Alameda schools are good
That’s the headline Superintendent Kirsten Vital offered on Wednesday night at Henry Haight Elementary School for the first of three talks about school finance and the future direction of our schools.(Then she told the six dozen or so folks who showed up that the district won’t stay that way on the ever-shrinking check we get from the state.)
The question on the table was whether the district can continue to operate on state funding. The answer appeared to be no (and especially not now).
The state gave the district $2 million less than it did the year before, and with the failure of five state props intended to help balance its budget for the next two years, it may take another $2 million away, Vital said.
Under the state funding-only scenario, options to handle such losses of funds include cutting programs like art, music and counseling or closing schools, she said.
Things get worse after our two school parcel taxes sunset in 2012, she said. If we didn’t have that money now, we’d be about $11 million in the hole by 2011-2012.
This year, the district’s plan to close its budget gap involves spending unused money from some of these programs to cover its bills.
“This is not the start of the next parcel tax campaign. But it sure looks like it when you look at the next couple of years and look at the cliff we’re heading off,” School board Trustee Ron Mooney said.
The district is ranked fifth among similar California school districts in per-child spending, but 14th in state-supplied general spending dollars per child (that’s an amount that doesn’t include money for other “categorical” programs like library and media center, teacher training and adult education). We have some of the lowest teacher salaries in Alameda County and are dead last in the county for administrative costs.
Seventy-seven percent of the district’s funds come from the state.
The next discussion is about how Alameda Unified would look if its schools all became charters. That’s set for June 2 at Edison School.