Menlo Park: Two council members named to 'educational equity' subcommittee


Goals of starting a multi-city, county and district group that could help spread needed funds to the Ravenswood City School District are one step closer to reality after the Menlo Park City Council appointed two of its members to an "education equity" subcommittee on Aug. 23.

The Menlo Park City Council by consensus appointed council members Ray Mueller and Catherine Carlton to a subcommittee that will meet with representatives from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, the Ravenswood City School District and San Mateo County to consider starting a joint powers authority focused on educational equity.

The Ravenswood district is based in East Palo Alto and has two schools in eastern Menlo Park.

Such a multi-city agency, which would likely be the first of its kind to focus on promoting equality of facilities and resources among neighboring school districts, could help the Ravenswood district fund facility renovations considered "critical," and other projects.

According to previous Almanac reporting, the school district, which recently conducted a master plan to study its aging facilities (most of which are more than 55 years old), identified more than $330 million in costs associated with bringing the facilities up to code, addressing hazardous materials and modernizing classrooms.

However, under the law and based on valuations of property in the district, the district can ask voters to support school bonds adding up to only $51 million.

Mr. Mueller has proposed starting a joint powers authority, similar to the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, with the purpose of promoting educational equity.

A recent legal opinion by attorney Eugene Clark-Herrera from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP said that forming such a group would not be illegal.


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3 people like this
Posted by Indulgences
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 25, 2016 at 8:22 pm

Why not just merge Ravenswood with Menlo City and Las Lomitas? The combined district would save money from efficiencies, and equity issues would be addressed.

3 people like this
Posted by Revenue Limit and Basic Aid
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Aug 26, 2016 at 10:58 am


A big challenge to merge Ravenswood with any of the other nearby south San Mateo County school districts is that it's a revenue limit district. Las Lomitas and Menlo Park are basic aid. If a basic aid district and revenue limit district merge and the property tax per student is over a certain threshold, the newly merged district becomes basic aid. The state provides a big bulk of funding for revenue limit districts. When a district becomes basic aid, that funding is pulled. Great for the CA budget, but bad for the merged districts.

You are correct that merging districts would save money through efficiency. But because of how California education funding works, a combined district would also be kissing a big chunk of state funding goodbye.

This would not be a problem if you merged Las Lomitas and Menlo Park districts. Both are basic aid already and don't rely on the state for a big chunk of funding.

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Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Correct, the 3 or even two districts will never be merged because that would mean several high paid administrators would loose their jobs. Imagine Los Lomitas pays a Superintendent $200k per year and had a principal for both the elementary school and middle school (it is one school) they make $180k and then their is the CFO, Business Officer etc...Same in MP and Ravenswood (all Sups make air least $200)
Web Link
Web Link

However, adding yet another shadow government agency with little oversight to is yet just another drain on our tax base. Do we really need to fund another yer another government agency? hmmm and shouldn't state be doing this anyway, Ray?

How is it that housing prices have doubled in the Ravenswood district yet, they still can't fund the schools? They can pay their sup the same as other. hmmm

How is it that prices have increased in the Ravenswood district yet, they still can't build a new school?

Regardless, I'd like to apply to be the head of the agency! I can use the cash.

4 people like this
Posted by The Rush Limbaugh Show
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 26, 2016 at 5:58 pm

@MPer - thanks for checking in on the alt-perspective. It was missing from the public dialogue.

Gotta love how the ultraconservative alway push for local control until it requires actually helping underserved populations in their own backyard. Then they abandon local control because "those kids on the other side of the tracks are the state's problem".

1 person likes this
Posted by JBS
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

According to the County Assessor's web site, the Ravenswood School District's total property evaluation increased 20% this year, not 100%. There are 4,200 students in the Ravenswood School District, looking at property value per student, the property values in the Ravenswood School District need to increase by 500% for the school revenue per student to equal that of the Menlo Park School District per student amount. It is going to take a long time for this to happen. In the meantime increasing property values in Ravenswood results in saving the state money as less money from the state needs to be sent to Ravenswood to reach the guaranteed minimum revenue per student.

As the gap narrows between property tax revenue per student and the state's guarantee of the minimum revenue per student the state needs to send less but Ravenswood sees no increase in revenues. Increasing property values are good for the state but not for the school district until the revenue per student exceeds the State's guaranteed minimum.

2 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 28, 2016 at 3:14 pm

If we have so much extra money in the MP school district, why do I need to pay an extra parcel tax for schools?

So let me get this straight. The MP school district has a parcel tax to raise revenue it needs to operate, but there is enough money raised from these taxes that we can fund yet another shadow government (salaries and pensions) to run it, all so they can disperse these extra taxes to another district.

Isn't that why we pay property taxes to the state to begin with? So we want another layer of government to do what the state already does?

sounds fishy

2 people like this
Posted by mark Gilles
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Aug 28, 2016 at 10:31 pm

I think the Joint Powers Board is a good first step to addressing the issue of inequality in our local schools. The Ravenswood district is 40 percent Menlo Park residents and 60 percent East Palo Alto residents so any solution needs to involve both Menlo Park and Palo Alto. Improving outcomes will benefit everyone including the high schools.

2 people like this
Posted by Ravenswood volunteer
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Aug 31, 2016 at 8:53 am

I agree the Joint Powers Board is a good start, too. I'd like the board to discuss the idea of funding two teachers per classroom in the Ravenswood district. As a regular volunteer in a Ravenswood classroom (something I believe all of our public officials should be), I see first-hand the challenge for one teacher to give the needed support to their students, especially having so many English language learners in the classroom. I realize the buildings are older and there are no funds to build additional classrooms to create smaller class sizes, but I feel an immediate help could be funding two teachers per classroom. In reality, these amazing kids who are struggling to catch up or keep up at the basic reading, writing, and math levels don't need a fancy desk or building, they need one-on-one support so they can successfully test out of the CELDT assessment (Web Link). Thank you Ray and Catherine for heading this subcommittee. I hope you consider my idea.

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