News

Battle over Measure A heats up

Supporters say tax is much-needed — but detractors want to send a message to district leaders

With 11 days left until Palo Alto's special school parcel-tax election, Measure A campaigners are working to corral support for what they see as a critical financial injection for Palo Alto schools, while others in the community are calling the vote a referendum on school-district leadership.

Voters are being asked to consider a $120 increase on the tax they currently pay, which expires next June. If approved by two-thirds of voters, the proposed $758 per-parcel tax would begin on July 1 and last six years with 2-percent annual increases. The tax includes an optional exemption for seniors who are 65 and older.

While the $13 million generated each year would continue to accomplish one of the tax's original purposes — to keep class sizes down — the proposed increase would provide $2.3 million to support additional investments in student health and wellness efforts, academic supports for struggling students and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) instruction.

With no arguments opposing Measure A submitted to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, the most vocal debate is taking place on Palo Alto Online's Town Square. Much of the opposition sees Measure A as a means to send a message to school district leaders in the wake of several student suicides this year; others are resisting funding a district that is more financially stable than in years past.

Support Palo Alto Schools 2015 campaign co-chairs Nana Chancellor and Sarah Woodham said that treating the parcel tax like a "political pawn" is destructive, distracts from the work needed to address current issues in the schools and will harm every student in the district. The tax pays for 85 full-time staff, including teachers, librarians and counselors and serves a primary purpose of keeping class sizes as small as possible at a time of ballooning student populations throughout the district.

"When the parcel tax was first voted in in 2001, the whole purpose of it was class size reductions. It's still the number one place where the money is going ... and it affects every single student in Palo Alto," Chancellor said. "If you kill Measure A, you are hurting every single student."

Lee The, a former district parent, cast his "no" vote on Measure A this week despite having consistently supported the tax in the past. He said that he felt voting "no" on the measure was a more effective way to communicate with district leadership than the typical channels, like sharing his opinion at a board meeting. He compared the May election to the November 2013 vote, when Palo Altans overturned an approved senior housing development on Maybell Avenue.

"I can communicate by voting, just as we did with Maybell," The said.

Some Town Square posters share this motivation. (Other opponents of Measure A declined to speak on the record for this story.)

"I am a parent who has long volunteered for and valued our schools," one person wrote on Town Square on April 18. "Right now, we do not need the money as much as we very, very much need to send a message to the district office that they cannot ignore."

Another poster wrote on April 10: "This district has a habit of promising and not delivering when it comes to mental health, counseling, and student assistance programs. Even after several emotionally tragic years, the talk has been ongoing with little real change. I think they need to first spend a bit of capital (personal and financial) to insure they will move forward with their proposals and then ask for more support."

Chancellor and Woodham are urging the community to separate any anger and fear stemming from several student suicides this year from the district's financial needs, which they say are great even in an improved economic climate. Enrollment increases — the district has grown by 1,100 new students over the last six years and is projected to increase by another 700 over the next five years — coupled with decreased state and federal funding and $1.86 million from the Cubberley Community Center lease that is being diverted to infrastructure repairs make the parcel-tax funding even more critical, supporters say.

Supporters also frequently point to the fact that Palo Alto's per-student funding has failed to keep up with inflation and with other affluent school districts outside of the state. Though total revenue is up 20 percent since 2008, funding per student has only increased by 10 percent, according to district figures.

As federal and state funding decreases and stays flat, the district has continued to lean on local sources of funding, primarily property-tax revenues, the existing parcel tax, Partners in Education (PiE) fundraising and money from the district's leases.

Some voters, however, are not convinced that the district is in the same dire financial state as it was when past tax measures came to them.

"The plea that it's critical is just absurd on the face of it," The said. "The parcel tax was invented as an emergency, temporary measure with a sunset clause to account for the Great Recession. I believe that recession is over."

A survey conducted for the board in December showed sufficient support to obtain two-thirds voter approval of the new, increased tax rate, but it also revealed a significant drop in the perception of the district's financial need from similar surveys taken over the last decade. Only 14 percent of survey respondents said they felt the district had a "great" need for more money.

"We're so used to — every time there's an increase, it's to fill this hole, just to stay at status quo," Chancellor said. "Those people who were looking for that reason, they weren't going to find it because we're not in a hole. But we're also not flush with $13 extra million without this tax."

Voters have also expressed concern that the district has historically provided a conservative view of school finances by underestimating its property-tax projections, unnecessarily projecting dire fiscal scenarios that haven't materialized. But the district's chief budget officer for the first time this year provided two scenarios for district revenue and expenditures over the next five years: 3 percent growth for all five years and 5.24 percent to 5.46 percent for each year, with the latter being the rate the City of Palo Alto uses in its projections.

Property taxes make up the majority of district revenue — at this point in 2014-15, it accounts for 71.5 percent of revenue, Chief Budget Officer Cathy Mak told the board in February. Mak has typically used a more conservative 2 percent property-tax increase as her base, though the actual percentage of revenues often turns out to be higher.

Palo Alto Online blogger and government watcher Douglas Moran analyzed the Measure A campaign in an April 17 post.

"The advocates for the parcel tax have done too little regarding the justifications, but the opponents of the tax have provided a variety of small criticisms, but nothing — either individually or cumulatively — rising to the level of arguing against the need for the tax," he wrote. "I have come to see this election as another instance of bad governance in the school district. Given recent history, one of the key messages of the conduct of this election should have been, 'This is why we are deserving of your trust,' rather than 'You need to trust us.'"

School board President Melissa Baten Caswell said Wednesday that voting down Measure A would have the adverse effect of taking away time and resources from the very issues voters want the board to focus on.

"If we have 7 percent of our budget disappear, our ability to focus on the things that people are calling out as important is going to go down, and that's going to hurt the kids in school," she said.

Some voters have also been concerned about the timing of the early renewal and the $300,000 cost of mounting a special election, but every tax has been brought to voters one year in advance of its expiration, Chancellor said. The earlier election provides the district with ample time to plan and budget for the next school year. However, if Measure A fails to win approval, another attempt is expected prior to the expiration of the current parcel tax, similar to the parcel-tax election that ran in 2005.

The district has a long list of new priorities this year that the tax would support. High on that list are expected recommendations from the superintendent's minority achievement and talent development committee, which for months has been developing both short- and long-term strategies to address the district's achievement gap.

"You can feel that we are trying to address not the low-hanging fruit but some of the high-hanging fruit," Woodham said of the committee's recommendations, expected this spring. "It's been hanging there for many, many years, and we just cannot create the disruption and distraction of having to re-run a parcel-tax measure and again, put these kids on hold for another year. It's just too distractive, and the costs are really too high."

At the elementary level, parcel-tax funding would help pay for additional literacy support from pre-kindergarten through second grade, with the goal of catching struggling students much earlier on in their academic careers.

Parcel-tax dollars would also help to expand the district's summer-school options as well as provide additional nursing staff (there is currently one district nurse who serves the entire system) and family and student counseling at the elementary and secondary levels.

Palo Alto's high school students would see crowding in some electives eased and more programming to support student mental health and wellness. Chancellor and Woodham said the high schools are engaged in ongoing work with Challenge Success, a Stanford University research organization focused on student wellness, to shape some of that programming.

As with past parcel taxes, Measure A proposes that an independent Community Oversight Committee monitor the expenditures, among other accountability methods.

At Tuesday's board meeting, two members expressed trepidation at approving $2.3 million in resource allocations for the 2015-16 school year before the election. Even though those allocations are supported by the district's general fund and not the parcel tax, member Terry Godfrey said the outcome of the election could force a shift in financial priorities.

"We have things that are in the works that we're hoping the parcel tax will fund," Godfrey said. "If the parcel tax doesn't pass, we may still want to do those things, and if we've committed all of our dollars, we're in a bad place."

(The board ultimately approved the funding allocations, which will mostly pay for staffing increases and administrative support, in a 3-2 vote, with Godfrey and member Ken Dauber dissenting.)

The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters mailed ballots earlier this month to the 42,084 registered voters in the school district. The election takes place on May 5, but as an all-mail ballot election, there will be no polling places on Election Day. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before Election Day and must be received by Friday, May 8 (three days after the election). Ballots that are returned in-person must be received by 8 p.m. on May 5, and can be dropped off at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave. The registrar will also be offering early voting and drive-thru drop-off sites at City Hall on Saturday, April 25 and May 2.

Voter turnout is typically low in mail elections — between 35 to 45 percent, according to the registrar.

As of Friday, April 24, 11,502 ballots had been returned, according to the registrar.

More information is available from the Registrar of Voters' Office at 1-408-299-VOTE (8683); toll-free at 1-866-430-VOTE (8683) or sccvote.org.

Palo Alto parcel-tax timeline

June 2001: First parcel tax at $293 rate passes with 75 percent support. Tax is set to last for five years and is fixed with no annual escalator.

November 2004: Attempt to renew early and increase tax to $521 fails to pass.

June 2005: Six-year flat-rate tax of $493 per parcel passes with 73 percent support.

May 2010: Six-year $589 tax with a 2 percent per year automatic escalator passes with 79 percent support. This was the first mail-in special election in Palo Alto.

Related content:

Ballots for school parcel tax mailed to Palo Alto voters

Interpretation of tax exemptions trips up school parcel tax

School board approves increased parcel tax

School board backs increased parcel tax

Comments

13 people like this
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 24, 2015 at 7:31 am

Elena-
Well put. I would like to add a link to the report filed by the oversight committee for the current parcel tax, as it clearly spells out where the money goes:
Web Link

If the measure does not pass, the very administrators that opponents are trying to alert will have more work to do (planning two budgets) and teachers will be given pink slips in spring 2016 as required by contract. The report shows who these teachers are (classroom size reduction and teachers hired for the growth in the number of students), as they represent 67 of the 85 people funded by the current parcel tax.

Thanks for the balanced summary. Few of us support the schools without reservation, but many of us support our own school and believe that more funding will help.
George


41 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 7:51 am

The message should be that pink slips should be given to administrators to save money, not teachers. Can't stand this hypocrisy. Get rid of the chiefs, not the indians. Stop sending students to Singapore. Save the money by not spending big bucks, not pennies.


57 people like this
Posted by Voted No
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 24, 2015 at 8:34 am

Thank you to Lee The for speaking out with the no viewpoint. There are many who feel this way. We just funded a science research coordinator position, we have a useless public relations position, of all things, etc., so we can start cutting overhead if we need to save money. Property taxes are growing, it's not a recession; my no vote is a protest vote against the inertia of homework policy resistance, Schoology resistance, board members saying nonchalantly that "we've dealt with suicide clusters before" and so on. We need to get back to basics.


14 people like this
Posted by Mary Holzer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 24, 2015 at 8:39 am

Vote YES on Measure A!

Whether we like it or not, school districts in CA are increasingly self-funded. We may not agree with the model and it may not be fair, but that is the situation. Although voting No may send a message of your frustration to the school board, etc., it does nothing to support the students in the Palo Alto schools.

The PAUSD primary revenue source is Palo Alto property taxes, making up 72% of PAUSD General Fund revenue for 2014-15. The Parcel Tax provides 7%, State funds 7%, lease revenues 5%, local donations 4%, PIE 3% and Federal 2%.  Note: 2% of the $$ from the State are one-time funds.

In 2008 the CA school funding model changed with the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). This change permanently reduced $9.9M State funding to Palo Alto (approximately 4% of the PAUSD General Fund) by $7.4M  to $2.3M. Part of the current parcel tax goes to cover that funding reduction. 

When adjusted for inflation, even with somewhat increased property tax revenues, PAUSD funding has not grown since 2008-2009. This is the result of decreased state funding, increasing enrollment, loss of lease revenues, and pension expenses, including a looming pension increase of $2M that the parcel tax is not allowed to pay. 

Where does the money go?
Where the parcel tax is focused and the largest part of the PAUSD revenue stream - 84% - goes to salaries and benefits. The bulk of the remainder is spent on services and operating expenses.

For more detailed PAUSD budget information, as well as graphs of PA school enrollment, enrollment growth, property tax growth, and other relevant PAUSD data, download:
Web Link 

If you want the details of how the existing tax funds are allocated: 
Web Link   

What will happen if Measure A doesn't pass?
Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, Palo Alto would lose $13M in yearly revenue which would come primarily out of employee salaries and benefits, resulting in teacher layoffs and increased class sizes, as well as the possible closing of an elementary school. In real numbers, that means the loss of 85 full-time school staff (67 teachers, as well as counselors, librarians and psychologists). In elementary schools, average class size would rise from 21-23 per classroom to 27 per class room, and in middle school/high school to 29 students per class.

In comparison to the rest of state and the country, Palo Alto per student funding (approx. $14,766) is above the overall state funding level of approx. $9,400. Although Palo Alto per student funding is above state level, a Measure A Parcel Tax loss would reduce revenue by roughly $1000/student. Measure A is not about frills or fluff. It IS about maintaining the low class sizes and current high level of education available to students in Palo Alto Schools.  

Cursory searching reveals that our current funding is on a par with at least one of our close neighbors (Las Lomitas - $14,888 per student). Additional searching of nationwide funding shows that although California as a whole ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil funding, Palo Alto ranks higher, but behind Wyoming, New York, Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey and Vermont - if curious, see:
Census data: Web Link
CA: Education Data Partnership: Web Link
Nationwide: Web Link



25 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2015 at 9:09 am

Parcel taxes are an unfair tax designed to subjugate prop 13. They are unfair and favor the one percenters. Why should the small condo owners pay as much as the giant macmansion owners? They are based on a loophole in prop 13. Why give the plus 65 folks a free ride? Correct, so they will vote for it. All kinds of reasons not to like this tax.


61 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 9:57 am

Giving the district more money is like giving alcohol to a drunk in the hope that it will somehow help them sober up.

PAUSD completely out of control and in denial. Destroying the lives of young children, unable to control it's own members, completely hostile to parents.

"Just one more drink, then I promise I'll mend my ways" snarls the angry drunk. "If you don't give me another drink, I'll fire teachers and your kids will suffer"

Threats, lies, denial.

No sir. The PAUSD needs a grand jury investigation, not more money.


59 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 24, 2015 at 9:58 am

This vote is a year early. The district provide better justifications and a more thorough assessment of the property tax situation and return next year with a smaller request and better reasons.

The issue of governance also has gotten a lot of play, with some people believing that our unhappiness with the district is a different issue than the need for funds. This has a certain logic, but ignores the fact that the voters have very few ways to communicate effectively.

But here is the truth:

Unlike letters to the editor, statements before the board, and calls to school board members, everyone at the district will understand a "no" vote on this election. It may be a crude way to send a message, but it is really the only one that will be listened to.


46 people like this
Posted by Rovers
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2015 at 10:40 am

@ Voted No: you are exactly right. In addition, the threat to fire teachers is like blackmail. There's lots of administrative fat to be cut, and the bigger picture is being lost.


38 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:25 am

Nana Chancellor and Sarah Woodham, will you personally promise to make up for the loss of funding I face as I pay five-figures to educate everyone else's children through my taxes? Because I will have almost nothing for my own child's education as we are forced to leave PAUSD for the safety and emotional health of my child (largely because of retaliatory and toxic behavior by petty people who make more than the California Governor and have no accountability). Communication, with all the good faith and effort on our part, frankly, fails. Parents need leverage, and this is it.

[Portion removed.]

The claims of poverty are disingenuous, and the district would BENEFIT from having to go through the process of soul-searching and streamlining its burgeoning bureaucratic expenditures. Our current superintendent, prorated for 365 days, makes 20% more salary than the President of the United States. Many of our administrators most people couldn't even name make more than the Governor. The Measure A text itself makes absolute ZERO specific, enforceable promises about where this money will go.

Please Vote NO.


32 people like this
Posted by Maxwell
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:47 am

I voted NO on Measure A. I'm taxed enough, and tired of living in a community where young people, with their whole life ahead of them, are instead jumping in front of trains.

I'd rather fund a decent animal shelter, but that's clearly not a priority in a high-achiever community.


42 people like this
Posted by Concerned Retiree
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:52 am

Why did I not vote for Measure A? PAUSD does not use its present funds wisely. Sending 10 people to Illinois to check on the district where Supt. McKee used to work. Just nodding and smiling for the demands of ever increased funding for teachers and counselors' salaries -- who if they were doing their job -- might have been able to intervene in some of the cases of severe depression and suicide.

Both my children went through the Palo Alto School system. They gained more from peer association than 90 percent of their teachers and 0 percent from any counselor. Business doesn't increase pay for a lack of performance. PAUSD shouldn't receive an undeserved pay raise either.

Genes and money are what make -- and break -- the Palo Alto Schools.


25 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 24, 2015 at 12:08 pm

The fear of layoffs is unwarranted. If A fails, it will come back next year as a smaller amount, which will still be sufficient. By then, everybody (pro and con) will see how much the tax base is booming and the parcel tax increase can be smaller.


29 people like this
Posted by MHarrison
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 24, 2015 at 12:27 pm

I agree. I have supported in the past but this time NO!


30 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 12:34 pm

UNFAIR, REGRESSIVE, UNDESERVED - BE SURE TO VOTE NO ON MEASURE "A"


38 people like this
Posted by NO!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 24, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Voted NO!

I've supported tax increases in the past 20+ years. Enough mis-management, enough self serving greed, enough politics. There is definitely enough extra property taxes there to support our schools! This is what we want:

1. Smaller district administrative staff
2. Teacher's Union needs to cooperate to serve our students. (Schoology)
3. No more 150K PE teacher grade!
4. No more assistant principals placed in our schools with no measurable job descriptions
5. No more wasted dollars spent on teachers' training for programs they never had intention of adopting.

Sorry, I can go on and on. Voters, be informed and vote NO to send a message.


23 people like this
Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 1:29 pm

PA mom is a registered user.

I was outraged when PAUSD hired a PR guy at $100,000 a year! That was in response to Skelly's failure to respond to multiple parent complaints of bullying and discrimination, resulting in multiple OCR complaints, which the district fought. Now their are also more suicides. If PAUSD wants more money, I say they should eliminate the PR position first. Their was no mention of any of those things in the article. PAUSD needs to stop caring so much about reputation and start serving students better and using existing funds wisely.


7 people like this
Posted by wh7 was my YES on A post deleted?
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 24, 2015 at 2:02 pm

I wrote a positive comment stating I and my Gunn student have voted YES on Measure A earlier today, and I see my comments has been deleted. Why is that? It was not impolite or rude as many of these posts are.

Please repost my comment or delete this entire ugly thread. If is truly a community Board, ALL views should be posted as long as they are written in a civil way (though I suppose this last criteria would eliminate many of the posts above.)

Moderator responds: No comments have been deleted from this topic.


12 people like this
Posted by YES on A !!!
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 24, 2015 at 2:08 pm

I have two students presently at Gunn. I am voting YES on Measure A.

Gunn provides an excellent education. There are things that need to be changed, but my observation as an involved Gunn parent is that change (that the school can control) is well underway. The school cannot control type A parents who push their kids too far. I don't think we need to "send a message" via ballot. I think we need to retain the staff who are presently working on implementing change. Cutting off their hands by reducing staff will, most certainly, slow the progress of change.

I'm watching the process at Gunn, and I'm pleased with the progress I see. Can we do more? Yes. But it's unlikely more will get done with $13 million less money and deep cuts in staff.

Is it more important to support the students...or to win a battle around a personal agenda? My 18-year old Gunn senior tells me she just voted YES on A. Please join her.


13 people like this
Posted by NancyK
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Please VOTE YES on Measure A to keep class sizes down and retain our counselors. Both of these are vital to student emotional well-bring.

I moved here from a school district that voted down the parcel tax. Class sizes grew, librarians were fired, and libraries closed. No art teachers. Music teachers for just two weeks in lower grades.

Whatever your frustrations with PAUSD, please don't inflict those horrible conditions on our Palo Alto students.

By voting no on Measure A, this is what you would impose on our PAUSD students: high performing, bored kids acting out; low performing kids falling farther behind and feeling terrible about themselves.

I volunteer in the classrooms, and saw this fall out (of increased classroom sizes, no librarians, no art teachers) while living in another school district that failed to pass its parcel tax.

And, I do not need to discuss the harms caused by laying off counselors.

Please vote YES for Meadute A. These funds are critical for our children to thrive in our schools. Making the children suffer for your frustrations with the school district is not the way to go.frustrations with the district.


20 people like this
Posted by Play-by-the-Rules
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 2:40 pm

There is a Vote Yes sign near the Mitchell Park/Fairmeadow school boundary--on City property, just inside the park.

This is an illegal placement of campaign material. Those involved in the leadership of this campaign should remove the sign immediately, and make it clear to your supporters that use of City property is illegal. Moreover, it demonstrates a lack of willingness to play by the rules in order to increase taxation on the property owneers of Palo Alto--most of whom do not have children in this school system.

Please remove this sign or it will be removed.


15 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 2:41 pm

>> I have two students presently at Gunn. I am voting YES on Measure A.

To me this shows both the selfishness and insensitivity of some Palo Altans.

If you have kids that are in Palo Alto schools, great, and I don't even mind paying
taxes to support the schools - and in fact I'd be willing to pay more - but under the
structure of a real tax, not this regressive robbery which is not based on anything
but presence on a role call of Palo Alto homeowners.

Also, our schools clearly have a problem that money will not solve, but pretending
it will only opens to the door for more and more demands and expenses in the
future. NO!

At the risk of repeating myself ....

UNFAIR, REGRESSIVE, UNDESERVED - BE SURE TO VOTE NO ON MEASURE "A"


14 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Correction on Ballots Already Submitted

I just called the country registrar of voters to see how many ballots had come in. The figure was 11,502 out of the 42,084 ballots mailed out, or 27.5% of the total. Last Friday's figure of 7,829 works out to 18.6% at that time. In any event, with final voter participation expected to be between 35–45%, we're pretty deep into this election already. Don't assume an outcome. Be sure to vote the way you want it to go instead of leaving it to others to decide.

Anti-tax and anti-union voters by themselves could probably get enough ballots in to be close to the 33% of votes cast that would defeat the parcel tax. Add to them the folks who want to "send a message" to the district about this and that and you've got good reason for people like myself who favor "Yes on A" to be worried.

Please vote Yes on A today.


29 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Voting No! Not subjugating my better judgement to emotional blackmail (kids will be harmed; teachers laid off) and wasteful spending on ridiculous administrative initiatives to make the Superindent's office look important and meaningful.


22 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Apr 24, 2015 at 3:16 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

For the folks who would like to support the schools but feel that the parcel tax is regressive, understand that under Prop 13 it is the ONLY tax we can vote on to support the schools. Property tax rates cannot be raised under Prop 13. So railing against the parcel tax as "unfair" is of no meaning when it is the only choice.

Thanks Bill for the endorsement. There are many residents who, like Nancy and myself, who no longer have kids in school, that want to continue the tradition of supporting our schools that previous generations provided to our children.

Nancy and I are thankful for the opportunity to vote yes, return the favor given to us and not take the senior exemption.


18 people like this
Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 3:21 pm

The schools were great for our kids, the teachers life long friends. Sure, there are always reasons to complain, and this town seems to have a penchant for complaining these days online. If you have a doubt how to vote, sit down with some students, and you will realize the gift they enjoyed. Yes, many will likely have a topic to complain about, but for most they enjoy good outcome in education, arts and sport. VOTED YES!


24 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 3:45 pm

@Bob Wenzlau,

With all due respect, it is because I am a current parent who knows probably more current students than you do, and sees the struggles and problems, that I am voting NO on this. Your characterizing the situation as "this town seems to have a penchant for complaining these days online" is exactly why families who care should vote NO, because there really is no other way to get through the the district that there are serious problems in need of addressing, and they are neither making efforts to restore trust of addressing them.

A vote where they can't ignore that their asking for money could be affected if they continue without addressing such serious issues is better than more kids killing themselves. Which, by the way, wasn't enough to get teachers to change their burdensome and oppressive homework practices alone.

We want our kids to have the same experience you enjoyed, in fact, that we enjoyed ourselves most of us in elementary school. Your glib characterization of the seriously problems we have including hundreds of kids on suicide watchlists, dozens hospitalized for depression, and so many killing themselves if it were an infectious disease the CDC would have been in here long ago, expresses exactly the attitude that needs to be reached by a NO vote. [Portion removed.]

With all due respect, we support our districts being well-funded and they will be. This vote, however, is not going to change that, and it's an opportunity to send the district a message they can't ignore. I don't necessarily expect you to change your mind by what I have written, but I would like parents who have had to deal with trust problems with the district to appreciate that the district response, should the Measure pass, will be much like Bob Wenzlau's above, and that will NOT help our kids, it will hurt efforts to help our kids.

If you truly care about our kids, the best way this time is to vote NO.


28 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 24, 2015 at 4:04 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@Stephen Levy writes: "Thanks Bill for the endorsement. There are many residents who, like Nancy and myself, who no longer have kids in school, that want to continue the tradition of supporting our schools that previous generations provided to our children."


... and there are many residents like myself who just want our kids to get out alive. Please give them a chance. Please send a message to the school board to fix the problems in the schools.

Give this generation a chance that prior generations took for granted: life.

No on Measure A.


24 people like this
Posted by PALY Student in favor of Measure A
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 24, 2015 at 4:31 pm

[Portion removed.]

I want you all to hear loud and clear that I and my friends and my siblings LOVE our teachers and LOVE our schools. Sure, we have some teachers who we get more excited about than others. But of all the many many many teachers that I have had so far since Kindergarten there is not one that I would want laid off. We also LOVE our librarians who are cool and caring and helpful. And no one has helped me more than one of the counselors I had a Jordan! A counselor who made me feel safe and understood, and who helped me role play solutions when I was going through some tough social situations. If anyone of you knew these people the way I do, you would agree to pay any amount of tax to keep them in place because they are changing students lives for the better every day.

Yes, a lot of my friends are stressed about their future chances of getting into college and everyone wants perfect grades. But in most cases the pressure they feel is coming from other "friends" and from their parents, not from their teachers. Please STOP blaming our schools and teachers. It is hurtful and not fair.


18 people like this
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2015 at 4:40 pm

My child finished school in another district before I moved to Palo Alto. But I have voted yes on every school parcel tax despite never having had children in the district, and I have already voted for Measure A. Beyond the obvious benefit to me of people buying houses here for the schools and thus raising my net worth, I feel an obligation to help educate children where I live.


21 people like this
Posted by Not sharing my name either
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 4:45 pm

I'm an adult with high school children and I'm not sharing my name because it would be unsafe to me and my professional reputation. I cannot agree that the nicest people post their real names whatsoever, but I do respect your opinion. I know that at every school we have a couple of low-performing teachers that we can do nothing about. If the principal tries anything, the PAEA will begin their threats. As I vote NO on the parcel tax, there will be no effect to classrooms whatsoever. The $150,000 that PAUSD spends on the public relations position would have to be eliminated before we would ever touch the classroom. The real issue is not voting NO on this parcel tax now, the real issue will happen in 2016, when we decide to vote to end the parcel tax, which will not result in catastrophic losses in the teacher ranks, but will simply freeze hiring for 2016 as we move the some of our best teachers out of the ineffective Teacher on Special Assignment positions and into teaching our children directly. These talented teachers are also the ones less likely to get caught up into debating the minutiae of the contract after it has been ratified. It's the schools and it's the teachers, sorry about that.


19 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 5:44 pm

"Please STOP blaming our schools and teachers."

Student,

I can't speak for anyone else, but I have always spoken in favor of our teachers and schools too, and it is precisely because I care about them that I am voting NO.

The majority of funding for the schools comes not from this vote, but from property taxes, which are NOT the subject of this vote. Property taxes are on the rise right now. This tax replaces a parcel tax that was put in place temporarily to shore up funding during the recession. If we vote for everything as high as we can possibly ask when property taxes are high, we're going to be caught flat-footed if there is another need for an interim tax like this.

I think if you read a little further, you will see that we have real problems to solve, and people are involved BECAUSE they care about our schools and kids. We don't need this supplemental tax right now, and the district will be far better off for taking the kinds of improvements and soul searching they won't make if we just pass this.

[Portion removed.]


26 people like this
Posted by Lee Family
a resident of Barron Park School
on Apr 24, 2015 at 5:59 pm


We're voting NO this time and hoping to vote YES next year.

We're hoping the NO vote gives the message to the district that we desperately need for them to hear. And gives them a year to make the changes. We're also hoping next year's vote includes a parcel tax that doesn't have the $120 increase. 2% increase is ok with us. We feel the additional cost for another election is worth the improvements we will see in the year.




21 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 24, 2015 at 6:14 pm

We are now in economic good times. Plenty of tax $ around. If we allow it this tax that was asked for as during recession will stay forever. We are being blackmailed.


29 people like this
Posted by No Schoology No Cash
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 6:54 pm

No 100% mandatory Schoology every day = No on A.

Enough said.


31 people like this
Posted by No Schoology No Cash
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Oh, and please DO fire the teachers -- all of the ones who refused to use Schoology -- and make my day!

And especially Teri Baldwin and the shamless PAEA (so-called) "leadership". Please fire them. Please. I'll vote NO so you can do it.


30 people like this
Posted by Pennyfrom heaven
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 24, 2015 at 7:18 pm

I voted no. I am all for school support but I dont know any other way to send a message.


23 people like this
Posted by Bret
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 24, 2015 at 7:48 pm

I voted no. Pausd can't cry poor when they are raking in record property tax revenues, going on a hiring binge, and supporting an incredibly high salary load at Churhill Estates.


32 people like this
Posted by No, No, and Still No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 7:55 pm

[Portion removed.] I am voting NO on Measure A because our district cannot control teachers who fight for their own convenience rather than our kids'well-being, and their union (PAEA) supports them. Refusal to fully embrace the homework policy from 2012 and now the ridiculous grievance about Schoology tells me we have some number of teachers who are NOT working for our kids, and their union is supporting them in continuing to NOT do what is best for our kids.

- Fire poor/uncooperative teachers.
- FULLY implement the 2012 homework policy (and update as needed for 2015)
- Require 100% implementation and adoption of Schoology

Do the above three things, and we can resume talks about more funds.

Until then, NO ON MEASURE A.


4 people like this
Posted by Chinatown
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 8:16 pm

[Post removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by Regrettably No
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 24, 2015 at 8:23 pm

I too have supported all previous measures to support our schools and agree with the frustrations
discussed in the editorial. But I don't agree with decoupling Measure A with the performance of the
school district. Until the school board, administration and teachers union can demonstrate that they have
a plan to solve the current issues facing the district with existing resources I don't agree with giving
them more. Let them come back next year after having demonstrated that they can take constructive
action to help our students.


16 people like this
Posted by Mom of 2
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 24, 2015 at 9:08 pm

Max McGee came to this district like a breath of fresh air. He is committed to students, optimistic, creative, and transparent. Despite the fact that he had already achieved so much in his career, he chose to come to this district and work tirelessly in the face of incessant criticism. Let the man lead. End the bickering and hostage-taking. Pass the measure now and don't force McGee to take the time he could have spent leading and innovating and waste it on another campaign. This tax is 7% of the budget. Our kids need these resources -- we spend half of what they spend in other comparable districts like Scarsdale or Edina. If state law let us fund our schools properly or allow for localities to pass non-regressive taxes to support our schools, it would be a different situation. But this is the only tool we've got.


5 people like this
Posted by No, No, and Still No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:05 pm

PA Weekly: Why are you blocking the information in "PALY Student in favor of Measure A" that tells where her motivation came from to write?

You are completely changing the message by deleting what that student said. You interject on plenty of posts, so please interject a response here. I already copied the original post so am happy to send elsewhere if you don't want to explain why you are deleting this very relevant information.


13 people like this
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 25, 2015 at 12:16 am

I don't know what to write. I appreciate Steve Levy's support, and his willingness to give back to Palo Alto students when he doesn't have to. Ten percent of the households / property owners in Palo Alto file for their exemption from Measure A, and pay nothing. Steve and other supporters of PAUSD pay the tax voluntarily, much as the parents of current students give to PiE.

The emotional "rage against the machine" protest vote just fails the test of logic and practicality. If Measure A fails, we create more work for the very people you want to cut (the bureaucrats). We justify more spending on another election, and we take everyone's eye off the ball (student success) and force them to focus on Maslow's hierarchy (funding) instead of helping anyone.

If Measure A fails, teachers get pink slips in March. Yes, this is a warning that they may be laid off or not rehired in September, but this is REAL -- teachers start looking for work in case we can't come together as a community to support education next year. DO NOT send a message that causes the last-hired, most vulnerable teachers to worry about next year. That's a poor way to spend your vote.

If you hate your principal or disagree with Max McGee, do something real and tangible. Stand up, speak your voice, and advocate for change. Do not cut new teachers because you are afraid of retaliation. Do not pretend that your resentment of taxes (ROT) is a formula for change and improvement -- you will quite certainly get teachers fired.

George


7 people like this
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 25, 2015 at 12:51 am

[Portion removed.] When funding is cut, the union rep is not fired -- she becomes all-important. When funding is cut, the district is not free to choose which hidebound instructor to fire ... the last-hired, first-fired policy is enshrined in union rules.

Don't kid yourself. Max is not going to cut his own salary or pass on a trip to Singapore because a bunch of anonymous nasty people opposed Measure A. Teachers will be warned first (spring 2016) and fired later if this measure does not pass.

[Portion removed.]


17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2015 at 8:16 am

George J may or may not be his real name, but what he says sounds like emotional blackmail to me. I may be anonymous, but I am not nasty.

I have spoken up, I have attended board meetings (staying way too late), I have joined committees, I have volunteered. PAUSD is blinkered and does not listen to parents, does not want to listen to parents, and basically is not interested in what parents think if they think opposite to what PAUSD thinks is a good idea.

The same with PTA and PIE.

They have just about been given carte blanche to do what they want, particularly with our money.

We have no say in how much they get from us as far as taxes are concerned unless we give them a shake up. They can continue wasting our money and coming back for more. It is about time they listened and a no vote is about the only thing that might make them do this.

I doubt very much that we will be firing teachers in Palo Alto. We are still increasing enrollments, and we are still building more and more homes in Palo Alto. If they carry through their threats, they will be creating a very big mess. And whoever said that a school might be closed is way out of line since we are looking into the possibility of opening another school at the elementary level and need to expand middle and high schools.

Good housekeeping measures have to start at Churchill. This town will not stand for blackmail or scare tactics.


6 people like this
Posted by Claire Kirner
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 25, 2015 at 8:55 am

I'm voting YES. Our kids benefit from the smaller class sizes, the librarians, and othe supports provided by the parcel tax. I'm voting YES because Measure A is good for Palo Alto students. It's that simple.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2015 at 9:06 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Suggestion for George Jaquette

To spare posters like Reason anxiety regarding whether you are who you claim to be, always sign in as a registered user. Without that password verified identity it really is impossible to know for a certainty that the person posting is the one uniquely associated with that identity in the system. This assumes that you have already registered with Town Square.

Thanks for hanging in there and tethering this discussion to the real world, where you can't fire everyone in the school district that you have a grievance against [portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2015 at 9:58 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

It seems almost perverse for me to be arguing that Yes on A should pass. It will provide continued funding for class size reduction and desirable programs that only help students in this already very privileged district.

What if PAUSD were tossed into the state education funding pool along with all but a handful of districts statewide that, like Palo Alto, were allowed to fund from local property taxes instead of relying on per pupil allocations from the state?

Our state's biggest education problem is not that too few upper income students can confidently expect to gain access to upper tier universities because of the intense competition. It's that statewide we're not educating the great bulk of our students, many of them from underrepresented minority populations, to take their places as citizens and earners in the California of tomorrow.

No on A seniors who act on an impulse to donate an amount equal to the parcel tax exemption to a school district or program that helps youth outside the Palo Alto bubble will clearly do more for the social good than seniors who take the exemption, and maybe even more than those who vote Yes on A.


32 people like this
Posted by Demos
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 25, 2015 at 10:20 am

Basically if you are happy with the district and your kids have been well-treated and not had problems you love the district and want everyone to contribute to the thing that you like, you are likely to support Measure A. Elementary parents are over-represented in this group, because they have not yet had the shock to the system that middle and particularly high school produces.

If you are not happy with the district and think that your child has not had a good experience, been mistreated by teachers, been overburdened with homework, or been subjected to unreasonable pressure by unresponsive teachers they you are likely to oppose Measure A. You have lost faith in the system and fear retaliation from complaining. High school parents are by far overrepresented in this group because they know how it works.

My observation is that most elementary parents are wildly happy with the district. And why not? It's pretty hard to screw up elementary education for privileged mostly white children of the intellectual and financial elite who grow up with every opportunity. You could probably put these kids in an empty room for 6 hours a day and they would come out at the top of the curve on standardized tests. Elementary education in a safe, clean, educated and rich community is almost impossible to mess up. The only discontented elementary parents I have met (and this is telling) are those of black, hispanic, poor, and disable students. For them, it's not so good. But for everyone else, it's super great.

I think some elementary parents suspect that there's not much going on at school. Everyday math is stupid and horrible. If your kid loves math, EDM has probably killed their joy entirely. But there's always Kahn Academy or private math school. Mostly elementary education is not that good but not horrible and whatever.

High school (and middle school if it's Jordan) is where the rubber hits the road and that is where you get Pro and Anti views of the school that emerge and become polarized.

Even the super volunteer moms who spend all their time at the high schools and seem like they would be so supportive of Measure A, the PTA leadership -- the dirty secret there is that a lot of those moms are doing it because their kids have problems and they want to be in a position of influence, knowing teachers by name, and having dished up some teacher appreciation lunches to create a sense of obligation for their student. They aren't there by and large because they love the school or the teachers. They are there to watch out for their student. Good luck with that. Ask the Gunn dating violence mom how that worked out for her.

The point is: where you stand on Measure A depends on your child's experience in our schools. The people who are against Measure A are not bad citizens who don't care about the schools and that accusation is just making them more determined to get everyone to vote no. They know that you just don't get it -- either your kid did great and you are happy as a clam or you are a totally ignorant elementary parent and we feel pity for you but you don't know what the hell is coming. Let us know after the truck hits you.

So stop judging the NO on A people. We have our experience and it is just as valid as yours. We have every right to send a message with our ballot. You have no right to judge that. That is what democracy is. [Portion removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2015 at 10:22 am

@ Jerry Underdal,

You and George Jaquette are not helping things, since your posts are dripping with disdain for anyone who has an opinion that differs with yours. Bullying parents is not going to help you, because it's one of the behaviors from the district office making parents consider voting NO.

George Jaquette in particular should either resign from the school tax oversight committee or decide to continue being one of the leads in shilling for the tax's passage [portion removed.] In fact, given his behavior, his presence on an oversight committee that is charged with ensuring transparency and honesty and ensuring trust going forward with the public is a concern, and does nothing to help with the huge trust problem the school district has.

This is not City politics. We have a crisis in which students are dying. Your resorting to hyperbole above ("you can't fire everyone") to make it sound like there is no way to address the trust problem, or that Churchill wouldn't be monumentally MONUMENTALLY better if 3 or 4 key people were dismissed and replaced with others more like Max McGee, is hurting the ability of parents to improve the district.

Maybe you can't fire everyone, but why can't we fire even ONE poorly performing person who has demonstrably retaliated against special ed families? ONE poorly performing person who systematically lies and creates false documents that stress families and create absolute rage and mistrust --those exact words said by a 3rd party children's advocate? If there were a secret poll of parents who had ever had to deal with the district office [portion removed], from a trustworthy entity (no chance of reprisal, certain of action being taken), those names would come out like a bell.

[Portion removed.] You admitted you were shocked by the outcome of Measure D, even though you live in a neighborhood that voted like 80% against it. This is not a political fight like Measure D. [Portion removed.]

This is a school district, a hurting school district in which our children are dying, in which the people voting FOR and AGAINST this Measure work together and will need to continue to work together after this. This is not a battle FOR or AGAINST funding, and your stirring up trouble and mistrust will make it harder for people to work togeher to ensure the main goals of the district afterwards. You have admitted you don't have children in the schools, don't even know the people and that you don't have any way to judge the anguished concerns of parents. You have overtly admitted it. Yet you continue to dominate these discussions in a way that is hurtful of relationships and working together afterwards, as all of us parents need to to regardless of the outcome, so that the result is positive regardless of the outcome. Please, City Hall would be a more appropriate place for what you like to do.

I personally believe NO in this election is the most likely outcome to result in positive consequences for our kids. The district has a serious trust problem. Please do not make it harder for parents or the district to deal with that.


10 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2015 at 10:25 am

Amen to that, Demos!!!!! (Jordan isn't the only middle school I would include.)


26 people like this
Posted by paly parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2015 at 10:27 am

this measure A is a crok. Really, $13 million? the school really needs $13 million? property tax is PA is higher than ever. the money goes where? we heard $8 million went to Mr. Hansen's grass fields. a huge donation to build new gyms--where did that money go? when government gets involved, money is spent unwisely and very poor decisions are made. If you need any proof of that--look at what is taking place in Washington. the governemnt/ and school district and palo alto city don't need more money, they need wise shepherds of the money that they already have--and, they all have plenty. it is the populace that doesn't have any extra money. if there are donors out there that want to give to the palo alto schools, then great, we are for that --but, please don't force the precious money that we have to go to a waste yard. VOTE NO!!!


17 people like this
Posted by MiddleGround
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2015 at 10:47 am

I have decided that I want to do both!

I want to send a message that the school Board needs to fix some problems in the Middle and High school, but they need money to do this.

Here is what I recommend:

- Vote No on Measure A to send a message.

- Donate $758 to PiE so the schools still get the same amount of money. Heck, I might donate a little extra.


Then everyone gets what they want, and what is best for the children!

Please Join me to do Both!


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2015 at 10:56 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Concerned Parent

I disagree with people who believe that turning down this parcel tax comes without significant cost to the school district and the city. And I have tried to bring up reasons why I believe this to be the correct position. If people agree enough to send in a Yes ballot, they'll have accomplished half of what a person casting a No ballot has done. We'll see how the vote comes out and then see what it tells us about out town.

Sorry that my using my name troubles you. And you're right. Anyone who wants to know what I wrote about Measure D can search for it and be pretty sure it's what I said, unless my identity has been spoofed by someone more sophisticated than my liberal arts generalist self.


14 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2015 at 11:59 am

@Jerry Underdal,

[Portion removed.]

Parents are struggling with serious issues having to do with the very lives and futures of thousands of children. You have already admitted that you do not have any way of judging the serious issues parents have brought up about our district [portion removed.]

[Portion removed.] You acknowledged after Measure D (ON TS) that you utterly misread what was going on in the community even though you were more active in those issues and claimed (on TS many times) to be in the know because you lived in that area (which voted like 80% against). Knowing how badly you got that wrong, why you want to insert yourself so vocally in this issue, when you have open acknowledged you know almost nothing about what is going on here and have no way of getting that knowledge, and children's lives and futures are at stake?

The consequences here are children's lives.

I agree with "Demos". The people who are coming out most strongly in favor of this Measure A, like you and George Jaquette, seem to have the LEAST direct connection with our schools (except the PTA insiders). That should say something. (Vote NO)


7 people like this
Posted by YES on Measure A
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 25, 2015 at 12:29 pm

I have two children at Gunn. All three voters in my household, including a Gunn High School senior, are voting YES on Measure A. The arguments against this measure seem highly emotional rather than fact-based to me. Defeating the measure will require another expensive election--not a good use of volunteer resources and money. Further, it will be a distraction from making the changes that everyone says they want.

There are many good things happening at Gunn. The district has already made a number of positive changes and more are in process. Let's all take a deep breath. Work within the system to make change happen. Let's pass this thing so we have resources in place to get the job DONE.

For the most part, our children receive a rich school experience. Yes. There are problems, of course. There are problems in any large organization. But there is much that is wonderful. If you listen to our kids, you hear that. Perfection is not achievable, but we can always work to improve things if we stay positive, collaborate, listen to each other, and provide necessary resources to get the job done. Let's pull together, not apart in this important moment. The kids are asking us to work TOGETHER with them in a process that will effect change.

That's why I am voting YES on A. It's money for the things that matter, for Palo Alto's students, right now.


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


30 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2015 at 1:49 pm

FACTS:

1) Our schools are funded mainly by property taxes.

2) Property values are at an all-time high; property tax receipts are escalating along with them.

3) Measure A is a supplemental tax whose purpose was originally to shore up funds lost or reduced due to budget cuts during the recession. The recession is over.

4) Unlike voluntary supplemental funding such as PiE, which regularly gives million to the district every year, parcel taxes hit everyone, even struggling families, regardless of financial situation.

5) The district has other sources of supplemental funds such as PiE and PTA. The district has not tried to make a special campaign to raise money for specific purposes first to try to avoid using this last resort means of funding.

6) The economy locally always cycles up and down. There will be another down. If we max our our credit limit on supplemental parcel taxes with the public when we don't need it, we will have difficulty using this avenue to shore up our funding when we do need it.

7) Special elections do cost a lot of money that could be spent on our kids instead. This election is costing us around $300,000 that would not have to be spent if the issue were put on a general election ballot instead, which it can be IF needed. What could we have done for our kids for $300,000 every few years?

8) Palo Altans have shown their willingness to vote overwhelmingly for funding when it is needed, in general elections. The district only recently started using the expensive special elections to game the system for these votes. It's not necessary, Palo Altans have shown their willingness to vote for funding these kinds of supplemental parcel taxes during general elections when it is needed.

Our district would be stronger and better off if we did the work that would earn that kind of trust and public support again. I believe strongly that in a district with such top-heavy bureaucracy, we won't need to put through another ask right now if we do that work. The only hope of getting the district to do that kind of work is to tell them in a way they can't keep ignoring. Voting NO on this is an opportunity to do so.

Even if we really do need the money (big IF), there is another year to ask again. If the district does what it must to get the confidence of the public again, then not only will our schools be better for it, but also we will ultimately SAVE money. A general election ballot is FAR cheaper than these special election votes the district started using the last time to renew this supplemental tax. Voting NO on this Measure A now will make clear that gaming the system by spending our children's funds on special elections is not the answer to get our money, rather that being honest and forthright with the public, and showing the house is in order is.

(McGee is quoted recently as saying we are getting a $24 million gym at Paly, but Skelly said the district was chipping in around $20 million or thereabouts extra for a $40 million gym. Where did that $10-$16 million just go? Doesn't it make the tax unnecessary? We did in fact build a huge new gym and athletic center at Gunn for $12 million. Who is minding the store?

If any other large organization had essential members killing themselves at these rates, they would not just react to it like, Oh, there are problems in every organization, let's just ask for more money and that will solve everything.

It is less an emotional argument than an understanding of how the world works to say that if we vote for this now, the district will respond by saying to every person trying to change things, trying to improve things, anything that makes anyone in the district office have to break a sweat -- you know very well they'll use this to dismiss and demean parent efforts to change things.

Absolutely NO. I'm with you on caring about our schools, and that is why we need to fix the problems. We are in a crisis, it is NOT just little diddly problems that everyone has. Vote NO.


38 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2015 at 2:20 pm

My NO on A is a NO against the teacher union.


17 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Demos,

For some of us, it's actually not personal. *Personally*, I have it easy. However, I think it's important to look at more than what's to my family's particular benefit. We need a district that works for more than the top 10 percent of the class.


25 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2015 at 7:45 pm

@YES on Measure A said:

"There are problems, of course. "

Yes there are problems, like a huge number of kids committing suicide. A civic emergency that could literally destroy the entire district.

Strange how supporters of Measure A always avoid mentioning that issue...the elephant in the room.


13 people like this
Posted by Why I'm voting NO on A
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2015 at 8:30 pm

As a parent of kids in the local schools, I'm usually a strong supporter of any of these measures that raise funds for the schools, but I will vote NO this time out of principal, and here's why:
I'm a member of the silent majority who supports property rights and see no reason why the Jissers cannot close the BV park after the generous relocation packages they have already offered to the current residents.
And then when I hear school officials, PTA representatives, misguided social activists and our own city council argue that we need to find ways to allow these BV kids to stay in the district and/or increase the relocation package to factor in some kind of 'school' premium (because they have this arrogant illusion that all other schools in the bay area are far inferior to ours), I get the feeling we need some fiscal discipline and we just need to learn to live within our means. Will not support any additional taxes until I see this type of discipline, and will not support spending school resources to allow kids who move out of town to remain in the district (whether it be BV or any other rental situation).


30 people like this
Posted by Demos
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 25, 2015 at 11:28 pm

I am very concerned about the skyrocketing legal fees that this district is paying to Fagen Friedman and Fulfrost and Lozano Smith. Actually these used to be the same firm, but Lozano got hit with an ethics issue by the federal court when they were found to have charged $500,000 for a matter that the court found could have been resolved for $5000. Every lawyer at the firm was ordered to undergo ethics training. The lawyers from the special ed group which was the group found at fault split off and formed Fagen Friedman.

These two firms have billed the district nearly half a million dollars per YEAR for the past two years. Their billings are astronomical. And guess what, Palo Alto is not the only district experiencing this phenom, including the tag-team from these two firms.

There are many districts in CA seeing this issue. It seems to be a pattern.

Here's Solano Beach, which paid more than $1 million in legal fees due to purusing a Fagen Friedman strategy of fighting (and losing) all the way to the US Supreme Court against a special ed family. What did the family want? $6100 (That's six thousand one hundred) dollars for some private school supports. In that case, all the family wanted was an inclusive classroom, according to the mom, who said “The district wanted to put her into a severely handicapped class where she would be one of the only children who could speak... We knew if she wasn’t in an inclusive environment with proper services, going forward she would likely remain in a severely handicapped class.” See: Web Link

The family decided to place their daughter in an inclusive class in a private school for 6K per year, and she thrived.

Enter Fagen Friedman. The district lost, was ordered to pay the tuition, and then, thanks to Fagen, appealed and appealed (and lost and lost). Fagen charged them mightily for those losses. "The district incurred more than $300,000 in legal bills on the case through 2012 alone, largely for the services of law firms Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost." Then, in the end, adding insult to injury the district also had to pay the family's fees, which were over $500K, because Fagen lost.

This is a legal fee horror story, and it seems to be very similar to what is happening right here in PAUSD where Fagen also has been involved in many instances of very expensive and aggressive litigation against special ed families, as well as the OCR debacle. Fagen did well in all of these, billing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Did the taxpayers of this district, like those in Solano Beach do well?

This is what your Measure A dollars are going to fund. Make no mistake. They are saying smaller classes, but half a million of the 13 million -- a hefty chunk, is going to be spent on these aggressive lawyers.

Why is this law firm still working for PAUSD when they are getting bad results like this across the state and being accused of billing issues?

Because there is no accountability. The school board is not spending their money, they are spending your money. They don't care -- it's all Monopoly Money to them. $500K for lawyers? Sure, plenty more where that came from. What's that? DOn't want to support Measure A for legal fees? You hate children and want them in bigger classes.

No. I want to cut things like legal fees and put the money into students where it belongs.

Vote NO to restore fiscal discipline.


15 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2015 at 11:54 pm

The 2014-2015 PAUSD budget specifies a budget of $182 million, of which $109 million goes directly towards spending on schools (teachers, principals, school support staff, utilities, etc), while $73 million goes towards spending on "Other".

Demos @ Adobe-Meadows shows one expenditure that goes into this "Other" category.

Several posters say that if Measure A doesn't pass, then teachers will be cut - essentially the school board, and district management is saying that teaching our kids is lower priority than "Other"; this is the wrong priority - teaching our kids should be of highest priority - the primary mission of the school district.

Measure A is all about shifting money so that spending can go for "Other".


11 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2015 at 12:19 am

@No on A,
While I disagree with your stance on BV, I think you have very little to worry about when it comes to that issue having anything to do with Measure A. The proponents are now doing what they did with Measure D - at some point, they began talking about it like it was going to house every person on the peninsula. I don't know if anyone has noticed but now the things being talked about Measure A funding encompass an expanding laundry list that would use up Measure A ten times over. The district has no intention of funding most of those things, and Measure A is just another slush fund to them. There is far more funding to be found in our own closet if we're just willing to face the skeletons.

I saw a really common sense answer : vote NO on Measure A, and make a commitment to PiE for the same amount for five years. But include a letter with your concerns. If the district deals with the important issues, you will continue your support. PiE will have a greater ability to apply pressure on all our behalf.


15 people like this
Posted by Demos
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 26, 2015 at 8:06 am

Another case in which Fagen Friedman and Lozano teamed up to charge huge fees seemingly for no reason was the case of Rialto Unified.

According to the local paper, "The district’s spending skyrocketed in May, when news first broke that Rialto Unified had asked its 2,000 eighth-graders to argue whether or not the Holocaust occurred in an in-class assignment, giving them printouts from an Australian Holocaust denial site as one of three “credible sources” students were required to rely upon.

As the district was bombarded by media, and presumably requests for documents and information, Lozano Smith billing more than doubled, jumping to $30,000 in May, nearly $50,000 in June and just over $40,000 in July. To resist public records requests to know who had given the assignment (which the district refused to release), among other things,Lozano billed $245,027. Then their buddies at Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost came in and billed an additional $52,875.

The board continued to use its lawyers to refused to release the information despite the fact that one board member wanted the information released, "Board member Edgar Montes said Thursday that he had unsuccessfully lobbied for a special meeting on Friday to discuss the release of the district’s 47-page report on the Holocaust assignment, with the names of the teachers who created the assignment redacted." The district also refused to release the names of the teachers who had assigned the Holocaust denial materials or any information about how it was handled.

Instead, it used Lozano and Fagen Friedman to fight disclosure under the Public Records Act and to defend the assignment, saying that it was fine to have an eighth-grade assignment that asks students to debate in writing whether the Holocaust was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain.” See Web Link

Yes that does sound like a familiar legal strategy. Defend, hide, cover up, refuse to release documents, fight every request for information, handle in closed session, repeat. The taxpayers of Rialto were then presented with a bill legal bill for nearly $300K.

Here's a link to the actual bills, Web Link

Does any of this sound familiar:

It took the district until November to answer "requests for district policies made in early May, shortly after the Holocaust assignment became public. California’s Public Records Act requires public agencies to respond to requests within 10 days, though they may request extensions of up to 14 days. Rialto Unified has open requests dating back more than a year.

During that time, the district has employed two Los Angeles law firms to act as additional, unofficial district spokespersons at a total cost of $285,813, according to district billing statements. The district also employs a public information officer, Jafri, who was paid $115,378 for the 2014-15 school year. This news organization requested records of the district’s legal spending on May 9 but did not receive any such documents until Oct. 21. Last week, the district provided additional, more recent billing statements."

[Portion removed due to inaccurate or unverifiable information.]






5 people like this
Posted by Terman mom
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 26, 2015 at 11:41 am

Our legal fees have gone through the roof. It's a good idea to see whether these lawyers are really lining their own pockets.


5 people like this
Posted by No leech law firms
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 26, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Of course Max love Fagen Friedman. They wrote the ridiculous OCR memo that he signed, and the letter to Arne Duncan. He had bragged to Barb Mitchell and co that he knew Duncan and they were BFFs. They he sent that letter and it was Wait a Minute Mr Postman he was so surprised his BFF wouldn't write back and interfere in a federal law enforcent investigation. [Portion removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Wow, I just got back from a large parent/family social event up north, and I have to say -- anyone who is concerned about their property values, unless you are yourself willing to roll up your sleeves and solve some of these hard problems, better vote NO.

Palo Alto gets less of a reputation (at least in the Bay Area) from the NY Times than it gets from the families it lets certain employees harass and make life so miserable for they leave. Or for failing to serve ultra-bright kids who don't fit the homework boot camp model.

I heard from a number of parents very similar things to Demos points, and much of it comes from the very similar, unethical, and I have to say, illegal, way many families are treated if their kids fall through the cracks or they cross one of the usual suspects in the district office. The experiences are strikingly similar. I even overheard parents offering suggestions to people seeking the best schools for their kids -- Palo Alto didn't come up as a suggestion, more as a has been. The reputation isn't gone, but being the best means constantly working for it, not just saying it no matter what. School administrations aren't exactly in the modern world yet in many ways, and really do not understand that families talk. The answer absolutely isn't hiring more people with more money, it's getting rid of some of them (saving money and reputation).

When the families are pushed out or "encouraged" to leave, they take their impressions of Palo Alto into other communities in the Bay Area, their online communities, etc. The district wasn't always like this but these problems have been going on long enough that those responsible think they are getting away with it. But they are hurting YOUR property values more than almost anything else anyone can do, because unlike times past, people are getting more and more connected, and they talk. Yes they do.


12 people like this
Posted by Leech lawyers
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 26, 2015 at 7:12 pm

These blood sucking law firms are using special ed families to pump their bottom line. This board is like putty in their hands. They specialize in making terrible recommendations to deny legally required accommodations and then fighting the family (for a hefty fee). They usually lose but they get paid bucketloads of my and your money. [Portion removed.]
Our wallets are being drained. Just one more reason up vote no.


19 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2015 at 8:07 pm

People have brought up this major "Other" category of expenditures for Palo Alto, and I am still in the dark. I took a look at the rough budget categories for some top performing districts in California with similar demographics, and here's what I found on Ballotpedia (not all districts had the information, this is what I could find):

Notice something? Palo Alto spends way less on teachers/staff and student services than many, and by far the most on "Other". In fact, the most anyone else spends on "Other" is 5%, and for most it's either 1% or 0%. Palo Alto is spending a whopping 25% of our budget on "Other". What is that? (It's not special ed, by the way, that falls under student services, which we spend far less on than most. We must be serving students pretty poorly since we spend so much of what we do spend on special ed on legal fees.)

Compared to other districts, our percent spent on students services is incredibly low, operations low, debt service highest of any I found, and "Other" outrageously higher than anyone else.

Seriously, that's around $60,000,000 PAUSD spends under the category of "Other". These are budget numbers entirely separate from our Bond Measure which is not part of our budget.

Vote NO.
All these other top performing school districts



PAUSD Total ~$232,377,000

Staff expenses 58%
Student services 3%
Operational expenses 8%
Debt service 5%
Other 25%


Fremont Unified Total ~$271,414,000

Staff expenses 85%
Student services 5%
Operational expenses 8%
Debt service 1%
Other 1%


Santa Clara Unified Total ~$148,545,000

Staff expenses 80%
Student services 8%
Operational expenses 12%
Debt service 0%
Other 0%


Lynwood Unified ~$133,316,000

Staff expenses 76%
Student services 5%
Operational expenses 16%
Debt service 0%
Other 3%


Torrance Total ~$181,505,000

Staff expenses 81%
Student services 3%
Operational expenses 12%
Debt service 0%
Other 5%


Poway Unified Total ~$280,258,000

Staff expenses 83%
Student services 6%
Operational expenses 11%
Debt service 0%
Other 1%


Cupertino Union Total ~$237,760,000

Staff expenses 58%
Student services 6%
Operational expenses 36%
Debt service 0%
Other 0%

Huntington Beach Unified Total ~$271,414,000

Staff expenses 85%
Student services 5%
Operational expenses 8%
Debt service 1%
Other 1%


San Marcos Unified Total ~$265,955,000

Staff expenses 51%
Student services 3%
Operational expenses 46%
Debt service 0%
Other 1%


Irvine Unified Total ~$214,629,000

Staff expenses 85%
Student services 4%
Operational expenses 9%
Debt service 0%
Other 2%


Castro Valley Unified Total ~$75,362,000

Staff expenses 83%
Student services 5%
Operational expenses 11%
Debt service 0%
Other 1%


Santa Barbara Unified Total ~$127,486,000

Staff expenses 80%
Student services 5%
Operational expenses 15%
Debt service 0%
Other 0%


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 26, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Father of 2 Pre-K
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 26, 2015 at 9:13 pm

No mention of full day kindergarten with this funding has me wondering if I should vote YES. After school care for a family with two working parents or a single parent costs over $900/mo. which is very near the cost of some private schools in the area. Then, you have the costs of summer camps and activities. With a son lucky enough to get into Hoover but needing after school care, my son could attend a private school which offers more instructional time and resources. Public schools are not free nor cheap for people not qualifying for financial assistance (most of the students who attend public school in Palo Alto?). Should I vote for more funding to a system that does not seem to support working families and does not provide enough instructional time during critical learning years? Should I vote to YES when I am seriously considering struggling financially to send my son followed by my daughter to a private school over Hoover, Terman and Gunn?

The current parcel tax does not expire until next year. If this measure is not approved, does the school district have enough time to respond to the concerns of parents and tax payers? If the measure passes, will the opposition continue to press the district for reform and threaten another ballot initiative next year to repeal the funding if enough progress is not met to meet the concerns of Palo Alto voters?


Like this comment
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2015 at 9:47 pm

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2015 at 9:51 pm

@Father of 2 Pre-K,

Hoover is a good school as really are all the Palo Alto elementaries.

The after school care programs are not part of PAUSD and are not funded by this Measure. Unfortunately, there are also very few after school activities related to school before high school, except sports in middle school.

Even when summer school offerings were paid by parents, they did not extend for the whole summer, and they often filled so quickly it was difficult to get in. Despite trying every year (this was when parents paid), we only got to attend one summer school program once, and it was quite expensive.

The issues you have expressed concern over are not at issue with this supplemental tax. But you are right, everything is very expensive, and if you are struggling financially, having to spend another $800/year is a lot.

Most of our district funding comes from property taxes, which are at an all-time high. This supplemental parcel tax replaces a supplemental that was voted in to shore up funding during the recession after the dot-com bust and was supposed to sunset.

We have yet to get the kind of clarity from the district that would demonstrate a true need for this, and if we vote it through now, there goes any chance of getting a similar emergency parcel tax through the next time the economy drops.

There is no "powerful no on A campaign". There is no official campaign against A at all. I have not even so much as had a telephone or email conversation with friends or other parents about Measure D. I don't have any idea who the other parent posters are, not even who OPar is though I read what she wrote in the past. But I have fundraised and do know the parents in this district, and they will be working to try to solve these problems regardless of the outcome -- but it's clear to me and apparently to many that a NO on THIS election will help those efforts, and a yes will make it harder, given the dynamics in the district right now.

There is not campaign, Only big questions and powerful arguments against the district having even asked for it right now in the first place.

We need a proper accounting of property tax receipts this year, we probably don't need the tax at all. We need a proper accounting of the $60-$70million in unspecified "Other" expenditures and what kinds of funds could come from streamlining bureaucracy (probably far in excess of what this tax will bring in). We need to ask whether specific PiE campaigns can pay for specifically identified needs, because PiE money comes from those who can afford it and not from those who are struggling. (Please note for some reason the district made it possible for the elderly to exempt themselves from Measure A but not the disabled.)


14 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Palo Alto tax payers are stretched already.

Vote No. The economy is very good. Let's save this option for rainy days.

If we vote yes PAUSD will keep expanding, keep adding on bloated bureaucracy. What happens when economy goes bad, and state funding starts to shrink? Sorry, another parcel tax?

Let's keep parcel tax option for the rainy days.


7 people like this
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2015 at 11:56 pm

Someone named Middle Ground made a great suggestion - do both!

Vote NO!

Make a 5-year pledge to PiE for $800 annually.

Put in a note that you will only renew every year if the district is making progress on the important issues (list). If you can afford, please increase your donation on behalf of those who can't. (Please include a letter rather than restricting the actual gift once made - Unless people make large enough gifts to cover an entire program, it's hard to restrict it to a purpose on the actual check, except to specify elementary/middle, etc)

Everyone wins, and PiE hopefully ends up with some new donors.


33 people like this
Posted by Old timer
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 27, 2015 at 9:53 am

Been here almost fifty-five years and have always supported the PAUSD. Always voted yes on bonds. But this time we are voting "no'. We are very distressed over the PAUSD management, the pressure on the young people to be at the top of everything, go to the top colleges. Then there are the 'average' students who would be tops in other places. There's something very wrong here. It's called "AP-itis". It seems to us that there is too much top management, too many law suits, too much money going out in the wrong way. Old timer.


16 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Concerned Parent,

Just to be clear, I've not yet voted No on A--let alone led a campaign against it. I'm honestly torn--I feel like McGee did make a move in the right direction, but the attitude of the teachers' union really troubles me and I'm concerned that the teachers will stonewall any meaningful change unless there's money at stake.

If I vote No (and I am leaning that way), it's because I feel that there's no way to make my concerns heard.


18 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 7:14 am

I voted no, it was an easy decision.

This district is out of control. They are headed for a train crash...their policies and internal culture completely ignores the safety of children. No surprise at all that there are a lot of suicides.

By voting them more money, I would not be doing the district any favor at all. Quite the contrary. I would simply be encouraging them to continue their self destructive behavior.


10 people like this
Posted by No this time
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 28, 2015 at 10:07 pm

It's clear from reading the comments on this thread that there is ton's of bloat

1) lawyers
2) other category
3) why is recession tax being renewed during boom times?
4) Non responsive board.
5) No adoption of schoology - trying to actively keep the parents out of the loop here.
6) Homework policy

As people have pointed - there are lots of issues. If we vote no - there will be some half-measures. If we vote yes - nothing will happen - everyone will continue to do what they want without being responsive to parents.


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 2:21 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

A major selling point of the non-campaign No on A argument is that it won't really hurt the district because there'll be a chance for a do over in a year's time, when those of us who don't mind paying a parcel tax to support public education will be dealing with a chastened school bureaucracy and board. Then, assuming enough progress has been made in satisfying the demands raised this year and the amount of tax requested is reduced to a reasonable figure, a supermajority will again vote to raise taxes for the schools.

Could be, but would you bet against me if I said that I think we'd have this same non-campaign again the next time?


7 people like this
Posted by Middle ground
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2015 at 6:19 am

Jerry,

Are you saying the board won't address its issues?

The we should continue to look for middle ground:

Vote No on parcel tax, and send $758 to PiE

We can keep working with them until they decide to change.

When they fix stuff,, we vote yes.


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 7:27 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Middle Ground

Not really, just recognizing that no matter what they do to address issues they cannot address all, to everyone's satisfaction. There is too much division within the community for that to be possible. If an important issue to one person or group isn't satisfactorily handled I would expect a non-campaign against again.

Thanks, though, for offering the Middle Ground option for voters to consider. The spirit is right.


4 people like this
Posted by Middle ground
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2015 at 8:59 am

Jerry, I don't see it this negatively - you need supermajority to win, not unanimous. Past has shown 25% against any tax. You won't change their mind.

Good News! 75% wanted to support, but like me are dissatisfied with issues raised in the editorial. It is a short list of problems. If the board, teachers and union dig into it, I think there are a lot of people who would reward progress.

There is middle ground.

Fix what's broken and I look forward to voting Yes next time. Until then, I'll keep sending my donations to PiE.


22 people like this
Posted by Demos
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 30, 2015 at 9:33 am

I heard the Superintendent describe how some students were selected for Singapore. There was no chance to apply, there was no form to fill out. The students were just hand picked by certain teachers who picked their favorites and it was all secret. This is unacceptable. This is a very big opportunity, that will advantage some kids over others, and the criteria for selection was totally unknown. In a public school, that is wrong. Superintendent McGee did not even know how students were selected, he said that he just got names from each school. That's also unacceptable.

I also question the cost of this trip. It seems like a resume building thing for certain wealthy families. Travel expense to go to Singapore for one week? And what kind of "authentic" anything can students do in one week? This is not independent research. To do research, a scientist spends months or even years preparing the experiment, reading the literature, understanding the problem, and ensuring that the protocols are correct before touching a lab. These students did not do anything authentic. They stepped off an airplane and were handed projects to work on. That is offensive. Parents paid thousands, kids were secretly picked for being favorites, parents funded it, these kids were advantaged, the whole thing is labeled authentic and independent when it was anything but. This is exactly the wrong thing for Palo Alto. There should be a school-board investigation into selection. Who did it, how they did it, why no application process, what about poorer students.

There is no way I would give more money to such a system. Out of control legal fees, secret selections of students for very significant opportunities. What other mismanagement do we have to look forward to?

Those who advocate Measure A are looking at their property values not at the management of the schools. They don't care about the mismanagement. Maybe they don't even have children in the schools. They just want the newspaper story out there that Measure A passed so that it will bump home prices up again.

No.


9 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Jerry,

There are some people who never vote for parcel taxes--which ones are pretty obvious. Fine, parcel taxes have passed before without those votes.

But then there are those of us who *do* normally vote for school parcel taxes--and some are voting no and a lot of us are on the fence.

Your claim that our conditions could not be met because there are too many different ones is wrong. Actually, it's versions of the same things over and over--we want the welfare of our kids to come first.

And the district has had a serious problem with this--two high-school suicide clusters, failure to institute its own policies on zero period and homework, the previous administration's failure to handle bullying of special needs kids to the point we had to OCR cases, and, now, the union filing a grievance over using a platform that teachers, themselves, agreed to in the first place--not to mention that the grievance seems legally pretty iffy in the first place.

I've noticed the "Yes on A" crowd hasn't given any real alternatives to how to push the district and the union to fix these issues. Instead, what I see over and over is kind of a nebulous fear-mongering. Something *bad* might happen if we don't approve the parcel tax right away.

Here's the thing, Jerry--the bad stuff has *already* happened. Those kids are dead. We already can't get rid of bad teachers. We already have a union that comes off as completely uninterested in protecting students. We've already seen teachers online put the blame on students and parents without taking any responsibility for the stress in our high schools.

We voters have a long history of giving the schools the money they want--but we do expect something in return--safe schools, teachers who take responsibility, attention to student welfare.

Now, I know there are a lot of angry, anonymous people here. So one of the things I've done is talk to non-angry parents IRL and what I'm hearing isn't good. The union's behavior has been a real shock to a lot of people--most of us really thought the teachers were on our side--and now we're all questioning that.

The PAEA really, really needs to wake up on this. And I just don't get the feeling that they will if Measure A passes. I've been here a long time and I've never seen this kind of rift between teachers and the community.

A hint: condescending to us or treating us like we don't know what we think or why we think it wil *not* regain the trust of the community.


14 people like this
Posted by No, No, and Still No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2015 at 7:02 pm

@Jerry Underdal said:

>> "... when those of us who don't mind paying a parcel tax to support public education will be dealing with a chastened school bureaucracy and board."

Jerry, Palo Alto voters have a long history of supporting school taxes and bond ballot initiatives, as is historically clear. So your statement about "those of us," includes many or most of the "NO" voters this time around.

>> "Then, assuming enough progress has been made ...

>> "Could be, but would you bet against me if I said that I think we'd have this same non-campaign again the next time?"

Yes, Jerry, I would bet against you. The parents in this district care about their kids, and typically vote in favor of school bonds/taxes, and are only voting NO this time because of the extreme issues in front of us. We have only one way to make it clear to the district that our kids matter!


14 people like this
Posted by I have a dream
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 30, 2015 at 7:33 pm

What if it does fail...

Town Square's stock goes up.

Max's stock falls (as well it should, he's a horrible manager)

The union has to leave town wearing Groucho disguises. Raises are postponed.

Melissa Caswell and Camille Townsend's Crazy Hat Days are over.

Heidi probably loses re-election

Charles Young's days are numbered

Phil Winston disapparates

Goodbye Tabitha Hurley (nothing personal)

Fagen Friedman and Lozano on indefinite furlough

SCHOOLOGY for ALL!

The Homework policy is enforced

Advanced Authentic whatever it is goes to the circular file where it belongs

Belts tighten and priorities are re-set. Many district admins are furloughed, and the rest take a pay cut. [Portion removed.]

The district enters into voluntary Resolution Agreements with OCR and settles all pending matters before the completion of the investigations (without findings).

Parents and students get teacher evaluations built into the system like in college, with the results made public. Why the heck not?

And so many more things...

Dreams sometimes do come true.

What's your wish list?

Vote No.


7 people like this
Posted by common sene
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Some facts and figures:

PAUSD 2008/2009 budget - $145,000,000

PAUSD 2014/2015 budget - $182,000,000 (increase of 25.5%)

CPI increase from 2008 - 2014: 10% (Web Link)

Here are the figures from the PAUSD budget books for 2008/09 & 2014/15 school years:

Amount spent on schools (teachers, principals, staff, utilites etc)
* in 2008/09 school year: $108,000,000
* in 2014/15 school year: $130,000,000 (increase of 12%)

Amount spent on "Other"
* 2008/2009 - $37,000,000
* 2014/2015 - $52,000,000 (increase of 40%)

So those who say if Measure A doesn't pass, that they would cut teachers first I ask you why you would not cut "Other"? which has grown 4 times faster than inflation, 3.5 times faster than the grown in spending on the schools. Where are your priorities?


2 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2015 at 9:56 pm

Correction the amount spent in the 2014/2015 on schools is $121,000,000
(page 76) of the budget book; and the amount on "Other" is $61,000,000; spending on "Other" grew by 65%

here is corrected comparison:

PAUSD 2008/2009 budget - $145,000,000

PAUSD 2014/2015 budget - $182,000,000 (increase of 25.5%)

CPI increase from 2008 - 2014: 10% (Web Link)

Here are the figures from the PAUSD budget books for 2008/09 & 2014/15 school years:

Amount spent on schools (teachers, principals, staff, utilites etc)
* in 2008/09 school year: $108,000,000
* in 2014/15 school year: $121,000,000 (increase of 12%)

Amount spent on "Other"
* 2008/2009 - $37,000,000
* 2014/2015 - $61,000,000 (increase of 65%)


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 1, 2015 at 5:23 am

Ok, PAUSD budget book 2014-15 General Fund (vs 2008-09):

Certificated Salaries $90,407,604 (vs $72,987,116) up 24%
Classified Salaries $30,167,717 (vs $24,477,814) up 23%
Benefit Costs $36,014,472 (vs $27,777,031) up 30%
Supplies and Materials $8,516,635 (vs $6,705,927) up 27%
Other Operating Expenses and Services $19,364,419** (vs $12,866,910) up 50%

... subtotal of above = $184,470,847 (vs $144,814,798) up 27%

** "Other operating expenses and services include services, rentals, leases, maintenance contracts, travel, insurance, utilities, and legal and other operating expenditures. Utilities ($3.8 million), special education nonpublic schools ($4 million), and mental health residential placements ($1.6 million) are the three largest expenditures in this area." (page 23)

@common sense -- as I've said in previous threads, "other" seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Looks like your $121M figure from p.76 is just salaries plus benefits for the 778 FTE staff listed in that Table for each school. Don't know whether utilities, etc are included in there. I guess the big question is where the other > 600 FTE staff are, and what they occupy themselves with. Page 44 shows staffing levels through the years, and says current 2013-14 district employment is ~ 1393 FTE positions. (vs 1324 in 2008-09)

Some number of them must be our substitute teachers, and maintenance/landscaping people, unless somehow distributed among the 778 FTEs in the Table, which I doubt. How many positions are really necessary at 25 Churchill? I presume every employee has their constituency.

Anyway, if $13M must be cut from the budget, "other" might not be the pot we think it is. I certainly don't know. Anyone else care to chime in?


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2015 at 6:20 am

Musical @ Palo Verde,

Following page 79 of the budget book (2014/2015 school year), the detail budget for each school is shown, DOES INCLUDE utilites, telephone, pension & benefits, substitutes for teachers as well as clerical staff, textbooks, maintenance, custodial, etc.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2015 at 6:46 am

The number of students, per the budget books for
2008/2009 - 11,592
2014/2015 - 12,638 (up 9%)

Spending on Schools
2008/2009 - $108,000,000
2014/2015 - $121,000,000 (up 12%)

Spending on Other
2008/2009 - $37,000,000
2014/2015 - $61,000,000 (up 65%)

Total School Budget
2008/2009 - $145,000,000
2014/2015 - $182,000,000 (up 25.5%)

The primary mission of the school district is teaching our kids, but that's not where the additional money is being spent.


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Posted by Demos
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 1, 2015 at 7:48 am

The out of school placements for special ed are fully or partially funded by the state and federal government and the county through categorial funds. If there are fewer placements, those funds also decrease so the "other" category looks like a lot is being spent on out of school placement but the revenues would decrease if those funds were not being expended in that way.

The same is true of some of the other expenditures in the budget -- certain things are subsidized by other governmental agencies and so it does not make sense to look at the outlays in isolation from the funding stream.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 1, 2015 at 8:17 am

Thanks, @Demos, I was just looking at pages 194-198, Special Education. Says $30M budgeted. 288 FTEs. There goes about half of @common sense's "other" number.

Does the rest of the country spend a sixth of their budget on Special Education? Or is Palo Alto just a Special Place?


20 people like this
Posted by NO
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2015 at 8:27 am

I just voted no. We are getting taxed too much. I can use that $758 per year for tutoring instead since there is so much grade deflation. Save your money while you can. I'm tired of "it's for the children." The Superintendent and School Board do nothing for the children and I've been in PAUSD for 14 years and counting.


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2015 at 9:41 am

More money so people can try to be innovative and turn our public school into a private school. No, a public school needs to serve everyone and our new superintendent is running away with the money, spending it on the elite few for a trip to Singapore, unannounced, students cherry-picked. Is he looking out for his own reputation in making himself look good by having such a program? He is supposed to help all the students, not just some. I'd rather my money help the whole school district.


12 people like this
Posted by Disillusioned and stressed parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2015 at 9:58 am

@musical,
That's really interesting. Now I can understand all the nonsensical attacks, the masterpieces of lies that must have taken hours and hours to construct, the meetings with millions of dollars in salaried personnel sitting around the table, the gross and pernicious interference with relationships between families and teachers, all for a piece of paper that will be ignored by the teachers anyway. Students are not getting the services they need in favor of feeding this machine that denies student services on overkill. Too bad that page doesn't include the economic loss to families because of their lost time and costs, and the greater emotional cost.

I don't understand how to reconcile that with the Ballotpedia category of student services which puts our expenditure at 3%. I wonder in the budget page you mentioned, who exactly those employees are.


4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Musical @ Palo Verde

Using common sense's numbers, and factoring special ed as a separate category:

Spending on Schools
*2008/09 - $108,000,000
*2014/15 - $121,000,000 (12% increase)

Spending on Special Ed
*2008/09 - $21,500,000
*2014/15 - $30,200,000 (40% increase)

Spending on Other
*2008/09 - $15,500,000
*2014/15 - $30,800,000 (99% increase)

Total Budget
*2008/09 - $145,000,000
*2014/15 - $182,000,000 (25% increase)

Student Enrollment
*2008/09 - 11,592
*2014/15 - 12,638 (up 9%)

Also Revenue from Property Taxes (which cover all non-categorical spending, like spending on our schools)
*2008/09 - $99,100,000
*2014/15 - $131,100,000 (up 32%)

Unless someone else can shed light on why "Other" increased 99% over the past 7 years, while spending on students only increased by 12%? Revenue from Property taxes doesn't have to spent on a specific item, like the Fed/State funding for Special Ed. Since Property Taxes are up 32%, the figures show that most of that increase went to "OTHER".


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 1, 2015 at 3:54 pm

I haven't yet gone through pages 177-264, the rest of the General Funding.

Summer School $690K
Site-based Prevention and Tier 2 support programs $198K
Alternative Programs $975K
Career Technical Education $976K
Lucile Packard Children's Hospital School $714K
Special Education $30210K (aforementioned big expense)
K-12 Art $351K
Library Media Program $530K
Human Resources/Subs $2494K
Central Attendance $522K
Board of Education $272
Superintendent's office $593K
District Communication $215K
Human Resources Admin $1691K
Business Services $2112K
Information Technology $5237K
Insurance $638K
Student Services $896K
Educational Services Admin $1760K
Digital Publishing/Printing/Mailing $508K
Safety/Emergency Prep $115K
Maintenance $4925K
Property Management $45K
Landscaping $1380K
Warehouse $241K
Utilities/Phones/Custodial $10191K
Transportation $2552K
..... subtotal of above: ~ $71 million.

Since this subtotal exceeds @common sense's $61M "other", clearly some of the above must be included in the $121M of the page 76 Table. I haven't had time to sort out how much. Maybe it's simply the Utilities/Phones/Custodial $10.2M line-item.


3 people like this
Posted by Disillusioned and stressed parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2015 at 4:13 pm

@ musical,
Thanks - can you go one further and find out a breakdown of that large special ed expense?

Also, this doesn't really break out administrative costs. It says "superintendent's office" at $593K - what does that include? The Superintendent's salary alone is $275,000 for around 200 days of work, plus $7500/month car allowance plus expenses plus $1M interest-free loan plus benefits. Typical number for figuring out overhead (office, etc) is twice salary, but I guess that wouldn't quite work. Still that $593k would seem to only encompass the superintendent's pay, not even overhead, and certainly not all those administrators and assistant this and that's most people couldn't name to save their lives in the district office.

I'd like to see something that shows the true cost of administration.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 2, 2015 at 5:01 am

Regarding the Superintendent's $593K, here's more detail:
1.00 FTE certificated salary, $298,650
1.25 FTE classified salary, $118,534
Benefits, $108,079; Supplies $11,500; Services $56,476

I'm summarizing all these figures from the 2014-15 PAUSD Budget Book.
I can't reproduce the entire 25.4 megabytes here.
Download it from the PAUSD site at your own peril -- Web Link

There's more than forty lines of stuff in there for the Special Ed $30M.


7 people like this
Posted by Disillusioned and stressed parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 7:00 am

@ musical,

But what does that mean in terms of his contract? The salary is $275,000 for ~ 212 days. He gets a car allowance of $750/month - under which of those does it fall? He got a million dollar interest free loan, under which does that fall? Where does the million dollars go so that it doesn't get "lost"? Are we still paying for Skelly's interest-free loan, or did we get that money back? Are the "services" legal services? Skelly hired a lobbyist in Sacramento under 25 Churchill but not mentioning PAUSD - what line item covers that? What about the rest of the bureaucracy? Is that other 1.25 FTE an employee, or something else, and if it's an employee, are those that employee's benefits rolled into the superintendent's?

A more accurate description of the line item is "superintendent's salary package" - it doesn't even really cover his office or overhead.

I also wish the district would first list the salary on an annual basis and then show how many days worked and total paid, because it's not like most of those salaries aren't great annual salaries or that we couldn't use the administrative employees during the summer. The number of days all of those people work is not the same even as each other, and it's never a full year (is that 1.25 FTE one person who worked during the summer some? Or 1.25 people?) It seems like all these numbers are not showing the full costs, certainly the superintendent's office doesn't reflect all the overhead of the office, and I'm only guessing, but I'll be willing to bet the special ed number is a little more kitchen-sink-y.

Showing the annual salary will also be a better way to gage how much we are really spending. The whole accounting system seems geared for appearances.

There doesn't seem to be any way to separate out administrative costs from essential instructional expenses for our kids. The district office can't streamline what it isn't even overtly tracking or paying attention to. I want to see what attempts have been made to streamline bureaucracy. The City cut 60 administrative positions during the recession - did the district cut any, or cut any administrative salaries? Even the state lowered the salary of the governor.

(Which is less than what we pay McGee. I wonder what Jerry Brown is doing in a few years....)

Wow, you have convinced me to vote NO until we get a much clearer accounting from the district, and they have not only done some cutting from the top-heavy bureaucracy, but account for costs to the public in a way that is meaningful and more transparent.


1 person likes this
Posted by Fees
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 4, 2015 at 6:18 pm

@ Demos -
This article raises concern about school district's filing suits against parents of disabled students to stop them from filing complaints:
Web Link

On April 15, 2015, the Federal government issued a "Dear Colleague" letter warning Districts to stop this practice, not to use public (school district) resources to push parents of the disabled into the most adversarial and expensive process, and to instead use a cooperative process.
Web Link

Due Process hearings are one of the sources of PAUSD legal fees. According to the calendar of the Office of Administrative Hearings, at the moment, there are 4 Special Education cases involving PAUSD on the Due Process Hearing calendar:
Web Link

Case Number : 2015031133
Case Number : 2015040094
Case Number : 2015031018
Case Number : 2015040257

We can't know we filed for the hearings: parents or school district. There may be other cases already started or already heard and awaiting judge's decisions. The public doesn't have a way to know this until a judge's decision is published. No matter who filed for a hearing, any kind of Due Process legal action requires legal fees and shows District is not using cooperative measures to resolving concerns.


1 person likes this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 4, 2015 at 10:39 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

If you want to add another critique to the district, even though they have raised a fair amount of money to support measure A, they don't seem to be pushing very hard to get push their position and get parents to vote. It will be interesting to see if the quiet complacent approach works.


1 person likes this
Posted by No, No, and Still No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2015 at 10:52 pm

@Slow Down said:

"they don't seem to be pushing very hard to get push their position and get parents to vote."

Or maybe they are having trouble getting enough volunteers behind this unnecessary and undeserved tax to push hard.

VOTE NO ON MEASURE A.


2 people like this
Posted by Demos
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 4, 2015 at 10:52 pm

@fees

Thank you for that very interesting information. Fagan Friedman has reportedly advised the district to aggressively file due process against parents with disabled students. It is interesting that DoE is on to this strategy for limiting parent rights.

All the more reason to take a serious look at FFF and the district's other attorneys.

I believe that the district could contract with County Counsel to provide its legal services for a fraction of the cost, and probably a fraction of the errors. I wonder why Max has not pursued this possibility? Are some board members worried about what County Counsel might think of their OCR shenanigans?


8 people like this
Posted by Disillusioned and stressed parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2015 at 2:17 pm

I just spoke with a parent of a child with disabilities this morning, who is not the kind to push, and thus has never actually been even extended due process, apprised of their rights, or even properly answered when they asked for evaluations.

All this treating parents like they are the enemy and treating every suggestion like it's loaded is costing are district money in the denial of services, while turning employees who are supposed to be prioritizing helping students into antagonists. I would much rather pay for a small percentage of unnecessary services than pay a bunch of bureaucrats far more money to treat everyone like criminals. Only the most hale can survive the gauntlet. It's not just morally wrong, it's illegal. This is a school district. The district has a legal responsibility to identify children who have disabilities and extend the protections to them proactively, because (according to the DofE) it turns out to be the cheapest thing in the long run and best for the students.

I hope people will vote NO, and if this loses, make the effort to tell the district why and what will help. Unless the Measure loses, you'll have about as much luck getting through to district people as to the proponents on these threads.

Today is the last day to vote. It is only by mail. There is only one race, this one. The envelope is post paid. As a parent who has always voted yes in the past, I hope people will vote NO on this one. Anything that proponents say is at stake can still be had, since this election is early and there is still time to ask again. Anything that detractors say is at stake can only be realized if this one goes down in flames. In fact, if it loses, it's better if it loses by a lot so the district can't parse the results. (Please vote NO.)


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2015 at 10:47 am

To add insult to injury, PA Online has now restricted the results thread to registered users only. This means that all discussion there has to cease as is always the case with these restrictions.

The unfairness of this election still continues.


Like this comment
Posted by No, No, and Still No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Well, here's a little news clip that hasn't been covered. Maybe McGee is making changes in the district office!

Web Link


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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