Posts Tagged ‘Proposition 13’

Money, Money, Money, Money 

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

Rose in LAToday’s New York Times posted an article about New York schools’ Renewal program, an attempt to improve 94 failing public schools is failing to raise the scores and reduce absenteeism enough. So, after 3 years (2015-2018), only one-third of the schools improved out of the program. Why?

Renewal based its model on the idea that a student’s academic achievement would increase if the schools “were given a wide array of school services and teachers were better trained.” New York Times, “New York Kept Children in Schools Likely to Fail”, October 26, 2018. And the services were substantial – mental health clinics, dentists, and food pantries at the site – which studies show are needed to improve student achievement in impoverished communities.

So, why stop now? Is it the money spent and what is the result? “We should stop ourselves from spending money on things that don’t work,” said James Kemple, the executive director of the New York University’s Research Alliance for New York City Schools (Ibid).

Students, however, still must attend school. Wouldn’t it serve them better if the Renewal project people went over the model, looked at more research, and make changes to spend money on things that DO work.

Look at California schools which have had to make do with less money since 1978 when the infamous Proposition 13 was passed. At that time schools reaped the money from local property taxes that placed California high on the U.S. list of funding per public school. Once the proposition passed, money decreased significantly, and now the state provides 60%, local funds provide only 30% and federal money (mostly from Title I) provide 10% to some schools.

In an attempt to find out how to improve the California public school situation, an October 2018 study from American Institutes for Research (AIR) shows that, from all resources, California in 2017 actually spends $12, 204 per student. An adequate amount per student is $16,890. The actual amount spent per student places California 41st of all public schools in the nation.

An “adequate” amount is quantified from the average California school enrollment and demographics like numbers of free-reduced price lunches, English Learners, special education students.

The “adequate” amount is also computed by including teacher support for sufficient planning and training; hiring experienced, flexible teachers; student opportunities outside the classroom (STEM, arts, other extra-curricular activities); high quality early childhood education; engagement for families at the school; English language Learning with home-language support; and, most important, social-emotional support for students and families.

For schools with high numbers of EL, special ed, and free/reduced price lunch students, additional amounts to retain small class size, richer special education programs, and extra professional development for teachers, early childhood education programs, and extended day/year (for remediation and enrichment) are necessary.

After every ‘extra’ program was eliminated in schools because of the decrease in funding, the consequences of the passage of Proposition 13 in California is that every adult lost confidence in public schools. In fact, you can see the video A Rose in LA from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) about the systematic disinvestment even in 2018 in Los Angeles public schools serving black, brown, and low-income students.

The conclusion of the AIR report reminds us that the actual expenditure per student doesn’t account for central administration, maintenance, transportation, or food service needs for a school district. The report also identifies the other multiple factors that define how students learn including their socio-emotional feelings and physical health.

The AIR findings tell us what must be done to truly improve student achievement from California to New York. Recognize that just throwing money at a school may not lead to success but deciding the programs that each school needs and funding those programs is the key. It is a model that takes far more than three years of relentless, consistent attention.

A model that does show promise of using money on something that works is the Schott Foundation for Public Education-supported Community Schools – a model with most of the needs described above that can succeed and is worthy of the attention. The Partnership for the Future of Learning has put out the Community Schools Playbook for anyone to see.

Also the W.K.Kellogg Foundation with the Schott Foundation supports a program to reduce racial bias, reduce harsh discipline policies, and support positive school climate.

Two models that are available to New York’s Renewal and California to begin the road to recovery and success for every student.


Prognosis: California Will Wrangle

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Happy New Year!  Take Care Productions wishes it would be, but it won’t happen until the state has exhausted itself fighting over ‘spending cuts’ and ‘increasing revenue’.

Writers in the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times have scratched their heads over low-performing schools that are not improving test scores.  Whether it shows up in an effort to call out poor teachers by using the “value-added” formula or in the bleak results when analyzing low rates of student proficiency, no one is happy.

The California Teachers Association  strong-armed California’s passage of the Quality Education Invest Act (QEIA) which uses the Academic Performance Index (California’s API) as the indicator of scholastic improvement.  In six years (2004 – 2010) the 500 QEIA schools reached an average of 21.2% proficient students.  That’s good enough?  It means 68.8% still weren’t on track.

Why?  Is it the ‘test’ or is it teacher evaluation? The media has written article after article. Universities have spewed forth document after document to talk about low-performing schools and poor quality tests or low-performing schools and poor  teacher evaluation.

On the other hand, Mary M. Kennedy of Michigan State has reminded everyone of the attribution error, ignoring the working conditions of the teacher, preparation time, materials, work assignments, untreated student characteristics.  As if no matter the conditions, a good teacher can make the difference.  Maybe, but it takes time.  And the “value-added” attribute doesn’t make the grade when school boards as well as unions insist on old evaluation tools.

In British Columbia, Michael Shumatcher hits the button when he reminds the country of the demographic issue, urban or rural, and struggling populations who could use spending to promote the neededlearning tools instead of useless evaluation tools.

Or read Thomas Stephens, professor emeritus at the College of Education and Human Ecology, Ohio State University, who says one can find many good evaluation tools.  His hit is that the multi-billion dollar test industry won’t be pleased.

Let’s move on to California’s Sue Miller from Santa Monica who is representing the teachers who do all the work and need praise, not vitriol.

Which brings us to the wrangling likely in California which is deeply in debt from state to local entities.  Although many groups have been studying the problem, it comes down to cuts and taxes.

There will be no change in the tax plan to 1978’s Proposition 13 which started California down a long, dark road.  With effort, there may be a revision to the system of taxation generated by the proposition.  If you have read the article in SF Chronicle‘s January 2 edition “Prop 13 in urgent need of retrofit” by Michael Gervais and Dontae Rayford, defunding special districts and creating regional property tax boards are the options suggested.  Neither change addresses the money that corporations don’t pay in taxes.

Governor Brown has been sworn in this week for a third term and one can figure that the dysfunctional sections of the California State Department of Education will get cuts, along with all state entities.  Let’s see if the temporary taxes made to balance previous budgets will be maintained.

The National Education Association in the January/February 2011 NEA today issue includes “The Long and Winding Road” by Mary Ellen Flannery and Kevin Hart. The writers covered the entire country and found priority schools that teachers have had some say in transforming.

However, the deficit is so large in California that it is hard to see how the state test (CST) and the evaluation system are going to be top priorities.  It is possible like Mary M. Kennedy has said that turning around low-performing schools should be the top priority.

Will that transformation ever happen?

School Finance Debacle–Proposition 13, 30 Years Later

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Like wrangling over Common Core Standards (CCS) in California, legislators and school district personnel can’t bring themselves to “do something” about the 1978 Proposition 13.

For the CCS, California can accommodate Algebra I in the 8th grade and few of the English/Language Arts standards need reworking.  As of Monday, August 2, 2010, the California Board of Education finally adopted the standards.  Now to implement procedures and allow time to make sure school district personnel, not only teachers but principals and administrators, have the resources to use the standards to improve academic achievement.

Which brings us to the old Proposition 13 that has done its worst to bring down our schools.  Not only is every local municipality stretching its few property tax dollars to cover services, so also are schools.

Things are so unstable that legislators are finally looking at revisions of some aspects of the legislation passed by voters in 1978.  Never fear, your grandmother’s property will not be touched.  She will still only feel an increase of 2% on the tax she currently pays based on the 1% assessment of her property’s value 35 years ago (in 1975) as the law states.

Legislation to fund school budgets in California is “complex, irrational, and inequitable” according to the Getting Down to Facts Project report.    Still, looking at the news in 1978, 38% of the voters believed the state could absorb the 40% estimated reduction in tax revenue.  Voters were sick of high tax liabilities without an increase in their ability to pay, just like today when wages were stagnating well before the great recession.

Simply put, the answer over time has been to assess fees for every municipal service, set bond and local utility or parcel tax proposals, and authorize a plethora of special assessment districts such as flood control and drainage.  These tithes supplement the minimum funding for schools and provide funds for local municipal services.

But in 2010 with a $19 billion deficit in the state budget and nothing agreed to by the legislature and governor as of this post, here are two possibilities to increase funds for municipalities and schools.

In December 2008 Senator Joe Simitian offered SCA 6 (amended several times) to change the 2/3 provision of Proposition 13 and make 55% needed to pass special tax legislation.  Such a change would improve the chances that local parcel tax measures written for specified school purposes would pass.

This change is difficult.  Recently Californians for Improved School Funding tried to collect enough signatures to put an initiative similar to Simitian’s bill on the November 2010 ballot and failed.

Assembly member Tom Ammiano has offered AB2492.  It revises how property tax is calculated on commercial properties which by 2009 benefited far more than any voter understood in 1978.  Though never talked about during the campaign, the Jarvis-Gann proposition was devised to serve commercial properties far more than homeowners.  For example, in Los Angeles County, 1979 commercial property taxes were 47% of the total, while in 2009 taxes from commercial properties were 30%.

The assembly bill changes how ownership of a commercial entity is defined.  It refines the circumstances under which a sale occurs and reassessment must be made.  Revising this section of Proposition 13, while complex, would close an estimated $7.5 billion corporate tax loophole for the benefit of local municipalities as well as local schools.

Another way to reform the commercial property loopholes is called “split roll” by which residential homeowners’ tax assessment remains as is, but commercial properties are assessed at 1 ½% and reassessed more often.  Provisions in the reform offer +65 owners breaks and low-income family breaks, applicable to landlords of rental housing.  Lenny Goldberg hopes to bring a ballot initiative up for the 2012 elections.

Either of these proposals will bring more budget control to local districts and still protect individual taxpayers.  Most important, revenue sources will be made evenhanded and help the state overcome its budget debacle.