Editorial: Measure A is vital for school excellence | April 9, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - April 9, 2010

Editorial: Measure A is vital for school excellence

Renewal and increase in parcel tax will assure, with careful management, continued excellence and breadth for Palo Alto students

Ballots went out this week for another crucially important election in Palo Alto: a mail-in-only vote on whether to renew and increase the parcel tax that has for the past five years been vitally important in maintaining Palo Alto schools.

Bolstered by a new generation of younger parents active in the "Support Palo Alto Schools 2010" campaign, co-chairs Tracy Stevens, Anna Thayer and Al Yuen are taking nothing for granted as they spearhead an energetic outreach effort to reach the two-thirds voter approval needed by the mail-in deadline of May 4.

The proposal is to replace the existing annual $493-per-parcel tax with a $589 tax, a $96 increase that will generate an estimated $1.8 million more for the Palo Alto Unified School District. Unlike a bond measure, funds from a parcel tax can be used for faculty and staff salaries, principally to minimize increases in class size, preserve "core programs," reduce potential teacher layoffs, and help close a yawning gap in the district's budget.

The existing parcel tax has been generating about $9.4 million a year, or approximately 6 percent of the district's overall budget, so the new tax should produce about $11.2 million by current estimates.

The existing tax, approved by 74 percent of voters in 2005 (well above the two-thirds approval required), is a six-year tax with an exemption for senior homeowners. It will expire in 2011 unless replaced by the Measure A tax. The replacement tax would also be for six years, and continues the senior exemption.

The 2005 vote occurred in the face of minimal opposition, with the ballot argument written by an official of a libertarian organization. The strong approval was a bounce-back from a defeated parcel-tax proposal in November 2004, which fell less than 1 percent short of two-thirds. A combination of overconfidence, ignoring opposition arguments and campaign-volunteer distractions due to the larger national election undermined the effort.

This time there is no organized opposition, with no opposing ballot argument in the official voters' handbook put out by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, which oversees the election. There have been the expected critics of any new tax voicing their opinions on the Town Square forum of www.PaloAltoOnline.com, but Measure A supporters have maintained a solid presence there also, correcting misinformation and promoting the importance of Measure A.

The campaign is conducting phone banks, held a special rally last Saturday that featured State Sen. Joe Simition, Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh and Mayor Pat Burt, and has set up a website: www.supportpaloaltoschools2010.org.

But both campaign leaders and volunteers realize that overconfidence may be the biggest threat, along with the unfamiliarity of the all-mail-in-ballot election for many voters.

So they are pulling out all stops in trying to raise voter awareness of how important this election is to maintaining the quality of education Palo Altans expect and our children need.

A huge benefit of the parcel tax revenues is that, unlike sales tax revenues, the money comes directly to the district and cannot be subverted to other uses, such as filling the state's multi-billion-budget gap between projected revenues and expenditures.

Assigning blame for the shortfalls, locally, regionally or statewide, is a fruitless exercise, except in the sense that the next time the state has an economic boom we should remember the timeless truth that what goes up must come down. Things occur in cycles, and we need to strengthen our mechanisms of setting boom-time funds aside for bust times. That should be the long-term take-home lesson for all government officials and civic leaders.

But for immediate needs of schools, Palo Alto is not alone in turning to parcel tax measures to bolster sagging revenues, or cuts in state funding. Menlo Park School District voters are deciding Measure C, also a vitally important supplement to its funding, and other districts around the state are proposing similar measures.

"As compelling as the parcel tax was in 2005, it's much more compeling now," Palo Alto campaign Co-Chair Thayer said.

Measure A has been endorsed by dozens of organizations and individuals, from government officials to average citizens, parents and citizens who care about educating the next generation of students.

The Weekly agrees that this is a pivotal commitment to our schools, our community and our children. Vote YES on Measure A.


Posted by Ted Glasser, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Apr 9, 2010 at 11:43 am

I enthusiastically embrace the idea of a tax intended to strengthen our local public schools, because I believe communities need strong schools and because my daughter, an elementary school student, will benefit immediately and directly from them. Still, I’m going to vote No on Palo Alto’s Measure A, and I encourage others to do so as well.

Measure A imposes a parcel tax on property owners without regard for the size and value of their property and without regard for the size and value of what’s built on their property. That’s hardly fair.

Measure A imposes the same tax – $589 initially – on a modest (by Palo Alto standards) 1,000 square foot tear-down built on a small plot of land as it does on an opulent, multi-million dollar mansion built on two adjacent parcels of land (homeowners receive “credit” for one of the two parcels, which means they get taxed on only one).

Worse yet, Measure A makes no distinction between commercial and non-commercial use of land. The owner of a lucrative apartment complex built on acres of land, for example, if the county regards the land as a single parcel, pays the same tax as the owner of a small house.
Since 2001, eight school districts in California have proposed and passed parcel taxes that have taken into account square footage and/or a property’s commercial use. Palo Alto should do the same.

Let’s work to defeat Measure A and invite the Palo Alto Unified School District to return next year with a proposal for a genuinely fair and equitable tax.

Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I'm voting YES on Measure A to provide for today's PAUSD students. It's fine to work toward school taxes being fairer and more equitable but your kids will graduate from high school before that's achieved - through no fault of PAUSD. The laws governing school taxation are extremely complicated and there is no quick fix as you suggest there might be.

Posted by Measure A Supporter, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Given the state budget meltdown, the school district really needs the funds from this election. Differential taxes based on property size or value have been challenged in multiple court cases in California. Structuring this parcel tax in the same way we have had a parcel tax in Palo Alto for years is what makes most sense.

The district has lost millions of dollars due to state budget cuts, and is likely to lose more. Right now is the time to vote "YES!" for this tax. As the editorial points out, our schools really need this locally controlled money.

Vote yes for Measure A and preserve our excellent schools.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 9, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Does this Measure A have an opt-out provision for seniors?

Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 3:32 pm

yes, there is a senior exemption, but very few seniors actually opt out.

Posted by another Measure A supporter, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 3:35 pm

The Daily Post also endorsed measure A, and it may be the first tax measure they've ever endorsed, school or otherwise.

Posted by Walt, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm

I say vote no because this measure is unfair to the disabled. There is an opt out option for seniors age 65 up regardless of financial status but there is no opt out provision for the disabled on fixed income. When will these "temporary" taxes stop. Every time I turn around it seems some group is trying to levy more taxes on me. Or so it seems. Why is it I have to keep my checkbook balanced. But schools and government don't. I say vote NO not just because this tax is unfair to the disabled but because it won't stop and just keeps getting bigger.

Posted by senres, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm

What I saw on the ballot was that seniors 65 and older have to apply for the opt out and would have to wait and see if their request gets approved. So it sounds to me it is not just being 65 that counts. There are additional and/or other requirements to opt out. Maybe someone else knows more about this and can shed some light on this.

Posted by James, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 10, 2010 at 12:17 am

Why do we need this tax measure when we give the school district nine million dollars every year! Vote NO!!!!

Posted by bad measure a, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 10, 2010 at 9:27 am

I to will vote no on Measure A as the school board could have easily closed the budget gap by taking more austere measures in the budget cuts.

The district has way too many elitist programs that only benefits a handful of students and not the district as a whole. Until those elitist programs are scaled back to help the district balance its budget I say No to any request for more funding.

Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 10, 2010 at 11:05 am

If you own a parcel and are 65 years or older you can opt out. There are no other requirements. An opt out form can be down loaded from the school's web site. You'll just have to prove your age with a copy of your drivers license.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm

The numbers tell us that most of our tax money –- 85% -- will go to salaries and benefits. Not much left for anything else.

* The AVERAGE teacher’s base salary (for a 9-month work year) is $186K.

* 60 teachers and 50 administrators make over $100K/year.

* PAUSD has 525 non-teaching staff to 811 teachers. About 40% of PAUSD revenue is spent on administration and maintenance.

Enrollment increased 38% since the 1994-95 school year. But in that same time period, teaching staff jumped 70%, administrative staff 31% and teachers’ salaries 81%! And, our property taxes have gone up 177%!

The YES on A argument would have us believe that the only way to only way to sustain the system is to ask more from residents vs. cutting non-essentials and pushing back on union demands.

Just as students have to earn their grades, teachers should be rewarded on merit, not on longevity. PAUSD should require that salaries be in line with the job and performance.

PAUSD must also push back on benefit and pension demands, requiring more contributions from the employees.

And, as others have mentioned, the district should cut programs like Mandarin Immersion that push kids out of neighborhood schools, require special teachers, and benefit very few students.

Until PAUSD comes up with cost-cutting strategies, we should vote NO on Measure A.

Posted by Midtown Parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 10, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I am going to vote yes, because the district people and teachers need to have money to spend on the days they do staff development days, they bring them a lot of food for lunch, and also they need to go travel places to check what other schools are doing and they need to pay for this travel expenses. This way teachers will be more happy and treat our kids with more love because they know that we parents are paying for all this extra expenses. Also the superintendent got a raise not too long ago, and even though the parcel tax is not supposed to be used for administration salaries, if the preposition does not pass, the salary raise has to come up from somewhere and eventually our kids will get affected by having less services. For these reasons vote YES on A

Posted by Measure A Supporter, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2010 at 2:31 pm

A poster above, "Pat," published some information that is very much incorrect.

The average teacher's salary in PAUSD is NOT $186k.

While staff has increased since 1994-5, a big driver of that has been the class size reduction effort that originated at the state level, the majority of which has been paid for by the state.

Folks who are fans of Proposition 13 might be stunned to see that Pat's property taxes have increased 177% during that same period, since the law specifically caps property tax increases at 2% per year.

The vast majority of Measure A funds will REPLACE a current tax. The increase portion is only $8 per month per parcel. In this age of huge budget cuts from the state, the Measure A increases don't begin to replace what we're losing.

Vote Yes on A because our schools need our support now more than ever before. We all benefit from the outstanding schools in Palo Alto. Support our schools and support Measure A!

Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Apr 11, 2010 at 7:42 am

"* The AVERAGE teacher’s base salary (for a 9-month work year) is $186K."

WOW! How do I become a PAUSD teacher?

I'd like to see a reference for that number.

If the good people of Palo Alto pass this tax won't the state cut their allocation to PAUSD even more?

My property taxes jumped ~7% (~$600) from 2008 to 2009 yet govt at every level is hurting for money. This just doesn't add up.

Plus, my salary has been frozen for two years.

Posted by NT, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 11, 2010 at 8:10 am

"Measure A imposes a parcel tax on property owners without regard for the size and value of their property and without regard for the size and value of what’s built on their property. That’s hardly fair."

Well, property taxes do the same. CA property taxes are based on how long ago you bought your house, not on its value.

Posted by new in town, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 11, 2010 at 9:57 am

If Measure A fails to pass, PA schools will start to lose appeal to new buyers and your home values will drop by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Something to consider about when complaining about renewal of a tax that is less than $600 a year.

Vote YES for schools because you believe in the community benefit of having great schools for our children, or just do it for the simple selfish reason of keeping your house value inflated. But Vote YES on A.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 11, 2010 at 10:16 am

Please vote yes. If Measure A does not pass, we will be facing over 9 MILLION DOLLARs in cuts to PAUSD (in addition to whatever cuts the state continues to make).

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 11, 2010 at 11:57 am

I don't buy the warning that if measure A fails real estate will go down significantly in pa. That's because there are problems with our schools and this has been growing for some time. The elementary schools are still very good, but not the middle schools, and the high schools have problems.

I will vote no because this parcel tax needs to be geared to square footage.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 11, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Sorry for the typo. The average teacher’s salary in Palo Alto is $86.6K, NOT $186.6K.

Thank you, Measure A supporter for pointing that out.

Posted by concerndtaxpayer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 11, 2010 at 1:04 pm

From 4/9/10 Daily Post:

The average teacher’s base salary is $86,000 for a 9-month year. About 60 teachers and 50 administrators make more than $100,000 a year. Annualized, that’s about $170,000, and over $300,000 with pension. There are no salary caps.

A teacher hired today at $50,000 a year—with a 5% yearly raise, could make about $3.1 million over a 30 year career, retiring with final salary of $214,000 (minimum).

The “defined benefit” pension scheme offers teachers a lifetime pension computed at 72% (at 30 years) of their last year’s salary and a 2% yearly cost-of-living increase.

Thus, with a $214,000 exit salary, a retired educator could receive pension payouts starting at $155,000 a year. This would add up to about $6.2 million over the next 30 years, bringing the direct lifetime compensation to a minimum of $9.3 million (not including healthcare and other benefits that increase a teacher’s compensation package by hundreds of thousands of dollars).

Keep in mind that retired teachers must be replaced, so while we are paying for one teacher in the classroom, we’re also paying for more teachers no longer working. And, most taxpayers who are funding these retirements have no pension plans of their own.

I will not vote for a parcel tax until the district demonstrates a willingness and ability to curb unsustainable pensions.

Posted by NT, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 11, 2010 at 1:22 pm

"Annualized, that’s about $170,000, and over $300,000 with pension."

These numbers are a total fabrication. There is no such thing as an "annualized salary," and pension contributions are about the same as FICA contributions made by employers (around 8%).

"A teacher hired today at $50,000 a year—with a 5% yearly raise, could make about $3.1 million over a 30 year career, retiring with final salary of $214,000 (minimum)."

Again, complete rubbish. Teachers start at $51,422. After thirty years, that teacher would make $76,002.

"Thus, with a $214,000 exit salary, a retired educator could receive pension payouts starting at $155,000 a year."

Complete, utter, sheer, 100% USDA rubbish. No teacher is will ever hit 214,000. It's just not possible.

Posted by Jarred, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 11, 2010 at 1:48 pm

@NT wrote:
" 'A teacher hired today at $50,000 a year—with a 5% yearly raise, could make about $3.1 million over a 30 year career, retiring with final salary of $214,000 (minimum).'

Again, complete rubbish. Teachers start at $51,422. After thirty years, that teacher would make $76,002."

Go to Google, and enter "51422 * (1.05 ^ 29)". Google says:

51422 * (1.05^29) = 211 659.925

So, a teacher who starts at a salary of $51,422, and gets a 5% annual raise for the next 29 years, will have a salary of $211,659.925 in the 30th year.

Not sure how @NT came out with the wrong answer of $76,002, but I think I know who's putting out the "Complete, utter, sheer, 100% USDA rubbish" here. @NT, you need to learn more about the word "compound" in the phrase "compound interest".

Posted by NT, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm

"Go to Google, and enter "51422 * (1.05 ^ 29)". Google says:"

Ah, I see where you got your wrong information. Another case of garbage in, garbage out. Teachers do not get a 5% yearly raise.

"Not sure how @NT came out with the wrong answer of $76,002, but I think I know who's putting out the "Complete, utter, sheer, 100% USDA rubbish" here. @NT, you need to learn more about the word "compound" in the phrase "compound interest"."

The actual, correct figure ($76,002) comes from the actual, correct district salary tables which list the actual, correct salaries of teachers, actually.

Jarred, you need to take your fingers off the calculator, step back from the submit button, and use your head a little.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2010 at 6:58 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The failure of the board to seek termination of Tinsley is fiscally irresponsible.

Posted by member, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Fact check
For teacher salary schedule see: Web Link

I haven't found the benefit info yet, but it should be in the public record.

Hard to see how these folks are underpaid for 180 teaching days, plus sick leave, and benefits the private sector would love to have; even harder to believe that if we don't pass measure A, the faculty can't manage to keep reading, writing, math and science moving right along, contrary to the dire warning in the ProA literature. If they can't keep standars high, we need to seriously overhaul the tenure system and fire the "retired-in-place".

How many of you reading this, have worked 80 hour weeks on projects to keep a company afloat, for about the same amount of money and lousy benefits? A few maybe?

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Almost 10 million dollars in cuts.

If that is what you want for the children of PAUSD, then vote no. The current parcel tax is going to expire. If it is not replaced, we will loose almost 10 million in funding. If I use about 65K as an average teacher salary, that's 150 teachers we would have to eliminate. I know that's simplistic, but most of the money goes to salaries, so much of the cuts would be staff and since most of the staff is teachers, you get it. This could mean no more art, music, pe, counselors, science at the elementary level, electives at the middle and high school, huge class sizes, etc.

Posted by R Wray, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Vote No on Measure A. We must do all we can to discourage government institution schools. Any objective evaluation of government schools shows that they are doing a terrible job of educating our children.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I re-read the above posts and used the posted average of 86K for a PAUSD teacher and the 9.4 million raised by the current parcel tax, that is 116 teacher positions. If we have an average of 21 teachering slots at each elementary school (3.5 strands per grade), that is the equivalent of closing 5 elementary schools. Or all of Gunn.

There is definitely some dead-wood in any school district, but not that much.

Posted by member, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm

To New in Town: There are enough structural issues with PAUSD that I urge people vote NO on this tax this year, which might make PAUSD take some action to solve more systemic problems. Or, they'll hire an even more expensive campaign consultant next time.

It will not damage our schools any time soon, or at all. Trust me; we'll have many chances to vote for a parcel tax in this one fails. I'd like to see an honest assessment of why it's needed, before I vote to pass another one. PAUSD has no credibility with me anymore.

PAUSD is using an effective campaign tactic(fear) and this very unusual special election manoever to get this passed. I am so tired of manipulative campaign distortions; I simply do not believe we know what the real problems are PAUSD is trying to solve with this parcel tax.

From other comments, it sounds to me like they are doing what people feared when we passed the last parcel tax. PAUSD expansion locked in salaries and pensions that they knew they could not sustain without renewing and increasing the tax. And, it occured to me at the time, that they would come back for more, and here it is. I'd vote for it again if I believed it was needed, but I don't. They haven't given anyone an real substantive information that I can find.

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 16, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I was happy to read the many excellent arguments here against Measure A. My neighborhood is full of pro-A signs, so I assumed I was almost alone in voting NO.

Thanks to Ted Glasser for such great points about the size of the property, commercial property, et cetera. Why wasn't this taken into consideration?

Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2010 at 10:46 am

A $96 increase equals $8 per month. Definitely worth it.

Great schools, great community.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2010 at 12:49 am

While I appreciate the need for more money for our schools, I would first like to see the schools whittling down their costs. I get a phenomenal amount of mail from our schools which could easily be emailed (some parents could opt to receive snail mail if they want). We have a large amount of administrators at our middle and high schools as well as the District office which could also be brought down in size. Scott Laurence is an example of a position that was filled which didn't exist before and hasn't been refilled and I wonder how many more positions like that exist.

Cutting costs at the top would save money and make sense much more than cutting classroom cuts.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 24, 2010 at 10:21 pm

A) I seem to recall that during a previous election the fact was brought up by the PAUSD that property taxes were going to be flat that year, and when the numbers came back they actually had a healthy increase.

B) I hear arguments stating that when new families come to the community that the schools don't get any more funding. This is a misleading statement at best. Whenever a new family moves into the area, they are usually replacing a family that has been there some time with a signifcantly lower assessment. The increases assessment results in the school district is getting more money.

C) There is a difference between supporting our schools and blindly supporting our schools. It seems that the district wants to rock the boat as little as possible. Why find ways to save money and risk having to deal with irate people when you can just blackmail/ask people to pay more taxes? I would like to see some meaningful effort to cut costs.

D) The district should never have used a 'temporary' parcel tax to pay for perpetual costs. It just opens the door to abuse as more and more expenses will find a way to get shifted to this revenue bucket.

E) I hope all of those 'essential' upgrades that are being paid for by the previous bond are working out well. I mean, $4M astroturfed fields are essential to any high quality education. I am surprised I can even read and write based on the school conditions when I was growing up.

Enough ranting for now:)

Posted by Overdone, a resident of Duveneck School
on Apr 25, 2010 at 9:51 am

I am so DISGUSTED about the way the proponents are campaigning. They are shoving it down our throats to vote "yes". I am tired of reading about Measure A, loaded with exclamation points. I am tired of the emails asking me to volunteer for phone banks.

I received an email from our school which at the bottom stated:

"If you have not returned your ballot, you will be called regularly by the phone bank. The calls will stop once the county has received your ballot."

I don't appreciate threatening statements as such and their persistent harrassment of our community is going to backfire.

"As of this week, just over 30% of Measure A supporters had mailed their ballots. That's not enough!"

Try again next year with a better proposal and healthier campaigning practices.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 25, 2010 at 10:21 am

It is very simple - if taxpayers continue to feed local government then local government will just continue to grow.

Our kids will do just fine with the millions of dollars of tax revenues the school district is already receiving and the people in charge will learn to live within their guaranteed tax revenues. More taxes will not make or, more important, break the school system.

It is high time for the taxpayers to say NO.

Once local governments realize that the joy ride is over they will show remarkable ingenuity in cutting their expenses.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 25, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Here is some interesting insight on what is wrong with the way our schools are being run:

City Journal Steve Malanga explains just how beholden California governments have become to the unions.

Consider the California Teachers Association. Much of the CTA’s clout derives from the fact that, like all government unions, it can help elect the very politicians who negotiate and approve its members’ salaries and benefits. Soon after Proposition 13 became law, the union launched a coordinated statewide effort to support friendly candidates in school-board races, in which turnout is frequently low and special interests can have a disproportionate influence. In often bitter campaigns, union-backed candidates began sweeping out independent board members. By 1987, even conservative-leaning Orange County saw 83 percent of board seats up for grabs going to union-backed candidates. The resulting change in school-board composition made the boards close allies of the CTA.

But with union dues somewhere north of $1,000 per member and 340,000 members, the CTA can afford to be a player not just in local elections but in Sacramento, too (and in Washington, for that matter, where it’s the National Education Association’s most powerful affiliate). The CTA entered the big time in 1988, when it almost single-handedly led a statewide push to pass Proposition 98, an initiative—opposed by taxpayer groups and Governor George Deukmejian—that required 40 percent of the state’s budget to fund local education. To drum up sympathy, the CTA ran controversial ads featuring students; in one, a first-grader stares somberly into the camera and says, “Pay attention—today’s lesson is about the school funding initiative.” Victory brought local schools some $450 million a year in new funding, much of it discretionary. Unsurprisingly, the union-backed school boards often used the extra cash to fatten teachers’ salaries—one reason that California’s teachers are the country’s highest-paid, even though the state’s total spending per student is only slightly higher than the national average. “The problem is that there is no organized constituency for parents and students in California,” says Lanny Ebenstein, a former member of the Santa Barbara Board of Education and an economics professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “No one says to a board of education, ‘We want more of that money to go for classrooms, for equipment.’ ”

Posted by Isabelle, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I agree with Overdone. I am voting against Measure A even though I have been involved with the schools.

Posted by JTF, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm


I also voted against measure A, but I have to point out that your post is misinformed.

CA teacher salaries are in the top ten (they are not the top). Yet costs in California mean that what those salaries buy puts California teachers in the bottom ten in terms of what they have to live on. Teacher salaries ain't the problem.

The unions also ain't the problem. They merely represent teachers' interests. Without the unions, teacher pay would certainly be lower, as would the teacher quality. But suppose anyway that you could wave your wand and abolish the unions. Then what? How would you solve the present problems? Lay off teachers (how is that going to help educate students)? Which teachers? Those without seniority (who may be among the best)? Those who perform worst (how could you possibly define that)?

Bottom line: killing unions, cutting salaries, and firing teachers would all undermine education in California.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 27, 2010 at 4:21 am

JTF states:"CA teacher salaries are in the top ten (they are not the top)"

My research shows that California teacher's salaries are the highest in the nation - see Web Link

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 27, 2010 at 4:25 am

And here is a second source:
"The American Federation of Teachers issues a Teacher Salary Trends report each year to survey the pay levels of U.S. educators. In 2006-07
the study ranks the states according to teacher salary, with California ($63,640), Connecticut ($61,039) and New Jersey ($59,730) at the top of the list for 2006-07. South Dakota ranked last at $35,378. "

I was not able to find a more recent report.

Posted by JFT, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2010 at 7:23 am


You're right about average salaries--I was looking at starting salaries, which come in at number nine. But those salaries are number 44 in terms of what they will buy you.

Web Link

Posted by salary comfort index, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 27, 2010 at 9:41 am

A simplistic division of salary by cost of living does not provide a fair comparison of comfort. Yes, it costs more to live in California but that's not the whole simple story. (Of course, the salary by itself without adjustment also does not paint the right picture).

For example, a huge part of cost of living in California is the cost of owning a house. But by giving up a premium location, or size of house, or home ownership, your cost comes way down. The salary is still relatively high.

If you insist on premium housing on a teacher's salary in California, you will indeed be uncomfortable. Teachers tend to be able to figure these things out.

But I do think primary school teachers are underpaid nationally. I also think they are underqualified and they underachieve. I think it's more important and harder to teach younger students than it is to teach college students, and salaries and teacher qualifications (and quality) should reflect that.

Posted by JFT, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2010 at 10:32 am


"A simplistic division of salary by cost of living does not provide a fair comparison of comfort."

Then you'll be glad to know that the comfort index is a more complex calculation.

Buying a house is not the only driver of high costs. Renting a house, buying groceries, buying gas; all of it is pretty expensive by the standards of other states.

And I don't buy your argument that teachers don't deserve to own a house.

"But I do think primary school teachers are underpaid nationally. I also think they are underqualified and they underachieve." And do you think that the one is perhaps linked to the other?

Posted by salary comfort index, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm


The web page you referenced implied that the comfort index was a simple correction of salary by cost of living index.

My point is that a simple adjustment based on a single number does not fairly represent the comfort of a salary within an environment generating that number. A rational person can leverage the local advantages while reducing the pain of local disadvantages, and teachers tend to act more rational (w/r to economic decisions) than those employed in almost any other profession.

It's not only teachers who must decide how to leverage their local environment. Most people must.

Posted by JFT, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2010 at 7:53 pm


No, the page says explicitly that it uses cost-of-living, average salaries, starting salaries, and other things.

My point is that salaries are not particularly good compared with other states, and teacher salaries in general aren't particularly good. Rationality and leveraging aren't to the point.

Posted by salary, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 27, 2010 at 9:09 pm


The page says, "The Comfort Score examined average salaries (both starting and overall) and compared that to the cost of living."

Web Link

Once you start talking beyond salaries and about COL relevance, you are talking about leverage and rationality.

Posted by JFT, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2010 at 12:14 am

From the page: "We look at cost-of-living, average salaries, starting salaries, and more. Then we rank the states"

Rationality has nothing to do with it, and leverage has only zoological implications.

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