Saturday, April 3, 2010

San Leandro School District News: New Library Extension and Contact With Teachers

On April 1, 2010, the San Leandro school district dedicated a new extension to the library at San Leandro High School. In addition to enlarging the library, additional windows were added to the original structure, adding substantially more natural light to the library. 

This is the beginning of an unique period in the school district's history with the 9th grade campus opening in August and the Arts Education Center set for completion in January 2011.

On a different matter, I want to offer my congratulations to the San Leandro school board, administrators and the San Leandro Teachers Association for reaching an amicable resolution of the teachers' contract. The SLTA agreed to three furlough days and other contract modifications for next school year.

As a result, students in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade will have a 28-to-1 student teacher ratio, not a 30-to-1 class size ratio that was planned for next year. Layoffs to art, music and physical education teachers have been rescinded.

Sacramento largely determines how much money our schools receive and the state has cut billions from public education since 2008. About one quarter of the East Bay school districts are on the state’s watch list for insolvency. Through sound management and a willingness of all parties to work together, the San Leandro school district has remained off of this list.

It is important that the broader community not be under the false impression that San Leandro schools have avoided the state's financial crisis. Nearly 40 teacher and counselor positions have been eliminated over two years.

With a 28-to-1 ratio next year, class sizes in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade will have increased by 40% since last school year. Classes at the middle and high schools will be at the maximum of 35 students next year. At the secondary level, the ratio of counselors to students has jumped from 330 students per counselor to 450 students per counselor. Funding for student athletics has been cut. On top of the furlough days for next year, salaries for teachers have been frozen for the past two years while their health care costs have continued to increase.

But the reduction in services and programs for San Leandro students could be far worse. This year, more than ever, we owe our teachers, support staff, administrators and school board our appreciation and gratitude for their dedication to the education and welfare of the children of San Leandro.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Providing Greater Local Funding to California Public Schools: The Local Control of Local Classrooms Funding Act


California ranks near the bottom of all states in spending per student when accounting for regional cost differences. Over the past two years, Sacramento has cut billions in school funding resulting in more crowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and fewer programs for students. More cuts are likely this year, despite assurances by the Governor that his budget protects public education.

Local communities, however, can enact ballot measures that provide stable, reliable funds for their schools. These measures, called parcel taxes, provide funds which cannot be taken away by Sacramento. Yet, passing such measures is often difficult and has proven impossible in some communities.

The reason why is that the California Constitution requires 2/3 support for school parcel taxes. A minority of voters - just 33% plus 1 voter - can defeat the will of a community to support its public schools.

A new initiative - called the Local Control of Local Classrooms Funding Act - would change this by lowering the vote to adopt school parcel taxes to 55% of the voters.
Reducing the passage of school parcel taxes from 66.7% to 55% support over time will generate hundreds of millions of dollars for our schools. For example, in San Leandro where I live, a 2006 parcel tax measure would have passed if the Local Control of Local Classrooms Funding Act had been enacted. The measure received 61% support and would have generated $2.3 million annually for San Leandro schools.

Signatures are now being gathered for the initiative. This is our opportunity to stand up for our children and reduce the dependency of our schools on Sacramento for their financing. The initiative also assists our community colleges by lowering the voting threshold for passage of parcel taxes for community college districts from 2/3 to 55 percent.

Please help qualify the Local Control of Local Classrooms Act for the November 2010 ballot. Each of us can gather signatures to help qualify the initiative. Learn how at http://www.improvedschoolfunding.com

For those on Facebook, please also join the group Californians In Support of Greater Local Funding For Our Public Schools.

Please also forward this blog entry to family, friends and fellow educators across California. Together, we can change our state constitution and provide greater resources for each student to succeed.