A recent news poll in this paper asked:
Would you support a local tax to fund education if improved
student achievement could be guaranteed?
And, while we know these reader polls are not scientific, they
do provide us with clues as to what some are thinking.
A recent news poll in this paper asked: “Would you support a local tax to fund education if improved student achievement could be guaranteed?” And, while we know these reader polls are not scientific, they do provide us with clues as to what some are thinking. This one – with almost 300 votes, showed just 38 percent would vote yes – tells us voters do not want any additional taxes, regardless of the need. It makes us wonder what, if anything, voters are willing to pay for.
The results also tell us voters believe there are still places to cut, but the pickings are getting thinner and thinner. Sure, there may be places to cut at the district level, or class sizes could increase to 35 or 40 to one. Sports and other after-school activities could be canceled or participants could be forced to pay to play.
It’s gotten to that point that the uncertainty at the state level – where Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to place a five-year tax extension on the ballot in June failed – has school districts planning for the worst-case scenario. Since 2008, the Morgan Hill Unified School District has reduced spending by $11.9 million with layoffs of teachers and staff, scaling back summer school and increasing class sizes from 20 students to one teacher to 24 to one. Now, the district must plan to cut another $2.5 million from a total budget of $71 million. The district, which anticipated these cuts coming and already cut about $4.5 million, is in better shape than most. By contrast, Gilroy School District must cut about $6.3 million from an $88 million budget.
But, it does bring up the question that’s on everyone’s mind. Should the district propose a local parcel tax? We need to decide as a community whether we want to continue to slice away at our education system, or increase local taxes to help support it.
According to the NEA, California’s K-12 education spending dropped by more than $1,000 per student – 10.6 percent – between 2007-08 and 2009-10. As a result, California’s per pupil spending ranking fell from 34th in the nation in 2007-08 to 45th this year, absent adjustment for regional cost differences. According to the most recent data published by Education Week, which attempts to adjust spending to reflect differences in states’ cost-of-living, California ranked 46th in per pupil spending in 2006-07.
Several districts passed parcel taxes last year, including the Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose, and several more have measures on this June’s ballot, including Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District, $49 per parcel tax for six years; Sunnyvale School District, $59 per parcel for seven years; Cupertino Union School District, $125 per parcel for six years; and Los Altos School District, $193 per parcel for six years.
As a community, we need to determine at what level we fund our schools. To rely on the state is foolhardy, at best.