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MEASURE E: Failure means shorter school year, fewer schools

Submitted by on 1, June 28, 2010 – 5:00 am16 Comments

Photo courtesy of AUSD.

In the wake of Measure E’s defeat at the polls last week, the Board of Education is moving forward with plans to increase class sizes and shorten the school year for 2010-2011 – and beginning the process of shuttering schools after this school year is over.

At a special meeting to be held Tuesday night at City Hall, the board is expected to approve a budget with more than $7 million in cuts, instead of the $2.5 million in cuts trustees would have maintained even if Measure E had passed. As part of the package of cuts for this year, district staff is asking the board to end the coming school year a week earlier than originally planned.

The budget cuts will also mean fewer counselors for middle and high school students, fewer adult school courses for seniors and other adult learners and less money for textbooks, special education services, school maintenance and teacher training.

“This is not what we want to do to our children. This is what the state has forced us to do to keep our budget sustainable,” Superintendent Kirsten Vital said.

School closures would begin in 2011-2012 under the budget forecasts to be presented Tuesday, and class sizes in kindergarten through third grade would grow to 32 students per teacher, up from 25 students per teacher for the coming school year. The district laid off 96 permanent teachers and more than 40 teachers on temporary contracts at the end of this school year, generating millions more in savings.

Some of the district’s elementary school art, music and physical education teachers could also receive pink slips before the 2011-2012 school year in order to save the district money.

The state has cut $7 million in funding for basic educational expenses over the past two years and has made additional cuts in funding for “categorical” programs like adult education, art and music, teacher training and safety, and additional cuts are expected. State dollars account for more than three-quarters of the district’s funding.

Even after making millions of dollars in budget cuts, officials at Alameda Unified anticipate they’ll need to plow into their savings to cover $4.8 million in expenses next year. But the district won’t have that money for 2011-2012. And its existing parcel taxes, which generate $7 million a year, will sunset at the end of that school year.

“Scenario B” in the district’s master plan for 2010-2015 – the “no parcel tax” scenario – calls on the district to shutter a middle school, a high school and three elementary schools in order to balance the budget. Specific schools slated for closure have not yet been named.

The master plan’s no-tax scenario also envisions shifting grade configurations so that the district’s elementary schools would house kindergarten through sixth grade, middle schools would hold grades seven through nine and high schools would teach students in grades 10 through 12.

The district’s budget plan calls for shuttering one middle school and one high school in 2011-2012 and up to four elementary schools the year after that – closures proponents of Measure E had sought to avoid.

District staff is recommending a “phased approach” that would close “one or more” secondary schools and “one or more” elementary schools in 2011, with additional elementary school closures in 2012. If the board decides to move forward, Vital will present a phased closure plan in September.

Vital said fuller classrooms and fewer schools will have major implications for students, who will get less attention and even less challenging assignments, and perhaps even for the Island as a whole. But she thinks there may still be opportunities to raise at least some of the money the district needs, either through another parcel tax vote or through fundraising efforts.

More than 65 percent of the voters who cast ballots on Measure E were in favor of the tax, which would have more than doubled what homeowners now pay to support Alameda’s schools each year (the tax needed the approval of two-thirds of voters to pass).

Meanwhile, proponents have said on local blogs, news sites and chat groups that they would be willing to send the money they would have paid had Measure E passed to the school district. And Alameda Education Foundation president Bill Sonneman, in a statement issued Friday, said the foundation’s role could expand beyond the enrichment and teacher-supply programs it now provides.

“Quality education remains our focus, but with the failure of Measure E and devastating cuts looming, we will need to take a much greater role in ensuring that quality education remains an Alameda tradition,” Sonneman was quoted as saying. “We look forward to working more and more with the community to ensure that Alameda schools remain strong and that our children receive the kind of education they deserve.”


  • 9er says:

    How soon can we put another (more balanced) parcel tax on the ballot?

    I can’t imagine even the opponents of E would actually favor “Scenario B”

  • Gillico says:

    How soon can we stop the propaganda from the supporters of Measure E and get back to reporting facts, like the increase in Ms Vitale’s salary? Or how the suggested tax was not set up in a way that would fairly tax the city’s residents, nor was there any language in the Measure to specify how the moneys raised would be allocated. Or the fact that the AUSD has not been reconfigured in decades to better accommodate the current demographics of Alameda residents.

    Until any of these are addressed, there is no sense in throwing money at the system to keep schools at status quo to satisfy a handful of rich East-end parents at the cost of the other schools in the system.

    These cuts were going to happen regardless of the attempt to force Measure E on Alameda residents, so instead of framing the facts in “What might have beens,” how about you stop writing in a way that divides the community, move on, and realize we have to work with what we have, and make the best of it for the best of Alameda’s schools and students, please?

  • Jack B. says:

    >>> “to satisfy a handful of rich East-end parents at the cost of the other schools in the system.”

    >>> “how about you stop writing in a way that divides the community… ”

    To combat logic like this, I think Ms Vitale deserves a raise.

  • Gillico says:

    You’re welcome to pay for it with your money, not mine.

  • Factsplease says:

    The Master Plan’s “Scenario B” didn’t include “shuttering” one middle, one high and four elementary. At p. 43 “hypothetically there are numerous scenarios and variations on school configurations,” and at p. 44 “cuts may include.” Looks like the District is deciding, quickly (at tomorrow’s Board meeting) that the annointed cuts will mean closing Encinal, going to one high school, AHS isn’t large enough to accommodate 9-12, so 9th will go back to middle, which means our students will start high school one year behind their peers, the same year that “counts” for college. Does anyone know a high school in the Bay Area, or even CA, that’s 10-12?

  • Mike S says:

    How ’bout if you have kids in school, pay extra?

  • really Mike S? says:

    Have you heard of “public” school? Were these adults ever kids?

  • Mike says:

    Schools are one cost/benefit problem, but really part of a larger group of economic problems… how do you provide services at reasonable cost?

    I think it’s interesting how little in the form of solutions one hears from the many candidates for mayor and city council, etc.

    Okay, platitudes aplenty, but do any of these jokers have some compelling and specific solutions to how to improve city services while solving it’s budget problems? In general, I find these little politicians generally good at empathy and sharing your pain, but totally bereft of specific solutions.

    If I hear one more hollow generality out of these guys about economic sustainability, I might just lose my lunch.

    It’s a real lack of leadership. For instance, someone tell me why anyone should think that the losers at city hall would be any better at managing a city 15% larger, if SunCal had it’s way, than are at mismanaging the current sized city.

    My general rule of thumb for voting is, in the absence of compelling reasons to the contrary, never vote for an incumbent and never vote for an attorney. I think the record shows that many bad votes had come from members of both these groups.

  • Elaina says:

    so sad, what a high price this city is willing to pay to under educating our kids. when kids don’t have guidance counslers, not enough creative outlets to express themselves, and teachers in overfilled classrooms, they will find other ways to express themselves (like getting into trouble).. they should rename scenario B to scenario train wreck! The school board should really go back to the drawing board on this.

  • Really Mike? says:

    Can you let me know when you ran your political campaign and what the results were?

  • Jon Spangler says:


    The voters decided against Measure E, so the Board of Education IS going “back to the drawing board” to implement major surgery on AUSD’s public education of Alameda’s kids and adults. (Adult School is in for severe cuts, too.)
    Get used to these extreme reductions, which will get worse unless Alameda voters fund some form of tax increase.

    Note to Gillico–any parcel tax is by definition inequitable. We ALL already knew that. But that is the option we have available to us under state law to save our own schools during these desperate and tough times. (So is Alameda’s deficit-inducing state school funding formula relative to other comparable school districts.)

    Do you have any constructive suggestions on how to avoid this “train wreck” AUSD is facing by raising the money Measure E would have?

    There is a huge “inequity” in harming our public school students simply in order to minimize our personal expenses. What IS is your commitment to the public good? Do you want only the people whose houses catch fire to pay for the fire department? (I doubt it…) Just how far are you willing to go in what appears to be a case of taking your feelings out on students and public schools?

    Do you really want other Alamedans to take their feelings out on you for voting as you did and expressing your opinions? That is one logical corollary to your negative statements about the superintendent and your fellow Alamedans. And I’m trying really hard to NOT go there. (And not succeeding much of the time, I’m afraid…)

    Please rethink the principles you are espousing and their implications as well as the way(s) you state them. We all need to work hard to stay connected as a community and solve these tough problems together. We cannot afford to be divided more than we already are.

  • David N says:

    Perhaps the 65% (of the 52% of Alamedans who voted) can start sending in their $350 checks now to AUSD so Vital can keep her 3% raise (to her $200k salary).

    Let’s see how many E supporters will walk the talk.

    And … the Navy left 15 years ago, and yet AUSD is still complaining about the funding (why haven’t they done anything about it other than asking for bailouts every 2 years, on clockwork).

  • Jesse says:

    I’m disappointed in the results – as I recently purchased a home here in Alameda in large part to avoid paying for private education. The 52% turnout is appalling. I would assume another proposition, less divisive, will be forthcoming. It’s not the local sup’s salary that is the issue (though $200K is rather insulting in these tough times) – the state has been cutting the eduction budget year after year. This year, the Early Childhood Education budget is set to be slashed by 87%, which may well land my mother, a 30 year vet, on unemployment. Compensating for the state’s ineptitude, and lack of commitment to education, on a local level, is the best remedy.

  • 9er says:

    Jesse, on the bright side at least you didn’t buy an Alameda home 3 years ago right before the market collapsed.

  • KD says:

    The desire to fund public schools is all a vast, evil conspiracy by rich East End parents…while they can afford to send their children to school anywhere, they worry about what will happen to poor children without a good education…those B?@#^%s!

    As a West-Ender, I fell into their evil trap & supported Measure E. No doubt, they have hypnosis at their disposal, but I can defeat them by chanting “No democratic ideals are worth my hard-earned cash–let society go to heck in a hand-cart!”

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