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Battle lines drawn in Measure D fight
Original post made
on Oct 16, 2012
As the 2012 election nears, sides are lining up on Measure D, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District's $260 million bond proposal. The measure would approve the sale of bonds, with the proceeds used to finance construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 5:14 PM
Posted by Mike Arata,
a resident of Danville
on Oct 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm
Sorry if this appears a second time. It didn't "take" the first time, bouncing back a message that I had included too many URL links (i.e., sources of evidence for the convenience of readers). Some of these appear in my earlier comments above, however. So I'm pulling them out now, leaving a reference to links above….
From my perspective as both a taxpayer and a former (20-year) teacher / coach (who wrote a newspaper article entitled "Better Schools, Not More Taxes" when I was still teaching, in my 12th year at a public high school wherein I'd previously called out and exposed the teacher union's jackleg behavior during a strike): I have indeed taken issue with SRVUSD's academic performance, the District's irresponsible spending and not incidentally, the District's problematic curricular decisions over the years.
I do not oppose or begrudge taxes for legitimate public purposes e.g., national defense, roads and bridges, etc. What I do oppose are excessive salaries, overly expensive current benefits, early retirement and undeserved disability payments, and outrageous pension arrangements for "public servants" who haven't earned them. (See, for example, California's >$100 Pension Club, at Web Link and the CC Times listings of local public-agency salaries and benefits, at Web Link .)
One has to go down to #447 in the SRVUSD list of total employee compensation for 2011 to get below $100,000. (And for many of those listed, this is for 186 days of employment annually, vs. 250 working days for most individuals in the private sector.)
My opposition to SRVUSD's inflated tax measures and those of some other local governmental entities have uniformly followed my direct evidentiary investigations into such public agencies' finances especially their tax-funded salaries and benefits and their misleading performance claims. And my writing about such things (under my own byline rather than just a first name or nom de plume) therefore derives from and cites documented facts.
In unfortunate contrast, and repeatedly the case with some of SRVUSD's most determined tax promoters over the years, "Dave" (like "Indep") prefers anonymity, baseless name-calling, and diversions or inversions from issues at hand.
In addition, "Dave" evidently accepts, approves, appreciates, and/or applauds such SRVUSD policies and practices as (in a very abbreviated listing):
1. Seeking outrageous amounts within previous bond-measure projects (such as re-roofing non-existent buildings) and concealing project costs despite specific requests for same from citizens and the press.
2. Spending $238,000 in legal-team expenses while attempting to rehabilitate illegal ballots in a school-bond election, but losing the case to two non-lawyers in a recount and then in Superior Court and state Appellate Court.
3. Presently (while claiming, as "Dave" and "Indep" do now, that "students in this school district achieve at a high level"), concealing from parents and other taxpayers the sad fact of an average score of only 5.73 out of 10 in the District's school-by-school API performance when each school is compared to 100 socioeconomically similar California schools, with nine SRVUSD schools scoring in a range of just 1 to 4.
(Again, see as SRVUSD officials apparently hope that voters will not the API rankings which show similar-school results, linked above.) Meanwhile, California i.e., the source of overall and similar-school API benchmarks is near the bottom of the national barrel in academic performance.)
4. Posting a list of school-site-specific projects at the District's current "Measure D Overview" page linked above), but including just a generic list of project types in the Measure D resolution itself.
(See that resolution itself, buried in the August 7 school board packet, which can be found at the SRVUSD site after some considerable jumping around. I included the link here originally, but have removed it to meet apparent posting limitations on the number of URLs. Many of the project types fit what the District used to call "deferred maintenance" i.e., work that could and should have been completed as ongoing maintenance expenditures, not with borrowed hundreds of Millions in bond money + interest. But such routine maintenance expenses are paid by the same general fund which supplies salary and benefit increases.)
5. And yes, for just the first school showing in the school-site specific catalog, SRVUSD's enumerating of something more than $66,918,476 altogether in eventual hoped-for expenditures for merely a RENOVATION of Stone Valley Middle School i.e. and again, NEARLY 2.5 X THE MEDIAN HIGH-END PER STUDENT NEW CONSTRUCTION COSTS for middle schools as summarized in School Planning and Management's 2012 School Construction Report, linked earlier above.
SP&M does break things down a little further, into geographic areas. Its designated Area E states (AZ, CA, HI, NV, AK, ID, OR, WA note some colder-weather states included, adding to costs) show a median middle-school construction cost of $286.23/sq. ft., and still $41,207 per student, with median NEW middle-school construction cost of $38,000,000.
Again, SRVUSD wants to spend something more than $102,000 per student, just to renovate one middle school and just for starters in its wish-list grab-bag.
The same SP&M report, interestingly, shows that in 1995, the median national construction cost for middle schools was $104 per square foot. That rose to $130/sq. ft by 2003, but skyrocketed $215/sq. ft. in 2010, before dropping back to a reported $195/sq. ft. in 2011.
That's an 87.5% increase, in just 16 years contrasting with a CPI increase, even in the inflated Bay Area, of 54.0% during the period (December 1995 December 2011 see Web Link) .
One likely cause of such exorbitant increases, during a period which has otherwise included severe economic slowdowns or even contractions, is the increasing use of "project labor agreements" i.e., construction-union featherbedding arrangements "negotiated" collusively by governing boards which have been elected with significant union funding and "ground-game" support.
(See, for example: "Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California," at Web Link.)
"Dave" goes on eventually to employ his grandfather as an unwitting surrogate in order to call me a liar. Among rational and honorable people, such claims impose obligations upon the claimant (a) to identify himself / herself; and (b) to cite evidence which proves the utterance(s) or finding(s) involved as deliberately untrue which is difficult to do when the utterance(s) and finding(s) are documented as correct.
This reminds me of my election-office and courtroom experience of 15 - 17 years ago, in the 18-month process of reversing 1995's Measure C election result in a recount, then adding back in to canvass 112 votes while preventing the addition of illegal ballots (including double votes): When SRVUSD's $238,000 laywers couldn't argue the law, they argued the facts; when they couldn't argue the facts, they argued the law.
When they lost on both counts, enraged tax promoters cursed and called us names. (And the $238,000 was just for the Superior Court trial; they lost their appeal for free.)
So not that it will matter to anonymous tax promoters "Dave" or "Indep," but as I wrote in "Better Schools, Not More Taxes" nearly 24 years ago, when I was still a public-school chemistry and math instructor: "forcing improvement upon our monopolized, bureaucratized public schools by opening them to market forces will cost taxpayers less, not more a consumer benefit which occurs ineluctably whenever the efficiencies of a competitive marketplace are encouraged among the providers of goods or services.
"Taxpayers should absolutely refuse to provide increased funding for education until we educators demonstrate efficient utilization of the huge capital resources thrown our way already. Paraphrasing Lee Iacocca: we educators should compete. Children and you taxpayers would win!"
Thanks now to Ann and to other sensible people who've posted here. I'm not sure there will be a controlling quorum of common sense demonstrated here and elsewhere in November 6's election results, but I surely hope so!
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