Measure B is the right solution for the future of Menlo Park's students | October 8, 2021 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Viewpoint - October 8, 2021

Measure B is the right solution for the future of Menlo Park's students

by By Peter Carpenter

Measure B is a long-term financial solution that allows Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) to continue delivering superior education at a reasonable cost, and one with meticulous accountability to the taxpayers. I say this as the leading voice against previous parcel tax measures; I even drafted the argument against measures A and C in 2016. In contrast, I fully support Measure B.

California's elementary and secondary education financing system is complex and difficult to understand. When Proposition 13 was passed in the '70s, the focus was on funding "basic" education for all. As a result, many districts ended up relying on local funding, such as property taxes, to provide a higher standard of education. In Menlo Park, it was determined that 18 cents from each property tax dollar would go toward the school district, and unfortunately, this percentage is unchangeable. That's why, four decades later, property taxes cover only 62% of the district's budget, and why parcel taxes were introduced to bridge the gap.

The complexity of these early supplemental funding solutions was further challenged by poor communication to voters about them. And the efforts to educate voters were primarily targeted toward district parents, not taxpayers.

As a taxpayer, I presented my concerns about parcel taxes in order to change the basic philosophy: Make parcel taxes work for our community's education system and for the economy. When new district and school board leaders ushered in an approach that put taxpayers at parity with parents, the communication, understanding, and collaboration about supplemental funding grew.

Over the last five years, MPCSD streamlined and simplified the district's finances while navigating the complex laws that dictate funding for our education.

In the lead-up to Measure B, I reviewed the plans and budgets with the experience formed over decades of serving on boards, ethics and finance committees in academia, the public sector and the corporate world. As a member of the Vision for Outstanding Public Education Committee, I helped to formulate and refine the district's long-term goals and the financial plans for how to achieve them.

Most recently, with my grandchildren now attending schools in the district, I've seen firsthand the phenomenal quality of the staff, and the value of my tax dollars at work. MPCSD delivers credible value for the dollar, with strong academic performance despite spending the least per student compared to competitive neighboring districts: Woodside, Portola Valley, Las Lomitas, Hillsborough, and Palo Alto.

I empathize with taxpayers' concerns around the ambiguity of future enrollment and the hesitancy to approve a measure that incorporates these uncertain, though likely, risks. Think about it this way: As a shareholder, would you have confidence in a board that didn't have a long-term plan that took into consideration both present and future risks? Measure B allows the board to move forward in a period of ambiguity with a hard cap, and the flexibility — and responsibility — to reassess if they don't need the entire Measure B amount in any given year.

The importance of the quality of leadership to run an efficient and successful organization should not be overlooked. It's something I saw firsthand, as a member of the military, while serving in the federal Office of Management and Budget, in boardrooms and educational institutions. We have great leadership across the school district, from the administration to the staff as well as a solid school board, elected by the people and tasked with district oversight.

Finally, we also must acknowledge that much of the political and economic turbulence in our society is because of poor education. A healthy democracy demands well-educated students. The strength of our economy is contingent on productivity, and our productivity can only be increased by education. Data shows that with a strong education system, communities see an economic benefit; for example, a 2010 Stanford study found that for every dollar the government invests in education, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grows by $20.

These are key factors that I have considered, and which I encourage others to consider, when deciding to support this parcel tax. Measure B will empower the district's leadership to provide economic growth for our community through investing in our children; and well-educated children are the greatest asset for the future of our democracy.

Peter Carpenter is a Menlo Park resident.

Comments

Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 8, 2021 at 10:35 am

Menlo Park Resident is a registered user.

Thank you for the article. I completely agree it is wise to support Menlo Park Schools and specifically Measure B! We have the opportunity to experience and gather deep insights into how MPCSD works day-to-day compared to some other school districts in the Bay Area and event some private schools nearby. The administration and teachers of the Menlo Park Schools are top-notch and provide a rich and nurturing experience to families and students. It is shocking how Menlo Park Schools can accomplish all that with less $ per student. The city as a whole (property prices, businesses, etc.) benefits so much from our outstanding schools.


Posted by Taxed to Oblivion
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 9, 2021 at 8:58 am

Taxed to Oblivion is a registered user.

No on measure B!!! This area collects more cash for education than any in the country. The teachers unions abused the Covid crisis to leverage the most personal gain possible. Imagine if your doctors and nurses said we aren’t coming back to work unless we can work from home, have others pay for our child care, and raise our taxes. “Don’t let a crisis go to waste” is their motto. REFUSE NEW TAXES, IT WILL NEVER END!


Posted by Public Education Supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 9, 2021 at 9:19 am

Public Education Supporter is a registered user.

I can't think of a better investment in our community's future than to support our local public schools. As a community-funded district, it is our responsibility. The district has demonstrated incredible competence and stellar student outcomes for decades because our community is is willing to support local education.
Yes on B.


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