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Guest Opinion: Stanford's commitment to Palo Alto schools must be honored

University's expansion will bring in new workers, generate additional students

The next Stanford University general use permit ("GUP"), adding hundreds of new students to our schools, will impact the Palo Alto school community for the next 17 years. As education professionals and volunteers in the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) community — classified staff, teachers, PTA volunteers — we dedicate our time and our careers to promoting high quality public education in our K-12 schools.

The Palo Alto public school community is counting on Stanford to honor its commitment to contribute to the costs of educating new students entering our schools pursuant to the Stanford GUP. To maintain the high quality of our public schools, this commitment must be honored. We take no position on whether this commitment is executed in a development agreement (with Santa Clara County) or in a bilateral agreement (with the school district).

Tuesday, Oct. 22, is the only county Board of Supervisors meeting in Palo Alto (Palo Alto City Hall) on the Stanford GUP before the board's GUP vote. There will be a rally at 5:15 p.m., before the 6 p.m. hearing, where we can (1) thank Stanford for its stated commitment to our schools and (2) request Stanford to honor that commitment when it executes the new GUP with the county.

The Stanford GUP impacts our schools' quality

Stanford's GUP application impacts our community for the next 17 years. Stanford's land use application is the largest in county history, adding an estimated 9,610 new people to the Stanford campus.

How does the new Stanford GUP impact our Palo Alto schools? As part of its GUP expansion, Stanford will build new homes for its new workforce. Many new workers will have children entering the Palo Alto schools. Our community welcomes these new students with excitement and open arms.

What's the catch? Palo Alto schools depend primarily on local property taxes to fund their operating budget (staff and programs). Stanford pays zero property taxes on its rental homes. The children living in these new Stanford rental homes join PAUSD with no property tax revenues to help cover the cost of their education.

As the school district explains, "Adding hundreds of students with little or no new additional property tax revenues would result in significant and permanent PAUSD budget shortfalls, class size increases and program reductions, which would irreparably damage the quality of education for all PAUSD students, including those coming in from Stanford." See PAUSD GUP Briefing Book here.

Stanford's commitment to per-student funding

Fortunately, PAUSD and Stanford share a common interest in Stanford fully mitigating the impacts of its GUP on the Palo Alto schools. They also have a nice history of working together to maintain excellent Palo Alto public schools through prior Stanford expansions.

Pursuant to that common interest, in spring 2019, Stanford offered to PAUSD to contribute annually adjusted funds to educate each student living in a Stanford-owned but property-tax-exempt home. The two parties have yet to formally execute this agreement.

In September 2019, Stanford confirmed that commitment in a letter to the school district stating, "The university remains unequivocally committed to the agreement we structured with the Palo Alto School District earlier this year." In that letter, Stanford further notes "there will not be a future scenario where Stanford accepts a permit to build new campus housing without providing the committed benefits to Palo Alto Unified School District..."

As the school superintendent recently announced, "The (Stanford) letter clarified that if Stanford builds new housing as a result of obtaining any permit, they would honor our previously negotiated terms."

Finalizing Stanford's commitment to the schools

Does Stanford's repeated commitment mean everything is OK for the Palo Alto school community, its students and families, when the county board votes this fall on the Stanford GUP?

Each time, Stanford says the commitment "will be made possible by ... a development agreement" with the county. In a recent opinion piece, Stanford wrote the community benefits "would be made possible by a companion development agreement" (San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 8, 2019). A development agreement would be an additional agreement between the county and Stanford, addressing community benefits Stanford that offers in the new GUP.

The county (the government entity approving the GUP), however, explains, "We don't need a development agreement to require full mitigation with respect to housing, traffic, or to protect open space in our foothills" (Supervisor Joe Simitian, San Jose Mercury News, Sept. 25, 2019).

Another option is for Stanford to again enter a bilateral agreement with the school district, as it did in the 2000 GUP. In the 2000 GUP, there was no development agreement. Instead, Stanford executed a bilateral agreement with the school district setting forth community benefits Stanford would provide to the schools.

As in 2000, Stanford could execute a bilateral agreement with the school district, incorporating the terms of its repeated commitment to the school district, contingent on county approval of the GUP.

School community's 'full mitigation' ask: Honor the commitment to our district

Our school community's "full mitigation" ask is simple — for Stanford to honor its commitment to fund the education of new students living in Stanford property tax-exempt homes, regardless of whether that commitment is finally executed in a development agreement or a bilateral agreement.

You can support "full mitigation" for Palo Alto schools in a couple of ways. Attend the rally Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 5:15 p.m. and the county board hearing starting at 6 p.m., at Palo Alto City Hall.

Second, send your "full mitigation" message to the county and Stanford (1) with two taps on your iPhone, via the Click My Cause app (free in the app store, select Palo Alto PTA council, allow notifications, tap "act now"), or (2) by signing our petition here.

More information can be found at paloaltopta.org.

Nancy Krop, an advocacy consultant for the Palo Alto PTA Council and a PAUSD parent, can be emailed at nancypta@kroplaw.com. Meb Steiner, president of California School Employees Association (CSEA) Palo Alto Chapter 301 and a PAUSD special education instructional aide, can be emailed at mrsteiner@pausd.org. Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association and a PAUSD teacher, can be emailed at tbaldwin@pausd.org.

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Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Cover up culture
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 18, 2019 at 11:27 am

Dear Nancy and the PTA/PTAC/PTSA, etc, thank you for making it so clear how you are just a schill for the teacher's union in all things. Teri Baldwin is the head of the teacher's union and Meb Steiner is the head of the classified staff's union. Let's make sure those unions get all the money they can! After all, PAUSD is only the second highest paying unified school district in all of California! Let's work on getting to the top spot --- and if it's Stanford's pocket we have to pick, so be it! BTW --- what about those PAUSD unfunded pension liabilities --- @ $187 million currently for the teachers, @ $65 million for the classified staff. If those unfunded pension dollars keep piling up --- just like they are at the City of Palo Alto (now $455 million unfunded) it's us happy homeowners who will have to fork over $$ in an assessment, after already paying our high property taxes. Happy, happy! Let's make sure PAUSD staff have the richest pension benefits anywhere!!!!


14 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Oct 18, 2019 at 11:37 am

Oh! You all knew that PAUSD enrollment has declined by 600 students over the last two years? And that unions have been behind the effort to force Stanford to build more housing than it had planned to do in its GUP? And they are also behind efforts to build more dense housing in Palo Alto and use public assets to build housing for them?


2 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 18, 2019 at 11:47 am

Why only for the next 17 years? That part I didn't understand. What happens in the 18th year and beyond?


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2019 at 11:53 am

>> schill for the teacher's union in all things

Big employers all over the area are being asked to provision employee housing because "the free market" is telling us that it can't do it. Stanford is no different from any other big employer. If "unions" are pushing for this, it speaks well for the unions, because we are currently undergoing major market irrationality. Big employers continue to add office space and jobs in the area, knowing that the employees will be commuting from Tracy and beyond. They continue to do this because they believe it will maximize profits. We, the residents of Peninsula cities, continue to go along with it because-- we are dumb.


2 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2019 at 12:00 pm

@Barron Park Dad, the agreement actually runs for up to 40 years, or until it is superseded. The expectation seems to be that Stanford will be back for another GUP within 20 years and this will all have to be renegotiated. It would have been better to get the payments in perpetuity, but I expect Stanford wasn't willing.


5 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2019 at 12:05 pm

@Anon - the free market has not failed. And the market is not irrational. There are high paying jobs located here (some people), and those folks can bid up the price of scarce housing. And, the Fed and ECB and the UK and the Chinese govt. have pumped about $7 trillion into the world economy to try to avoid a depression after the sub prime mortgage crisis, and they are still doing so today, with recent Fed actions and recent ECB efforts. As a result, all asset prices have risen....So...it is what it is, and a major depression was avoided, but we are where we are....


12 people like this
Posted by Wishful thinking
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 18, 2019 at 12:34 pm

@Anon - I'll tell you what's irrational - to pay the average PAUSD more per day than the average tech worker and then give them free land and housing and rich, rich, rich pension benefits....


3 people like this
Posted by Blarryg
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2019 at 2:20 pm

@Wishful Thinking Your numbers are wrong. Avg teacher pay in Palo Alto: $89,339/yr
Range: $65K - $120K. Tech pay starts at around $120K but the median is around $200K and it goes up to $400-$800K total comp depending on level at the bigger employers.

I agree that pensions to be factored in for the actual pay rate of teachers and government workers. And, we should probably just get rid of the fine benefits and put them all on some nice 401k to control costs. On the other hand your property tax rates are absurdly cheap, prop 13, get over it.


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