Guest opinion: Parcel tax needed to keep critical programs
We are facing the worst budget shortfall for education in California's history. The budget cuts will be devastating and will directly affect children. They will force even larger class sizes and the reduction and/or elimination of many critical education programs. While we would like to hope this is a short-term problem, the reality is that it is not. We've listened to the leaders in California at both local and state levels declare the money isn't there and they don't expect additional monies, maybe even less.
California, once the fifth largest economy in the world and now eighth, invests the smallest amount in education of any state in America. Also the amount of funding from the state varies for each school district. The number of funding streams has grown over many years and some are based on local circumstances or decisions made in the 1970s or 1980s that are no longer relevant for education funding. The system results in large disparities and leaves many schools with inadequate funding.
Piedmont Unified School District started the parcel tax campaigns in the 1970s to offset Proposition 13. Its current parcel tax averages $2,082 per parcel and was passed in 2006. The district has an additional parcel tax on the ballot of $249 for two years to offset the current shortfall, as well as a renewal of the $2,082 average per parcel for four years starting in the 2010-11 school year.
San Ramon Valley Unified School District receives the least amount of money from the State of California and has one of the smallest parcel taxes in the area at $90 per parcel, which will expire in June. A parcel tax of $166 went to the voters last June and was defeated by a small margin. Parcel taxes must pass by a two-thirds vote. A new parcel tax of $144 per parcel per year is set for this month by a mail-in vote.
Following are comments about the effect of class sizes:
* Smaller class sizes help me understand the content a lot better. I get more one-on-one time with the teacher. I need direct time with the teacher to help me understand the material.
--Nik Becker, sophomore
* It's really hard to ask questions about assignments or expectations when there are a lot of kids in the class. In my smaller classes, I have a better chance of understanding what is expected of me
--Briana Evans, sophomore
* Because education is a publicly funded institution, it is extremely important that our state and local communities know and understand the impact of budget reductions on our students, teachers, and school sites. Our students and children spend the majority of their week at school sites learning how to be successful academically, socially and athletically. It becomes our responsibility to maintain the excellence that has come to define the SRVUSD. It is our job as a community to ensure its fiscal strength.
-Andrew Gardner, social sciences teacher, San Ramon Valley High School
Most Americans agree that investing in children is a core responsibility of our society. Until our state government decides education in California is a funding priority, it's up to us. Some funding for schools in the San Ramon Valley is coming directly from parents at each individual school site and it's not equitable. Our community needs to value education - not just parents of children.
Vote Yes on Measure C.
Cynthia Moe is a founding board member of the Cougar Fund at John Baldwin Elementary; Academic Boosters and Charger Fund Board at Charlotte Wood; PTA and Academic Boosters at SRVHS.