. So I was trying to find out whether there is a way to compare and determine the need for their and our parcel tax.

I looked into the make-up of the student body that you quote and find different numbers. Here is what I find on Web Link
Asian: Menlo Park 5.3% Burlingame 18.5%
Hispanic: Menlo Park 6.6% Burlingame 11.9%
White: Menlo Park 68.4% Burlingame 55.6%

So it seems to me that there are 80% more Hispanics in Burlingame (percentage wise) compared to Menlo Park. Interesting enough I found on the website for the Burlingame School District that they have a Spanish Immersion program -- something that Menlo Park also proudly offers and where Menlo Park always has problems to find enough Spanish speakers.
While looking through their site I found something called SARC (School Accountability Report Card). There is lots of interesting data in that, but right now I don't have enough time to look at everything. One thing that hit my eye was that their latest SARC shows $135,000 as salary for their superintendent. Of course I looked right away whether MPCSD also publishes SARCs. Yes, we do. Our latest SARC shows $225,458 as superintendent salary.

So Menlo Park pays 67% more for their superintendent (225,458/135,000), has a 3% higher API (914/886) and Burlingame has homes that are 28.9% more worth (1,250,000/970,000).


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Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Scale, are you sure? At $.10/sf, I'd be paying about $1000 -- so that means you'd have to be living on a lot of 1780 or less to pay less than $178 ... which means a condo, I guess. (Not even a very big condo, though maybe if the building were 2-3 stories high.) Of course, SRI International, with its 69 acres*, would pay $300,000, which might be nice.

* Grammar mavens, please note correct use of the apostrophe in "its!" I would not wish to be infantile in my postings! (Though am I right that it's only OK to criticize the pro-school folks for odd spellings, grammar and word usage?)


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Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Numbers, yes, you are looking at the 2007-2008 numbers, while I'm looking at the latest ones. (Same Web Link, just the latest year pulled down.)


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm

POGO -
I may dense but when you say that earning the equivalent of $112K is meaningful, I don't get it. It's what you earn each year and have to live on that determines your quality of life. So you're example of someone who made $25K for one month of work and that's all he got all year is still living below the poverty line, even though they're earning the equivalent of $300K per year. Equivalent money is imaginary money that doesn't buy a dime's worth of anything.

Numbers -
thank you for spending the time & effort to bring us a comparison of Burlingame & MP systems. It's valuable to have that perspective in judging the need for another parcel tax.
However, there is one crucial piece of information that is available from that same website that you didn't provide: the years of experience for the average teacher in each district. I noted above that MP's average teacher, who's getting paid $84K/year, has 13 years of teaching experience with over 6 years with the MPCSD. Experience is a large component in determining appropriate pay so we really need to know the experience level of the average Burlingame teacher to make a fair evaluation.
To eliminate this variable, it might be good to compare the starting salaries for each district, another data point that's available at this web site.


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Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Newguy, just noticed your suggestion that there be a new renter tax. That might be hard to pass, but it seems to me that the Education Foundation should absolutely approach landlords who are renting to district parents – especially since many landlords are paying a fraction of what their neighboring landlords are paying.

There is a very uneven playing field in Menlo Park when it comes to the taxes rental properties are paying. And you can't tell me that landlords are charging anything other than what the market will bear. ("Oh, hello, young family with two screaming kids – please, I only pay $2900/year in taxes for my four units, so take this rental unit for $434 a month and enjoy!" [Adding 2% per year to the $235/month a month my husband and paid for a two-bedroom in downtown Menlo in 1977 yields $434. Show me a two-bedroom in downtown Menlo for less than $1000 do I hear $1300?])

You may think I'm joking, but of the 194 quadruplexes in the district, 53 pay less than $2,400 in general property tax (which, added to $565, means just under $3,000). And only 40 pay more than you do, newguy!

I hope the Education Foundation asks landlords to help meet this challenge. Maybe that would, at least, make up the difference between the parcel tax and what's coming out of reserves -- so your kids can have a little cushion for whatever fates befall the district then.



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Posted by Numbers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Friendly Neighbor,

I checked the numbers for 2008/9 that are available in some areas. For the student body's ethnicity I found for
Hispanics: Burlingame 11.3% Menlo Park 7%
While you wondered that ethnicity might have something to do with scores, my main questions remain:
1)Do we need more money to give our children a quality education?
2)Does more money for the school district translate into higher property values?
I can't yet answer the first question and will keep looking into numbers. So far I get the impression that we spend considerably more than others to get a similar education for our children. I can't really answer the second question either. It seems like Burlingame was able to give their kids a similar quality of education for way less money while enjoying higher home values.




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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Let me answer my own questions, especially since I got the numbers wrong in my previous post. These are for FY08/09 for Menlo Park City School District and Burlingame Elementary School District.

MPCSD BESD Statewide Average
Lowest Salary $50,942 $40,352 $40,230
Ave. Salary $86,027 $62,957 $66,351
Ave. years teaching 14.0 10.7 -
Ave. years in district 9.2 7.5 -


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm

So tables don't work well. Let's try again.
These are for FY08/09 for Menlo Park City School District and Burlingame Elementary School District.

Lowest Salary
MPCSD $50,942
BESC $40,352
State $40,230

Ave. Salary
MPCSD $86,027
BESC $62,957
State $66,351

Average years teaching
MPCSD 14.0 years
BESC 10.7 years

Average years in district
MPCSD 9.2 years
BESC 7.5 years


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Here's an interesting comparison of teacher salary/experience with our real competition: Palo Alto Unified School District
It's surprising how comparable they are: PA pays only $1K more to starting teachers and about $2K less for the average teacher. The average PA teacher has about a year and a half less experience than the average MP teacher. Both have taught in their respective districts about the same time.

Lowest Salary
MPCSD $50,942
PAUSD $51.994
State $40,230

Ave. Salary
MPCSD $86,027
PAUSD $83,994
State $66,351

Average years teaching
MPCSD 14.0 years
PAUSD 12.6 years

Average years in district
MPCSD 9.2 years
PAUSD 9.4 years


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Posted by Ethan
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 4, 2010 at 5:50 pm

A modest proposal for future school funding:

Revise Proposition 13 by adding one word (shown in caps):
Section 1. (a) The maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real RESIDENTIAL property shall not exceed one percent (1%) of the full cash value of such property. The one percent (1%) tax to be collected by the counties and apportioned according to law to the districts within the counties.


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Posted by Numbers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Steve,

What do you mean by "real competition"? Why would Burlingame (which you yourself brought up as an example for a school district on the Peninsula that passed a parcel tax) not be real? Burlingame is a very similar district (which Palo Alto is not due to being a Unified School District that includes two High Schools). Burlingame has a similar number of students, similar number of teachers, similar quality of education (as measured by API). So to me they seem to be a very good example for comparison, while Palo Alto is not due to being a Unified School District with over 11,000 students and over 700 teachers).


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Posted by Is Runaway Administration Costs Destroying Free Public Education in Calif.?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 8:50 pm

College student protests over fee increases nationwide, got nasty in Berkeley today.
UC chancellors, college presidents and admin aides making outrageous incomes, benefits, their unfunded pensions bankrupting the UC, State College and Community College system.
Faculty asked to do more for less while administrator remuneration escalates.
Elementary, secondary and college school boards blindly granting annual increases to administrators.
If Hennessey and Ethcemendy at Stanford volunteer a 10% pay cut during these lean times, why can't Ranella volunteer a 10% pay cut.
Can't he maintain his lifestyle on $200K per year?
It starts at the top. The voters and taxpayers' elected representatives need to make a statement that reductions will start at the highest level, and work down from there.
At some point, all public education students will have to pay tuition. Taxpayers will not continue to subsidize free education for all. Renters who move into a district will have to pay some amount for their child's education, since the school districts can't collect any more from Prop. 13 protected landlords.
The system is broken. Funding mechanisms are tapped out. Serious cost cutting is inevitable.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Numbers-
I don't disagree with you that Burlingame SD is similar in many ways to our district. I just think that when it comes to schools (and towns for that matter) we tend to compare ourselves to our neighbors. Because Palo Alto schools are usually near the top of the pack' it's natural to compare our schools to theirs. I know that when the STAR test results come out I always compare our schools with theirs and find we usually stack up pretty favorably. I don't know Burlingame very well so I don't usually think to compare us with them. But maybe that's just me.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm

A pause in the discussion to note that we're approaching 160 responses to a story that ran just six days ago. We may be approaching a record for the town square.
Editor?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:49 am

If you want to know what's wrong with Sacramento, today's lead story in the Sacramento Bee would be my Exhibit A.

Here it is: Web Link

So, while all of California is struggling - from seniors, private sector jobs, educators to local municipalities - our former Assembly Speaker gives her staff 10% raises on her last day in office. Ten percent. Kind of a nice "good bye" gift, I guess.

If this kind of arrogant act doesn't tweak your hypocrisy sensor, nothing will. I'm also positive she will easily be elected to the House of Representatives.

Let them eat cake.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:43 am

POGO -
You're not telling the whole story here. Reading the article I was struck by the staff, salary and operational reductions the Assembly has made over the past few years under Bass. This includes dropping their own salaries by 18% last year. Among the other facts the article mentioned.

- many Assembly employees had not received raises in years.
- 17 of the 20 staffers getting raises earned under $50K/yr, four of them under $30K.
- 10 of the 20 were among those who had their pay hikes rescinded last year.
- Bass eliminated other positions that more than covered the cost of those modest increases.
- The Assembly has cut more than 10 percent annually from its budget the past few years, diverting more than $15 million per year to help other distressed agencies - $42 million in total.
- Bass' own pay had fallen dramatically in recent months. Her annual pay as speaker fell from $133,639 to $109,584 in December, as part of a reduction for all legislators. When she stepped down from the top job, her pay fell to $95,291.

So, without debating the political merits of this increase, it's clear that the Assembly under Bass has taken significant steps the past several years to reduce internal costs and to hold the line on staff salaries. When you consider that most of the staff receiving the raises earn less than a starting teacher at Menlo Park, the decision to boost salaries doesn't seem quite so outrageous.

I have to ask: Is the crisis in Sacramento something the people of California brought on themselves?
First, through the proposition process, voters imposed term limits that decapitates the legislature, getting rid of legislators with literally decades of experience. As bad as we thought Sacramento was under Willie Brown, at least things got done and the budget was more or less balanced. Now we have a system that kicks out legislators just as they're getting experienced enough to know their way around and replaces them with pure rookies who are then expected to fix the $100 billion budget mess. Of course, knowing they'll be gone in 6 years anyway, they have every incentive to cozy up with lobbyists to ensure they have a job when they're termed out.
Second, we kick out a governor with 30 years in state government and replace him with an actor with zero experience whose first decision is to eliminate the automobile tax. This immediately drives the deficit up by $3Billion/per year. And six years after he was elected on a promise to fix California, he leaves with the state in demonstrably worse shape.
Now we're insisting on reducing salaries of government workers to the point where all the good people leave and we're left with exactly who to fix this mess?


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Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:05 am

Steve's right, Numbers. Because my child is in a district school, I care deeply about *all* the numbers. And looking at all Burlingame's numbers -- STAR tests, ethnicity, English learner composition -- makes me doubt we can match them.

Burlingame seems to be doing a great job for Burlingame. The voters think so too -- passing their parcel tax. The next step, though, of assuming that we should cut our costs towards Burlingame's, requires a bit more understanding of all their numbers.

Menlo Park parents are looking for Palo Alto's STAR test results, not Burlingame's. Comparing like-to-like "White Ethnicity" test scores from the most recent (2009) tests, in Burlingame we see between 15 and 20 percent *fewer* students in the "Advanced" category across all grades in English and 15-30% *fewer* in Math ("All Students" actually makes my case better, even for "Graduate School Parent" it holds true at 10%+). Since only grade-level material is tested in the STAR, what "Advanced" really means is "Fully Proficient." And, more critically, what it means is "has a solid shot at getting accepted by at least one UC campus." Web Link

Remember, the UC system accepted 58,631 students to at least one of their schools in 2009 (including Merced and San Bernadino). Meanwhile, of the 450,000 California students who take the STAR tests in each grade each year, over 20% score "Advanced" in English and 33% in Math. 50,000 "Advanced" English scores and 150,000 "Advanced" Math scores are out there applying to the UC System, if only as 'safety schools.'

Burlingame is doing a great job of educating a large number of kids, whose parents all reside in Burlingame (they are not a Tinsley district, like MPCSD), to a proficient level. But for every 100 "White" kids under their model, 15-30 won't have those "Advanced" scores -- who will have them in Menlo Park. (Ditto "All Students", etc.) "Advanced" scores give me some hope that my kid will get in. "Proficients" don't give me much comfort.

I love APIs, they do a great job of summarizing how well a school is doing getting all their kids to "proficient", but, in the end, which community do you want to live in? One where your child has a 15-30% greater chance of qualifying for a UC acceptance? Given your wonderful commitment to research and analysis, Numbers, I'm betting that might be a little of why you're here and not paying 20% more to get 20% less in Burlingame!

This dichotomy is the essence of the parcel tax. Do we want to fight and pay for a community in which about 70% of the kids will be educated to a level that will admit them to a UC campus? Or are we going to let, until the political process can catch up with Prop 13 landlords, the kids slide because their community doesn't care?

Apropos of POGO/Runaway/gunslinger and other similar postings, as a 20+ year Menlo resident, I would hate to see our community's commitment to quality education destroyed out of anyone's hatred for "government" in general or "administration" or Ken Ranella or any of the other hobby horses unhappy people seem to be riding. It gives "whipping boy" a whole new meaning.


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Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:10 am

Oops -- doing too much editing on the run. Please read the last sentence in my first paragraph as, "-- makes me question whether we want to match them." Thanks!


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Posted by Numbers
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:11 am

Steve,

Your point is well taken in regard to comparing test scores with Palo Alto (I like comparing better than "competing"). But in many aspects it would be nearly impossible to compare a Unified School District that includes two high schools with our Elementary School District -- for example salaries. Nevertheless I will list below some of the 2007/8 data for Menlo Park and Burlingame (two Elementary School Districts with similar number of students) next to Palo Alto (a Unified School District that includes two High Schools).

Base API:
Menlo Park - 914, Burlingame - 886, Palo Alto - 915

API for disabled students:
Menlo Park - 801, Burlingame - 869, Palo Alto - 695

Number of Students:
Menlo Park - 2,326, Burlingame 2,411, Palo Alto - 11,204

Full-time Equivalents of Teachers:
Menlo Park - 135.2, Burlingame - 123.9, Palo Alto - 750

% of Minority Students:
Menlo Park - 16.3%, Burlingame - 35.9%, Palo Alto - 38.7%

Average Teacher Salary paid:
Menlo Park - $84,416, Burlingame - $63,121, Palo Alto - $81,193

Superintendent Salary (per latest SARC)
Menlo Park - $225,458, Burlingame - $135,000, Palo Alto - $267,342

Looking at these numbers I would say that the base APIs for Palo Alto and Menlo Park are the same (915/914) and roughly 3% better than for Burlingame (886). For the disabled student population Burlingame is 25% better than Palo Alto (869/695) and 8 percent better than Menlo Park (869/801). The teachers in Menlo Park make on average 33.7% more than the teachers in Burlingame and 4% more than the teachers in Palo Alto. The superintendent in Menlo Park makes 67% more than the superintendent in Burlingame (while having almost the same number of students and teachers). He receives 84.3% of the salary the superintendent in Palo Alto gets (while serving 20.7% of Palo Alto's student population and managing 18% of the number of teachers in Palo Alto and not having to manage any high school at all).


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Posted by George
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I am probably older than the person who wrote "Is Runaway Administration Costs Destroying.." and remember my Grandmother telling how she was pulled out of school at age 12 to work for a tailor delivering dresses to rich Ladies. She put newspaper in her shoes to cover the holes and keep some warmth in. (It didn't work on wet days.) "Is Costs" saying, "..all public education students will have to pay tuition. Taxpayers will not continue to subsidize free education for all.." is very upsetting.

Public schools began when everyone got the vote. Informed voters are the basis of a sound democratic America.

So why should children from homes that don't value education end up like my Grandmother? (She spent her last twenty years a slave to my Grandfather who kept telling her he'd leave all his money to his children. Without education and over 50, she knew she had no job prospects.)

You say "school districts can't collect any more from Prop. 13 protected landlords." Why not? Ethan is right. Jarvis and Gann told us that Prop. 13 was to keep the old folks in their homes. And it has. My friends leave when they want to, not because of taxes. But by including businesses and rentals, it is doing the opposite too. I bet it is making all of us suffer so the grandchildren of the folks my Grandmother delivered silk dresses to can send their kids to Private Schools.

Also, don't renters get to double dip? Isn't their a renters credit on state income tax to rebate them the savings that their landlords are also getting? Ethan is right.

And also, I like the parts of this discussion that are actually about Menlo Park. I agree that many posters seem to be people who don't like something or someone. It's like wanting America to fail just because you don't like the president. That's just not American.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm

George -
If you like the parts about Menlo Park, here's a historical tidbit that I copied from another ongoing discussion:
Are folks aware that the Gaylords Restaurant building on El Camino is where the jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi (best know for writing the music to the Charlie Brown TV specials) played his last gig back in 1976. At the time it housed a jazz club called Butterfields. During a break in the performance Vince went to his room in the Red Cottage Inn where he died, either of a heart attack or cocaine overdose. A fan put together a web page that tells the tale: Web Link


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Sorry - Here's the working link: Web Link


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Steve -

Just one question for you: If this was so noble, honorable and deserved, then why did Speaker Bass do this in the dead of night on her very last day of work, literally as she was walking out the door?

Could it be that these sorts of deaf-ear, self-serving actions has brought our state to its financial knees and the voter approval rating of Sacramento to a historic low?

You want to vote for these kind of politicians, have at it. Just don't complain when employers leave the state, unemployment rises and services get cut.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm

POGO -
I suppose she did it because she felt a sense of responsibility for the people who worked for her.
Beyond that, perhaps she thought these people were the kind of people that Sacramento needs and wanted to encourage them to stay.
Perhaps she felt that the worker bees shouldn't be screwed because they work for politicians that everyone in the state appears to hate.
Perhaps because they hadn't had a raise in over two years and weren't that well paid to begin with.
Perhaps because she'd offset their small raises by $42 million in cuts and eliminating other positions.
Perhaps because she could do what she thought was right without having to face the political repercussions or pressure from colleagues to rescind it.
I think that we both give Bass credit for making substantial cuts in expenses and salaries for the Assembly and herself. This tells me she is not entirely tone-deaf or self-serving. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt that these nominal raises might be in the best interest of the taxpayers as well.
As for what's brought the state to it's financial knees, see my previous post regarding term limits and the recall of the governor. If voters want to see who's responsible for this mess they should look in the mirror.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 2:48 pm

And that explains why she did all of these noble things at midnight on her last day in office... Sure.

I think you should keep voting for these people. Seems to be working out quite nicely, don't you think?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. - Albert Einstein


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm

POGO -
Consider for a moment that Speaker Bass did do the right thing for her people and for the state (for the reasons I suggested). I'd say that the real problem here is that it shows just how poisonous politics are these days that she had to do what she considered the right thing in such a covert way.
I admire that, as speaker, she reduced the expenses & salaries of the Assembly during this current fiscal crisis. I do not admire her failure to bring the two sides together more often to accomplish more during her term. Given the hyper-partisan environment in Sacramento and the fact that she only had 5 years of experience in the assembly before taking on the speakership, perhaps we can't really expect such miracles.
In the end I don't think you can judge her 6-year career in the assembly on this action which, at most, costs the state an extra $90K per year. If that keeps 20 experienced employees working, it may well have been worth it. It certainly isn't a decision that, by itself, is going to affect the states current situation one way or the other. Unless, of course, it's used as a political ax to continue to bash politicians with and, in the end, worsens the poisonous atmospher.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 6:04 pm

POGO -
Here's a caption from an article in the New York Times today:
"Iraq's elections are among the most free in the region, but the nation's politics are more vibrant than its institutions,threatening the democratic experiment."
Remove the first line and you're left with:
"the nation's politics are more vibrant than its institutions,threatening the democratic experiment."
I'm concerned that this may describing the current situation in this country. Respect for our government institutions is at such a low ebb and the Tea Party conservatives are so vociferous that rational discussion and a willingness to compromise are disappearing. Both are not only lacking in the US Congress and Sacramento, they're increasingly rare in everyday discussions, such as these.
Within the past 2 weeks we've seen a man mad at government fly his plane into an IRS office and another fly to Washington to try and shoot his way into another office. I have to wonder if anarchy isn't already being loosed onto the land.
How do we reverse this attitude of negativism that has us on this downward spire?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Steve -

The guy who flew into the IRS office had decidely left wing leanings. Read his manifesto - he was no tea party proponent (in fact, he abhorred them). Yes, there was a mad man who shot up the Pentagon this week and there was another mad man who shot an anti-abortionist a few months ago. It proves that there are nut cases on both sides.

You seem like a smart, reasonable guy so let's stipulate that Republicans are rich, selfish, and started the war in Iraq and that Democrats are pro-union appeasers who are weak on defense. I'm kidding, of course, to make my point.

Whenever I hear Sean Hannity or Keith Olberman rail against the left or right, respectively, under my breath I often say "yes, and so does the other party." For every Tom Delay there is a Charles Rangel. For every Mark Foley there is an Eric Massa. For every Mark Sanford there is an Elliot Spitzer. I'm repulsed by all of them.

Democrats say that Republicans aren't bipartisan because they aren't accepting their legislative proposals. But the Democrats don't accept the Republican's proposals either... so what should that be called? In my mind, if your ideas don't appeal to even one member of the opposition - WHETHER YOU ARE REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT - then your ideas are flawed.

The relevance to this thread is this. Democrats, who control 49 of the Assembly's 79 current seats (there is one vacancy), cannot seem to win the support of just 4 Republicans to pass their budget! So who's being responsible - Republicans for resisting tax increases or Democrats for not reducing spending? The answer correlates perfectly to your personal political affiliation and that's the shame.

So with overwhelming majorities in both houses, I hold Speaker Bass and Democrats (and I am a life-long Democrat) responsible for California's problems. Saving a few dollars here or there is commendable, but even Willie Brown has said that state spending, largely in the form of salaries, pensions and hiring are totally out of control.

So, yes, I object when Speaker Bass sets a fine example by arrogantly "taking care of her own" by giving them big raises and promotions during her last hour of power. Please don't make excuses for her; I'm sure Charlie Rangel had good reasons for failing to report his taxes. That's not the point, Steve.

It's the pure insolence and arrogance for taxpayers that's offensive. Unfortunately, I'm completely convinced the Republicans will do the same thing when it's their turn to take over. Remember that "swamp" that Pelosi wanted to drain? Sounds horribly ironic, doesn't it?


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 6, 2010 at 8:10 am

Steve, my suggestion would be to stop the fiscal rape of the taxpayer at the hands of the public sector unions and the corrupt politicians in their pockets.

You asked for evidence that the public employees were overpaid. In the past two years, the unemployment rate in California has more than doubled, from around 5% to 12.2% now. There is a vast pool of unemployed, skilled workers available to hire. That means that the market wage has decreased, probably significantly. Where are the public sector wage and benefit reductions to match the new lower level of economic activity that we find ourselves confronted with in the private sector? I see a number of fig-leaf initiatives that do not come close to the scale of the problem (probably a 25-40% reduction in overall compensation is needed).

It is the obligation of our government to provide service at a fair market price. What we observe in fact is a fat, corrupt, overpaid government with every level feeding at the teat of the taxpayer.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Joe-
A couple thoughts about your suggestion to reduce govt salaries 25-40%.
1)Are salaries in the private sector also being reduced an equivalent amount? Not that I'm aware of. Raises perhaps are reduced but I haven't heard of across the board salary reductions. Your idea that when the unemployment rate increases that salaries should be reduced is, fortunately, not widely shared.
2) Besides, reducing salaries is exactly the last thing you want to do during a recession. This only reduces consumer spending, increase loan defaults, bankruptcies, and general misery and extends the recession, making it that much more difficult for the economy to recover.
Don't you remember the lessons of the great depression? It took govt jobs to pull us out of that one - WPA jobs and the like at first and then factory jobs paid for with military contracts once the war started.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 5:40 pm

There was a news story today that Google executives - GOOGLE - just gave a few executives an 11% salary raise. By the way, these executives didn't receive any raise last year either.

So these employees of a virtually bankrupt government received raises that were roughly equivalent to those given to executives at arguably one of the most financially successful, richest private companies in the world (perhaps in history). But I'm sure they were all well deserved. Yeah, that sounds about right, Steve.

And yes, I'm well aware that these executives have stock options that make them rich. I think you get my point about the salary increase.

Still waiting for a good explanation why Karen Bass did this honorable thing at midnight on her last day in office...

No wonder this state is bankrupt. Only a voter who doesn't think this dead of night giveaway stinks is more bankrupt.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 5:52 pm

POGO-
First, if Charlie Rangel didn't pay his taxes, he broke the law and should be dealt with accordingly. Speaker Bass gave her staff raises, which is not against the law as far as I know. Totally inappropriate to lump the two together like that.
Second, recall that Bass let several staff go to save money. Presumably the work those folks performed didn't go away but simply got added to the workload of her remaining staff. Hence the promotions and raises - to compensate them for their added duties.
Third, since they hadn't received raises in the past several years, then I'm not sure I agree that a 10% raise is out of line. After all we've seen 7% inflation in the past 3 years so 10% just gets them a little ahead of where they were 3 years ago. Social security COLAS during this period totaled 8% so a 10% raise seems pretty prudent to me.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 6:14 pm

POGO-
I can't believe you wrote this:
"So these employees of a virtually bankrupt government received raises that were roughly equivalent to those given to executives at arguably one of the most financially successful, richest private companies in the world."
The Google execs got raises of $50,000 for heavens sake!
The state worker's raises ranged from $3,000 to $7,000. Add up the raises for all 20 employees and they don't equal the raises of these 2 Execs.
And you conveniently neglected to mention that the Execs got cash bonuses of $2 million and $1.7 million on top of their raises!
I don't begrudge the execs their compensation. I like Google a lot and am glad they're successful and can pay their people well - even exorbitantly. I just don't see why you're busting a blood vessel over a modest raise for some low level state employee.


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 6, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Yep, both my wife and I are currently and have been working for the last 11 months with salary reductions of 10%. This also means that there are no bonuses paid (even previously accrued bonuses).

One one hand, I feel happy that I make less because I will pay less taxes, and therefor not fund unjust wars, but on the other hand we simply have less money for my young boy, less money to want to vote for additional property taxes, etc.

So when we talk about cost of living adjustments, I am simply happy to have a job and be able to pay my mortgage and property taxes.

(I am glad to see people actually get some of my points)

The reality is that I would gladly vote to spend my money on schools in general , and especially in the town I live in. My reality is that I have little extra money to do so and consider the current $40 a day I already spend enough for what benefits I get.

If the current council was truthful, they would have put the entire amount needed on the ballot and seen what the vote would be. Instead they (or he) can up with a dollar figure based on a silly selling point of .50 a day, which is admittedly short of the amount needed. So what we are left with is just another money grab in a long list of upcoming money grabs. If the total amount is justified, then put it on the ballot, make your case, and see where things fall out.

Since no one is really being truthful, the vote should become a hard one for voters.

If you actually drive around Menlo Park you will see the amount of "for rent" signs around and realize that there may just not be the demand necessary for landlords to pass the amount on. (what this also might mean that is the projections of additional students may not come true) I am a consultant by profession, so I have also done projections that do not pan out once reality starts (definition=something changes).

So what should we do. I will still vote no and so should you.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 6, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Steve, I just wanted to correct your statement that I call for a 25-40% reduction in public employee salaries. Actually I call for that reduction in overall compensation. We should all become well aware that public sector benefits, especially pensions, far outstrip equivalent private sector benefits. So cutting salaries alone does not come close to addressing the problem.


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Posted by steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 11:29 pm

New Guy-
As I understand it, the school board and Superintendent are asking for only half of what it needs precisely because th understand that many residents are barely scraping by during this down economy. By making cuts, holding back on raises, and dipping into the reserve fund they hope the parcel tax will be enough to maintain the current level of quality until the economy recovers and both state funding and local property tax receipts improve.
Mel from Atherton explained things very clearly in a couple of earlier posts that I'm copying here:
"The Parcel tax is on the ballot because the School Board, after already making cuts to the budget this year, determined there was no way to come close to maintaining the district's quality education while having to support a huge surge in enrollment and weather $1.4 million additional cuts from the state without raising additional funds. And, on a side note, unlike teachers in some other districts, the teachers in our district have received minimal to no increases in salaries/benefits over the past couple years."
"if you look in the directory,you can see that some of our 4th grade classes already have 25 and 26 students in them. And if you spend time in these particular classes, you can see how much more difficult it is for the teachers in these classes as compared to the teachers in classes with 22 or so children to give each child adequate attention. If Parcel Tax C doesn't pass, we're looking at 28 plus students in a number of 4th and 5th grade classes. This absolutely isn't conducive to a strong education for our children. Yes, they'll survive, yes, most of them are resilient, but is this really what you want for our children when for 50 cents a day we can do so much better?"
I no longer have kids in the school system but I will still vote in favor of the parcel tax. It's not about the teachers or teachers' union or the administration - it's about doing what's best for the kids.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Joe-
I don't think the difference is quite as great as you claim, at least in terms of salary. When you get into benefits, it gets complicated and varies as much between local' state' and federal as it probably does between retail, manufacturing and hi tech.
Here's a comparison published a year ago of salaries for different occupations in federal and private service. In some jobs the feds make more, in other jobs they make less. Here,s the link: Web Link
Nearly 40 percent of government employees told CareerBuilder.com they are dissatisfied with their spot on the government's pay scale. One-in-four were not given a raise last year and 86 percent did not see a bonus.

But do typical government workers really make that much less? It depends on the occupation. The following list compares average salaries in the public sector with nationwide averages, based on 2005 data from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Attorney
Government average: $105,577
Nationwide average: $110,520

Financial Manager
Government average: $95,257
Nationwide average: $96,620

Economist
Government average: $89,441
Nationwide average: $80,900

Microbiologist:
Government average: $80,798
Nationwide average: $63,360

Architect
Government average: $80,777
Nationwide average: $68,560

Accountant
Government average: $74,907
Nationwide average: $58,020

Librarian
Government average: $74,630
Nationwide average: $49,110

Human Resources Manager
Government average: $71,232
Nationwide average: $89,950

Nurse
Government average: $60,935
Nationwide average: $56,880

Tax examiner
Government average: $36,963
Nationwide average: $49,460

Medical Technician
Government average: $35,526
Nationwide average: $33,170


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 7, 2010 at 8:31 am

Steve, it is not surprising that 40% of government employees were dissatisfied with their pay, despite receiving 50% more compensation than comparable private sector employees, being nearly impossible to fire, having only a 75% chance of receiving a raise, and a mere 14% chance of a bonus, all in the midst of private sector devastation and layoffs the greatest since the 1930s.

There is simply no sense of entitlement greater than that of the members of our public sector unions.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 7, 2010 at 9:57 am

Editor's Note: Post removed. Focus on the topic, not on attacking other posters.


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Posted by Mel
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:01 am

For anyone referring to the numbers that 'Numbers' posted a few days ago comparing the Menlo Park City School District to Burlingame, there were a number (pun intended) of conclusions that were drawn based on numbers that are an inaccurate reflection of reality. Here's one to start with regarding property values. If I have time down the road, I'll point out a few more having to do with the API comparison.

Property Values: The Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) is not solely comprised of the 94025 zip code. A large portion of the 94027 zip code, which has significantly higher average home prices, is within the district's boundaries as well. Likewise, the entire 94025 zip is not in the MPCSD district. Many of these homes, significantly less expensive homes, are in the Ravenswood school district and some are I believe in the Redwood City school district. Therefore,it's completely invalid to draw the conclusion that the quality of the MPCSD schools doesn't drive higher property values based on a comparison of a Burlingame zip code and a Menlo Park zip code. (For those sensitive to grammar and spelling, please ignore the mistakes - this isn't my forte, I'm short on time to proofread and I had a lousy public school education in Los Angeles;-))



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Posted by Mel
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm

A follow up to my post above regarding the impact of the quality of a school district to the surrounding property values: You'll find that if you compare homes in Atherton that are in the MPCSD district to similar homes in Atherton that are in the Redwood City district, the MPCSD homes will be selling at a noticeable premium. Likewise, if you compare homes in Menlo Park that are in the MPCSD to like homes in Menlo Park that are in the Ravenswood District, you will also see a significant premium in property values. I don't have the data in front of me to share for this one, but I'm sure a realtor or someown with street level sales data could verify.

From a purely economic point of view, forgetting about the importance to society of having high quality public schools, voting YES on measure C is the right thing to do for your pocketbook if you're a property owner within the MPCSD boundary. As I believe Steve mentioned above, it might be hard for a few residents in the short run, and that's one of the reasons it was decided to not ask for the full amount needed to completely cover the 2010/2011 deficit.


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Posted by generationslong deeproots residents
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Of course education is important - absolutely!
But consider this, we must be the only school district in the vicinity, building, and building and building throughout our district. Has it occurred to anyone to just slow down and/or halt the process for awhile? Sure we want the best for all our kids but at what expense? Most surrounding school districts are experiencing a lot more pain compared to our district- So remember every time the district extends their hand and whines for more money to “Save our Schools" shouldn't they be thinking about other ways of conserving our precious resources, before they start to build, and build and build and build. Perhaps making the necessary sacrifices as we all have needed to do in this bad economy makes more sense for the time being. No, "the sky isn't quite falling yet", we'll get through this.


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Posted by Facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 8:00 am

What do you mean no one else is building? Las Lomitas renovated and expanded all their facilities just a few years ago to name a few. So did Portola Valley and Woodside. And none of those districts is experiencing the amount of growth in enrollment that we are.


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Posted by Facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 8:05 am

Also, I don't want to just "get through this". I want Menlo Park schools to be top quality. The children deserve this, and our community will be better for it.


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Posted by Truth B Told~
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:56 am


"Lead by example" has the right idea-

“did anyone ask if Ken would cut his $250K annual salary by 10%,
which, by the way, Stanford's Prez and Provost announced last year with their belt tightening.
What about the Facilities/Construction Mgmt. payroll?
Lot of new oversized buildings for music, art, science, but not enough teachers to make use of them.
Sometimes you have to speak up to be heard"


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Posted by Peets Coffee Drinker~
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Yikes!!!
When did Peets raise the price of lattes to $7.00 ???


(BTW, Be Skeptical the correct spelling is PEETS not Petes)


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Posted by Truth B Told~
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 3:00 pm

To: Facts: You should wake up and smell the $7.00 PEETs latte-

You just like everyone else will have to "get through it" for now. Picked up a newspaper or listened to the news lately? When you come out of your protected bubble? We are in a bad economy and the recovery is slow- Just like everyone else we are just trying to hang on and yes,
"get through it." quoting the previous resident "the sky isn't falling yet."


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Posted by Mel
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:10 pm

The building that is going on in the district is due to an increase in enrollment of approximately 700 children over the past 7 years. The district simply didn't have the capacity with the existing classrooms and facilities to hold all these children.

The funds that are being used for the new classrooms and buildings are Bond funds. These funds can't be used for any other purpose. There is an oversight committee comprised of regular citizens (that are not employed by the district) to ensure the funds are being utilized as specified in the bond. As a matter of fact, members of the committee submitted an audit report to the School Board this evening confirming that the funds are being used properly.

The district already tightened it's belt by over 1/2 million dollars this year. There's no fat to cut at this point. Yes, other districts are in distress as well (as are other states and other countries) but that's not a reason to let our schools go down a rat hole. Vote yes on Measure C to keep our schools strong!


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Posted by Susan B Real
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 11, 2010 at 5:40 pm

It is very easy for some of the residents who have posted here to look at this through Rose Colored Glasses- It is simple, Just remove them and you'll see the fat, It is there "

As far as our schools “going down a rat hole “ ??? Not quite, our schools will do nothing of the sort whether C passes or not. Come on, isn't that a bit extreme? you know that is not what will happen to our schools.

Could this be another “chill factor" in an attempt to scare the locals? Could be.

To reiterate, “Lead by example, did anyone ask if Ken would cut his $250K annual salary by 10%, which, by the way, Stanford's Perez and Provost announced last year with their belt tightening" Choices are tough right now " when it comes time to vote each individual will know what their vote will be " with out any bullying " It's still a free country isn't it?

Thank you.


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Posted by Thursday NIght Lights
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 11, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Go check out the forum on the Board's cost cutting actions last night with pink slips for teachers, then follow the web link to their proposed overspending on new facilities to be approved at a special Friday afternoon meeting (as in tomorrow 3/12)
Do we really need palatial facilities and professional quality playing fields for quality educational instruction when our district bonded indebtedness is expected to exceed $125 MIllion (not including State bonds) and we are cutting essential teaching staff?
Some kind of accountability besides insider wink and nod scrutiny is desperately needed to get a balance on our priority spending


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Posted by Truth B Told~
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Finally, someone gets it and has the courage to state it.

Thank you, "Thursday NIght Lights, a resident of the Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks neighborhood" for your post.


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Posted by WhoRuPeople
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2010 at 8:50 am

Personally, I normally support ballot issues that involve funding for schools. However, my advice is to send a very clear, and meaningful message to the District Board with a resounding NO vote on Measure C. Maybe it will help them get the message.


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Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Hello, Mel - I couldn't resist your invitation to take a quick look at assessments by town by school district. This is a quick look off the 2009 assessors rolls -- there are lots of factors to consider beyond averages -- but it does support your basic contention that school districts matter in home prices.

Looking only at those homes that have sold from Jan 1999 - Jun 2009:

In Atherton ...
164 SFRs in Las Lomitas, averaging $5.3M current assessed valuation
437 SFRs in MPCSD, averaging $4.7M
208 SFRs in the Redwood City School District, averaging $3.9M

In Menlo Park ...
413 SFRs in Las Lomitas averaging $1.5M
2008 in Menlo Park averaging $1.4M ($52K less than LL on average)
380 SFRs in Ravenswood averaging $.4M (yes, $362K)

Perhaps most interesting is the fact that condos (which typically do not house school children) show, in Menlo Park,
269 in Las Lomitas averaging $557K
215 in MPCSD averaging $675K
This might suggest that the small academic edge that Las Lomitas typically demonstrates over MPCSD translates into a very measurable difference for family housing. (Certainly, the comparison with either RWC or Ravenswood suggests that in spades.)

Of course, another interpretation might be that small differences in average valuation, which drive small differences in tax collections, which turn into somewhat larger differences in spending/pupil, turn into measurable academic differences. Las Lomitas spends $14.0K per pupil; Menlo Park CSD $11.6K. LL has an API of 967 and runs about 3-4% more children of the total in "Advanced" STAR test results than MPCSD with its 934 API. (Otherwise, both districts are very similar demographically with almost 2/3 of all families with graduate degrees, 2/3 white, 7-8% hispanic, etc.)

While I'm fascinated by the idea of a social experiment that would drop spending per pupil by $1000+ and see what happened, it seems that the "I bet it wouldn't make any difference" is an air bet, while the "Oops, it did," is both real $ and real lives.





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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Results of the Parcel Tax vote are in and Menlo Park voters approved it with 76% in favor.
If "Don't shoot 'til you see the whites of their eyes" is still reading, that's the evidence you asked for that "70% of this specific community, the people of this specific area, support CSR and a parcel tax."


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