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District to investigate school closures – and new parcel tax

Submitted by on 1, June 30, 2010 – 5:00 am52 Comments

Tuesday night's Board of Ed meeting.

Alameda’s Board of Education has directed Superintendent Kirsten Vital to begin planning for the potential closure of one or more schools at the end of the 2010-2011 school year – and to look into putting another parcel tax on the ballot in the spring of 2011 that could help stave off the closures and other future cuts.

“The fact of the matter is, it’s very clear this community wants to continue to support these schools. I’ll go down on that sword, because this is what I want to continue to fight for,” board Vice President Mike McMahon said Tuesday night after asking the rest of his dais-mates to direct Vital and her staff to look at putting a tax on the ballot in March 2011.

McMahon said he thinks the board owes it to the community to ensure it has exhausted every option before closing schools. A proposed closure plan could be available for board and public input by September.

“The integrity of this community is based on our ability to walk our kids to school. Not ship them to factories,” McMahon said.

McMahon said that school district officials and school board members could make few promises about how the money generated by a new parcel tax would be spent because state funding – which accounts for the bulk of the district’s budget – is so unstable. He said that when the board put the Measure H tax on the ballot in 2008, he had no idea the state would take so much more money away from schools than it already had.

Trustee Tracy Jensen said that the board will have to consider the district’s mission needs to be as it decides what to cut.

“What is our mission? Is it K-12? Is it preschool? Is it adult school? I think we’re going to have to make some tough choices,” Jensen said.

Earlier in the evening, several parents asked the board to consider putting another tax on the ballot. Sarah Olaes, the volunteer coordinator for APLUS, which ran the campaign for the Measure E tax, said she and others are ready to work toward getting a new parcel tax passed. Some 65.6 percent of voters who participated in the Measure E election voted in favor of it, but it needed the approval of two-thirds of voters to pass.

“If Superintendent Vital and the board are ready to put another measure on the ballot, we’re ready. We will work again,” Olaes said to cheers from the dozens of people who attended Tuesday’s board meeting.

Trustee Trish Hererra Spencer, who had opposed Measure E, voted with the rest of the board to direct Vital to look into putting a new tax on the ballot. Some parents who attended Tuesday’s meeting expressed anger over Spencer’s opposition to putting Measure E on the ballot. Spencer had argued the ballot measure didn’t offer enough specifics about how the money would be spent and she questioned the tax’s split roll structure.

“While most of the board members supported (Measure E) and even worked on the campaign, one board member used this as a platform to create a more divisive community. I find it repugnant and offensive that Ms. Spencer voted against (putting the tax on the ballot), and that board member Spencer actively campaigned against Measure E,” said Christine Strena, president of the Parent Teacher Association Council and development director for the Alameda Education Foundation.

“The only alternative solution Ms. Spencer has provided is to close the neighborhood schools the community has stated time and time again are important,” Strena said. “Closing Edison, Franklin and Paden will not net $7 million.”

Spencer has advocated for the closure of some of the district’s smallest schools. On Tuesday she asked the board to consider directing Vital to look into direct solicitation of funding. She did not address the comments made by Strena and others regarding her position on Measure E.

Parents also took Spencer to task for an e-mail she sent to a teacher at Encinal urging the school’s supporters to attend Tuesday’s meeting to advocate for the school because she believed the board would be voting to close Encinal and Wood. The board voted to being the closure planning process, but specific schools slated for closure have not yet been named.

“Even though we’re only approving the budget, I think we’re really approving closing Encinal and Wood,” Spencer wrote to the teacher, who forwarded the e-mail to other teachers and administrators at Encinal. “Maybe I’m wrong, I haven’t been able to get clarification that’s satisfactory, so I’m planning to ask questions about this at tomorrow’s Board meeting. But it probably makes sense that anyone that wants to protect Encinal high show up at tomorrow’s Board meeting and address the Board with their concerns.”

Spencer’s daughter, Elaine, who attends Encinal, asked the board to keep Encinal open and suggested they consider closing Alameda High School instead. She also asked the board to keep ninth graders in high school, instead of shifting grade configurations to move them into middle school.

McMahon and board President Ron Mooney said they’d be interested in looking into a bond measure to create a single high school for Alameda, which one parent suggested the board consider. McMahon said he’d also be willing to consider consolidating elementary school students into new, larger schools like Bay Farm and Amelia Earhart, while Mooney said district staff should take a look at the facilities and land the district has available.

Meanwhile, the board approved a budget for next year that contains $7 million worth of previously approved cuts. Class sizes in kindergarten through third grade and ninth grade will grow to 25 students per teacher and 35 students per teacher, respectively, and school will end a week earlier than usual.

Vital walked attendees at Tuesday’s meeting through the rest of the cuts for next year, which include a reduction in middle school and high school counselors and funding for textbooks, maintenance and adult education. Advanced placement classes could also be cut if they don’t have the maximum number of students in them, she said.

The budget also included lists of potential cuts for the following two school years. The district is required to show it can balance its budget for three years, even if district officials don’t know how much money they will have to pay for services.

Under current conditions, district staff showed they would need to cut Alameda Unified’s budget by an additional $4.2 million in 2011-2012 and $11.4 million in 2012-2013, when the district’s existing parcel taxes sunset (the latter amount includes $3.6 million in cuts from the previous year). Measures A and H generate $7.3 million a year for the district. Measure E would have garnered $14 million a year for eight years.

Potential cuts for those years could include the closure of a high school, a middle school and four elementary schools; elimination of some elementary level media center, music and physical education teachers; salary rollbacks; additional teacher furlough days; and elementary school class size increases to 32 students per teacher.


  • blucky13 says:

    I don’t understand why Trish Spencer would vote against Measure E (getting on the ballot) and then rally up people to support the closure of Encinal (or any school for that matter). No logic there at all! If she didn’t want her daughter’s school closed (which seems to be her only concern at this point) maybe she should have thought about that before she voted against putting Measure E on the ballot. Time and time again the district told people that this was going to happen if they couldn’t get some form of financial help from our city (because it sure isn’t coming from our state!)- and now that it’s real people can’t handle it. And the whole thing about Encinal closing versus Alameda High- both schools will be CLOSING and ONE new high school will “emerge from the dust”. It’s sad that out of all the horrible things that are to come for the district and the kids, the only thing people can look at it is a stupid cross-town rivalry between mascots. Come on people, grown up and look at the big picture, there is more going on here then just losing the school you graduated high school from.

  • blucky13 says:

    > correction to comment above: and then rally up people to support NOT closing Encinal (or any school for that matter).

  • Keith Nealy says:

    If they’re going to submit a new parcel tax, why not just assess it based on the net assessment of our current property tax? This has already passed muster as legal.

  • Page Barnes says:


    You’ve got it backwards. A school tax that is based on property value is illegal under Proposition 13.

  • Chrissy says:

    Does little Alameda really need, 10 Elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 4 high schools?? That does not include the 4 charter schools.

  • ben says:

    so it sonuds like no schools will actually close despite the hysterics of the measure e people and why are they waiting for 2 years to rollabck slaries for everyone in the district instead of doing it right away

    • Hey ben,

      Let me break it down for you. On Tuesday night, the board directed the superintendent to move forward on putting together a plan to close one or more schools. It’s not something they can do immediately – there is a process around making it happen. That process will begin in September with a plan and public hearings, and it sounds like recommendations would be made by November or December for the board to consider. Neither the school board nor the district leadership has said what schools might be considered for closure or whether or how grade configurations might change. The budget projections the district is required to submit to the county office of education show the district closing one middle school and one high school in 2011-12 for a savings of about $1.1 million. But at this point, those cuts are indeed not set in stone.

      As far as the salary rollbacks go, the salaries of district employees are negotiated as part of their contracts. So any salary rollbacks would need to be negotiated with the unions, as opposed to being something district leadership or the school board could unilaterally impose. That could happen next year, if the district and the unions were to negotiate those rollbacks. The cuts listed for outlying years are there to demonstrate to the county that the district can balance its budget in those years.

  • Franklin says:

    Michelle, thanks for the lucid explanation. This is not what we were led to believe by the Measure E supporters who knocked on our doors. They were desperately trying to convince us that the schools will be closed THIS fall.

    What a bunch of sad, pathetic liars they turned out to be.

  • Page Barnes says:


    Here’s what APLUS said on its website:

    “What happens if we don’t pass the parcel tax?
    AUSD is looking at cuts of $7 million in 2010-11, $9.8 M in 2011-12, and $17 million in 2012-13.If the parcel tax is not passed at the June ballot, the budget cuts that the district has proposed will take effect between 2010 and 2013. The proposed cuts include reduction and elimination of programs and resources to which the Alameda community has attached great value – including support for high school sports programs, swim centers, class size reduction in grades K-3, neighborhood schools, and school counselors, closure of elementary, middle and high school sites, Gifted and Talented Education, adult education, art, music and PE in the elementary schools, and reductions in many other programs.”

    In other words, APLUS accurately said that school closures could happen within a three year time period. APLUS did not say that school closures would happen this coming year. It’s certainly possible that individual volunteers misunderstood the timeline. School finance issues are complicated. There was plenty of misinformation coming from opponents too, so I don’t think anyone can claim perfection when it comes to these issues.

  • Paul Stuart says:


    Please don’t be rude.

    Kind Regards,

  • Mike says:

    I think the “No” on E crowd’s argument is missing specific alternatives for increasing revenue and decreasing expenses that would improve or at least not diminish the schools… not just make the two numbers balance.

    I think part of the “yes” on E crowd is possibly equally guilty of some bad solutions… a bond measure for a mega high school?

    Back to the “no” group; it gives me the impression that, in spite of the catchy “Classrooms Not Courtrooms” sign slogan, the “no” crowd generally doesn’t seem to give a hoot about classrooms and what kind of public education is offered in Alameda.

    Or, if they do give a hoot, it’s just coincidental that I never hear from the “no” bunch about specific solutions that would lead to budget as well as classroom improvements… not just jacking up-the size of elementary school classes or similarly uncreative ideas.

    In fairness, that “solution” may have come from trustees who voted “yes” on E.

    The lack of alternative solutions/improvements proposed makes it seem as though the leadership of those of who voted “no” would like no property taxes and no public education if that were a possibility. Which, when combined with their campaign slogan, makes it seem rather hypocritical to me.

    What is the “classrooms” part of that slogan? I’m not going to use the word, “liars” as used above, because I’m trying to be more polite.

    Maybe there could be some sort of specific solutions-oriented balance-the-budget discussion thread. Kind of an invitation to play the exciting “Balance The Budget” game.

    Personally, I voted “yes” on E. And, when I hear about:

    – Local government spending $75,000 on re-branding (okay, city government, but still)

    – A possible sweetheart deal for re-doing a website.

    – Trustees voting themselves healthcare benefits.

    – The trustees taking 14 years to sue the state over funding fairness.

    – Continued pay raises.

    – A new and costly bullying curriculum.

    …I tend to think there may be a host of more creative cuts that could be made. Just one voter’s opinion.

    I have to say again, the bond issue for a mega high school is crazy. Another bad idea to make schools bigger and close better and smaller schools. Close the winners, expand the losers. Brilliant.

    If they are going to expand class sizes, how about getting teacher’s aides from a college’s teacher training program?

    From Jensen’s comment above, does the district actually pay for adult education? If so, what does that cost?

    Anyhow, to sum up, I’d like to hear more solutions (from both sides) that don’t diminish the quality of education in Alameda.

    Michele, you’ve probably published it and I just missed it, but is there a link to the district’s budget? Also, thanks for the excellent reporting!

  • Dennis Green says:

    All, those of us who opposed Measure E did so for a variety of reasonable points, especially the structure of the tax, regressive and a split-roll. Could have been a simple flat tax, X cents per square foot, with no cap. As it was structured, it violated all the rules of fairness of taxation policies established over the years.

    Next, as a former classroom teacher, I advocated heavily for immediate negotiations with the unions for cuts in salaries of all teachers and administrative staff, as well as eliminations of the need for expensive political consultants Erwin & Muir, (at $300/hr. ridiculously overpriced, and I should know, also ran my own ad agency for 20 years), and a re-examination of Alameda teachers’ unions’ opposition to President Obama’s “Race to the Top” Program, which calls for teacher accountability, a suspension of tenure and seniority, as well as an easing of their opposition to Charter Schools. None of this got much play in the newspapers or on this site in the midst of all the hype and hysteria.

    Finally, if you think we were vigorous in our opposition to Measure E, just wait until next March, if the next attempt by AUSD resembles the last one. And there is absolutely NOTHING preventing those who voted for Measure E from contributing that $659 per year anyway. If they did so on top of Measures A&H, it would total $16 million a year, more than Measure E would have raised, just from those 7,000 people. They can put their money where their mouths are. Why should their losing an election cause them to deprive Alameda students from that quality, excellent education they said Measure E would deliver?

    Dennis Green

  • KD says:

    Dennis Green: As a former school teacher how do you feel about educational programs being cut?

    Plenty of Measure E supporters are willing to contribute funds to AUSD.

    How do you plan to support public schools?

  • Dennis Green says:

    With Reform. Obama’s program offer more than $4 billion in funding, but California teachers unions blocked key provisions. No other profession in America has guaranteed lifetime job security regardless of the performance of it’s members, (tenure), and unions which protect their members with rigid seniority have ruined the U.S. Auto biz and rapid, public transit.

    AUSD offers no reform, no negiations on salary and retirement benefits until pushed to the wall. A very common mentality, and one of the reasons American public schools, on average, are so dismally mediocre. We spend more money per pupil than any nation but the Dutch, and yet our outcomes are way down the list, as low as Number 12 on the most generous assessments.

    Throwing more money at these sluggards, protecting the status quo, will never achieve excellence in America, any more than it has nationwide. Check out Charter Schools in Harlem and in D.C. If you want to get hip about the American Reform Movement and why the defeat of Measure E may just such a genuine debate in Alameda!

  • Mike says:


    If the school district came back with a tax in line with “a simple flat tax, X cents per square foot, with no cap” as you suggested, would you vote for it then? Do you think your fellow “no” voters would?

    I suspect many who voted “no” would find something wrong with any formula.

    Also, I notice you didn’t mention what in the world the “classrooms” part of “classrooms” not court rooms means. Is that just a reference to your general compassion? The fact is, there was/is no “classrooms” component.

    Also, we’re not talking about America in general we’re talking about this district where the money coming back from the state is less than average.

    Also, before you get too proud about your voting clout and what you and yours will do next time, remember that the “no” camp was just a few hundred votes over 1/3rd of votes cast. For you guys, I’d call that more of near-death experience than a mandate.

    In fact, if this were an election between candidates, it would be characterized as a landslide for the “Yes” candidate. It just happens to be a smidgen below the high threshold… for now.

  • Jack B. says:

    >>> as a former classroom teacher…

    Dennis, what classrooms did you teach in? Elementary/middle/high school? Just curious, thanks.

  • concerned citizen says:

    Can someone please explain why they are talking about shutting down Wood and Encinal, when we have these charter schools getting state funds? (NEA, ACLC, ASTI)

    Does anyone wonder why Wood enrollment is down, given that so many kids are attending these Charter schools?


  • smart voter says:

    48% of Alameda voters did not care if AUSD gets the funds, they did not vote.
    If they wanted the money to go to the schools, they would have voted and voted yes.Nearly 35% voted no, that’s 83% of Alameda voters that sent a message to the District, to come up with a tax that everyone can support. I call that a landslide.
    As for your suggestion, to come up with a flat tax or sq. footage, yes many no voters would support this, as long it is not a split roll. Superintendent Vital knew a split roll was a deal breaker, she gambled and lost.

  • nomoretaxes says:

    I am a person that voted no, not a “crowd. It is not my job to come up with alternative solutions to a failed parcel tax; it is the job of the Board of Education and all of the PAID employees of the District. My vote was based on the following formula ONLY:

    $359 a year to the District OR $359 a year to feed my family.

  • Dennis Green says:

    Hi Jack!

    Like all Alamedans, I experienced the grandeur of California classrooms in all the public schools, and then at Humboldt State and UC Santa Barbara, where I also taught for ten years, many of my students Affirmative Action kids, and quite a few on the “Prisoner-Release Program” from Lompoc Prison. (Try flunking a guy who had written a story about “shanking” a fellow prisoner!)

    My second wife was also a high school English teacher in Goleta, and I got to know all her colleagues and an estimate of how many of them were performing to the best of their abilities and how many were burnt out, sleepwalking, phoning it in, etc. And how much they needed tenure to survive. An “occupational hazard.”

    And then I interviewed Superintendent Vital, and Trustees McMahon and Spencer, and got a sense that something serious was missing from the debate — why, for example, the teachers hadn’t offered to take a temporary cut in their salaries, debate the real need for tenure and seniority, what merit pay could do, etc. Only after these interviews, and hours of research into just how “Excellent” the schools are now, did I decide to fight the good fight. And if the March attempt at a new parcel tax resembles the last one, yes, we will fight it and beat it into the ground. Samurai style.

    My sense is that you proponents do so blindly, without questioning the status quo, the quality of AUSD teaching and outcomes, whether any cuts or sacrifices will be made by teachers and staff, (Vital will get her 35 raise on a salary of $200K regardless), and whether the kids are being held hostage by the implied threat that without Measure E, the teachers can’t possibly deliver their very best. Disgusting.


  • Dennis Green says:

    P.S. Those of us opposed to Measure E, and my views are only my own, are negotiating amongst ourselves over the question of what sort of new school parcel tax initiative we could support, or at least not vigorously oppose. The flat tax structure/no cap is a major part of that, but not the only expectation. We are also, privately and quietly, attempting to tamp down a threatened boycott of Alameda businesses, including the two newspapers, that supported Measure E. That idea came up only very late in the campaign, and I feel that the whole idea of boycott is self-destructive. But I’m afraid that the bitterness of this campaign, and implied threats about the next one, will alienate many Alamedans from supporting the schools at all for many months, if not years, to come. You have no idea…largely because the newspapers gave such a one-sided view.


  • smart voter says:

    Michele, you know very well, the boycott was started two years ago by Lauren Do, she called it “buycott”. Only when the business community complained to Vital and Mooney was it removed.
    Yes there is a lot of animosity and bitterness on both sides right now, but we need to get behind this and think about healing the community. This parcel tax had too many people opposing it because it was not fair and was badly written.
    The tax would have had a chance with only minimal opposition, had it not been a split roll again. Lets work on a tax for next year, that everyone can support.

    • sv,

      I’m speaking specifically of a plan to boycott the Alameda Sun and the Alameda Journal by refusing to advertise with them. From the Alamedans for Fair Taxation Facebook page:

      Boycott the Alameda Sun and Alameda Journal for not fairly representing both sides of the Measure E debate! Spend your advertising dollars elsewhere!

  • smart voter says:

    Why would Ed Hirshberg boycott the Alameda Journal, they are his tenants and are paying rent to him?
    In this economy you try to keep your tenants, not boycott them.

    I do agree however, both papers are not representing booth sides fairly.

  • Michelle says:

    I would be able to squeeze out another $100. I would vote yes for that amount. We all got notices that our sewer taxes are going up as well, that might have helped tip the vote in our favor.

    I think that a lot of people who didn’t have a dog in this hunt declined to impose a tax on other people that they themselves would not have had to pay. Seniors know a great deal about a great many things and I believe that many of them didn’t think it was right to even vote on this issue, when they were exempt from the tax. They let the parents of Alameda school children and the younger home and business owners work it out amongst ourselves. Other seniors had no reason to vote at all, because it did not affect them either way.

    Boycotting is shunning. If you can’t understand why a business or home owner might not be able to pay more taxes in this current economy I don’t know what to say to you, but many of you seem to lack reasoning skills. Everyone is entitiled to their opinion but feelings are not facts.

    When did students suddenly develop a higher moral weight than the rest of us? My neighbor’s daughter has 3 kids and is pregnant with a 4th. She is on Welfare. She contributes nothing to the schools that educate her children. Yet, we homeowners are asked to support her kids, even more than we already do, to the tune of $659 per year. I just don’t get it. People complain about homeowners getting tax breaks, yet the very people who utilize the most resources get tax breaks simply for having more and more kids who seem to need more and more help to even graduate from high school. There is nothing wrong with having children, of course, but our culture does not have the right to confer some special value to those children over the rest of us. Their future is not more important than our present.

  • Lauren Do says:

    Smartvoter: no one told or asked me to remove my “buycott” map. Not Boardmember Mooney nor the Superintendent. I’m fairly sure the map still exists out there and the post that preceded that map certainly is still available on my site. However I removed the sidebar link because I hadn’t updated the map since after Measure H passed so it was fairly outdated. I’m not quite sure where you got your information but again neither of the two people you mention ever approached me about removing the link and in fact no one ever approached me to remove it.

  • Mike says:


    Absurd to count those who didn’t vote at all as “no” voters. Another example of how schools need a lot of help teaching math. The fact is, amongst voters, you are objectively, mathematically and conclusively in a minority… live with it! You have a tiny posse. You’re all hat and no cattle. Giddyup.

    Dennis, you didn’t answer my questions:

    1) What is the “classrooms” component of “classrooms not court rooms?” Other than find things to complain about, what are you and yours doing for classrooms? Answer; NOTHING!


    2) What tax formula/rate/cost would you support? I sincerely doubt any “no” voters are sitting around and talking about parcel taxes they’d support.

    I therefor stand by my all of my earlier assertions. You guys want something for nothing and then the right to complain about it.

    Also, you’re too challenged to see that not passing it will hurt your own property values by more than the approx 1/10th of one percent of the average home’s value.

    As far as boycotting the newspapers, go for it! It’s a waste of time and won’t have any effect. But, I guess once you’re out ruining a town’s institutions, it’s hard to stop with just one.

    For my part, I already have some businesses in mind that I won’t be spending my money in. BTW, I know a lot of business owners that were for the parcel tax.

    As for your boycott, once you and the 5 “no” voters who are both that wound up about it and advertise in the Sun or Journal get around to it, it won’t amount to anything. The rest of the “no” voters, who don’t advertise, are welcome to stop buying these free newspapers. It really just makes you out to be a bunch of sore temporary winners. That and you’re drunk on a thimbleful of power. Go home. Sleep it off. It’ll pass.

  • dave says:

    Interesting that people who loudy support business owners boycotting schools so loudly condemn school supporters exercising that very same right.

  • Dennis Green says:

    I heard toward the end of the campaign about a planned advertising boycott of the newspapers, and informed Connie Rux and Dennis Enanosky of the fact. As a past president of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce, I hear a lot of scuttlebutt from business owners. There was also talk, just before ballots were mailed, of an organized boycott Pro-E businesses. Such boycotts would hurt this city almost as much as Measure E would have. We are 7,000 strong. You are 14,550 strong. That means almost 21,000 people didn’t vote at all, so both supporters and opponents are in the minority. No New Math neede!

    I told Connie and Dennis that I wouldn’t stand in the way of such a boycott, as I sincerely believe neither newspaper, nor most news sites practiced any objective journalism during the campaign. Ed hirshberg, however, did oppose such a boycott and persuaded the rest of us to back off. Any No on E merchants who are boycotted, however, and go out of business or just leave the poisonous atmosphere of this broken island, won’t be here to advertise, and both the Sun and Journal are already on the edge. One of the reasons Julia bailed.

    As for “classrooms” I put in 14 glorious years as a classroom teacher, nurturing many minority and disadvantaged students, and even some on a release program from Lompoc Prison. As Chamber Prez and board member, I saw to it that we donated every year to the Alameda Education Foundation, and as a board member for the Boys & Girls Club, I helped secure a $100,000 grant from the Valley Foundation. I’ll putty chops upalonside anybody whining and hurling insults here.


  • techies says:

    There is money for AUSD;however, it has to play by the FED educational rules and system. See this article about SFUSD:

    Why can’t AUSD do the same and apply for Title I funds? This will aide some of the under performing schools in the district.

  • Dennis Green says:

    Given a choice between massive layoffs and a temporary cut in salary, what do you suppose the teachers will choose? Their unions? SF City workers chose furloughs. “A little less money or no job???” Doh. But with seniority and tenure, it could go either way with the teachers.

  • concerned citizen says:

    I would like to learn more about the Alameda public school system…could someone please point me in the right direction to answer the following questions:

    1. If Alameda has been opening up new charter schools (NEA, ACLC, ASTI) then are the other traditional public schools suffering lower enrollment? If they have lower enrollment, then are those schools receiving less funds per student?
    Is this a relevant issue?

    2. How are the Charter Schools getting their funds?


    • Hey cc,

      The district hasn’t actually been opening up new charter schools – an independent group of educators and parents created Nea and is operating ACLC (which began its life as an in-district school and has since transitioned into a charter operated independent of the district). The school board and the district actually have very little to say about whether a new charter opens here or not – as long as the application is complete and in on time, the board is pretty much legally bound to approve it.

      Since students who attend charters are no longer enrolled in the district, the district loses the money they would have received for educating those students. So they have lower enrollment and less money overall as a result (though the amount each of the remaining students generates is the same). The charters are public and receive money from the state to educate its students in much the same way schools in the district receive it (differences include the rate per student and the way they receive their money for categorical programs like doled out to charters).

      Chipman is a little different from the other charters in Alameda (and quick note here – ASTI is not a charter but a district school) in that the school was not meeting all its federal testing mandates under No Child Left Behind and so the district was facing choices there that included shutting it down, firing all the teachers or going charter, and in that case, a group of parents and teachers worked with the district to create that charter.

      Alameda Unified’s enrollment has declined over the last few years, though the enrollment slide in the budget presentation to the school board Tuesday night showed that if you included charter schools in enrollment calculations, enrollment would be up, not down.

      Hope that helps. Anyone else with expertise on this one, feel free to weigh in.

  • Lauren Do says:

    techie: no Alameda school ranked low enough to be able to apply for that funding.

  • Page Barnes says:


    The schools in the article made the list of the lowest performing schools in the state. None of Alameda’s schools made that list. None of them were even close. The AUSD schools that qualify for Title I funds already receive them.

  • Mike says:


    For the third and final time, what parcel tax formula/rate/amount would you be in favor of? You write that you take exception to E because the formula was unfair. What formula would you apply? Since you haven’t jumped on answering this repeated question, I assume the answer is obvious; no parcel tax would pass muster with you. It’s just that it’s disingenuous to imply that there is a formula you’d support. There apparently isn’t.

    On voters, the voters who voted are 100% if the voters whose votes are counted. Those who don’t bother to vote at all are essentially leaving the decision to others and in the end don’t count by their own lack of action. They may never vote or rarely if ever vote.

    Also, contrary to your assessment above, I think Michele’s reporting here has been fair.

  • Dennis Green says:

    Mike, I would support a flat rate tax, with no cap, structured at an x cents per square foot that would have the smallest dwelling in Alameda paying the same rate now garnered by Measures A & H combined, $309 per year, but not beginning until they expire at the end of school year 2011-2012. Until then, let the district, as I said to Vital, “Live within its means.” The discipline would do it/her/them good. Moreover, I would not support a parcel tax running for eight years, but only four, which would take us up to 2016.

    Such taxes are an obvious skirting of Prop. 13, and as such should be severely limited. Hence, the 2/3 majority of those registered voters moved or civic enough to vote. Also, their duration should be limited as circumstances, state funding, etc. change. State legislators are considering a measure which would lower the threshold for parcel taxes to 55 percent of the vote for passage, but as a compromise would also cap any new parcel taxes at $150. This may have influenced Vital’s timing. And the March date as well. There is another measure under consideration in Sacramento that would keep the 2/3 rule and extend it to all fiscal proposals at the state or local level.

    If a flat tax were too high it would still injure many businesses and put some out of business. AUSD is NOT going out of business, although it is so poorly managed there is talk of taking the entire district Charter. Analysis shows that is fiscally feasible,as Michele once discovered. Any private sector business performing as poorly as AUSD would either go bankrupt or be radically made over.

    Finally, the whole issue of enrollment decline is controversial. The closing of the Naval Air Station in 1996(?) took some 900 students out of the system. Keeping small schools open and reducing class size prevented layoffs. As did bringing in students from out of district, whose ADA does not cover the full cost of educating them. Their parents don’t pay parcel taxes.

    Now, Mike, let’s hear what sort of parcel tax initiative YOU would support! I’m more than willing to have a civil, reasoned debate.


    • Hey Dennis,

      Just to clarify for you, I never did discover and can’t actually say whether taking the district charter is financially feasible. (Though the district’s own analysis showed it was not.) What I did discover was that this past year, for the first time that I could see, the per-student base revenue limit amount (which is the general pot of money the district gets to educate each kid) for charter schools appeared to be a few bucks more than the amount the district was receiving. If you’d like, I can re-send you the original exchange for further clarification.

  • Dennis Green says:

    Mike, Considering how gamey AUSD can get, further terms: by smallest dwelling, I mean smallest parcel, a condo, not an in-law unit or studio apartment. I would not support a measure that had any exemptions for seniors or the disabled. If the schools are so valuable, then they are valuable to us all. Further, no “mail-in only” ballots. No box in front of city hall for overnight deposits. No games.

    Further, I believe the initiative should specify what these new tax funds would finance, none of this “including but not limited to” language. No phony “community panels” or “oversight commissions.” All such features of Measure E didn’t pass the smell test for honest, straight- forward electioneering.

    And I think we need an open and honest debate about management. The $300/hour political consultants Supe Vital pays, who have racked up almost $100,000 in charges so far, the high-priced outside attorneys, the in-house webmaster whose work has been rife with spelling errors and mediocre design, (when she could hire an independent contractor with excellent skills at less expense, and there are several right here on the island), the efficiency of those under-enrolled schools no parents actually WALK their kids to, not when the SUV is so handy! Whether reduced class size improves outcomes isn’t proven either, so let’s talk about that. And I oppose bringing in students from outside the district, although I’m not sure that’s a deal breaker…

    If AUSD continues to show such poor judgment, I will also work to defeat the re-election of certain Trustees, gladly holding the sword one promised to fall on! Now, as I said before, show us yours.


  • Dennis Green says:


    You may forget, but I sent you a link long ago, and now lost in the mists of time, proving that AUSD could indeed go all Charter, and at the time you acknowledged that it was so. Perhaps the numbers have changed, but the underlying proposition is still intriguing. No need for Trustees or a Superintendent! Charter schools generally outperform regular public schools, especially with English-learners and special ed kids and minorities, in every subject but Math. Go figure. Anyhow, I hope that before March the debate opens up and consists of more than scare tactics and sound bites.

    • Dennis,

      I didn’t forget. Here’s the link, for anyone who may be interested in checking out the report from the Public Policy Institute of California:


      This is a March 2010 report about the revenue limit system, and it talks about the district-to-district variations in the revenue limit, which is the basic chunk of money the district receives to educate each student. The report uses 2007 numbers and included a bit on charters, and I was wondering what the current-year charter allotment was and how it compared to what Alameda Unified receives. The district, after consulting with some of the top charter experts in the state, concluded in July 2009 that it would not be financially feasible for the district to go all-charter. At that point, it was receiving more in per-student funding than charters were receiving. When the 2009-2010 budget passed a few months later, the rate Alameda Unified received per student – $4,946 – was less than the state’s charter school rate, which, according to the California Department of Ed website, was a little more for lower grades – $5,042 for K-3 – and quite a bit more for upper grades – $6,118. There are block grants for categorical funds (30 percent of the school district’s budget and economic impact aid, but I don’t know at this point how that compares to what the district gets.

      In that light, I wrote an e-mail to Dennis thanking him for the PPIC report which said:

      Hey – I meant to tell you that I got the part of the PPIC report that deals with the charter allotment – and you were right, based on the new numbers, the district would get more per student if they went charter (though in all fairness, this may not have been the case back in july).

  • Dennis Green says:

    In one sense, Michele Ma Belle, Buffalo Gal, all these numbers can be misleading, since the AUSD gets other funding, Spec Ed, and other funding which takes the per pupil funding up to about $14K per pupil per year. Long ago now, as it seems, I wrote an op-ed piece for the Sun which described how much money Vital has to play with for a class of only 20 students, far more than the cost of the teacher alone. I described how a business person would view all that with a jaundiced eye, since s/he would have no problem operating a classroom with all that revenue. One of the many reasons I claim the AUSD is so poorly managed it could/should go ALL CHARTER!

  • nomoretaxes says:

    Have any of you “Yes on E” folks written out your checks for $359 payable to The Alameda Education Foundation?….or if you are a business who voted yes, whatever your new parcel tax increase would have been if the Measure passed? This can be a tax deductible donation (if you itemize). Shame on any of you who boycott a business for voting no.

  • dave says:

    One man’s “boycott” is another man’s “Freedom to do business with whomever he chooses for any reason.”

  • Dennis Green says:

    Good luck in March. I wouldn’t, however, pay Erwin & Muir $300/hr. to design the structure and strategy of that next campaign. They have already proven themselves incompetent, a total of $500K spent on Measure E. So I would just counsel Supe Vital, “Boycott Erwin & Muir!”

  • Michele Kuttner says:

    Re: Dennis Green says:
    1, July 3, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    “Given a choice between massive layoffs and a temporary cut in salary, what do you suppose the teachers will choose? Their unions? SF City workers chose furloughs. “A little less money or no job???” Doh. But with seniority and tenure, it could go either way with the teachers.”

    I’m surprised you don’t know that last winter AEA negotiated and the teachers voted to give ourselves a pay cut for the upcoming school year. AEA employees will face a pay cut as the district will implement a 5 day furlough next June and cut all three staff development days. We also voted to increase class size to 25:1 in K-3. I’m sure that’s not enough sacrifice for you, Dennis, but I felt the need to add that information to this conversation.

  • Jan says:

    It would be good if commenters with a political view that colors their remarks would disclose that so we can put their comments in context. For instance, Dennis Green has described himself in the past as a libertarian, a group that generally opposes taxes and government involvement in many public services it currently provides. If you’re against taxes in general, why bother discussing whether this particular one is good or bad? If you think all the schools should be charter, why be involved in the conversation about AUSD-run schools? It’s fine if that’s your point of view, but it seems like a waste of time to argue the details when you’re really just against taxes and publicly run schools.

  • Dennis Green says:

    Jan in her sophistry, (“Why bother?”), gets almost everything wrong. I said I’m an Independent with Libertarian leanings. I don’t oppose ALL taxes, just those funding the military and government bureaucracies. And I’m inclined to be suspicious of government and public agencies, like the schools. I don’t think AUSD should go all charter, just that it could if its management fails…in another parcel tax try…in balancing its budget…etc. Does Jan hold such hardened opinions there’s no room for discussion? Because that’s the way she makes it sound. I haven’t heard even one proponent of Measure E mention a willingness to compromise or over what terms or items. Schools couldn’t do any better. Teachers can’t take any cut in pay. Can’t close even one school. Tax has to be regressive and split-roll, etc.

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