Friday, October 22, 2010

Why Pacifica’s high schools need you to vote Yes on Measure P.

by Laurie Frater

Many of us who will be voting at this election will remember growing up watching Little House on the Prairie on TV, seeing Laura Ingalls first as a student at Walnut Grove’s one-room school, then as the teacher in that same schoolroom. The community members in Walnut Grove were all mindful of the fact that Mrs. Olsen, owner of the Mercantile, was the single largest source of funds for the school – and were frequently reminded of that by no less than Mrs. Olsen herself.

A lot has changed in the hundred-plus years since Laura Ingalls attended school - not least in the way that schools are funded. Over time, we’ve moved away from schools that were almost exclusively funded by local philanthropists, to those that are funded largely out of property taxes - but with the state providing “equalizing” funds to areas like Pacifica, where property taxes fall far short of meeting the state minimum-funding targets.

That worked reasonably well until a few years ago, when Sacramento managed to dig us into a financial hole so deep that it will continue to cause us problems for years to come. Cuts were inevitable in a downturn, but we’ve now seen year-upon-year state reductions in education funding that have had the hardest impact on schools like ours which depend on state contributions to reach those minimum funding levels. You can only “do more with less” for so long, before the depth of the cuts reaches into classrooms and adversely impacts the education that we’re able to offer our kids. Unfortunately, we’ve passed that stage already, which is why the Jefferson Union High School District voted to place Measure P on the November ballot. 

Measure P is a 4-year, $96/year parcel tax, with an exemption for seniors and an oversight committee. It is similar, in almost every respect, to Measure N, passed by Pacifica voters two years ago, which has been of almost incalculable value in allowing the elementary school district to minimize the cuts it has been forced to make. Measure P is the high school equivalent of the elementary schools’ Measure N.

A few people have asked me why, if the high schools saw this coming, didn’t we use the funds spent on playing fields, pools and new classrooms, instead of asking for additional funds from voters. That’s a fair question, and the simple answer is that the law requires school districts to maintain two separate bank accounts – one for facilities and one for operating expenses – which must never be commingled. The building fund – using funds from the bond measure passed by voters in 2006 - has been used to upgrade campus buildings and facilities, and cannot be used to pay for the books, technology and teachers’ salaries for which Measure P funds will be designated.

We all hope that Sacramento will soon turn the state economy around, returning us to the days of at least adequate funding for the schools in our community, but until the state economy improves, we are faced with a stark choice: Given that school districts must, by law, balance their budgets every year, do we cut programs and teachers at our high schools, limiting our students’ ability to compete in the 21st century workforce, or do we bypass Sacramento completely and provide a local source of funding (that Sacramento can’t touch) to keep on maintaining and improving our schools, until the state economy recovers? If, like me, you believe that our kids shouldn’t be made to suffer for Sacramento’s mistakes, please join me in voting Yes on Measure P on November 2nd. Thank you.

Laurie Frater has one child in each of the local school districts, and is a member of the JUHSD (Jefferson Union High School District) Board of Trustees.


Anonymous said...

Not until you vote out all the old rats. Then, maybe, and I say, maybe, we can talk about a little funding for the administrators,teachers, er, I mean, students.

Vote NO.

Kathy Meeh said...

Laurie, thanks for explaining the need for Measure "P", and how that is similar to Measure "N" passed for our elementary schools. Hope that will pass.

But, hey, guess you're now considered one of the "old rats" by Anon 11:05am who didn't stay in school long enough to come-up with a better description.

From what we've heard from this Anon, vote-out all incumbents qualified or not (clean sweep), and replace the swept qualified with people more like Anon 11:05am, unqualified.

An to prove that point, Anon 11:05am also posted a fake Barbara Boxer video which is a "nothing"-- figures.

Vote YES on Measure "P" with Laurie Frater to support our High Schools.

Anonymous said...

As long as this overspending continues, everyone needs to vote NO on any tax increases until this spending by the democrats stops.


San Francisco

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Anonymous said...

Democrats love to Tax and Spend. Majority of all our Property Taxes goes to schools. What the heck are they doing with the money? Not only do they get most of property tax revenue, they also get this;

Some examples of waste:
The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex cost $578 million to build. Compare that to Los Angeles’ other megaschools, the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, built for $377 million and opened in 2008, and the Visual and Performing Arts High School, built for $232 million and opened in 2009.

Laurie Frater said...

That sort of thing may be exactly why we need to raise local funds - that Sacramento can't touch and that stay and are spent in this community, to our benefit, and which mitigate the effects of the deep cuts that Sacramento is imposing on our schools.

Sorry, but if you want to make the current crop of our kids suffer from an underfunded education just to make a political point about questionable spending elsewhere, then I just can't support you on that.

Yes on Measure P !!!

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that public school is sooo great that it needs to be saved as it is. It is not a sacred cow. It does not need anymore money. It needs to be completely overhauled by instituting tough competition. The teacher that drives around in a car and goes home everyday has got to stop crying poor to the students that lost their home and have unemployed parents. It is getting real old. Democrats voted in 1974 for this equality bullshit and all it got you educators is pissed off citizens, who then organized and voted in prop 13. Listen carefully when I say this, You don't own me or my money or my kids. You need to go to sacramento yourself and reverse Serranto vs Priest. If this parcel tax gets voted in I hope, in the very near future, that all of you get fired for good and chased out of the city. San Francisco schools are in financial crisis ( what else is new) but the administrators still give themselves raises. What are you not getting?

Anonymous said...

With all these foreclosures in Pacifica, revenues are down. The banks will own the property. Banks can't vote for the parcel tax. I think this is a real bad time for a parcel tax. Future is definitely uncertain for real estate. It will be interesting to see the stats on this measure if it passes.

Laurie Frater said...

What I'm not getting why you think I'm responsible for Barbara Boxer, fireboats, San Francisco's schools, banks, foreclosures, or any of the other things you've mentioned that bear little - if any - relation to Pacifica's schools.

Pacifica's schools have suffered (and will continue to suffer) severe - yes, severe cuts at the hands of Sacramento. Measure P is an attempt to get locally controlled funds that we can spend wisely, here, to mitigate those cuts that have been imposed on us from outside.

The facts: Pacifica's schools are funded at the 11th percentile within California, which is 48th (and falling) in funding withing the USA. That puts us in the bottom 2-3% in terms of school funding nationally, yet we are in the top 20% of schools in terms of results. If you don't think that proves that your local schools are giving you value for your tax dollar, and are worth protecting to the tune of $96 a year for 4 years,
then I doubt that anything would convince you!

Vote Yes on Measure P.

Anonymous said...

You're wasting your time Laurie. They're so mad they can no longer think about anything but how mad they are. I don't have kids in school now and mine went to private schools back then but education is everything. Providing it is the least we can do for the future. Some people have just forgotten that. I'm voting Yes on Measure P.

Anonymous said...

Pay now to support education, or the alternative: ignorance, limited future for the next generation, crime, prisons. Well let us see if we can figure-out this one. Please do vote yes on Measure P, for the good of the young people, moms and dads, and all the community.

Laurie Frater said...

Thanks, Anonymous at 3:55 and at 4:04 p.m., not only for your support, but for reminding me that there are multiple anonymice out there!

It really is about the future! While I fully recognize that the current economic climate makes it difficult for many (but would we propose a parcel tax in good times?), this is no time to be shortsighted or to get sidetracked.

Thank you, again, for your support of Measure P.