Archive for the ‘Field Poll’ Category

Fiscal Relief Maps

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Fourth graders are still excited about school projects in the Fall.  We’re about to make relief maps of California, a product of fourth grade since-well, no one can remember when they didn’t make one, even my mother, fourth grader in fall 1956.

I don’t know about other states, but California is perfect for the papier maché model, mountains high like Mt. Shasta and Mt. Wilson, deserts low like Death Valley. Lots of chance to use different color paint, white for snowy mountain tops, yellow for desert, green for valleys, blue for Lake Tahoe and Salton Sea as well as for long rivers up and down the Central Valley.  Don’t forget orange and brown to indicate the high and low mountain ranges.

If only depressing money woes didn’t get in the way of teaching.  The last staff meeting introduced projections for discretionary funding in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.  In brief, discretionary funds (also known as general funds) are provided from California state property tax revenue for the most part, divvied up to each school district depending on the number of students in the district (called ADA-average daily attendance).

Why would my district talk about the budget for the next two years after only two months of the current school year?  To warn everyone-the picture isn’t pretty.

Next year for Cupertino Union School District, where I teach, a fiscally well-managed operation with strong students and highly-qualified teachers, the ending budget balance is expected to be -$4.46 million and double that for the year after.

So much money has been cut from local school revenues, in spite of the various laws to guarantee stable school funding, that even my district is in deep trouble.  This year’s state budget fiasco will leave my district with $1.5 million in July 2010, a miracle in the general calamity for most districts.  Not in July 2011, however, nor the year after that.

It’s only October, and I’m already worried about a job for next year.  I should be concentrating on parent conferences coming up in November, finishing up the math and science units on the fall quarter schedule, planning field study trips to a mission and rancho in the San Jose area, all typical duties for a fourth grade teacher in California.

It’s crazy.  Evidence from surveys like the Field Poll as described in “Voters want to change state law,” by Wyatt Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle, October 14, 2009, show that 51% of California voters believe change is needed to the state Constitution.

As anyone who lives in California knows, however, the voter feels responsible in his heart for the local schools, but, calculator in hand, votes NO on most state proposals to untangle the severe fiscal quandary our laws have generated.  In the October Field Poll 52% of the voters opposed changing the requirement for a two-thirds legislative majority to pass a budget.

Even so, my favorite proposal is to pass a constitutional amendment to Proposition 13 (passed in 1978).  It would lower the approval threshold for any monetary measure to 55%, instead of the nearly impossible 66% (two-thirds) required by Prop 13.  See information in September 2009 Edsource, Local Revenues for Schools: Limits and Options in California, p. 6.

It took a tremendous effort to pass the May 5, 2009, Measure B. The six year parcel tax commitment will offset drastic state cuts, providing an annual $4 million to keep the Cupertino district schools going this year and the next two years.

I haven’t heard any more about the crisis, except that today I understand I probably won’t get another “pink slip” in March 2010, but should be prepared to change grade levels or schools.

It would be fabulous if piles of money floated down into Santa Clara Valley turning it green like my students’ relief maps.

Money, Money, Money, Money

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

I don’t know about every other one of the forty-nine states plus the District of Columbia, but in California, money budgeted for schools is the issue of the day-every day.

On April 17, Jack O’Connell, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, gave a speech at an education conference in Irvine, California, and reported an estimate of 30 thousand pink slips had been sent out to teachers in the public schools, but with $3.1 billion in federal stimulus funds, he hoped that students would have teachers in the fall, whether or not the California budget crisis would be resolved in May special elections.

That very evening I heard a speech by Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, who said whatever other districts did, San Francisco was going to use rainy day reserves to make sure teachers weren’t laid off.

By the end of April, tempers were rising.  The California Poll (Mervin Field), results released April 29, 2009, predicted failure for the California special election on May 19 for propositions 1A and 1B which will determine the school budgets for next year.

Why?  Voters are skeptical that 1A will achieve its goals.  So, in an attempt to recoup some of school funding, the California Teachers Association insisted on 1B, but it will only be implemented if 1A also gets approved.

Confusion is widespread.  Another poll conducted the final week of April by the Public Policy Institute of California shows why.  Simply put, voters value education and want to see improvement, but currently they have a hard time seeing themselves pay for it.

Good luck as of May 6, about half of the allocated federal stimulus money was being disseminated in California, San Francisco Chronicle, “School districts’ stimulus millions,” May 6, 2009.  It will tide the schools over, but not provide the stable funding that schools need.  There is still more to be spent as seen in the chart displayed in the New York Times, May 13, 2009.

Then, at least in California, bad luck presented itself in the budget revisions forecasted if the special election proposals aren’t approved.  Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2009 and San Francisco Chronicle, May 14 and 15, 2009.

You haven’t paid attention to the doom and gloom?  It will be very dark when a possible $5.3 billion is cut from K-12 and community college budgets, not to mention the universities.  Besides, no more stimulus funds will be dispersed to ease the pain if the state budget is cut too deeply.

“Money makes the world go round”…or not.