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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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School trustees want more state money

Uploaded: Apr 10, 2018
It cannot come as a surprise that the Pleasanton and Dublin school boards joined the statewide drive to increase education funding.

When the board approved the resolution, Superindent David Haglund pointed out that state schools trail the national per-student average by $1,961 or—adjusted for higher California costs (this would be in liberal coastal counties), it should be $3,462.

Any government agency wants more money and school districts—at the end of the day—are just that, albeit with an important societal goal.

What’s tragic is how poorly many school districts in California has utilized the huge increase in state funding--60 percent overall since 2012 with larger increases targeted to districts serving students in difficult situations such as poverty, second-languages, single-parent homes.

Statewide, about 60 percent of students are not reading or doing math at their grade levels. Given that abject failure, taxpayers should be screaming about putting more money into the public school system as opposed to injecting competition by empowering parents to choose where their children go school. That’s controversial because the education establishment, particularly the teachers’ unions, want to maintain their monopoly.

For students with engaged parents in well-performing districts (think suburban districts from Lamorinda through the Tri-Valley), there’s a valid concern about the coming cash crunch. Unlike cities or counties, school districts cannot increase funding without more money from Sacramento or a local measure.

With retirement costs climbing as the state teachers’ system tries to overcome a significant shortfall in assets to cover its future obligations, districts are facing a cash crunch in coming years. From 2014-16, teacher contributions increased from 8 percent to 10.25 percent, while district contributions increase from 8 percent to 19.1 percent in 2020. For teachers in Pleasanton, who pay their own health care costs, the combination of cost increases has eaten up most of money for salary increases.

Given the ease with which the school bond measure passed in Pleasanton and the family focus on education, turning to local pocketbooks could be a better choice for sustainable funding.

Of course, Tri-Valley residents already are targeted in on Alameda County’s June ballot with the childcare initiative. That proposes another half-cent increase in the county’s sales tax with proceeds going to fund childcare programs and scholarships in poorer communities.

The package allocates almost 60 percent of the money to North County; 22 percent to Mid-County; 13.6 percent to South County and a paltry 4.3 percent to East County. Certainly, there are fewer poor people in the valley so what’s going on is a massive shift of resources from here.

The current sales tax for valley cities is 9.25 percent, while it’s 10 percent in other municipalities in the county.

This seemingly well-intended measure again assumes that government taxing and spending can solve fundamental societal problems. Given the track record of government programs, hold onto your wallet—particularly in this county that never saw a tax it did not like.

The good news is that this will take a two-thirds majority to pass.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills,
on Apr 13, 2018 at 1:51 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Tim, please be more accurate about health care costs. The union negotiated to roll $10,000 (the amount they received to purchase benefits) onto the salary schedule at a time when there was a very senior staff ready to retire. I've shown up at meetings with those calculations, but essentially, every raise given to teachers has also raised the value of the original $10,000--enough that, using San Francisco's CPU, the money is worth the current cost of decent coverage. The problem is, the benefits are purchased from PERS and they have the costliest plans available. Additionally, less than half (40% the last time I looked) purchase benefits because their spouses provide it. The other 60% get to take that money to the bank.

As to the pensions, every raise given to staff also raises the amount teachers and districts have to contribute from the general fund. It's a never ending loop: costs are up, I deserve a raise, oops that raised my costs, I deserve a raise . . . Given how powerful CTA is and the 1,000 districts and many more cities facing pension gouging, every teacher, board member, and city council person should be sitting on Governor Brown's front steps.

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