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More housing = more Kids

Original post made by ToldUSo on Jan 23, 2007

For those of you who are wondering about our continual increase in enrollment and the need for re-districting our school boundaries as well as the concerns for neighborhood schools as a whole, I thought it timely to mention that within the last 10 days, two new housing developments in Palo Alto have been proposed. Firstly there is Edgewood Plaza which would add to the very tight north cluster and now there is the news that there is probably going to be more housing on the Elks site which would affect the south
/west clusters. Palo Alto is growing from the inside out and we definitely need more space in the schools.

Whether the existing schools can add more students or the question of re-opening a 13th elementary school, the truth is that we are growing and it may mean all of the above. The luxury of the present cap on choice schools and the necessity of them growing along with the other programs is something that is to be debated, but it will affect us all. Some of us will not like our school boundaries changing, whether it be for property values or changing which neighborhood school our children attend, changes will be made. The more residents that move into Palo Alto because of the reputation of good schools is a reality of life here in P.A.

Comments (46)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2007 at 4:04 pm

Choice schools are a luxury, not a necessity. Choice schools add complexity and cost to the system. They create constraints (on location for example) that become less and less feasible to meet, as a the system reaches capacity. As per pupil funding get smaller, and site's become maxed out - there will be less and less likelihood that 'room' for luxury and choice can be maintained. You think we're crying about basic now, just wait until we can't even cover the basics.

But you are right, many of the luxuries we enjoy today (small class sizes, excellent teachers, small neighborhood schools, programs of choice - all are luxuries we risk losing as enrollment grows unchecked.

There should be no mistake about it - the high property values in Palo Alto are solely driven by the quality of the schools. If the city council is short sighted enough to drive population growth through new housing that does not provide for school district expansion and funding - they are damaging the property values of every single citizen.

There are other ways to improve the economy of the city, without damaging the schools. How about a business climate that attracts business and grows sales tax revenues? Where are all these new residents going to shop for groceries anyway - Mt. View?

Why, for example, is there no grocery store, or business development at the Alma Plaza yet? Shameful city mismanagement by the city council.

Posted by L.B., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2007 at 10:08 am

Choice schools are neither a luxury nor a necessity. They are an educational alternative designed to create diversity and to meet the needs of a minority of families. It makes no sense to invoke district priorities when considering a choice programs.

Choice schools must be cost neutral, a criterion that was met by the MI proposal, so they bring no additional load on the district.

Choice schools make us a better district and a better community.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2007 at 10:44 am

District Staff time is not compenstated by the choice school model. The development and operation of choice programs adds cost and comlexity to the school distict.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2007 at 10:53 am

How about building that 13th school in East Palo Alto? Think of the savings on busing alone.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2007 at 12:08 pm

If I had to drive my children across town or anywhere not my neighborhood school, then it would cost me time and gas money. Therefore, choice programs at neighborhood schools are never cost neutral for the parents who didn't get in. They should never be called cost neutral, because they may not cost the District money (or so they say) but they certainly cost money to the public, or doesn't that count?

Posted by Lynn, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 24, 2007 at 12:36 pm

CB: You say "It makes no sense to invoke district priorities when considering choice programs," and "Choice schools must be cost neutral, a criterion that was met by the MI proposal, so they bring no additional load on the district."

I disagree. Once choice schools and programs are up and running, they appear to be cost neutral. But there are start-up costs, and there is considerable debate as to whether those costs were accurately represented by the MI feasibility study, which lists the following steps that would need to take place over the next few months in order to begin an MI program in August:

-Involve teachers, administrators, staff, School Site Council, and PTA at the proposed site in the planning process: February 2007
-Provide extensive professional training and observation/collaboration opportunities for the principal
-Advertise, provide informational meetings, and conduct program lottery using District procedures for choice lotteries: February/March 2007
-Form Parent Advisory Group: March 2007
-Conduct meetings and trainings to ensure integration of the choice program in the selected school:

February-May 2007
-Staff meetings: information and awareness opportunities
-Parent meetings with parents already at the school
-Parent meetings with choice program parents and parents already at the school
-Recruit and select credentialed teachers and support staff March/April 2007
-Select and/or develop instructional materials: March 2007
-Provide staff development to teachers and staff at the site: April-August 2007
-Provide ongoing program and professional development August 2007- May 2010

Some of these line items don't sound free to me, and I don't see them listed in the feasibility study. It seems reasonable to me that the principal, current teachers and other staff would have to devote a fair amount of time incorporating the new program into an existing school, especially when it would be a "choice within a choice" program as proposed by the superintendent. Who would conduct the extensive professional training and staff development? What about the district staff time required to implement such a program? Staff time equals dollars.

If you look at the low enrollment forecasts for next school year, you see that elementary enrollment could actually drop. The demographer's figures have been high in the past, so it's not unreasonable to consider that the low number might be right. While there is a recommendation to add modular classrooms to five elementary schools, including Ohlone, between now and 2011, it's not clear to me that those classrooms, at a cost of $250+K, will be required for the next school year. If they are built at Ohlone to accommodate MI, without knowing if and where they are really needed, then those become MI start-up expenses, in my book. Similarly, if Garland has to be reopened to provide space for MI to grow after three years, and it turns out that a 13th elementary school is not needed before 2012 or later except to house MI, then that is a multi-million dollar MI expense.

This brings us back to district priorities. MI startup costs must be balanced against other district priorities. As a basic aid district, PAUSD's budget must be developed a year ahead of knowing what its actual income will be, based on predictions which rise and fall due to several factors, including:
- The fortunes of Palo Alto-based businesses, the real bread and butter of our tax base.
- Values of homes in PAUSD attendance area.
- The state budget, which is revised every May and affects funds that are earmarked for specific purposes: K-3 class size reduction, textbooks, GATE, etc.

The school board and superintendent must be very conservative about how they allocate funds to ensure that existing programs can be sustained before adding new ones. The initial premise of this thread, that there are many new housing developments that could dramatically increase our student population, is very concerning, because it is likely to mean less money to spend on each student in the district. The question asked by "Parent" in a previous comment is an important one to consider in order for our schools to continue to be excellent: "How about a business climate that attracts business and grows sales tax revenues?"

I know that some MI proponents feel that people only became interested in a foreign language program in the elementary schools (FLES) as a result of the MI proposal, and this might be partly true, but it's also true that foreign languages are core academic subjects that the district should be providing as part of a quality education regardless of parental pressure. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 states: "The term core academic subjects means English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, FOREIGN LANGUAGES, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography. Web Link

The fact that a student in this district can graduate without ever having studied a foreign language is shameful. The district may be finally stepping up to the fact that elective course offerings in middle and high school are not enough to claim that our students are adequately educated in this regard.

Not all of us opposed to MI are flat out opposed to it ever, but rather to rushing into a program starting next August. Heck, I can't even get one very basic question answered, which is, where do you put a fourth new classroom (needed for year three of the trial period) at a school that only has room for three? How thoroughly was this proposal by our lame duck superintendent thought out, anyway?

The board appears to be headed towards a conservative decision, which I fully support, not to start a new program when we have pressing issues including an ongoing investigation of the senior cabinet's management practices, an achievement gap between our Asian/Caucasian students and our Hispanic/African American students, the search for a new superintendent and financial manager, and concern about burgeoning enrollment, to name a few.

In her SJ Mercury News column on Jan. 17, Patty Fisher says that this is a prescription for mediocrity. If she thinks mediocrity is not spending money on new programs before ensuring that you can at least meet the needs of all students, then so be it. But that mediocrity is forced upon us by our state's inadequate system for school finance that under funds the majority of districts and leaves basic aid districts to fend for themselves as the economy fluctuates. It just doesn't allow much room for vision and creativity in the uncertain times we live in.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Lynn. Your post is a work of art. Bravo!

I hope that if you haven't already, you will send a copy to each of the the PAUSD board members, to the San Jose Mercury Editor (cc: to Patty Fisher who completely failed to put MI into PAUSD's context), and to the editor of the Palo Alto Daily who has also failed to understand the PAUSD big picture.

(Its probably too long to get published but it will at least give those editors some food for thought, which they have obviously been starved of so far.)

You might also copy the Palo Alto Weekly writer Alex Rocha who published an article today with more balance than they've had so far, but still not completely comprehensive in its statement of the issues against MI. Also, the Weekly Editor came out against MI in today's editorial, for much the same reasons you listed, but again, not as specifically stated as your essay. At least some balance and reason is creeping into the coverage, and for that we are thankful.

Your essay says it well. Thanks!

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2007 at 4:22 pm

My children are the crown jewels of my life. Children are what it is all about. Somebody's children will inheret this land, if not ours, then whose?

Posted by Crown Jeweler, too!, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 24, 2007 at 4:54 pm

By the numbers, it looks like those who speak Mandarin will inherit the earth. Will our children be part of them?

Posted by ToldUSo, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2007 at 6:30 pm

This thread has turned into another debate about MI. The weekly covered it quite extensively again. However, this is only part of the debate. Do we want another elementary school opened? Do we want larger elementary schools? Do we want bigger class sizes? What do we do at the middle school level to cope with overcrowding? When will we need to return Cubberly to our third High School? These are all important questions that need to be answered. It looks like the Board are not going to go with MI, at least for the time being. What else can be done to deal with this overcrowding situation that will help the situation without opening old wounds???

Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2007 at 10:21 pm

Another view of new housing is the lift in revenue they will bring to the community. Let's take Rickey's Hyatt House, which is being developed into 179 townhouses + 10 houses. Assuming an average sales price of $1 million per unit, that's a new valuation of the property of $189 Million. Property taxes would amount to $1.89 Million of which the schools and city gets a share. In addition, there is the school parcel tax, which brings in $490+ per unit to the schools, or another $92 thousand. On negative side, there is the loss of occupancy tax revenue from the previous use of the property as a hotel.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 24, 2007 at 10:54 pm

Someone did an analysis of what residents pay versus what they cost, and where the money comes from, and I seem to recall that even new residents (who pay such astounding property taxes) don't pull their weight, we are all subsidized by local business. Does someone have that link? I can't say how accurate that analysis was, it would be interesting to see it in relationship to the Hyatt development.

Some cities have an additional tax added to property sales as a one-time additional fee for schools. I don't think adding one in Palo Alto would hurt sales, frankly. And, you can add a pretty high tax that just seems part of the noise with the high price of housing here. I've paid such a tax in another city, but not here. I wasn't happy about paying it, but it wasn't a make or break item on the sale by any means. I'd rather get the money through creative business initiatives. But it's something to think about.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 24, 2007 at 11:48 pm

With respect to your statement that parcel taxes would bring in $490 per unit, it is actually per parcel of land. I'm not sure how many parcels are involved in this particular project, but I will try to find out.

Posted by GBD, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2007 at 9:05 am

Here's the link that A.J. referred to. It was an opinion piece in the Palo Alto Weekly last November.

Web Link

It is not a rigorous analysis. The general conclusion is that new residents carry a lot more of the load than older residents but that businesses subsidize them all.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2007 at 10:19 am

We need to avoid the drawbridge attitude. Palo Alto, like it or not, is of this world.

Posted by l.b., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2007 at 11:39 am


You say that "there is considerable debate as to whether those costs were accurately represented by the MI feasibility study" and that MI would force the district to install modulars or reopen Garland.

I don't see any debate. The district professionals have given their views and answered questions about how they came to their conclusions. You and others are convinced that there are hidden costs, though you're not sure what they are. There can be no answer to a radical skepticism that asserts the existence of something but cannot point to it. You surmise a lot about the potential extra costs but cannot point to anything concrete. Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man schweigen.

As for the modulars and Garland, I think you are misinformed. No one has suggested installing modulars or reopening Garland solely for MI. I agree that would be wasteful.

The district will be installing modulars before the fall, and the question is where to put them. If Mi were passed, it would make good sense to put some at Ohlone. Even if the MI pilot were canceled it would make sense to keep the modulars at Ohlone and expand that choice program, which has great demand.

As for Garland, that will only be reopened if the district decides in later years that it is necessary for district-wide enrollment reasons. That has nothing to do with MI.

You also raise district priorities, but they are irrelevant to choice programs, which are created to provide educational alternatives for a minority of families. Since all new choice programs must be cost neutral, the issue of tax revenues plays no role here. I agree with you that the premise of this thread--new housing could ramp up the student population--is a concern.

But that is driven by tax policy going back to the far-sighted Jarvis and Gann. Those funding issues will not be solved by killing MI and pursuing an education policy with no vision. Killing MI will also not improve the Asian/Caucasian gap, or address any of your other concerns.

You say mediocrity has been forced on us. We can always find excuses to be mediocre. But I believe that if we are ready to innovate, we can take this district beyond that mediocre vision. MI ought to be a part of that vision.

Posted by Pa Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2007 at 12:06 pm

I.b. -

If a pilot MI program is started this year at Ohlone, where would you propose putting MI in three years time once it out grows Ohlone, assuming we don't need Garland to re-open until 2012 or later?

Posted by l.b., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2007 at 2:04 pm

Pa Resident,

Don't know.

That would depend on what happens with enrollment between now and the, etc. If there's no room at Ohlone or anywhere else, it'd have to be nixed. It's a pilot program, after all.

Posted by Pa Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2007 at 2:35 pm

I.b. - That's one detail I just can't get around. It would be such a shame (and some would argue not a good use of limited resources) to nix a program after 3 years if it took countless hours of district/administrative/principal/parent, etc., time and energy to get it going and it was working. If there was only an answer to that one question, I think I would be on board, which is a change for me. That's why I'm thinking maybe this could work if/when the district knows for sure that we need that 13th school, but I don't think we are there yet. Then there is no issue or suggestion that it was opened only to house MI.

Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2007 at 3:57 pm

I forgot to add another couple of revenue sources with new housing: on purchase of a property, there is a city transfer tax of $3.30 per thousand; so with all the housing being built at the old Hyatt location, that's another $600,000+ in revenue for the city. In addition each unit's utility bill will get charged monthly for that storm drain tax that passed. Add this to the $1.89 million in annual property taxes, and the $92,000 in additional school parcel taxes, and you can see why the city likes these new developments.

Posted by PV Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 25, 2007 at 4:34 pm

This is not a new issue, but the issue itself is changing. I remember having to almost camp out to get my daughter into my neighborhood school. She is now in college, but that was how it was done back then.

No, we don't want to increase class sizes. No we don't want huge elementary schools with portables everywhere. But, we can be imaginative and do more with what we have. Palo Verde isn't big enough to become a 4 strand school, or even a 3 1/2 strand school. But we could take a bubble class because we have done it before. We could put in a portable behind one wing (where one has been before)and use it as resource rooms, freeing up the classroom which has been divided into 2 resource room.

We could do similar things elsewhere and invent posts of traveling vice principals and admin staff. We have to be inventive and be realistic. It is ludicrous to send children all around town because of idealism. Children need to go to school where they live. We need to make sure that we put round pegs into round holes, not round pegs into square holes.

In an ideal Palo Alto, every child would be able to get into a neighborhood school and each neighborhood school would be small and not crowded. But, we are living with the leftover heritage from a previous Board who closed schools and sold off the land.

Posted by Einstein, a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2007 at 7:12 pm

No kids = graying population and storing economic, cultural stagnation: a future like Europe's and Japan's for Palo Alto ...

Posted by GBD, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2007 at 7:17 pm

Regarding the revenue estimates by curious, according to the analysis that I linked to, the city directly gets about 9% of the property tax paid. So of the $1.89 million that that curious estimated, the city would get about $170 thousand annually. The conclusion of the article was that new development is not a "big win" for the city in terms of revenue.

Posted by 14k/yr, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 25, 2007 at 7:31 pm

Don't equate school revenue sources with city revenue sources. The schools are funded by property taxes. I believe about 65% of the local property taxes go to the schools. I don't think any of the local sales tax revenue goes to the schools. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Of course, Prop 13 has created a school funding disaster in California. Palo Alto is basic aid district and has thus benefited from its relatively high property tax base. This high tax base hasn't kept up with the local cost of living (and thus school labor expenses). The situation is only going to get worse. Many seniors and boomers will be moving out, but renting out their homes (or passing them on to their heirs). Wait till more students start pouring in from rental homes and apartments that have a low property tax valuation.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 26, 2007 at 8:36 am

l.b.: You say, with respect to my earlier comment that there has been debate about all the MI costs being represented accurately in the feasibility study, "I don't see any debate. The district professionals have given their views and answered questions about how they came to their conclusions." I was referring to the debate that took place on other threads in this forum, which was quite lively in the first week or two after the study was published, and that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

While you obviously trust the district professionals to be thorough, accurate, fair and honest in their work, I do not. I have my reasons, which are too off-topic to go into on this thread, but I am not alone; district principals, assistant principals and program managers expressed their distrust of senior management en masse last fall.

You say that I "surmise a lot about the potential extra costs but cannot point to anything concrete," and even quote Wittgenstein in German-impressive! The fact is that the feasibility study was not very concrete, and I was as concrete as I could be with the information available, even quoting directly from the study itself.

Take the first item on the list of tasks to be accomplished in order to implement an MI program: "Involve teachers, administrators, staff, School Site Council, and PTA at the proposed site in the planning process." Granted, the parents on Site Council and PTA members are volunteers, but everyone else on that list is a paid employee and would likely need to be compensated in some way for time spent above and beyond regular duties.

The PACE community knows this as well as anyone. Their $60K paid for district staff time to do the feasibility study. So, if district staff time is needed to implement MI, where are those costs listed?

If we could ask questions and actually get answers, that would help. But answers are in short supply for those of us who have tried to get them. Not one person has told me how the district would come up with a fourth classroom in year three of the pilot, for example. No one.

I'll end with another quote, in English this time: Don't trust the person who has broken faith once. - William Shakespeare

Posted by Oh Brother, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 9:29 am

Crown Jeweler, too,
Love your argument: "World Domination by China: It Is Futile to Resist"

Very funny. I hope the school board is smart enough to see through that. I wonder why China is drilling their kids with Math, Science, and English, while goading on the US to whittle away scarce education resources teaching Mandarin?

(Actually very clever of them to convince US to spend their educational resources on teaching Mandarin - so the US takes their eyes off the ball, to ENSURE China runs far ahead in the technology fields that matter.)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 9:36 am

I.b - if you don't see any debate then you just joined the conversation yesterday. For example, in the Board meeting on 12/16 when the first feasibility study was presented, Dana Tom said he thought there was an understatement of district staff, and asked if there would be any more use staff time in start up. Becky Cohn Vargas admitted there was, and listed several people who would be pulled in to the start up effort, including herself, Norm Masuda, Marilyn, and others. Someone from HR will be pulled in to staffing. Someone from assessment will be pulled in to the development of a new Mandarin assessment tool. etc etc etc.

Dana asked for a fuller account of what district costs would be used in start up. Those have not yet been provided.

Another example, there is no program management cost in this study. Who will coordinate all the sources of curriclum inputs and financial sources? Happens by magic? Or are you saying Susan Charles sits around with nothing to do? That's incremental effort (time) that has a cost to this district. Some work that is done todya will not get done, or someone will be hired to do it.

Another example, there is no cost included for the entirely new Mandarin Assessment testing that will be required.

There are more, but the fact is the feasibility study left gaping holes in the start up costs, because the "professionals" who put this study together did a distinctly UNprofessional job.

Posted by AAAG Rep, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 9:49 am

This still won't work. Connections at JLS, DI at Terman and SI at Jordan are not full. This means that whatever reasons parents want their kids in choice programs at the elementary level, the majority of them don't follow through for middle school. This means that if we were able to guide them through middle and high school from these choice programs, then possibly we would get less entering the lottery for the choice elementary programs. It seems that parents value their "neighborhood" middle/high school more than the programs.

Posted by AAAG Rep, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 9:51 am

Ooops wrong thread - this was meant for the peer streaming thread

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 10:09 am

Correction from prior post - There is no cost included for the entirely new Mandarin Assessment testing TOOL that will be required. They either need to BUY an assessment tool, or DEVELOP an assessment tool - to prove the kids are learning mandarin to grade level. No cost for this has been included (This is just one example, among many specific missing costs.)

Posted by ToldUSo, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 1:05 pm

I heard on the radio today that LAH (Los Altos Hills) forming their own K 8 district is a no go. This means that they will be staying with us in PAUSD afterall. Since we won't be losing them then we must get down to business on what to do with our overcrowding situation. All this discussion about MI is fine, but we have done enough of it already. What we need to do is find a way to deal with this overcrowding in a way that will be fair to all the children and not divisive to the community.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2007 at 8:11 pm

The reason California schools have gone from the best in the nation to just mediocre is Proposition 13. Remove this unequal taxation and the school district would have plenty of funding.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 26, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Prop. 13 was a major reason for the decline in CA public schools, but not the only one. There's an excellent documentary called "First to Worst," that covers this topic in detail. The information in the film is also available at Web Link. Click on "timeline" to see how whole language reform and even, gasp, class size reduction are contributing factors.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2007 at 9:44 pm

What would the schools do with more money?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Lets see...

They might open another school site instead of piling kids up on one another on playgrounds and at portables.

They might increase the school day by one hour to be equivalent to benchmark schools

They might hire some site security to patrol their seventeen very valuable site assets on nights and weekends, buy security cameras, alarms, or other security measures similar to other schools.

They might try to hire similar numbers of counselors, and other support staff at levels similar to other benchmark peers, so our kids would stop killing themselves on railroad tracks.

They might start thinking about how to house their bursting at the seams middle school population, or they might start trying to figure out how they're going to open back up a third high school in about five or six years.

They might fund their unfunded pension liability.

They might even try to educate MORE Tinsley kids - for ALL our economic welfare Mr Wallis. The sooner those communities get 97% of their kids off to college like the rest of Palo Alto, the sooner they bring their economic status up, improve their familieis and communities economic status, bring businesses and revenue streams in, drive crime rates down, improve blight, build their own excellent school districts, drive property values up in our neighboring communities, and in our own communities, and improve life for everyone including them and YOU. Try to think outside your tiny little box.

Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 27, 2007 at 1:45 pm

I wholeheartedly agree. Thanks.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2007 at 2:56 pm


They might not have to educate more Tinsley kids because there might finally be enough money for decent schools in East Palo Alto and East Menlo.

We could actually bring school facilities up-to-date.

Open another UC campus since they're clearly unable to meet the demand for reasonable college educations.

We could bring back P.E. every day.

I was in school when Prop. 13 passed, it was a quick and dirty disaster for most districts.

Posted by Draw the line, a resident of Stanford
on Jan 27, 2007 at 3:50 pm

There is much, much more at work that results in a good education than money spent on students.. Look at of the highest scoring districts in the nation, on $11,000 per student.

All you have to do to get the idea out of your head that money is the most critical factor in education is look at the worst performing, but highest funded, at over $15,000 per head per year, ...Washington DC.

Much more has changed in California since the 70s than just prop 13.

Simply reversing Prop 13 will solve nothing, and in fact may make it worse. Even with prop 13, we spend 30% more money in real dollars than we did back when it began. Simply reverse it, and it would only drive down the value of housing, hurting those who bought more recently the most, and increase by 4 fold the taxes of anyone who has owned a home for more than 20 years,..just when these people are at the "downturn" phase of their earning level..pretty much everyone who is just saying goodbye to their kids and looking at retirement..but suddenly being hit by a huge tax hike. It would drive out anyone and everyone who is already living at the edge.

In real terms, because of the lowering values and flight that would ensue, we would be no better off, maybe worse. There is a reason that there is so much flight, thus decreased tax base, from high tax cities and states.

So, let's talk about how to really help.

I, personally, as an owner of a home for more than 20 years who would be driven out if my taxes quadrupled, would have no problem with a fair sized tax which would go directly to the schools, but was levied on me when I sold my home.

A certain percentage of whatever the real dollars are that I receive above the price I paid for my home, along the lines of a type of capital gains tax. It would make sense to do it that way. I move when I can afford to, or my children pay the tax when they sell my home after I die. In any case, eventually the tax is paid.

It eventually equalizes the difference in taxes between neighbors in real dollars.(by the way, with all the complaining I hear about paying so much more than your neighbor is paying who has been in his house forever, it must be kept in mind that you chose to pay the same percent of house price that I did, it is just that you chose to buy a much more expensive house than I did)

So, that is my "2 cents" worth. I would vote for it.

Posted by 14k/yr, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 27, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Draw the line's argument against Prop 13 reform has serious flaws. I agree that the immediate removal of Prop 13 safeguards would send the residential property market into a tailspin, but there are many other remedies. The most obvious solution is make commercial properties (including rental units) pay taxes at the market value of the property. Of course, Prop 13 provides a huge unnecessary windfall for many.

The argument that the amount of school funding has increased by 30% in real terms since 1978 is pure garbage. National data on inflation is meaningless in the local context. Labor costs in the Bay Area have (driven in large part by housing prices) have gone up much more than 30% since 1978. A huge part of the school budget is labor costs. Can you honestly say that the real cost real of living in the bay area has gone up only 30% in the past 30 years?

The comparison of local funding level with DC funding levels is also specious. DC is a much larger school system with extra administrative costs and even more aggressive unions. DC's schools also have many extra costs that come with controlling drugs, controlling crime, and dealing with a much higher proportion of students from troubled families. Don't forget that DC, unlike Palo Alto, even has school buses (a Prop 13 casualty).

Prop 13 also has had the downside of converting Palo Alto into retirement community.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2007 at 5:34 pm

I am concerned about the statement that Palo Alto is converting into a retirement community. This is something I have read about in the papers and elsewhere, but can't actually see it for myself. It may have been true 5 - 10 years ago, but not in my area. The fact that boomers are staying here and retiring here may be happening elsewhere, but in my area I am surrounded by elderly neighbors who were the original owners of homes built 50 years ago. We moved into our house 7 years ago and bought from the original owner. Our home was the only house with school aged children for many houses in both directions. Since then, the elderly people have died or moved into homes outside the area and families have moved in. There are still many very elderly people surrounding us and they will not be here in the next 5 - 10 years and it is my guess that families will move in.

One thing that I am finding, particularly from families at school, is that it is getting more common to have 3 generations living in the same house which may be what is happening. Either families are moving here and bringing grandparents with them to help with childcare, or else, divorced or single parents are moving back in with their parents to enable their children to get into our schools. These single parents often stay with their parents for a couple of years and then manage somehow to get a townhome for low income families.

So these 3 generation households are sometimes paying large amounts of property tax because of recent house purchase, but not always due to the fact that the elderly parents have been here for a long time and what they pay in tax is relatively low.

It would be interesting to see what the figures of these three generation families are because I know that I am not imagining this. I just don't know how to find these figures, if there is any way to do so.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2007 at 6:25 pm

Whatever success Palo Alto schools have is more because of their raw material than beause of their process. I guess with more money they could show Moore's agitprop and Gore's fsiry tale ten time instead of five. Just add an hour to the day and let anyone who objects go elsewhere. Get rid of the silly 20 student rule since that requires less well trained teachers and avoids facing the real problem of disruptors.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2007 at 10:01 pm

You don't just add an hour to the day, unless you plan to send them out to sit on the field and entertain themselves for that hour. You actually have to pay teachers.

However, I do agree with what I think your first statement means: That Palo Alto schools' success is more due to their raw material (smart motivated kids, coming from educated motivated parents). One person recently laughed about PAUSD said:

Wow, big surprise, give me a filet mignon, and I can cook a great steak. PAUSD spends a little too much time patting themselves on the back for great test scores.

And PAUSD is also under the mistaken assumption that they need to be 'cutting edge' to be great. No, they just need to deliver a strong core basic education, and prepare all kids to succeed in college. The idea that they have to create customized choice for every spoiled parent, and the really lopsided idea that student enrollment 'growth' is a measure of greatness is really dangerous. The sooner they start realizing that student enrollment growth is a bad thing, they'll stop measuring their decision by how fancy, fabulously cutting edge they are.

Frankly, I think the most dangerous thing to happen to PAUSD in years is the advent of Hoover as some sort of miracle school among greats. Its like a blinking red light shining on PAUSD. Its a miserable idea. All the schools can be stunningly great, without being number one or number 10 (whatever it was ranked). And we'd all be alot better off. Pooling all the most motivated families into one school just creates this incredible growth magnet.

I don't agree with reverting to pre prop 13 - I don't agree with forcing people out of their homes with unbearably high property taxes.

Where should it comes from? Higher developer fees? What do we need more housing for? We need more businesses, not more housing. And PAUSD focusing the dollars they do have on the basics.

Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 28, 2007 at 8:15 am

I also believe that it is the parents and kids that are the primary reason the school district is a success - the school district is an enabler and a magnet, but if it didn't attract the types of families who had the social-economics and who placed a priority on eduction, the school district would be like many others in Silicon Valley.

I don't think that more funding would cause the Palo Alto schools to be any more successful; Cupertino, which has a district which is just as highly rated, makes do with about $8,000 per student.

At the elementary & middle school level, there are other school districts which are just as successful - Los Altos, Menlo Park; but where there is a difference is at the high school level, where Los Altos & Menlo Park, because they are not a unified school district, the population changes to include Mountain View (in the case of Los Altos), and Redwood City (in the case of Menlo Park).

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2007 at 12:47 pm

I wonder how serious a magnet Hoover is. Last year it had fewer applicants than Ohlone, whose scores are just mid-range--well, for Palo Alto. I always think of Hoover as sort of a siphon for the gung-ho hypercompetitive parents. I figure if they're pushing piles of homework they're not doing that at the neighborhood schools and giving the rest of us a break.

That said, homes in the Hoover neighborhood sometimes go for astounding sums, so I assume the Hoover/Gunn combo is a very strong draw for some people. I'm also guessing that the recent climb in Fairmeadow's scores has something to do with Hoover spillover--families who moved there for Hoover, but didn't get in.

Posted by Faith, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2007 at 8:12 pm

I just read your entry from 1/24 at 12:36, and I must write in for the first time. I have been studying the M.I. proposal since last April and you nailed it. I have read the Feasibility study several times and it is riddled with assumptions, biases, and a blatant lack of facts, data and actual costs. It was clear to me as well, that the list of items that you included would all cost money that was not described in that study.
Have you looked at the PiE Benchmark Study? An excellent study comparing several schools that are considered on par with ours. But, we are operating with less funds and fewer staff.
I totally agree with your points. Mandarin immersion does not serve PAUSD, no matter how you look at it.
I agree with the parent who submitted the entry right after yours. You should send your entry to the Board, Patty Fischer, and the Daily and Weekly. All of those papers have clearly not studied this issue with much depth. But thank goodness at this point, it looks like most of our Board has!

Posted by A PARENT, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2007 at 4:48 pm


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