Posted by Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm
I'm sure we'll be seeing encouraging comments shortly that the Measure C tax is going to keep home values strong for everyone, is only 50 cents a day, and is only 7 years long. Let me beat you to the punch.
Menlo Park residents already contribute about $600 a year as a parcel tax for school operations. This tax grows with inflation and has no expiry date. We also are paying for multimillion bond issues for school capital projects. Voting no on this additional school-destined parcel tax is not going to send up the red flag that Menlo Park does not adequately fund our school and cause a drop in home values. On the contrary---I think it will send the message that our city and constituents are fiscally responsible. The impact to school services is going to be negligible---with some small increase in class size, and reduction of some spanish and pe teachers.
Only 50 cents a day? How about $5.00 a day/kid? That's how much it would cost 2/3 of the school parents to pay in extra contributions to the menlo park school foundation to cover the shortfalls in the projected budget. I pay to send my kids to private school as it offers a different syllabus (i.e. *not* everyday math) and focus than the public schools. I'm willing to pay the substantially larger amount of annual cost since it is important for me---and let me tell you that it requires some financial sacrifice. If the programs on the cutting board are so important to Menlo Park school parents, let them make the relatively small additional financial commitment.
7 years long? Why 7 years long? If this measure were to pass, then supposedly our home values (i.e. by dint of attraction to Menlo Park schools) will stay strong so why should we expect there to be a sudden turndown in school enrollment? The expiry date is simply a self-serving measure to make the parcel tax seem more palatable now and is deferring the problems of an inflated school operational budget to taxpayers and parents 7 years down the road. Of course, the school parents who are hyping this measure now are not worried about that as their kids will be out of elementary school by then, so who cares?
Vote NO on Measure C
Force budget accountability at every level in our cities
Posted by been there, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 2:08 pm
Didn't we just pass a parcel tax for the schools last year? It was sold to us as a renewal of an existing tax and not a new one. I guess if we were fed the bait last time they will set the hook this time. Education is important and schools always are needing more but there has to be a limit. The limit has been reached for me here.
Posted by Elizabeth Ouren, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 2:13 pm
As an involved parent with 2 children at Encinal, I have attended almost every school board meeting for last several years. I have seen the school board discuss difficult choices about how to use the money available to provide the best education to the students in this district. I believe they have done an outstanding job of managing the budget responsibly.
The school board took responsible action last year and made serious cuts. However, the new funding cutbacks from the State this year at a time of growing costs due to higher enrollment has created a new large gap. The cuts required would not only cause larger class sizes and the loss of our wonderful PE teachers and Spanish teachers, but also a reduction in services by our school librarians, school counselors, Vice-principals, special education specialist, etc. Each of those positions provides important support and service to the student.
The one school counselor is an important resource for kids that are experiencing troubles at home or school. She also runs important programs that prevent bullying and teach problem resolution. It is very concerning to imagine a school of 700 kids without a school counselor to provide this important service.
Many parents have given generously to the Menlo Park foundation however this gap is too large for the public school parents to bridge on their own. This is the time for our community to support our public schools. Strong public schools help educate the children of our community to create our next generation of responsible and caring citizens and ensure a thriving community.
Please vote YES on Measure C
Let's show our kids that we care about them! You can make a difference!
Posted by Concerned parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 2:21 pm
I would just like to point out a few inaccuracies in your statement - "Get Real." First, it isn't just a few P.E.and Spanish teachers and a small increase in class size that will be impacted if we don't pass this parcel tax. 14 certified teachers have already been laid off and there will be a significant reduction in services in the areas of art, music, P.E., science, foreign languages and libraries that will be impacted. Also, services to under-performing students will be reduced or eliminated.
Second, the district has already made considerable changes given the economic environment (i.e. class sizes have already gone up) and the MPCSD operates on an incredibly lean budget - 88% of the district's budget is personnel with only 12% going to overhead. Anyone in the nonprofit industry would agree that this administrative overhead % is very low.
While you may be fortunate enough to send your kids to private school, there are many families in Menlo Park who cannot afford to do so. I am a public school advocate who believes great schools = great communities and given my work in education over the past 20 years I think public schools are capable of providing just as strong of an education, if not better, than private schools.
I'd like to keep our schools and communities strong - for ALL kids, regardless of socio-economic status. YES on Measure C!
Posted by Put the Money in Education, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 2:27 pm
Whether or not YOUR child is in a private school or not, we are ALL affected by the quality of education the children of our nation receive. While Menlo Park's Measure C does not cure ALL the ails of our community, and does not cure the ails of our surrounding communities, it can at least patch up the holes that the State of California has left in our education budget. This is one opportunity where you know exactly where your tax dollars are going - that $178 per year will go to the Menlo Park CIty School District, and nowhere else.
Under-educated citizens are on a fast-track to jail and/or welfare. And I have no desire to pay more taxes for jail nor welfare. It is the children in the public school system right now who will be paying into the tax system a few decades from now when I am elderly. Those kids will be running the country later - educate them now.
Posted by Willows Gal, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm
Thanks everyone for the comments.
Just a few points: There was not a parcel tax last year. The last one was in 2003.
To clarify something that has popped up on this thread over and over: it is really a mistake to assume that everyone in favor of Measure C is either (a) a groupie, or (b) someone only in it for their own children. That's just not so. People who care about this come from every demographic---they don't all believe the same things, they aren't all members of the same political parties and they don't all have the same facts of life. Not at all. What they do seem to share, however, is an understanding that education finance is broken and a parcel tax is the most efficient and effective currently available way to soften the draconian affects that this is having on kids and communities all over California. That and a desire to take problems on as a community in a cooperative and reasonable manner.
So, to the specifics---7 years is no made up number. It correlates exactly with the demographic studies the District had done which indicate that the geometric arc of growth will level.
All the facts are out there--anyone can read them on the Measure C website and the MPSCD website---what we're dealing with now is the question of what kind of community we want to be--and my enduring hope is that the answer to this question is this: the kind of community that knows that the future is our kids and our schools.
Posted by Neth, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm
I'm writing to respond to Get Real's message:
Firat, a good education provided to all kids in our community is a benefit to the whole community. It should not be a requirement that a parent pay the local public schools to ensure their child has a great education.
Second, the impact from these cuts if Measure C does not pass is not "negligible" as Get Real states. I would invite Get Real to attend the next school board meeting on April 13th to hear the long list of teachers and staff that will be fired, and programs that will be reduced (not just PE and spanish) if Measure C does not pass.
Finally, contrary to Get Real's assertion, many of us who are working on Measure C (including myself) will still have kids in the K-8 schools in 7 years when this tax expires. The 7 year term was chosen because the demographer hired by the school board projects a decrease in enrollment at that time. In addition, our hope is that two things other will happen over the next 7 years:
1. state revenue to education will increase some or all of the current cuts will be restored;
2. Local property taxes will start growing again
I understand that there are many in the community who don't want to pay for another tax, and they are entitled to their opinion and to their vote, but let's have a constructive conversation and get the facts straight instead of snide comments like the ones Get Real is making.
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:21 pm
Too bad Ranella isn't accountable to anyone, except for handpicked groupies who are eminently agreeable. During the good years, he increased the level of spending, replacing enthusiastic and highly qualified parent volunteers with paid personnel and snapping up whatever new technology he could find. Somewhere along the way he even managed to build himself a brand new office despite the fact that the existing district building was in good shape (I personally spent many hours there) and there was no public discussion of the need for a replacement. Our district has never had such an arrogant empire builder in the superintendent role.
I also dispute much of the district's hype and am positive that our students will continue to receive a fine education after cuts are made. The teachers will be no less dedicated, and if the students needs some kind of enrichment, the parents will provide it.
My main concern about the failure of this tax is that some of the best and brightest teachers will lose their jobs. Too bad the election can't include a referendum on Ken Ranella, whose record of mismanagement is unparalleled in our district.
Posted by Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm
"Concerned": Who's being inaccurate? First, there have been no layoffs as of yet---only notices. Furthermore, it is 14 positions, not current teachers. With the normal turnover and retirees the district sees, it will likely be somewhere in 3-8 range of actual layoffs. Have you been to any of the school board meetings regarding these cutbacks or read the reductions option documents produced by Ranella and available on the school board district site?
Your second point doesn't hold water either. The 87% personnel costs include administration (see Web Link). I can't find any breakdown of budget showing dollars paid to teachers in teaching positions vs. all other personnel dollars. Please post a link if you find it. Given the operating budget does not include capital expenditures (funded through bond measure) it is expected that the bulk of the costs be personnel related. Unlike industry, they aren't actually manufacturing product.
The public school system is already receiving >$10,000/kid for education---how much do you need? Your third paragraph seems to hit the nail on the head---you want your public school to be better than any other school, public or privtate. Well---I'm sorry, I don't send my kids to the best private school on the peninsula, and I fail to see why I should continue to pay more and more so you can turn your public school into a matching cadillac institution. Be happy that you aren't required to pay extra for an already excellent program. If you want something better, be prepared to accept that it should be your responsibility.
Posted by Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:28 pm
"Put the Money in Education" : I'm very sorry to hear that a reduction in spanish/pe teachers/extra librarian help/a relocation of a vice-principal to a teaching spot is going to result in your children ending up in our correctional institutions. I would recommend this parenting guide: Web Link
Posted by Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm
I would agree that my comment advocating a certain parent-help book was snide (also kind of humorous)--but not my earlier statements.
Menlo Park has an excellent public school system already, and it will continue to remain excellent even in the event that Measure C fails, in my opinion. This is what I mean by the impacts being negligible. I understand that it is your opinion that these impacts are significant. It is, however, a *matter* of opinion.
I am expressing my opinion and promoting a constructive conversation. Why not have parents put more of a personal stake in their kids' education if they want their school to be the best possible system? Otherwise there is spending without real oversight, and where other to get the best possible oversight other than the parents?
I repeat, if the Menlo Park school parents can't see their way to paying extra for what are extra services, in *my* opinion, then why expect the general community to?
Posted by School Parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 4:20 pm
I would have to agree with Get Real about the spending oversight. I have had kids go from Laurel through Hillview and, if anything, have been shocked by the amount of spending going on within the schools. I haven't said anything about it since it's only been a benefit to my kids, and I would probably be branded a pariah at the school, but it seems a little selfish in the current economic climate to be going after extra tax dollars now. Just my two cents.
Posted by Concerned parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm
"Get Real:" Actually, I have attended the majority of school board meetings since our 1st child began kindergarten 5 years ago - specifically the budget related ones - as I want to be informed about how our district is spending money. I have attended EVERY school board meeting since this budget crisis hit this past fall. You are wrong - 14 certificated classroom teachers have been LAID OFF and they will only be reinstated if the Measure C parcel tax passes. Additionally, other non-certified staff will be let go in mid-May. Maybe you should attend more board meetings so that you don't misrepresent what this parcel tax means for the district.
88% of the district's budget is spent on personnel - meaning teacher salaries & benefits. I believe Ken Ranella has one secretary to fulfill all administrative duties for his staff. What other CEO has one assistant to cover his/her entire executive team? Your claim that we aren't manufacturing a product is ridiculous - what could be more important than producing responsible, educated children? I don't know of any product that's more important than that.
To your last point, we should all expect the best education for our children, regardless of whether it's a public school or private school education. Every child deserves that.
Posted by Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 5:01 pm
"Concerned:" Notices have gone out, but there has been no teacher who as a result is no longer coming to work. Ken Ranella announced himself at a board meeting (yes, I have gone to them, imagine that) that the actual people who would lose their jobs would be significantly less than the number of positions that were cut. Below is a quote from the mpcsd website:
"When the state faces a difficult or uncertain budget, school districts must prepare for the worst and hope for the best. They have to adopt their preliminary budgets by June 30, regardless of state action or inaction. They are also required by law to provide notice by March 15 to most employees, particularly teachers, if layoffs are a possibility. Yet they may not know the exact amount of revenue they will be able to spend until months later. This is why teachers sometimes receive layoff notices (or “pink slips”) but ultimately keep their jobs. The bulk of school district expenditures go to employee salaries and benefits—more than 80% in most districts."
Maybe you should stop misrepresenting. And for the record, I don't think anyone will be able to state with 100% certitude who will actually be laid off. Depending on additional funding from MPAEF and last-minute dollar savings that Ken and staff can find, the most that can be said is that it is likely some of the staff who received pink slips will actually stop coming to work.
My comment regarding product should have been obvious---the primary expense in the operational school budget (which does not include the capital development) is naturally personnel related. I'm not sure if your inference was ridiculous or disingenuous. There are no significant material costs to the school related in producing responsible, educated children unlike a firm assembling a computer for instance. And of course the product is important to me---I make significant personal volunteer efforts and financial outlay to achieve that goal.
I disagree with your statement that the 88% covers only teacher salaries and benefits---the budget breakdown that is posted at MPCSD does not indicate what salaries and benefits are for actual in-class teachers vs. other certificated staff such as librarians, principals, vice-principals, vice supers, etc. As I read it, this 88% also includes non-certificated staff---which I assume (but do not know) are secretaries, maintenance staff, etc.) If you have an actual document that you can point me and others to that disproves my interpretation of the budget I have referenced, I'd be happy to acknowledge my error.
Bottom-line is that I think there is a point to be made to the community that even with Measure C failing, Menlo Park will still be offering an excellent public educational system.
Posted by new guy, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 10:18 pm
Vote no on C.
I met with reps from the initiative at the library. They all had very nice matching vests with logos printed on them. Maybe you should have spend that money on the schools instead of vests.
The rep told me the same lies you are being told by the yes crowd that clearly just does not understand what is going on.
Basically she told me that funding is going down. When I asked if that was true or if it was just that funding was not going up, she broke down and said I was correct. Then she went on a rant about property taxes not going up. I then asked her how much they have increased in the last 7 years, which she stated that they went up 7% a year each year basically increasing the budget by the same amount.
When I continued to question her, it all comes down to the same argument that she wants "OTHER PEOPLES MONEY."
When I questioned her about the amount of the tax being less than what was needed and that they should have asked for what was needed if it was SO important to her. She had no answer to this and reverted to the same statement that the amount to vote on will save vital programs.
Vote no on C. Budgets cannot keep going up 7% a year just because. I and many taxpayers in this town have taken pay cuts and face not getting raises for some time due to this recession. Lets get real. Stop accepting the lies.
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2010 at 10:37 pm
>>What other CEO has one assistant to cover his/her entire executive team?<<
Sorry, can't let this one pass.
Remember, the primary work of the district occurs at the schools, which are independent operating entities fully staffed with principals, secretaries, maintenance crew, etc. Ken and his office are overhead.
Anyway, I pulled out my school directory just to see how huge Ken's in-house empire is. Grand total: 12 people, including Ken. Of those twelve, three have the title of "secretary": Secretary--Student Services, Secretary to the Superintendent, District Office Secretary.
I don't know about the rest of you, but it's pretty rare in private industry to have one secretary in an office -- we've all gotten used to doing our own typing, meeting arrangements, and copying -- but 25% of the district office is at the secretarial level. Wow.
I'm still waiting for Ken to take a pay cut. Just a token 10 or 20% to show he's got his heart in the right place. He could even save a few teachers' jobs without having to miss a car payment. Aint gonna happen though, is it?
Posted by Linfield Guy, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 8, 2010 at 10:00 am
I am not an expert on the issues but I totally agree with Neth's comment that "a good education provided to all kids in our community is a benefit to the whole community". This district has developed a very strong reputation as a place for kids to get a good public education, it was a big factor in our decision to buy a home in Menlo Park, and to me it seems an additional parcel tax is a small price to pay.
Our youngest will be graduating out of the district soon, but we will continue to do what we can to support the schools. Having said that, I agree that we should push for accountability and make sure the leadership is making the right decisions. The schools aren't perfect, but if you talk to people in most other nearby districts I think you will find that we have a lot to be thankful for.
Posted by Willow Mom, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Apr 8, 2010 at 11:07 am
As a new "school age" parent, just entering the district, I was blown away by the quality of the teachers and the schools in Menlo Park. We didn't have children when we bought our homes, and honestly I assumed I would be sending my children to private schools. But looking at the choices, the schools in our neighborhood are amazing. They teacher student ratio is phenomenal, and I can imagine that Get Real may not have understood that looking for something different in her child's education. Please support these amazing public schools, and get the facts about a district in the top 5% before you decide to sink the schools in with other mediocre districts.
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 8, 2010 at 12:45 pm
Lots of koolaid to go around today.
Willow Mom, you didn't check out the quality of schools when you bought a house? Me either, and I had a baby. Guess we're not exactly proof that the quality of schools is a key selling point for homebuyers!
Doomsday scenarios aside, the quality of this district is not going to decline if the tax fails. Do the research. When the economy went south in the 1990s, the then-superintendent increased class sizes instead of taxes. Parents stepped in to help with math and computers and art. And you know what? Those kids did fine. They got into Ivy League schools and Stanford and the better UCs. Our kids will too.
The secret to high-performing schools lies in having students from educated, involved families. Our kids' parents aren't suddenly going to get stupid because the tax fails. In fact, failure of the tax might be proof that we parents are actually smarter than Ken and the board seem to think.
Posted by Private School Parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Apr 8, 2010 at 1:30 pm
We are enrolling our KG'er into a private school---we'd hoped to get into the Spanish Immersion program (a really excellent opportunity in our view) but didn't make a high enough cut in the lottery. As a result, we're enrolling in a private school that does offer Spanish as well as a few other features we like.
Notwithstanding that we are enrolling in private school, we will be supporting Measure C. It's a small contribution to make to keep the community schools operating at a high level and only reflects well on Menlo Park as a place to live. I disagree with some No proponents---I believe that a failed Measure C will be something new homebuyers see as a negative.
Posted by Hamilton Park, a resident of the Menlo Park: Belle Haven neighborhood, on Apr 8, 2010 at 3:55 pm
I'm all for supporting public education (especially as a product of local public schools), but as a resident of Belle Haven, it is very difficult to support further institutionalizing the inequities between Ravenswood and the other MP districts. With reluctance, we'll be enrolling our KG'er in private school...which is already huge "tax" on my parcel.
Posted by new guy, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Apr 10, 2010 at 7:18 pm
No on C.
Count 2 no votes already in the mail.
The propaganda message I received in the mail is just plain silly. Unfortunately there was nothing in it other than quotes from people asking for my money. There was no messages about what the money will actually do, or why there is nowhere to save the amount needed.
The only benefit to me and my wife not getting bonuses, raises, working for the last 16 months with salary reductions of 10% was that I was paying less taxes.
It is time for the rest to accept the new reality. The farce that you need to pay teachers increasingly more money each year is over for a long time. Get used to it.
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 10, 2010 at 9:32 pm
I got my Measure C brochure in the mail today, along with my ballot. What a nauseating little puff piece filled with exaggerated statements and pictures of affluent, almost exclusively white residents.
I have been leaning toward a Yes vote because I felt sorry for the teachers, some of whom I know, who may lose their jobs. But I am now pretty sure I am going to vote No. Time for a wakeup call, MPCSD. There's a real world out there that you have somehow managed to ignore, and your arrogance is going to be your downfall.
Posted by Local Mom, a resident of the Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle neighborhood, on Apr 11, 2010 at 12:13 am
Please vote Yes on Measure C
Our local public schools need our help. It is in our communities best interest for many reasons to keep our local public schools strong. Property Values are related to our great public schools and it's also good to have well educated children living in our neighborhoods. I would like all children to have access to a great education, not just those who can afford private school. Programs that have taken years to develop and implement are at risk and it will take them years to return if they are cut.
Please Vote Yes on C - Until our state government recovers it will be up to neighborhood communities to provide our children with a solid education.
One last thing I would like to comment on. I believe our community has higher hopes for our kids than not going to jail. I know that the economy is down, but that's the time to figure out what is really important - education is really important. It's our future and that's what I want to invest in.
Posted by Local Mom, a resident of the Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle neighborhood, on Apr 11, 2010 at 12:14 am
There was also some incorrect information about the district office and their employees. Here are the employees that are at the district office. It is a lean organization for the size of the district.
At the district office there is:
An Assistant Superintendent who handles all the Curriculum
A Chief Business Official who handles the budget
A Director of Student Services (who handles all the special needs students)
A Secretary of Student Services (who is also involved with the special needs students) FYI - the district is saving money by providing the special needs students with services directly. They used to outsource this and it was much more expensive.
A Director of Technology - they take care of all the computers at the 4 schools
A Human Resource Specialist - There is one HR person for the whole district
A District Office Secretary - This is the only traditional secretary at the office and she is there to make sure someone is there when people call or visit.
Payroll Technician - covers payroll for the district
Accounts Payable - Pays the bills for the district
A Director of Maintenance Operations and Transportation - He takes care of keeping the 4 schools in operating condition
The Secretary to the Superintendent -She does everything from handling senior exemptions to organizing the board meetings and doing all the paper processing required by the government.
Overall it is a very efficient organization, even in today's economy.
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm
No misinformation, Local Mom. You listed twelve employees, as I said. Three secretaries, as I said. Remember: all these people are overhead. Hope this isn't another attempt to distort the facts? The prior post about our kids going to jail if this measure goes down...sorry, that totally fails the straight face test.
Say no to propaganda...and measure C, while we're at it!
Posted by new guy, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Apr 11, 2010 at 6:06 pm
Please NEW MOM, invest all your money in MP schools. No one will stop you or not take your cash or check at the door.
What you really meant to say is your wish to spend "other peoples money" on educating your children.
I just paid my second installment in property taxes, and there were plenty of taxes for schools on there. If you do not pay property taxes, please ask your landlord how you can pay extra property taxes if you wish. Additionally I can help you.
Posted by district parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 9:04 am
Had the district not already tapped into our pockets for all the new construction (TERC at Encinal? Regulation size soccer field at Oak Knoll? Demolition of recently constructed buildings at Hillview?), I'd be more inclined to vote for C. Given the poor management of construction bond money, I have to vote NO on this parcel tax. The district blew it on the last round.
Posted by Mel, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 9:48 am
New Guy - you wrote something above that made no sense to me and was completely inconsistent with all the financial information distributed at the school board meetings over the past few months. However, I'm not simply one of the "yes crowd" you refer to, so before replying I wanted to be absolutely certain about the facts.
The facts are:
Funding IS going down.
In 2009-2010, we received a cut from the state of $584,438 vs the state funding we received in 2008-2009. For 2010-2011, we are receiving $1,496,970 less from the state than what we received in 2008-2009.
There is no way to spin this. These are facts.
Due to the facts, I'll vote yes on Measure C!
I hope everyone else will also make a decision based on facts and not on whether you like or dislike the marketing pieces.
Posted by Mom of 2, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm
Count 2 more "NO" votes!
We received several pieces of Measure C literature over the weekend, including one piece that stated "...private schools shouldn't be the only places where children can get a first rate education". The piece went on to argue that our local public schools should provide all of the same extras that are offered by the private schools. REALLY? Since when are the residents of a school district required to continually add to the tax burden so that public school families can feel like they aren't missing out on anything by not sending their kids to private school?
This is a sense of entitlement that needs to stop. If you want a private school education, pay for it yourself.
Posted by Concern for spending, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 12:44 pm
NO on Measure C! I would always support education in Menlo Park, and always have in every way possible. I supported the last parcel tax. However, I can not support the present taxation, and here's why:
The Board has cleverly put teachers on the line by giving them pink slips if the tax doesn't pass. This is a highly emotional tactic. Aren't there other ways of saving dollars, and at the same time keeping the teachers? At Oak Knoll School, the school district has plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars cutting down four heritage oak trees and a joshua tree in order to put in a soccer field, along with sprinkler systems for a water-thirsty field. Besides being an environmental tragedy, just imagine what it would cost you to cut down one gigantic tree, level out the ground and then put in a sports field in your own back yard, and they are cutting down 4 or 5 of those trees for the sole purpose of putting in a water-guzzling soccer field! There is plenty of money in the district for keeping the teachers if the plans for destroying the trees for the sake of a soccer field were scrapped. I would not be relandscaping my yard at high cost when I didn't have enough money to take care of my family. NO on Measure C!
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm
Of course I'm not basing my vote on the collateral pieces. Does anyone? (I think most people who live in the district are savvy enough to do their own research before voting on anything.) But the pieces reflect a self-centered and rather narrow perspective on the part of the district. The district got into the habit of expecting 8% revenue increases each year, and spent accordingly on personnel and tech toys. The $90+ million in bond money is allowing the district to build state-of-the-art campuses.
We're all still paying those prior parcel taxes and bonds, even though the economy has gone sour. That's a commitment we made, and we knew at the time we voted that there were risks involved -- including the likelihood that the flourishing economy wouldn't continue forever.
To ask for another substantial tax now, on top of the taxes we already pay, shows complete disregard for the fact that so many residents are out of work and facing difficult financial choices.
Let's get real: if the tax fails, our kids won't go to jail and will still get physical exercise (I doubt the schools will cut recess!); our housing values won't plummet. The district is creating a lot of ill will by foisting this tax on us; their fearmongering doesn't help matters. Let's hope the economy rebounds soon or they may face even stronger opposition down the road.
Posted by Elizabeth Ouren, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm
The money the district is using to build new facilities and athletic fields is from a bond that was passed a few years ago when the economy was strong. The money for the bond can only be used for facilities. Legally, they are not able to move the money from facilities to people and programs. The reason the new facilities are needed is because there are so many more kids enrolling. If new facilities were not added, the school district would have had to continue to add and rent portable building. These portables would be an ongoing expense and not an efficient use of space, taking up the play and recreation areas on the school campuses.
For the employees in the district office, they all play a vital role supporting our schools. I don't know how a school district would operate without someone in charge of hiring teachers, someone to pay the bills, someone to create the budget, someone to run the special ed, etc. Are you suggesting we have volunteers do these roles? These all seem very appropriate for a school district our size.
I realize that times are tough for many people. Many have lost jobs over the past several years. Supporting our schools at an additional $178/year for 7 years is a real sacrifice for some people. I hope they will choose to support our local schools.
Posted by Which Facts?, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 2:43 pm
While it may be true that "state funding" will decrease, that funding represents just one of several sources of revenue for our school district. The largest source (by far) is from local property taxes (which are not included in the numbers you listed), and property tax revenue has grown year over year by a large amount in recent years. I don't know what that forecast is, but I suspect it will continue to grow (perhaps more slowly) since home sales continue to be relatively strong within the school district.
Even if it doesn't grow again next year, the district shouldn't have let expenses grow so fast and so far during those recent "good years."
Posted by East Coaster, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 4:01 pm
Coming from the east coast, and seeing the differences with the curriculum, the physical campuses, and the way some Californians treat primary education, it's no wonder California is 48th or 49th in the US? I had not realized that my child would be attending primary school in a trailer. I had no idea my child would have 1 music teacher for 2 schools. I had no idea that we may now lose a librarian, a librarian, the "keeper of the books"! I had no idea that some folks, as the posts state above, are "ok" with increasing the class size. I had no idea that some folks think it's o.k. to terminate some of our new, bright, energetic teachers. I had no idea that after a school district cuts $550K for the 2009/2010 expense budget, that some people would believe the district to be "letting the expenses grow so fast". No one pays attention to the increase in API scores for all 4 of these schools, no one pays attention to the dollars already being decreased from other revenue sources, no one pays attention to the increase in enrollment, and no one pays attention to the fact that we will finally have buildings we can be proud of, but can't maintain them efficiently because some people believe 50 cents a day is a "substantial" tax. Talk about fearmongering, it's embarrassing to be from such a wealthy district, with these types of attitudes.
Posted by Suzan Syrett, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 5:39 pm
My husband and I are retired and we have never had a child in the Menlo Park schools. The current recession hasn't made the finances for our retirement as good as we thought they were. However, I firmly believe that a well educated citizenry is critical to the ongoing success of our democracy. I believe that interest in and support for our local community is vital and if I had to choose which services to be cut, education would be very low priority. Although I could get a senior exemption, I will not. I'm voting yes on Measure C.
Posted by recent mpcsd alum, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 6:09 pm
Not everyone can pay for private schools. And why would we want to live in a community where that was the only way for students to be given great oppotunities? The person who said "if you want private school, pay for it" is way out of line. I don't think wanting good programming for all students shows a sense of entitlement. On the contrary,it shows good sense.
I finished up 9 years at MPCSD and am now a freshman at MA. I'm proud that I go to public school. I hope people have enough intelligence and sensitivity never to suggest that excellence is only for the affluent. That kind of thinking shows a lack of perspective and real narrow-mindedness. A person who had to study and work their way out of poverty would never make such a comment, so I have to assume that whoever wrote it takes his or her good fortune for granted.
Posted by Local Mom, a resident of the Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm
I know it is hard to see building going on at the schools, and wonder why the district would build when teachers are being pink slipped. The reason is that the money used to pay for construction can only be used for facilities. It is facility bond money and legally it cannot be used to pay for teacher salaries, or programs, or books, or anything that is not "facilities". In addition, these plans were made to handle the growing enrollment, and as a community we are very lucky that the timing worked out the way it did. Our school district was able to raise money to build the necessary facilities when the economy was good, and is now saving money by building when the economy isn't as strong. In the end the district is getting very good use out the funds that were raised. In addition, the students have arrived at our schools and the building will be finished just in time to accommodate them.
The bottom line is that all kids deserve a great education. The district has more kids to educate and less money, primarily due to state budget cuts. The parents have helped raise quite a substantial amount of money this year, but we still have a budget deficit and have decided to ask our entire community for help. My hope is that our community values education and will support this very important measure in our local school district's time of need.
Posted by SOS, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 6:33 pm
My husband and I lived in Redwood City, and made it a priority to move to Menlo Park specifically for the schools even though it was a financial strain to do so. Our children have enjoyed phenomenal teachers, devoted librarians, music, hands-on science, art etc..that, as a package, has offered interest, curiosity and learning beyond the basics. While I have no doubt that our children would survive if the parcel tax does not pass, that is not why we moved to Menlo Park. We were willing to make it hurt just to get into this district, and now that we're here, I don't want to give it back. I am happy to take on this limited tax (178 for 7 years) when overall that is a $1500 investment over 7 years, much less than the value of our property could decline if one of our most desirable, salable points as a real estate purchase is compromised.
Frankly it is people like our family who have contributed to our current situation. We moved here specifically for the schools. So many others have as well, which has greatly impacted enrollment...beyond all expectations. With funding going down from the state and property taxes staying relatively flat, combined with enrollment having increased 30% over the last decade, and projected to increase 14% more in the next 7 years...you can see the diverging arrows (rays?) on the graph. While it is not easy, and no one likes taxes..I am happy to pay this to maintain the offerings that have taken decades to build.
Posted by be responsible, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 7:04 pm
Does anyone really believe that this parcel tax will have a life of only 7 years? I am willing to be that the parcel tax will be extended and will become a permanent part of the tax burden of district residents.
It is time for the district to do what every financially responsible family does in hard times. Tighten your belt, do away with non-essentials and stop spending! Why is cutting expenses like poison to public bodies? This is the root of the problem, instead of cutting spending to be in line with income, the district is asking already over-burdened taxpayers for more income. It is time to put an end to this farce and require the district to be more responsible with our money.
I do agree with Mother of 2 that a number of parents expect the Public Schools to provide the same facilities, academics and extra-curricular activities that are available at many of the local private schools. This is just not realistic. Those extras cost money that we don't have.
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 9:39 pm
The district should, however, accept responsibility for spending too high a percentage of its windfall revenues earlier in this century. Many people foresaw the current recession/depression, and those who were prudent set aside money.
What incentive does Ken have to display fiscal restraint if the voters bail out the district whenever he runs short on cash?
The Ravenswood School District, over there across the freeway, has teachers that are as trained and caring as ours, yet their standardized test scores are in the cellar. Let's not fool ourselves: test scores correlate with parental education and affluence. Teachers can make incremental differences only.
Our schools are topnotch and will continue to be excellent because this is a community that values education. That will remain the case whether or not Measure C passes. Once you get over your histrionics, perhaps you can acknowledge that.
Posted by Mel, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm
Which Facts - You can see all the details on the budget at Web Link.
When you look at this, it will be very clear that no matter how you slice things, we will have much less funding this year than we did last year and the year before. And, when you combine this with increases in enrollment, spending per pupil will be significantly lower.
While property taxes do make up a significant portion of the budget about 65%, they are tracking at about a 1% increase this year - that's a little under $200,000. However, as I previously mentioned, the cuts from the state are close to $1.5 million less than the District received in 2008/2009. The Foundation is tracking to bring in a little more than last year because generous supporters are giving more than last year, but still, this doesn't come close to offsetting the huge cuts from the state and covering the enrollment growth.
The District already made do with over $500,000 less from the state this year. They trimmed expenses where ever they could without cutting personnel. And, unlike neighboring districts, personnel took no pay raises this year. Also, the District hasn't just been spending everything that came in during the years property taxes were rising at a strong clip. They put money in a reserve fund and plan to draw down on that reserve over the next 2 years. But still, these reserves aren't sufficient to cover such a big hit from the state.
If you look at the facts, and I hope you do, you'll see this isn't a farce or mismanagement of funds. There is a real and serious shortfall. I'm sure there are still a few things that could be done more efficiently, but there's no way to prevent cutting into massive amounts of muscle without passing Measure C. The facts support it - Vote YES on Measure C!
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm
The first part of my post disappeared. The main points.
* California public schools used to lead the nation. You can blame decisions made at the state level -- and Prop 13 -- for their decline. You cannot blame us, the residents, parents, and taxpayers. We pay more in property taxes, cost-of-living adjusted, than people did prior to Prop 13. We already pay hundreds of dollars in additional taxes and bonds that go directly to the schools. And we donate hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours.
* Classroom trailers do not equate to trailer parks. They have been on the campuses for decades, and the kids love them -- they're air conditioned!
* The new, energetic teachers should not be cut. Blame the unions for that travesty. However, given an economy in which 20% are unemployed, it's hardly realistic to expect that educators will be spared.
* High scores on standardized tests correlate closely with parental levels of education and affluence. The modest increases in test scores that we have seen over the last few years are probably a function of teachers being required to "teach to the test."
* $178 is a burden for many people. If you're not one of them, consider yourself fortunate.
Posted by recent mpcsd alum, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2010 at 9:52 pm
Does "nonessentials" mean the 14 talented teachers who just received pink slips? Or perhaps the art programs that will be cut back if measure C is not passed? I think if you asked most people, they would say these things are absolutely essential. I was lucky enough to have great teachers and great opportunities--I want that for my little sister. Nobody is asking for all the perks of private school. That point truly has been blown out of proportion.
Posted by Hillview alum, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 13, 2010 at 6:05 am
Say "Mel, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood"
I'm curious as to your statement that you will vote yes on C. As you live west of the Alameda in Atherton aren't you in the Las Lomitas District and unable to vote in this election? The Menlo Park City School District does not include any part of Menlo Park or Atherton west of the Alameda. Is there perhaps some voter fraud going on that the Registrar of Voters should look into?
Posted by Mel, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Apr 13, 2010 at 9:18 am
Woops - my apologies, I accidently hit the wrong Neighborhood button (twice) when selecting my neighborhood. I meant to select "Atherton: West Atherton". The selection "-Atherton: West of Alameda" is right below it.
My ballot finally arrived yesterday. With great care, I filled in the YES box this morning and will be walking out to the mail box shortly.
Posted by Parent, a member of the Hillview Middle School community, on Apr 14, 2010 at 12:14 am
Yes we have good schools and yes I would like to keep them strong.
I'm glad to see that the district has finally posted some more up-to-date financial information on its web site in response to many requests and wish that they would publish annual financial statements in a standard format, not just when they are trying to justify a tax increase.
The truth is that the school district proposes a new parcel tax or bond measure roughly every three years (1992, 1995, 2000, 2003, 2006) and none has ever been let to expire. www.mpcsd.org/parcel_bond.html
The biggest tax increases came during the years when the stock market and property tax revenues were increasing the most (2000, 2006), NOT when revenues were falling.
Classified staff (non teachers) make up about 20% of the district payroll. www.mpcsd.org/finance_budget.html
The fraction of the budget going to administration is probably higher than that since many/most of the administrators are credentialed former teachers.
State funding is projected to provide less than 3% of revenues in the next two years, about 1/3 of what the MPAEF has historically raised.
It is time that MP residents accepted responsibility for our own schools.
Let's have a budget where all of the essentials are paid for by local property taxes and whatever state funds we may or may not get can go for frills like smart boards and field trips.
Posted by Sorry "Parent", a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2010 at 11:27 am
Sorry "Parent" we ARE using the reserves, and will continue to do so whether the measure passes, or not. Why does "increased enrollment, decrease in revenue" not make any sense to you? This is NOT a shell game, these are facts. $550K was reduced last year, in an attempt to ward off this type of a decision. If we don't pass Measure C, the schools ARE in trouble. This is not just a one year problem, where we "have to tighten our belts" this again is an enrollment, and a decrease in revenue issue. Where should the schools, for the next 7 years, obtain these dollars? The reputation alone of our community not supporting the schools is enough to drive residents out of MP, and push those that want to come here away. This all translates to home prices. If this were a discussion about money for the renovation of downtown, or garbage cans, or utility bills, or water usage etc., most people looking at our community would not care, but when you push that "we don't support the schools button" it gives at least the perception of this is not a good place to educate kids. Lastly, please stop pretending to be a school parent.
Posted by Parent, a member of the Hillview Middle School community, on Apr 14, 2010 at 12:34 pm
How should a parent know what has been happening to the reserves over the last five years as enrollment has been steadily growing? Why is it we have to rely on blogs like this for data? Where can an interested taxpayer get copies of the school district's financial statements.
I hear from other posts that tax revenues have been increasing an average of 7% per year over the last several years. Is that true? I don't know because the district doesn't consistently report its revenues. The fact that we had one year of decline should not spell immediate disaster should it? The economy is already showing signs of recovery and home sales are starting to pick up.
The district has a full time Chief Business Officer. Does the district have a five year financial plan? If the demographer's forecasts are correct, does this parcel tax get us through the next 5 years or will the district be back for more money in three years as it has every three years for the last 18?
Why is it so unreasonable for taxpayers to expect financial transparency and accountability from their public schools?
Posted by George C. Fisher, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2010 at 12:35 pm
Our grandchildren are in another district. I support and will vote for measure C. I am over 65 and do not plan on using the exemption. I can't imagine not giving all the support we can to our schools and educating our children in the present circumstances. please support Measure C. Thanks.
Posted by district parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm
I am tired of the claims that anyone who doesn't support Measure C is against children, against schools, and against preserving property values. It's possible to be pro-child and still to expect fiscal responsibility from the district. I have voted yes every time the district has asked me to (and yes, I am a school parent) - until now. I have seen too much waste to open my wallet again. NO on C.
Schools are sending literature home with students, parents in matching t-shirts are dropping off flyers at homes, and the phone calls are coming in. The ballot doesn't present an opposing viewpoint. This will be a tough bond to defeat. If you are not in favor of Measure C, please vote!
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2010 at 2:14 pm
District Parent -
I'm not sure what waste and fiscal irresponsibility by the district you are referring to.
You mention flyers and T-shirts but it seems to me flyers are a legitimate expense in getting the word out about the parcel tax. How else will people learn about the need for the tax unless it is explained? As for the T-shirts, which several others have mentioned, do you know for a fact that district funds were used to purchase them? I would think it more likely they were a donation from the PTA, the MAEF, or even some parents.
My understanding is that the district has exercised much fiscal restraint since the recession started by reducing expenses, freezing salaries, and holding back on hiring even with an increase of over 200 students. What waste exactly are you talking about? Or are you just making it up to justify your decision not to support Measure C?
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2010 at 2:38 pm
The attacks on the people who are questioning C are getting really nasty. My only additional comment at this point:
>>>The reputation alone of our community not supporting the schools is enough to drive residents out of MP, and push those that want to come here away.<<<
If voting No on C will prevent more people from moving here, great! Let's all vote no! Problems with school expansion solved!
The school demographers have consistently been wrong anyway.
Let's face it: our district didn't plan for an economic downturn and doesn't know how to deal with it now except by taxing to the max. As I said before, kids who survived prior economic downturns by seeing some of the frills cut and sitting in somewhat larger classes somehow managed to get a great education anyway. Our kids will do fine too.
Posted by Sad and Concerned, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm
We moved here from NY and decided in advance that we would live in either Menlo Park or Palo Alto precisely because of the quality of the schools. We could have bought the very same house we bought here for half the price in Redwood Hills. Why? One thing -- good public schools. So be careful when you decide to "teach everyone a lesson in fiscal responsibility" because the lesson may be yours when the time comes to sell your home. Aside from the reality that an investment in our schools is an investment in our greater community as a whole, it is important to note that the children who get hurt by larger class sizes and reductions in services are the ones who are most vulnerable -- kids with learning disabilities, emotional disabilities and other challenges. Are we going to stand by and watch our at-risk population sink lower? Or do we do the sensible thing and support education now so ALL kids have a chance for a productive future? Vote YES on Measure C.
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2010 at 10:36 pm
Nope, sorry, staying right here in a home that will continue to appreciate whether or not Measure C fails! And gathering all the No votes I can. How unfortunate that some of you seem to need to vilify those of us who oppose this untimely, ill-conceived tax.
By the way...kids with special needs are protected by federal laws, so let's not pull the disabilities and challenges card. How low are you willing to go for $178?
Posted by Publius, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2010 at 11:28 pm
I have a real problem with all the Measure C proponents with their "the sky is falling" attitude. As one that has seen Ranella's presentation at the schools, the cuts did not seem as drastic as Measure C proponents would have everyone believe. His worse case was $1.8 million I believe, and a more realistic cut of $1.2million. This is actually very small in comparison to what other districts in this area are facing - and these cuts have far more impact on students than those proposed by Ranella for MPCSD. The one piece that Ranella never seemed to mention however is why the district has not gone to the teacher union to re-negotiate the contract, even if for a short period (oh say seven years). As one the highest paying districts in the bay area, it seems like a little give back to the community would be a nice gesture to help retain as many teachers that were handed pink slips as well as show the public at large that they are helping to solve the fiscal problem as well. I did my own little work on teacher salaries in this area and here is what I found.
First, I took the liberty to look at the salary grades for the districts in the area, as this is public information. Below are the numbers from four districts. What I have done is to list the start salary (right out college with a BA) then I listed the max salary a teacher could make. To also be fair, I put in the 10 year salary for a teacher with a BA plus 45 educational units. These numbers however do not include all of the stipends given for masters, doctorates, or National Board Certification. These tend to be about $1,500 per degree/certification per year. Here are the numbers. Any one is welcome to go to these any district to view salary schedules.
$50,942 (Start BA)
$101,029 (22 year BA+90)
$78,399 (10 years BA+45)
$51,422 (Start BA)
$100,751 (25 years BA+90)
$78,689 (10 years BA+45)
$43,817 (Start BA)
$79,325 (23 years BA+75)
$60,741 (10 years BA+45)
$43,879 (Start BA)
$85,395 (23 years BA+90)
$66,328 (10 years BA+45)
Now that we have the data for the salaries, let look at the overall theme that “Reality Bites” tried to bring up, although with a little too much passion. Below I have calculated the hourly rate of pay for teachers in the four districts. Here are the assumptions made, I am sure there are some minor inaccuracies so please only comment on the assumptions if they are way off.
First, I believe the school year mandated by the state is 180 days, I added 10 days for to allow for teacher work days before and after the school year. Second, I used an 8 hour day to calculate the hourly rate. Again for argument sake, this is a standard work day, I know most people do not work a standard 8 hour day but this is the true whether you are a teacher or a white collar professional. Third, I used 2080 hours (56 weeks a year, less two weeks’ vacation and another 2 weeks’ paid holidays) and times that by the hourly rate to calculate what that salary would be for someone working in the year around job. Below is the break out.
$78,399 / 190 days = $412.63/day / 8hr = $51.58/hr
So, here is what I see, the “haves” are paying very good salaries while the “have not’s” are having trouble attracting the best and brightest as they cannot compete with the “haves”. This does not even look at the benefits package at these districts. Conservatively, I figure they comprise about an additional 30% of the salary. Let be realistic, people are attracted to the best paying salaries.
Here is an idea I have not heard, why doesn’t the school board negotiate with the teacher union to reduce the salary bands by 5% to 10% for certificated employees and 10% to 15% for administration. Again, using the 10 year number (I assume this is a good middle number, although I would venture to say that is low for the MPCSD) and that there are 100 teachers in the district, at 5%, that would be $3,920 per teacher saving for a $390,200 savings and at 10% that would be $784,000 savings. Add in the saving of 10% to 15% of administration salaries, you could get close to $1M. Teachers could then be part of the solution to help save the jobs of their fellow teachers. Even if the salaries were at par with Ravenswood or Redwood City, I hardly think we would see teachers leave for these districts as working conditions are not nearly as posh as in MPCSD.
So MPCSD board, why don’t you first exhaust all these options. You can renegotiate the contract. Cities, counties, municipal agencies all across the country are asking for their unions to help offset budget issues before coming to the taxpayers again. Companies in the valley have for years used the practice of either eliminating pay raises or cutting salaries by X% as a way to contain costs and/or save jobs. Come knocking when we are talking about cuts that compare with those being proposed in Ravenswood, Redwood City and other like districts in the state.
Posted by YES ON MEASURE C, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 9:28 am
So, "Publius" your motive to defeat Measure C, or your reasoning, is because we don't "compare with those being proposed in Ravenswood, Redwood City and other like districts"??
First of all, these are NOT "like districts" as MPCSD, second why would we WANT to be like these districts. There is a very huge reason why my family, as well as most families, moved to, or continue to live in, THIS District. I also find it amazing that we somehow blame Ken Ranella for not getting what we want out of the Teacher's Union. Has anyone on this blog delt with the Teacher's Union? What you propose above would NEVER happen, not in a million years.
Posted by Publius, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 1:50 pm
YES ON MEASURE C, Please explain to all of us on the No on Measure C side why the teacher union contract could not be re-negotiated. Is there union somehow different from other unions in the state or country who have given back wages and benefits during these hard times?
Oh and yes, I forgot, in this community we take care of our own, forget all those that do not have the silver spoon in their mouths.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Every unit of local government will continue to ask for more, rather than learning to live within the means of their ordinary tax income, until citizens simply decide to stop feeding the beast. Give them more and they will spend more.
And has anybody asked them what is the amount of their unfunded pension liability and how are they going to fund it - with another parcel tax?
Take a lesson from the Fire Board - almost two years without a labor contract because that Board has the courage to say NO.
Posted by Scholar, a resident of the Menlo Park: Sharon Heights neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm
I believe that Peter Carpenter is correct -- it's easier for them to increase fees and taxes than to self-examine and cut. If I had a job where I could tell the boss to pay me more if my income got too low for my expenses, I would probably try to do it too. I am not in that position, and have cut my household expenses in this recession. So I have little sympathy for the open hands of the government guys. No on C.
Posted by Reality Check, a resident of the Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm
I agree that the district could play hardball with the Union. In the last negotiation the pay raise was kept to less than 1% and while it would have been better to hold pat it isn't exactly a windfall. Please remember that we compete with Portola Valley and Palo Alto for the best new teachers. For anyone who's ever had a child in school, you will agree that a good teacher makes all the difference. Sure, there are plenty who are motivated strictly by a sense of public service and are willing to teach in the neediest districts (and bless those amazing people!), but many have families they have to raise and can't afford to make that sacrifice. If it's a choice between teaching in MP, PA or PV and the salary and benefits are better in one district than another...well, you get the picture. It's not necessarily greed or poor negotiation, but more like economic reality of life in Silicon Valley, CA.
Posted by Parent who cares, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 3:04 pm
Dear Mother of 2 -
Yes, both PV and PA have parcel tax measures for the May 4 election, along with up to 6 other Santa Clara county school districts. And San Carlos, RWC, San Mateo/Foster City, and Burlingame have already run parcel tax campaigns. MP is not alone - in fact, the whole state is suffering. Everyone is asking their communities to help share the burden of offering a decent education to the children who live in their community. And by the way, the private school letter didn't say that the public school children should get all the same benefits of private school children, it just requested a quality education including science, technology and a full curriculum. Is that too much to ask? Sorry if we all can't afford to send our kids to private school. And if you can afford to send your kids to private school, can you not afford 50 more cents a day to help the kid down the street get a good education?
Posted by Publius, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 3:05 pm
Reality Check, It is a stretch to say that a 10% reduction in the salary schedule would result in losing the best teachers in the area. With the current situation in the state on the number of teachers out of work, I am sure that A)current teacher will not be leaving because of a salary reduction and B) if they did, there are plenty of highly qualified teachers to fill the space.
Posted by current student, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm
I am currently a student at Hillview Middle School. I have great teachers and I love my school and I would hate to see all of that go away because a couple people aren't willing to put aside 50 cents a day to support their local schools. Everyone deserves a good education.
Posted by MPCSD Student, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm
I am currently a student in the MPCSD and have been loving every year. I can't stand thinking of one of my teachers losing their jobs, or not being able to have music, PE, art or take a language. These things all have helped me very much in my education. Also, without the science experiments my class did, I wouldn't be able to fully understand or visualize the material. When I think of Measure C failing, it makes me feel terrible for all of the kids still to come and how they won't be able to experience and have all the things I was lucky enough to have. Everyone should be able to have a quality education without having to pay a fortune on private schools.
Posted by Publius, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 3:10 pm
Parent who cares,
What about those children in Ravenswood, Redwood City, Mountain View and such. Don't they "deserve a quality education including science, technology and a full curriculum. Is that too much to ask?". Oh, that is right, the rich can buy their way to a better education.
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 3:52 pm
There's something creepy about the Pro parents forcing their kids to post here to try to manipulate public opinion. When I showed the election materials to one of my kids, he laughed and pointed out all the hyperbolic and unsubstantiated statements. But I didn't insist that he post on Town Square.
Posted by George C. Fisher, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm
I have reviewed posts before and after my post yesterday. My view is unchanged. Regarding Measure C the main priority is educating our kids and the parcel tax significantly helps that priority. Most of those expressing thoughts expressed contrary to measure C appear to have other axes to grind or lose sight of our main priority. Every time I see kids in our school system, I am amazed at their vitality and ability. Let's give them every break we can and not quibble. There are plenty of issues to grind our axes on without disadvantaging any child. Thanks, George
Posted by WillowsGal, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 6:17 pm
Funny, because I thought it was awesome to hear from kids---so I guess it just depends how you look at it--to me, they are what Measure C is about and they are certainly entitled to their opinions. I don't know anybody who would "force" their kids to post and I think the fact that some of them care enough to do it is the best news I've heard all day. Why not have an open mind to the thoughts and feelings of these important citizens?
Posted by Mother of 2, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 6:51 pm
To Parent Who Cares:
"And if you can afford to send your kids to private school, can you not afford 50 more cents a day to help the kid down the street get a good education?"
My husband and I make significant sacrifices to send our children to private school. We made this decision 10 years ago, based on a number of factors Yes, excellent academics and state of the art facilities entered into the equation, but the most significant factor for us was consistency. Consistency in class-size, consistency in curriculum offerings, etc. Public schools by their nature are unable to provide this because of the unpredictability of enrollment and revenues. It's the nature of the beast, and it is magnified in California because of the many shortcomings of Proposition 13. When one chooses to enroll in public school, this unpredictability goes with the territory. It's just a fact of life.
We have done without fancy cars and extravagant vacations (which I see many of my public school neighbors indulge in) in order to pay hefty tuition bills. I have also seen my property taxes rise considerably over the last several years and our family is already significantly subsidizing a school system that we do not use. This time around, I am voting NO on the parcel tax.
Posted by Publius, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm
Fellow "No on C" proponents. Remember we just need 1/3 of the voters to vote "No". As discussions come up in my neigborhood, I am the first to point out the reasons for voting no. I suggest doing the same.
Posted by Recent mpcsd alum, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm
Kids are independent thinkers too, not just puppets for their parents to control. Don't discredit the intellingence of children just because they are young. The kids who have written here obviously have a genuine, not forced, passion about their school district. I think it is great that so many kids in the MPCSD district are expressing such strong and articulate support for their schools and they should continue to post their views. Kids should be respected for being involved in their future. The alternative is much worse.
Posted by bifurcatus obfuscatus demagoguerous, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 8:59 pm
Pink slips to the best young teachers, inflame the kids and parents.
Give away O Connor School at the same lease rate as the last 10 years, with no competitive bidding as required by law, to GAIS, which grosses $6,000,000. income to GAIS thru tuition and subleases, yet pays $300K rent to MPCSCD for the 6 acre facility.
Oak Knoll stays overcrowded by 250 kids, per Ranella's own admission to the board.
Ranella doesn't offer his own token pay reduction from his $250K annual salary/benefit package, nor cutback on his admin support staff.
Ranella, MPAEF and the board keep mixing the Koolaid.
MPCSD parents pressured to pressure neighbors to add yet another tax (6 parcel tax supplements) on top of the $140 MIllion in bonds yet to be paid for the grossly outsized building programs.
When will it end?
We already voted NO on C. Suggest you do as well or they'll continue to have their hands in your pockets.
MPCSD alums have done quite well in Higher Education without these expensive frills and facilities.
Posted by mother of 2, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 9:45 pm
to all of the folks who claim that not passing C will result in a catastrophe of home values:
Have you visited the northern end of Atherton lately? Some of the nicest, most expensive homes in the area. Their public school - Selby Lane - not exactly one of the best around. Those homes have maintained their value, despite a poor local school.
Posted by Facts, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm
Sorry, but you should check your facts. Take two very similar homes:: one in the Menlo Park district, the other in the RWC district. The home in the Menlo Park district will sell for substantially more. Any realtor will tell you this is because of the school district.
Posted by WARNING, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 10:10 pm
WARNING: "bifurcatus obfuscatus demagoguerous" is an Oak Knoll neighbor who had his say MANY times regarding the new construction of the school, and did not get his way. He has a personal vendetta against the schoolboard, Ken and anyone affiliated with trying to maintain, or improve our schools. If the information that he stated above was factual, I guess he'd have a point, too bad he's "way out there" and not even close to representing what is going on with the budget. Ironically, it is HIS home that will appreciate because of the new school and the much better looking campus. You're welcome IOD!
Posted by Mel, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 10:38 pm
Mother of 2 - I think it's admirable that you've decided that education is a top priority for your family and you've made trade-offs in your lifestyle to obtain what you believe is the best education for your children.
However, I think it's a shame that you don't feel that all children should have access to a quality education, not only those who can afford private school. Many of the families in Menlo Park made and continue to make sacrifices so they can afford to live in homes in Menlo Park and have access to our high-quality public schools. Please think about what's best for many children, for our entire community, not just your own. Please think about what kind of country we'd be living in if only those who could afford to pay hefty sums for education received it. That's certainly not the kind of place I'd want to live in, nor have my children grow up in.
Posted by Elizabeth Ouren, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm
If there are people that have questions about Measure C or would like more information from the school district, please feel free to email me at email@example.com and I'd be happy to try to help track down answers for you.
I wasn't sure if someone is making the argument that the district should open the O'Connor School to curb overcrowding at Oak Knoll. The added cost of opening a new campus coupled with the loss of the lease money from that campus would have added more burden to the already difficult financial situation our school district is in. I think the school board's recent decision to not open O'Connor during the current economic climate shows exactly the kind of fiscal restraint people want to see. It is much more efficient use of resources to add students to the existing facilities than to have to hire another principal, school secretary, etc. to operate another campus. I think if the economic conditions were different, there could be a lot of good reasons to open O'Connor.
Yes, pink slips were given to wonderful, young teachers. Sadly, my son's fabulous 5th grade teacher is one of them. However, that's how the tenure system works in public schools. Many people have different opinion about the tenure system but this is not something our district can change. We have to follow the rules. Again, as hard as this step was, this shows that the school board is taking fiscal responsibility for how to handle the budget shortfall. If Measure C is not passed, this is the reality that great teachers will lost their jobs because there will not be enough money coming in to pay them. I hope Measure C passes and these great teachers can stay and teach in our district!
Yes, the teachers in MP are paid close to the same salary as teachers in Palo Alto. They are paid more than teachers in Redwood City and Ravenswood. I would hope that we would all agree that we want bright, enthusiastic, smart people to enter the profession of teaching rather than other fields with higher salaries. I think we all wish the teachers could be paid more in general.
It is hard enough to live on a teachers salary in the bay area. Is someone arguing that teachers should take a pay cut of some amount (say $2000/year) because we as a community don't want to pay $178/year to keep their salaries at the current level? The impact on these teachers will be much more than the impact on all the residents of our community pitching in to support our schools and the fabulous teachers.
A cute side note is that my 5th grade son is studying the American Revolution. He was answering a homework question earlier this week, 'Why did the colonists object to paying King George's tax on tea?". He asked me if his answer was correct that they did not want taxation without representation and that the tea tax was a symbol of tyranny. I told him yes. And then I added that this is why we have a ballot for citizens to vote on Measure C because someone cannot just decide to raise taxes without the citizen's voting on it. The people get to decide what taxes they think are worth while. It was a good connection for him.
I know there are many opinions out there and I hope we can keep the dialogue respectful as we each sort out how we are going to vote on this important measure. Again, if you are in search of more information, please feel free to contact me or check out the website www.keepourschoolsstrong.org/Vote.html.
Posted by Publius, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 6:12 am
I have to ask again. Where is the teacher union in all this? Portola Valley teachers offered to forgo the annual pay increase this year. Not much but at least an offer to help. I think these teachers could help with the solution.
Looking at this through a larger lens, I believe that the state had to take more control over local education funding because local educational funding had become so inequitable that the haves had great schools while the have-not’s suffered. What I am seeing with these ballot measures over the years has been a steady move towards the same inequities that led to these lawsuits in the first place.
The affluent areas will continually be able to support their local district with additional dollars while those in lower income areas do not have this luxury. Maybe it is time that some of the organizations that stand for the rights of the underserved or marginalized once again take this gross inequity back to the courts or at least ask the feds to look into the growing disparity in the state.
If we truly want to "think about the children", shouldn't we think about all?
Posted by Elizabeth Ouren, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 7:21 am
Like Portolla Valley, our teachers have agreed to help. They have agreed that over a three year period to only have a pay increase of 1%.
I agree that the inequity between different school district seems unfair. This is an important issue. However, Menlo Park cannot decide on it's own to take kids from the Ravenswood school district. Our two school districts are funded differently ~ Ravenswood is a 'revenue limit' district and they receive funding for each student and Menlo Park is a 'basic aid' district and we do not receive funding on a per child basis. So if the Menlo Park enrollment declines or grows (as it currently is doing) we do not receive any additional funds. Any children that were sent from Ravenswood to Menlo Park would cause the Ravenswood school district to lose money. The Ravenswood school district is not looking for ways to decrease their overall revenue.
I agree that the whole system of funding schools would need to be changed in order to help address these inequities. When and if this happens, the neighborhoods with more of an ability to pay would probably need to pay more taxes to educate these additional children with the same quality of our current schools. Otherwise, the level of service to all students would decline if more students were added and less money was available.
These are important issues to discuss as a community, state, and country. However, deciding not to support Measure C is not going to help the students or teachers in other districts. However, it will decrease teacher jobs in our district and services for our students.
For anyone wanting to help support the Ravenswood school district, there is a very active group of parents in our school district that has created an education foundation in the Ravenswood school district. They do fund raisers and also volunteer their time. These parents actually do library duty, serve as headroom parent, etc. in the Ravenswood schools. I'm glad to see parents taking action on something they can do to help our neighboring schools. If you would like more information on how to donate money or volunteer for the Ravenswood School district, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can put you in touch with the right folks.
There is also a volunteer project coming up on the weekend of April 24-25 to help one of the K-8 elementary schools in East Palo Alto, Brentwood Academy. Work on the school will include painting, landscaping, the makeover of all common and administrative areas, as well as a number of other special projects. If anyone would like to lend a hand you can get more information at www.2ndmile.org/events/brentwood.html. All skill levels are welcomed.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 7:55 am
Elizabeth says:"Like Portolla Valley, our teachers have agreed to help. They have agreed that over a three year period to only have a pay increase of 1%."
Strange that 'helping' is defined as taking a 1% increase while other civil servants are taking cutbacks and many in the private sector have lost their jobs. This simply cannot go on like this.
It is not a question of how important is education (or fire services, or road, or libraries etc.), it is a question of how much education can the taxpayers support. If local units of government cannot operate, including fully funding their pension liabilities, on their standard tax base then they will ultimately have to go bankrupt.
Posted by Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 9:47 am
A number of the "YES" posters seem to consider that the amount of the parcel tax being only $178/year automatically qualifies it for passing as it is a relatively small amount. Please keep in mind that this is an incremental amount of funding on top of the $565 parcel tax we already pay towards school operations. There is an additional 0.039% tax on the assessed value of our homes that Menlo Park residents agreed to pay to cover the bonds for school capital construction costs. Finally, there is the 65% of our base property taxes that go towards the local schools. This means that on an average home price of $1,200,000 there are the following fees going towards schools:
Property Tax: $7,800
Bond Tax: $ 468
Parcel Tax; $ 565
I would ask that YES posters not insinuate that Menlo Park residents who are voting NO are somehow selfish individuals not willing to support the community. We already ARE, and to a very LARGE extent.
I make a choice to send my kids to private school and so I don't see a direct personal benefit of these taxes. I knew that I would not take advantage of the public schools in advance of moving to Menlo Park and made the decision to buy here nonetheless. I don't begrudge the taxes I already pay, I knew about them in advance and I certainly contribute more than most residents as I've relocated in the last few years so am not yet enjoying any Prop 13 benefits.
There is a huge difference between Menlo Park and other neighboring less desirable locations like RWC that has nothing to do with the school system. Of course, schools are an important part of the decision process but they are not the be all and end all as some posters seem to suggest.
The important point to remember is that Menlo Park has an excellent school system already. It will continue to remain excellent with Measure C failing. If certain extra services, very small class sizes are that desirable for parents, then they are free to contribute towards the MPAEF school foundation to cover the shortfall. It would only need $5 / day from school parents. Don't expect the general community to continue adopting additional taxes to turn excellent schools into super-excellent schools.
Posted by Lucy, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 9:54 am
The common theme with the Yes on C posters seems to be that those who are fortunate enough to live in this affluent city have had to make huge sacrifices to live here. Boo hoo, my heart bleeds for you. I too can barely afford to live here but don't expect anyone to feel sorry for me. These same parents are whining that their children's lives are practically in jeopardy because their children won't have PE and special art instruction. Are you kidding me? I attended a fantastic elementary school and didn't have PE or a special art instructor. Children played games on the playground such as kick ball, four square, two square, jump rope, hop scotch, etc., with little supervision. Recess was my favorite time of day. My class would also play volleyball, kickball, baseball, and dodgeball together. As I recall my home-room teacher participated and acted as referee. We didn't have a special art instructor but did basic art projects like coloring with crayons, cutting/pasting (often things we brought from home) also at the instruction of the home-room teacher. These are tough economic times and tax payers should not be required to pay for extras like PE and Art instructors for elementary school studends. Will the public elementary schools next demand gymnasiums and polo fields? When will the demands stop? Maybe this is a good time to teach your children that they can't have everything, that during difficult economic times a few sacrifices need to be made. Many of the parents in this town are spoiled and entitled, and are teaching there children to be the same. I just sent in my ballot and voted NO on C!
Posted by Concerned, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 10:08 am
I never thought I would see the day when we were desirous of "teaching others a lessons" via the backs of children! I would do anything to support education for my children and other people's children. They are our greatest resource and each community should do whatever is within their capacity to grow that resource.
Posted by Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 10:30 am
Please stop the hyperbole. A failed measure C is not a community flagellation of the backs of children. It is simply a response that we believe we have reached the limit of additional support we wish to provide local schools. On top of our mandatory taxes, the community is already contributing over $5,000,000 / year in additional parcel tax dollars. We also contribute an additional ad valorem tax of 0.039% to cover capital costs of over $110,000,000. Perhaps you should consider that is the backs of the general community that is shouldering this burden---not your children. If you are willing to do anything, then please feel free to contribute additionally to the MPAEF foundation to cover extra services and maintain very low class sizes.
Everyone else, please join me in voting NO on measure C.
Posted by (BOD) acious! Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 11:25 am
Thanks, BOD and Get Real, you dumped the Kool(Aid) and substituted in real Aid options like contributions to MPAEF by MPCSD parents, better facility management and fair market rent . As you note, a flat parcel tax in addition to the current supplemental taxes for the MPCSD are regressive for those who get no direct educational benefit from the existing campuses. Atherton Home values in Selby Lane Redwood City school district have not declined because those parents send their kids to private school.
It's the MPCSD parents who want all the benefits of Private School facilities and extra curriculars without paying for them. When the proponents come to your door to ask for your Yes on C vote, ask them to run out to their ATM, withdraw $1200. and hand it to you to cover your $.50/day share for the next 7+ years.
Posted by Mel, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm
I agree we currently have strong public schools in Menlo Park, however programs and services are now being eroded due to large increases in enrollment.
This parcel tax is not about making good schools even better. This parcel tax is about ensuring that our public schools, that as you pointed out we've ALL worked hard to suppport through taxes, don't sink in to mediocrity.
This year, enrollment expanded by 124 students but due to budget issues yet only 1 new teacher was hired. At Oak Knoll, we started the year with 4th grade classes that had 26 and 27 children in them. Having this large number of children in an elementary school class isn't conducive to an effective learning environment. Fortunatey, due to Menlo Park's consistent commitment to quality education, we've attracted some very talented, dedicated teachers who are putting in extra hours to try to meet the needs of all these children. However, If Measure C doesn't pass, we'll be looking at 5th grade classes with 28 and 29 children. Even with the most talented, dedicated teachers there is no way for this many children in a single elementary school class to recieve a high quality education.
Voting YES on Measure C is a means to protect the investment all of us who live in the MPCSD have already made.
You mentioned that since you choose to send your kids to private school that you "don't see a direct personal benefit of these
taxes." Symantics aside about the word "direct", I think it's clear by looking at the posts from the East Coast and New York transplants, that by being a property owner in this school district, your recieve a very real personal benefit from these taxes. But I hope that you and the vast majority of our residents will decide as George Fisher did above, that public education should be a priorty for all, regardless of direct personal benefit.
Posted by Mel, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm
One other note, many parents and generous community members do donate large sums of money and/or time to the MPAEF and the school PTOs as well as donating to our neighboring schools and other services supporting children such as the Boys and Girls Club.
Please Vote Yes on Measure C to support our schools.
Posted by Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 1:09 pm
I appreciate there are many parents and community members who donate time and money to the MPAEF already. In fact, some of the board members and active supporters of the schools contribute 10s of thousands of dollars and a lot of time. This should not be a surprise---I expect every parent to contribute time and donations as they can manage to the school their children attend. It forces parents to become more involved and caring about the education of their children and how their schools are using their money. I personally devote 100s of hours and donate funds in addition to tuition at my children's school.
I also respect the school board member volunteers for their efforts and understand their motivation to propose this parcel tax. It is their job and goal to provide the best possible educational system that the community is willing to support. It is also their job to provide some adequate oversight of the way school revenue is spent, and I'm not questioning the effectiveness of school expenditures.
However, the only oversight governing how much revenue the school board receives is the rest of the community taxpayers. There is no motivation by the school board to work within a limited budget if they can ask for more. The schools have benefited tremendously from the large growth in their budget / student over the last 10 years---this will be the first time it will have gone down in that period.
It is my opinion that the expense reduction proposals that are in place will still leave Menlo Park offering an excellent education program. I don't agree that 28-29 children/class leads to mediocre education---it certainly did not in my case. I don't believe that there will be a drop in API scores which translate to lower neighborhood property values. This is however just my opinion, and everyone is entitled to their own.
Posted by Ram Duriseti, a member of the Oak Knoll School community, on Apr 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm
I hope you weren't referring to me. I am simply watching this discussion and, as I have stated before with posts attached to my legal name, plan to vote yes on C. I can't ethically partake of a resource without contributing. I don't cower behind anonymous and puerile tags/pseudonyms like "Geezer Smasher" and "NIMBY Go Home" or "Ram Go Home" while ridiculing the property purchase decisions of others or denigrate seniors while sending my kids to GAIS (reference "Geezer Smasher"). See: Web Link
What gives me pause on my decision though is the repeated vitriol from certain MPCSD advocates such as yourself. I think your type are in the minority, but it's quite hard to tell at times. It's shameful, cowardly, and juvenile.
Posted by Sorry Ram, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 3:26 pm
For someone that accuses others of "vitriol" but posts comments like: "sought counsel", "cowardly bloviators", "marginal intellects", "hypocritical and cowardly ingrates" and the best of all: "spill your drivel to my face at a public hearing".......it seems to me that you may be the one that is juvenile, or at the very least needs to seek counseling for your anger. If you are pausing with your decision to vote for Measure C because people aren't treating you nicely, this makes perfect sense, your decisions are based on emotion, not by very hard evidence and facts.
Posted by Ram Duriseti, a member of the Oak Knoll School community, on Apr 16, 2010 at 3:57 pm
You should post as "Redirect and Distract". Your opponents in the debate above have stayed reasonable and fact-based. In this thread and others, you have confirmed the application of the labels I have previously applied to you and your friend "Geezer Smasher" (GAIS parent). True to form, on several subsequent topics around Measure C you produced the same silly "Sorry ____" anonymous tag and provide at least one mean-spirited remark including your attacks on "Public School Parent" in the thread above.
As for our little exchange which left you cold and afraid, apparently you are struggling with the concept of a timeline in a thread.
Let's explore this concept together: if individual A starts a particular pattern of negative discourse (reference: Web Link) and individual B responds in kind, I suppose it is individual B's fault for hurting individual A's feelings. I suppose said hurt feelings are the cause for individual A to regale individual B with his physical prowess -- in impressive anonymity once again.
To the credit of your opponents above, they did not react to your tone. They are better people than me. You don't have even an iota of the courage or integrity of your fellow proponents above who have posted with their names.
Posted by Publius, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 4:01 pm
I am sorry Measure C supporters, this "the sky will fall" argument if measure c fails just does not ring true. From what I seen in Ranella's presentations, the cuts are not catastrophic and do not impact the core educational objectives. It will reduce some of the luxuries that the district currently enjoys such as credentialed librarians, school VP's and very low class sizes. But these are not cuts that will have a detrimental impact on student learning. Even the class size increase will be fairly small according to Ranella's figures - I believe around 25 per class. I went to school with 28 in my class and I successfully graduated with two masters. Larger class size did not seem to impact my learning.
Our children in this community are all going to college. Let's not kid ourselves that somehow by not passing measure C, we will be depriving our children.
As for the comment about all the wonderful volunteer work and donations being made over in Ravenswood, that is wonderful but when I see half of the foundations $2 million a year take being sent to help the real at risk kids in our community, then I will stand up and applaud.
Posted by Concerned For Our Community, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 9:50 pm
You think that when you move to a community that values it's schools, and is recognized for that, we would be able to have a different type of conversation. Who the heck is this Ram guy? He acts like he's the expert, he's the know it all. Give me a break, he's angry, "Dudes" above is angry, and for some reason Ken Ranella is vilified?? Our superintendent has laid it all out there, there is no stone unturned, but for some reason people who have some political agenda are bringing things up from the past, are making things up, or make NO common sense. This is embarrassing. "brainwashed temple worshippers" was the best.
Posted by Ram Duriseti, a member of the Oak Knoll School community, on Apr 16, 2010 at 9:57 pm
For the record, once again, I do support Measure C because it would be absurd for my family to utilize this resource without paying our fair share. Whatever my doubts, it's ultimately plain and simple for me. I will also donate to the MPAEF to cover the MPAEF resources that our youngest will consume for the years he is in the district -- just like we did when our oldest was in the district. We will pay our way.
I just wish the discussions around this district were not so polarizing. I don't know how it gets this way, but I have a hard time believing that the fear-mongering and social intimidation employed do not contribute to the polarization. Aside from Peter Carpenter, there is not one opponent who felt "safe" posting with their real name. That's ridiculous.
It's unfortunate, regrettable, and likely a permanent fixture for the near future.
Posted by Ram Duriseti, a member of the Oak Knoll School community, on Apr 16, 2010 at 10:13 pm
"Concerned for Our Community",
I'm a nobody. That's not the point.
Read the posts above one more time. I was addressing one person and one person only. Please point out somewhere in my posts on this thread where I purport to offer any sort of expert opinion on public school financing WRT Measure C, comment on Ken Ranella, or any other board member. I was an observer until there was yet another attack on school neighbors.
I'm a "know it all"? Hardly. I do feel qualified to read data, interpret it, consult with experts outside of my limited domains of "expertise" (medicine and computational modeling), and formulate an opinion. I suspect you do too.
Posted by public school parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2010 at 11:51 pm
I once wrote a school-related piece that had my name on it, and my kids were subjected to verbal abuse by school staff who pointed to my piece as justification for their behavior. So it may be cowardly, but I am not signing my name here. My kids shouldn't have to pay for my personal perspective.
This thread has helped transform me from someone who was leaning toward a Yes on C to a No. I mailed my ballot today. As Get Real said, our district will never learn fiscal restraint if they know they can return to the pump at any time -- even when our economy is at its nadir. And I agree that our schools will continue to provide an excellent education, even if belt-tightening has to occur. (And no, I don't believe it has happened. As someone who has spent a lot of time on MPCSD campuses, I see fat that could be trimmed.)
Take a deep breath. Our kids will not go to jail. Our house values will not plummet. Our kids will do fine.
However, I share the concerns of those who point to the districts around us that are far less fortunate than ours. I encourage all of you to donate that measly "50 cents a day" to one of the organizations helping the underserved students in our community. If all the voters in our district contributed, we could make a real difference -- a much more positive, more powerful impact than passing Measure C could provide our already privileged offspring.
Posted by Ram Duriseti, a member of the Oak Knoll School community, on Apr 17, 2010 at 12:21 am
"public school parent",
Your desire for anonymity is not your fault. That's my point. It's a shameful manifestation of the way debates in this district are carried out. You should be commended for your restraint when you have been attacked on this thread. Like I said, you're a better person than I am.
Posted by Martin, a resident of the Menlo Park: Sharon Heights neighborhood, on Apr 17, 2010 at 3:51 pm
Vote no on C. We keep hearing how great our schools and teachers are. In reality, it's the parents who are great at spending on their children's education. Tutoring programs thrive in this area because parents willingly supplement the rather average performance of our teachers. I suggest those parents keep on paying for private tutoring; that's what will keep our results high and keep our house values up.
Posted by Publius, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 20, 2010 at 11:27 pm
The increasing disparity between districts in high property value areas verses those in low value areas is growing more and more with these ballot measures. The gap between per pupil spend in MPCSD, PAUSD, PVSD, etc. and districts like Ravenswood, Redwood City, Mt. View, etc. is growing wider and wider, thus leading to unequal access to educational opportunities.
Maybe it is time for residents in those low funded districts to once again file suit against the state of California to change the funding model as was done in Serrano vs. Priest back in 71'. I am sure there are law firms that focus on equal rights law that would be willing to look at this.
Wake up Ravenswood, Redwood City, Mt. View parents.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Apr 21, 2010 at 8:53 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Any unit of local government which needs a parcel tax is, by definition, not balancing its budget.
Deficits mean that revenues are less than expenditures - simple.
Since it is properly difficult to arbitrarily raise taxes that means that expenditures have to be cut. Agreeing to increase salaries and benefits is not cutting expenditures. Failing to properly amortize unfunded pension liabilities as a current year's expense is not cutting expenditures. The Sherson Lehman hit was totally avoidable if the district had practiced sound financial management and pulled its funds from the badly managed County pool.
The taxpayers should not have to pay for poor management.
A family, faced with fixed or falling income, has to reduce its expenditures. In a family only the children have recourse to the parents when they need more 'revenue'. It is time that all units of local government stopped behaving like children and stopped treating their taxpayers as parents with bottomless financial resources.
Posted by Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm
I saw some "Yes on C" proponents holding up a "Seniors are Exempted" sign yesterday. This tactic by the Measure C drafters to include the senior exemption strikes me as particularly disingenuous.
On one hand, the parcel tax is meant to be easily affordable (only 50 cents a day) and meant to benefit the general community (including seniors) by promoting high property values in the neighborhood. On the other hand, the Measure C drafters specifically include the senior exemption. Can there be any more blatant an attempt to solicit Yes votes from a voting body that enjoys the benefit of the tax that does not have to pay for it? This underlines the message that the Menlo Park school board wants measure C to pass by any means whatsoever and is not concerned with providing as fair a plebiscite to Menlo Park voters as possible.
Careful review of the MPCSD budget proposal also illustrates that there is an assumption that next year's proposed budget includes hiring 5.9 new teachers to maintain current teacher to student levels. It is from this total proposed budget that it is determined that there is a $2,000,000 deficit in the budget. In order to achieve sufficient reductions, there would have to be 17.6 certificated positions let go. It is unclear whether these hypothetical 5.9 teachers are still in the "plan" to be hired while 14 current certificated staff have received preliminary pink slips. If so, this would be a blatant attempt to increase public fear about Measure C failing.
I also expect that should Measure C fail, there will somehow be "additional" reductions found (perhaps even pay reductions for superintendent and co-superintendents which has *not* yet been proposed) which will result in far fewer than 14 certificated staff being let go. Hopefully, we get a chance to see this future.
Posted by Publius, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 21, 2010 at 2:52 pm
Thanks Get Real. That is what I have also been saying in my earlier posts. Where are the concessions back from the teacher union and the administrators? Unions in other cities and school districts are giving back in order to help share the pain. Where are the concessions from this district? It seems that the board and the administration want status quo by simply coming back to the public well. MPCSD already get $565.14 in additional property tax revenue and now they want an additional $178? I don't think so.
Posted by Get Real, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Apr 21, 2010 at 4:07 pm
Please let your neighbors know to look for this prepaid mail-only ballot. Participation IS important. School districts generally use this format for parcel tax elections since they can count on reaching all school parents via concentrated messaging at schools and part of the general population can be counted on to overlook the ballot. So far, there are less than 5,000 ballots that have been received.
Posted by Arthur Wilson, a resident of the Menlo Park: Fair Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2010 at 7:12 pm
I would urge all seniors who are counting on the exemption to pause before voting YES on this measure. I've had to apply for exemptions in the past and I considered the process to be quite onerous. I personally also don't think I should vote YES on a tax without being willing to pay for it.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm
Here is some interesting insight on what is wrong with the way our schools are being run:
City Journal Steve Malanga explains just how beholden California governments have become to the unions.
Consider the California Teachers Association. Much of the CTA’s clout derives from the fact that, like all government unions, it can help elect the very politicians who negotiate and approve its members’ salaries and benefits. Soon after Proposition 13 became law, the union launched a coordinated statewide effort to support friendly candidates in school-board races, in which turnout is frequently low and special interests can have a disproportionate influence. In often bitter campaigns, union-backed candidates began sweeping out independent board members. By 1987, even conservative-leaning Orange County saw 83 percent of board seats up for grabs going to union-backed candidates. The resulting change in school-board composition made the boards close allies of the CTA.
But with union dues somewhere north of $1,000 per member and 340,000 members, the CTA can afford to be a player not just in local elections but in Sacramento, too (and in Washington, for that matter, where it’s the National Education Association’s most powerful affiliate). The CTA entered the big time in 1988, when it almost single-handedly led a statewide push to pass Proposition 98, an initiative—opposed by taxpayer groups and Governor George Deukmejian—that required 40 percent of the state’s budget to fund local education. To drum up sympathy, the CTA ran controversial ads featuring students; in one, a first-grader stares somberly into the camera and says, “Pay attention—today’s lesson is about the school funding initiative.” Victory brought local schools some $450 million a year in new funding, much of it discretionary. Unsurprisingly, the union-backed school boards often used the extra cash to fatten teachers’ salaries—one reason that California’s teachers are the country’s highest-paid, even though the state’s total spending per student is only slightly higher than the national average. “The problem is that there is no organized constituency for parents and students in California,” says Lanny Ebenstein, a former member of the Santa Barbara Board of Education and an economics professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “No one says to a board of education, ‘We want more of that money to go for classrooms, for equipment.’ ”