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State budget cuts could hurt Palo Alto schools

Original post made on Jan 15, 2008

Schools in Palo Alto will likely be forced to reduce programming this year when huge state budget cuts proposed last week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger take effect.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 14, 2008, 6:32 PM

Comments (85)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 15, 2008 at 6:22 am

The school board should cut the Mandarin Immersion program and the proposed language program for elementary school level children.

This will save our district a lot of money.

Additionally, the school board should go back to the new city council and tell them that we cannot afford to educate additional children from the proposed ABAG housing allocations and BMR units. These families will not be able to provide our district with sufficient property taxes to cover the cost of educating these additional children, since we are a basic aid district.

There is already a long waiting list for BMR housing, and many of these families have 4 children. They are not city employees. They simply live in apartments in surrounding cities, but want to get into our schools and use our services. We simply can not afford to do this.

When we re-open Garland in the future, we will lose the revenue from the lease, and the State budget for education will be cut further.

Once Garland is re-opened, it will provide some relief for the schools in North Palo Alto which are already impacted.

What a mess - The State's proposed budget cuts, combined with their imposed ABAG / BMR allocation numbers.

What is going on in Sacramento?




Posted by terryg, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 15, 2008 at 8:21 am

By the way, the "new language program" hasn't been approved yet. If it is approved in the spring stratigec planning cycle, tt would cost about $1M/year when it's up and running. It'll cost about a third of that in the first year since it will roll out one grade at a time. That's less than 1% of the overall $145M annual budget. I don't think we can balance the budget with that. So I don't agree that "this will save the district a lot of money"


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2008 at 9:56 am

Correct. And the immersion program is cost-neutral, so cutting that won't save anything.



Posted by Reality Checker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2008 at 10:22 am

Well, lets put it this way. They should take the district staff OFF these projects immediately. District staff time is NOT being reimbursed by MI.

If staff cuts are going to be required, the first cuts must be made to non-essentials. These are both low priority luxury items, not necessities. When headcount has to be cut or staff time reduced, the projects they work on also have to be cut and reduced.

What better time and place to make cuts, than in programs that are not off the ground, and are not effecting kids in classrooms yet.



Posted by just-say-no, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2008 at 11:08 am

> Correct. And the immersion program is cost-neutral,
> so cutting that won't save anything.

This has not been proven, just alleged.

The Federal money might make this true for this year, but certainly once the money has run out there will be costs associated with this program.


Posted by spend spend spend, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2008 at 11:09 am

Seems like it is time for another parcel tax. Let's start the bidding at $1,000 per parcel over the current $600.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2008 at 12:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Certainly, we're getting it from all ends as Resident points out. The managers of the district (ie: Skelly), and the board of education should be battoning down the hatches accordingly. When you're heading in to a hurricane, its not the time to pop the cork on the champagne and lay out the caviar.

All fluff projects hould be halted immediately. This is crisis mode, and there will be no sympathy if it isn't shown that the district management and board of education are making some very prudent decisions now about the kinds of long terms committments they're making.

Fyi, the FLAP grant funding is one time, - it is not funding for the long term ongoing operation of the MI program.

We're about 2 breaths away from seeing the fruition of one of the concerns about the MI approval: Entitlement. "Now that our program has been approved, you CAN'T cut it - ITS A COMMITTMENT!"

MI supporters might not like it - but their program is going to be the poster child for everyting that is wrong with District management if it survives unscathed while regular core programming, basic services or teaching resources are slashed by cuts.


Posted by a chance to get it right, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2008 at 12:47 pm

There's a school board meeting tonight. For those who feel strongly about which programs should be considered for cutting, NOW is the time to make your voices heard.

Personally, I don't have a lot of faith in the new school board or Supt. Skelly about making the difficult but right decisions (in my view - yours may vary) on what to cut. Nice folks, but I don't think they're ready to take on these more devisive issues. Rug sweeping is what I anticipate.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2008 at 12:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2008 at 1:48 pm

The issue is financial, and impact to PAUSD education core programming, limited resources in PAUSD, and how to minimize impact on education of our kids in the classrooms. And luxury programs that are not currently in place and to which cuts will not effect students in classrooms, need to be first on the block. That's MI, FLES and any other programs in the R&D stage at this time.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

If you want to add something thoughtful about the projected impact of adding 2500 housing units to the PAUSD school district - we're waiting... Why don't you illuminate us with the cost of the new schools not currently in existence that will be required to house the influx of students from that ABAG mandated housing - and the cost of those schools (building and ongoing operation costs), and where the funding for that will come from? Any thoughts on that Mike?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

The issue is indeed financial. The immersion program doesn't cost any more than a regular classroom, and cutting it would not free up any funds. The board will never cut that.

It would be nice if we had some "luxury fluff programs," but I don't know of any in the district. Are you referring to AP classes?



Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2008 at 2:26 pm

We're not talking about cutting immersion classrooms. We're talking about avoiding the costs and long term committments for start up efforts for new, non-essential programming, not yet under way. Until we understand our financial future. And as a way to preserve district staff resources for core business needs.

The district should not be diverting finite district staff resources to the R&D of future language programming, and making long term committment to new start up programming, until we have a clear picture of our budget for such extras.

New programs are not core - should not be under consideration at a time when we should be tightening our belts. If staff time is being used, that needs to be put on hold until we confirm that our core programming and teacher salaries will not be effected by emergency budget cuts, and that staff resource capacity is availalble (after whatever cuts they're planning). Its just logic that we need to be in risk mitigation mode right now.

New language program(s) or MI can or would proceed without the expenditure of PAUSD staff resources.

District staff is PAUSD resource, and is not being reimbursed by MI.

We certainly are not sitting around with a bunch of extra money or extra capacity right now for FLES - not if they're talking about painful budget cuts that will effect classroom programs already in existence, teacher pay freezes, etc.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2008 at 2:32 pm

"If you want to add something thoughtful about the projected impact of adding 2500 housing units to the PAUSD school district - we're waiting... Why don't you illuminate us with the cost of the new schools not currently in existence that will be required to house the influx of students from that ABAG mandated housing - and the cost of those schools (building and ongoing operation costs), and where the funding for that will come from? Any thoughts on that Mike?"

Sure, we have the carrying capacity, right now. Also, the price we pay for random and chaotic planning for growth will be MORE cost than not trying to work with the spirit of ABAG. Palo Alto parents are smarter than most, and will not submit to the kind of fear-mongering you're putting out there, whether it's about ABAG, MI, or whatever.

You're going right for the throat of a program you don't like - i.e. MI. Let it go. (btw, I was completely neutral on MI, and thought that the process left something wanting, but we're there now) Let it go!


Posted by Karen, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 15, 2008 at 3:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2008 at 3:30 pm

Karen, I have indeed raised children in Palo Alto within the last 10 years, and am concerned that our children learn to follow the example of those who work to preserve the environment, and insure that this great city that they are growing up in remains a great city, instead of the self-prepossessing entity that NIMBYISTS want to make it.

Palo Alto's students want to learn by example, from people who walk their talk.


Posted by Nimbyist, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 15, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Instead of calling other people names Mike should disclose his conflict of interest in school matters.


Posted by Different Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Another time, another place.

Arnold won't end up cutting money to education. This is just a scare tactic of his, it worked before and it will work again. Shame on him for trying the same trick twice. It won't work for me.

Secondly, let us not get into the language debate again. There are many ways that PAUSD can cut its expenses.

The best way is to cut costs at Churchill. There are far too many administrators employed doing suspect paper shifting. Many fine school districts work superbly with far less admin staff, and the same can be said about the admin staff in some of our schools.

Likewise, Churchill offices are located in a little goldmine. First, the premises are located ideally for a wonderful retail or even small hotel complex. The location is also wonderfully located for a new elementary school in an area which is impacted with over-crowding.

The staff at Churchill could easily be comfortably situated in offices nearer 101 or 280. There are many suites of offices which could be leased for our admin staff and the Churchill site could be forfeited for some type of re-imbursement which is more fiscally prudent. If there is some reason why this could not happen, due to land use being for educational purposes, then build an elementary school there instead.

It is an expensive place for the District Offices.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2008 at 5:04 pm

Mike says "we have the carrying capacity now". That really says it all... exactly why people are saying that you surely can't be a Palo Alto resident. Either you don't have a clue what you are talking about as it pertains to PAUSD capacity issues and budget impacts - or you don't care. If you are lacking in knowledge on the subject - you can remedy that by attending the school board meetings and reading up. You'd come back to this discussion with a different tune (and we'd see and hear the difference). (Hint: people around here don't have much argument about the capacity as a giant problem - they really just argue a whole lot about how to solve it).

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

As for the issue at hand on this thread - budget cuts potential impact on Palo Alto schools. All the informed parents (that care) will write to the board, they'll go to the school board meetings, and they'll read the published materials to find out (and attempt to influence), how the district will plan to absorb the cuts, and will be expecting some prudent management decisions.

I doubt alot of informed people that care are promoting experimental start up programs in a time of tightening belts, and massive growth influxes without so much as a clue on the fiscal impact.


Posted by Karen, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 15, 2008 at 5:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 15, 2008 at 6:18 pm

One of the reasons I like living in Palo Alto is that we as a city and school community largely rely on taxing ourselves to pay for things that are of local public importance. The extent to which Palo Alto city and schools look to the state and federal coffers to pay for things we deem important is very low, compared to many other communities in the state.

This concept has roots in the start of our democracy, a federalist structure where powers not specifically enumerated to the national government go to the states, and it cascades from there to counties, cities and school districts. Places of greater need and lesser means have access to the federal and state government to enable them to perform important civil functions, a place like Palo Alto does not, strictly speaking, need such "help." Democracy with a small "d."

I acknowledge that is an overly simplistic description of how things work, we have agencies of every shape and stripe involved in numerous matters that are local in nature, from the Baylands, the Creek, the University Train station, to cite just a few examples. But the larger point still is valid, which is that this community is very fortunate that for the most part, it funds what it wants "internally."

That said, before any decisions are made about anything, we should be asking ourselves not only what do we want to spend our money on, but also how can it be funded? That some funding coming from Sacramento no longer may be available clearly is a problem, but slashing spending is only one of the alternatives available to this community to consider.

I could use analogies around what a company does when it loses an important account, or what to do when something critical to a business goes up in price more than was expected. At times, cutbacks, layoffs, re-engineering and restructuring are needed, at other times, price increases, intensified pursuit of new business, and the like become the imperative in order to keep the enterprise healthy.

Some of the things mentioned here should be on the table, as are many things that have not been mentioned. Circumstances such as these do help force the question of what things are truly important in making our students what they are, and what value we who are paying for it place on that investment. Maybe the real story here is that we have been getting Whole Foods quality for Safeway prices, and that charade is ending. We have to decide if we want to pay the price for the product we have been getting, or settle for something that costs what we have been paying, but isn't as good.

I know what I would prefer. And I am glad that I am in a community where the matter is largely in our hands, and not depending on the largesse of Sacramento or Washington, DC.


Posted by James, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 15, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Paul,

As usual you provide generic pablum. At this point, Paul, and I mean today, what single item would you cut from the school budget? For instance, are you willing to give up on the foreign language imperatives that you have been pushing?


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 15, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Thanks for the Friendly feedback James.

Are you willing to pay a higher parcel tax?

As I suggested, there are many things that are on the table, and no single item is a silver bullet for addressing a matter such as this.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Longterm, maybe you could make the argument that MI will be cost-neutral, but short-term--as in the next year, you can't.

Whereas eventually you'll need classrooms for the increased number of kids, short-term the district might be able to ship kids around to schcools to maximize classroom space.

Once kids are set in a specialized program with very specific requirements, you lose that flexibility--you can't readily transfer kids in and out.

Putting the introductions of new programs on hold is a natural, but we've got a political situation--thanks, in part, to the state's charter laws, which actually kept the district from doing what it wanted in this case.

Personally, I'd hold off on MI until the JCC vacates Greenfell and then put the program there (having it share admin. stuff with maybe Fairmeadow). That way you're not bringing in new modulars.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Long term, of course cost neutral.

Short term, you could make the argument that MI will be cost negative. It brings in federal money, which in some cases is dual use, so dumping MI ends up costing us. As for modulars, they're coming with or without MI.



Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2008 at 10:32 pm

"Mike says "we have the carrying capacity now". That really says it all... exactly why people are saying that you surely can't be a Palo Alto resident. "

Indeed, I am a resident. our own City Council changed a part of its complaint to ABAG by noting that we have more school capacity than the letter originally stated. One Council member called the statement that we don't have carrying capacity "disingenuous".

So, please let's not go around scaring people about how "impossible" things are, and creating crisis where none exists.

It's *true* that PAUSD would be challenged by extra capacity, but that's a far cry from saying "we can't", when in actuality we can if we generate the political will.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2008 at 11:06 pm

Parent/Midtown,

No, they wouldn't necessarily be coming with or without MI. That's my point. With the exception of SI, all the other elementary school programs can be filled via transfers before adding modulars.

It would make sense to put off anything that restricts flexibility.

The grant seems to be good for more than one year. Waiting a couple of years wouldn't kill anyone. And, as I say, Greenfell will then have unused space that could fit the program.

The modulars are $100K apiece. If you don't have to add 'em, it's a good thing during a budget crunch.

Cost-neutral only works if the MI program is full for all of its grades. Attrition in SI and in Cupertino's program indicate that that wouldn't be the case.

I think it would be more cost-neutral if the program were put on hold until 2010 when space becomes available.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2008 at 9:06 am

Yes, board already decided the district needs modulars, so they're coming with our without MI.

Cupertino's program has no problem with attrition, so that's unlikely to be an issue either.

MI brings in federal money, so if the issue is financial, then we'd better keep that program.


Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 16, 2008 at 9:15 am

There's a lot of good illustrations posted here that indicate why we should get rid of the public schools. State control of our children's education is not good.


Posted by just-say-no, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2008 at 9:52 am

> MI brings in federal money

A grant was awarded by the Department of Education for three years. There is little reason to believe that the Federal Government will fund Palo Alto forever to teach Mandarin at the expense of English.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2008 at 1:09 pm

R Wray,

No one is forcing your kids to go to a public school.

However, the goal of public schools is to create citizens who are educated enough to self-govern. I'd say free public education is one of the reasons we became the economic powerhouse that we are.

Thanks to public schooling most of us have ancestors who were able to move from poverty into the middle class.

Parent/Midtown,

I didn't say delay Mandarin forever--I said wait until 2010 when space that already exists becomes available. The grant can be used for prepping the program--2010 is still within the three-year period.

Better yet, use part of the money now to get some sort of FLES and summer-time immersion program off the ground. Something that would benefit more than 20 kids.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Oh, and CLIP has had plenty of problems with attrition--thus the handful of kids in MI in middle school. SI also has a problem, though not as severe.

We've gone over this. The big issue isn't that MI and SI have attrition compared to other programs, it's that you can't do anything to ameliorate the attrition--you can't move older kids into the program. You *can* move an older child into Hoover, Ohlone and the neighborhood schools. You also can't take advantage, as a district of moving kids in to fill the bigger number of allowed spots in the higher grades. Instead of moving from 20 to 24 students per classroom, the nature of immersion programs is that the upper grades tend to be smaller than the lower grades.

Actually, the only positive I can think of that the Ohlone/MI mash-up brings is that Ohlone's mixed grade structure may make it easier to manage some of the attrition--i.e. two K/1s, two 2/3s, 1 4/5. Since the higher grades can have more kids in them and the big drop-off occurs around 2/3 that could limit some of the impact.







Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 16, 2008 at 1:35 pm

The federal grant for MI is a matching grant. PAUSD has to spend the same amount of money on combined MI/other language programs in order to obtain the federal funds. The grant is available for three years but must be renewed each year.

Obviously, accepting a grant that puts the district in a position of having to spend money in a certain way in order to get money interferes with the board's discretion in making budget cuts.

Also any choice program where the students must be housed together reduces the district's flexibility in filling its existing classrooms to capacity before adding new structures.

In these respects, MI will force program cuts, staff reductions and other revenue cutting measures in areas that might not have had to be cut if the program did not exist.

And, to whoever said that Ahnold won't cut education, the stakes are way too high to not anticipate and plan for that to happen. We don't want to get caught with our pants down if we have to make mid-year budget cuts. In the past, the governator has played fast and loose with the Prop. 98 minimum guarantee, and I have no doubt he'll do it again.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Ohlonepar,

"I didn't say delay Mandarin forever...." I hear ya. I'm just pointing out that no delay--for two years or forever--will increase the funds the district has. Delaying immersion would only have a negative impact on the budget.

As for CLIP, it has no problems with attrition. Their classrooms are full because so many like the program. I don't know what you mean about a "big drop-off" around 2/3 or about not being able to move older kids into the program.

We'll have to wait and see about demand here, but demand is high in Cupertino.



Posted by Quick plea, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2008 at 2:30 pm

The only thing MI MAY or MAY NOT do as affects attendance increase is to encourage yet more people to move here who would be otherwise happy enough where they are with their private school, or encourage people to pull their kids out of private school if they get lucky and get into MI. That can ALSO be said for any of our choice programs...AS WELL AS everytime we improve our school district in a way that draws more people here or encourages the use of our PAUSD over a private school.

Can we PLEASE drop the whole MI thing? I am speaking as one who was very opposed..but it is done, it is here, it is decided..time to quit!


Posted by James, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 16, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Paul Losch,

I ask you what your are willing to cut, and you answer with:

"Are you willing to pay a higher parcel tax? "

and

"As I suggested, there are many things that are on the table"

So Palo Alto of you. I understand that your answer is a political answer, but it just isn't substantive. We are now at the point where real leadership will need to identify specific cuts.

To answer yur specific question: No, I will not support another parcel tax. Been there done that.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2008 at 4:26 pm

CLIP is full because as kids drop off, Cupertino has no problem repopulating the program with mardarine proficient kids. You have no evidence otherwise. If you do, share it, and tell us where you got it, because the CLIP program itself claims it doesn't have this info.

Then how can I say it?? Because the strand enrollment numbers since 2000 have been posted on these threads many times, and you can clearly see the history of that program flushing itself full in the mid grade years in each strand. (And midgrade entry required mandarin proficiency testing at grade level.) The strands end with the numbers they started with (a few kids lower), but only through heavy repopulation with Mandarin proficient kids.

Parent - delaying MI would have a neutral impact on the budget - not a negative effect on the budget. MI is not a money maker for the district - the grant only matches incremental money spent on the program. By definition. And it certainly is not reimbursing us for Marilyn Cook, becky Cohn Vargas, Norm Masuda, Susan Charles (district staff).

In fact, the attraction of families interested in MI will cause a specific MI driven increase in enrollment (see the feasibility study for the statements from Marilyn Cook herself, confirming this is true), so in FACT, delaying MI would stave off that particular enrollment growth that otherwise wouldn't occur.)

I'd like to see PAUSD start MI concurrent with their FLES program. Seems fair.


Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 16, 2008 at 4:53 pm

OhlonePar,
I'm forced to pay taxes for schools. If I have limited resources for education, that effectively forces me to use the public schools.
I don't agree with your premise that parents wouldn't freely support private schools. Most put a high priority on education.
As you can see from these posts, the one-size-fits-all public education doesn't fit all. Parental control beats government indoctrination.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Parent,

I agree it would be great to see a FLES program arrive soon in Palo Alto, but the high cost means we'll have to find a way to pay for it, either through cuts or additional new income. Any cuts would have to win support from the broader community. Perhaps someone will help the district track down and apply for outside money....

I think you were agreeing with me that CLIP has no problems with under-filled classrooms. I don't know if there is "heavy repopulation" because I don't know how many kids drop out (CLIP itself says this is a non-issue), but there are waiting lists of English- and Mandarin-proficient kids hoping to get into every grade.

You are right that the grant only matches local money spent, but that local money can be spent on, say, teachers, whom we'd have to pay anyway. The matching grant money can be spent in a variety of ways. For instance, technology that can be used by other language programs. The grant money can also support Mandarin instruction outside the confines of MI (for instance high school language courses). So delaying MI would mean delaying those incoming dual-use funds.

We'll never know if MI will cause a specific increase in enrollment, but the fact is that the many attractive features of our school system attract families with school children. It is the curse of having a good school district.




Posted by JLS Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 16, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Wow, lots of hysteria and vituperation in this thread. Sheesh. It would certainly be nice if folks could just LET THE WHOLE MI THING GO.

If you watched the board meeting last night, you heard Cathy Mak (acting district co-CBO) say that the impact of the Governor's proposed cuts on Palo Alto schools for this year would be minimal, and for the 2008-9 year would be approximately $890,000 out of a total budget of $141 million. While we would all prefer to lose nothing at all, it certainly seems to me that as a Basic Aid district we are looking to come out of this smelling like roses.

I believe that some judicious cuts will need to be made, but if we have any reasonable property tax increase at all, perhaps we can get away with almost no cuts. Remember in Palo Alto the state portion of the overall school budget is something under 10%, iirc.

So, instead of everybody focusing on which program to slash (and perpetually dragging on and on and ON with the MI debate), perhaps we could all focus on the upcoming strategic planning process and what we want our students to attain in our schools.

We're part of the lucky few on Basic Aid. (Of the nearly 1000 districts in California, only about 66 are Basic Aid districts.) I'm not saying that our schools have everything they need--clearly our facilities need significant investment and we would be better served by more counselors and more specialists. But compared to revenue limit districts, we're exceedingly lucky.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 9:25 am

I guess this assumes that Palo Alto will be immune to the curren housing market slow down, and drops in property values, so our property tax income will continue to grow at 5-6% range - or more? Not only to cover these cuts, plus inflation plus significant projected enrollment growth. Plus the permanent bump UP in operating costs of about $2M we'll shortly incur for the opening of a 13th school.)

And I don't know how much school district employees make, but $1M per year would be worth about 10 employees salaries, plus some. I guess its not trivial if you're one of the 10, or one of the remaining ones who's picking up the work of one of the 10 who just left. The question is where do we get the $1M per year? What do we cut? And then how do we absorb the Garland operating budget on top of that? Are we really in a position for new start up non-essential programming?

So we might be lucky compared to other schools in California (and I think few would argue with that assessemnt), but that doesn't trivialize the fact that we've got a budget problem we need to take seriously.


Posted by Sam, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 12:49 pm

> Thanks to public schooling most of us have
> ancestors who were able to move from
> poverty into the middle class.

In 1900, only about 6% of the US population graduated from high school. At the time, the US was not deemed to be a country "in poverty". In fact, people came from all over the world to take advantage of the relative freedom to own property, to be free of restrictive governments and to have a chance to guide their own lives for a change.

Education for their children might have been one of the reasons people migrated, but the opportunity to be free and to own something to call "my own" was the main reason. It was their hard work and their willingness to sacrifice that caused most of these people to "move into the middle class".


Posted by Jean, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Does anybody know how old a PAUSD citizen needs to be to get taken off the parcel tax rolls? I just turned 62. Do I qualify? If so, what do I need to do?


Posted by 65-Is-The-Magic-Number, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 1:55 pm

> Does anybody know how old a PAUSD citizen needs to
> be to get taken off the parcel tax rolls?

65 years old.

> I just turned 62. Do I qualify?

No.

By the way, one has to apply for the exemption -- it is not automatic.


Posted by Suffering from Prop 13, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Jean:

How cheap can you be? If you have been here for a while you have been seeing your home value grow gigantically. Further, since your share of school bond costs are based on assessed values, you aren't paying your fair share of bond taxes or regular taxes.

You get the benefit of great schools that improve your property value and you don't want to pay and you aren't paying your share. Unless you have some income issues, shame on you.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Suffering from Prop 13:

Jean, if she was 65, would be exercising her rights under the terms that the parcel tax was passed. There should be no shame in exercising your rights - just like deducting your mortgage payments from your taxes, taking your homeowners exemption,etc.

When you purchased your home, you did so knowing what your property taxes were going to be - I don't think it's fair to berate someone else because they had to the foresight or good fortune to buy their house before you did.


Posted by Joan, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2008 at 3:32 pm

I have always supported our schools, but now I want to quit paying for them. I don't like the way things are going. Too many schools offer fancy programs, like language immersion, and now another language program is around the corner. Our neighborhood schools seem to be disappearing in favor of specialty schools. Somebody told me that the Pledge of Allegiance is no longer said at our schools.

I suppose I will need to pay for another 3 years, but that will be the end of it.


Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2008 at 3:50 pm

I never voluntarily supported our public schools. I have always voted against all school bonds and parcel taxes. I don't ask for or want public schools, but I am forced by taxes to pay for them. It's some compensation for me if I opt out of parcel taxes when possible. Those who vote for them should feel obligated to pay-but I don't.


Posted by Abe S., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Attention seniors, take out your reverse mortgages soon!

As Palo Alto turns into a full-blown retirement community over the next 10 years, the illusion that this community is willing to financially support education will disappear, and housing prices will collapse.

Eventually we're going to run out of the supply of fools who pay exorbitant housing prices because they think their children will be getting a superior education in Palo Alto.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 3:57 pm

To anyone who thinks that a language for all program is too fancy for us to pay for, how about all the other fancy programs in our schools. Music may be useful, but we have a choice of band, orchestra or choir, shouldn't just one program be enough. PE should be required in school, but we have pe plus a myriad of sport options which necessitate gyms, swimming pools, etc.

To anyone who thinks that we are getting more and more fancy, how about sitting outside eating lunch at park benches, sitting in the cold and or damp in winter and the hot sun in summer.

Our education offerings are supposed to be excellent. Well, if this is excellent, I am glad I am not in a mediocre district.

I am not saying that we should have no choices, but saying that language for all is not necessary then please, go back to the stoneage.


Posted by Real-Estate-Agents-Will-Say-Anything, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 4:16 pm

> You get the benefit of great schools that improve
> your property value

There is almost no proof of this statement. Homes that originally sold for $12-$14,000 in 1950 can not have become worth $1M 55 years later because of the school system. Impossible.

Here's another test for this theory--in 1994, median home prices were about $450,000. By 2004, the median price had doubled to about $850,000. So, how many people believe that the median price of a home will be $1.6-$2M 8-10 years from now, and $3.2-$4M twenty years from now because of "the schools"?

If not, why not?


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 17, 2008 at 4:34 pm

"Homes that originally sold for $12-$14,000 in 1950 can not have become worth $1M 55 years later because of the school system. Impossible."

Really? Go ask new home buyers with kids what the primary reason was for the housing premium they paid. You might have to renew your assumption after that.

Also, you're arguing from poor logic to make a mistaken point. Your logic takes a one-time exception in housing price increases, and makes it universal. You claim is that Palo Alto homes will increase by orders of magnitude, into infinity. Ding! Wrong...


Posted by Roger, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 17, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Homes in Palo Alto have, on average, appreciated about 10% per year. If inflation of the currency is about 5% per year, that means that PA homes have a premium of about 5% per year (these are rough numbers). One can argue until pigs fly as to what that 5% premium can be attributed to. However, It is not inconceivable that there is just a demand to live in Palo Alto, becasue it is next to Stanford and the SRP. As to the schools, let me argue to the extreme: Suppose the public schools are lousy, like in San Fracisco. People with means will just send their kids to private schools, like they do in SF. SF still has very high property prices. Therefore, I think the school forcing of home prices is overrated.


Posted by Abe S., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Rodger and Mike:

Do you know anyone who has purchased a home in Palo Alto in the past 5 years? 10 years? Why don't you ask why they purchased here? Everyone I know who purchased a house in here in the past decade said they moved here for the schools. Thank God for fools.


Posted by Roger, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 17, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Abe S.,

Actually, I have had such discussions with my newer neighbors. Several of them have no children, so schools are not the issue for them. Those with children mention schools in passing. In fact, some of them already send their children to private schools. As far I can decipher, these people moved here becasue they like the elitist atmoshphere of Palo Alto. They like to live among smart people, on tree-lined streets. They also feel that PA is relatively safe (for themselves and their children). Don't forget the weather, a very big plus. I think they also believe that PA is a safe bet in terms of home prices.

I think it is an unproven hypoethesis that school quality is a major factor in home prices in PA. Such arguments are used, routinely, to pass bond measures, but that does not mean that they are true.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 17, 2008 at 6:05 pm

"As far I can decipher, these people moved here becasue they like the elitist atmoshphere of Palo Alto. They like to live among smart people, on tree-lined streets. They also feel that PA is relatively safe (for themselves and their children). Don't forget the weather, a very big plus. I think they also believe that PA is a safe bet in terms of home prices."

These are also fators that result in property value increases.

Also, Abe, read my post. We agree, except on the issue that I'm a fool. :))


Posted by Suffering from Prop 13, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Two Irrefutable Points:

1. There is a significant price differential on the borders of the district between homes in the PAUSD and those that are not. Why? The schools. It is worth at least 10% any direction you go. How much is maintaining that differential worth to residents.

2. Those folks who live in their homes for a long time do not pay anything close to what those of us who move into the community now do. Prop 13 is the law and that's the way it is. But for folks who are so benefited by this reality to then claim the exemption should provoke some pangs of guilt. The difference from one comparable house to another is often up to 15 times!

Note, parcel taxes are deductible from state and federal income taxes! Smile


Posted by Roger, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 17, 2008 at 6:33 pm

Suffering from Prop 13,

Los Altos Hills and Menlo Park both border PA. Their property values are at least as expensive as PA. A number of families in EPA have access to PA schools, however that does not make their home prices increase to PA levels. Your argument does not work, as you present it.


Posted by Abe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Los Altos Hills and Menlo Park both border PA. Their property values are at least as expensive as PA.
--Not true for comparable houses--

A number of families in EPA have access to PA schools, however that does not make their home prices increase to PA levels. Your argument does not work, as you present it.
--An irrelevant argument, access to PA schools is through luck, residency, and race in EPA. Buying a house or renting an apartment in EPA does not mean high probability access to PA schools. And, oh yeah, the crime thing.---


Posted by Oh hum, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 10:09 pm

PAUSD loves to bombard us with supposedly bads news regarding their budget, all the better to milk more dollars out of Palo Alto homeowners. Then, very often, with no fanfare whatsoever comes the news that the schools' fiscal situation was not that bad after all.

I have lived in Palo Alto for 18 years, and it's been like this for 18 years.

Beware of all the "bad news" from PAUSD... they are more fabricated than true.


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 17, 2008 at 11:02 pm

Look, Ho hum, I've become very jaded over the past few years in the wake of the various debacles and crises in our district and the way in which some of our appointed as well as elected officials have handled them. But I would never accuse anyone of fabricating a budgetary crisis to milk taxpayers out of their hard earned dollars.

The fact is that managing the budget of a basic aid district is especially tricky because we rely primarily on property tax revenues for funding and we don't know what those revenues will be until the end of the fiscal year. So a school district budget is prepared based upon predictions, and those predictions change over the course of the year, sometimes going up, sometimes going down. The closure or devaluation of a large business in Palo Alto can have an enormous impact on our tax revenues.

I remember all too well just a few years ago when Gray Davis tried to seize over $25 million in our property taxes to help pay down the state deficit. We won that battle, but lost our basic aid funding of about $100 per student in the process.

The incident made us acutely aware that whenever there's a financial crisis in our state, legislators will be looking for ways to get their hands on our "excess" property taxes, excess in this case referring to the amount per student above and beyond what the state ensures for non basic aid districts. For our district, that excess amount is several thousand dollars per student.

The beauty of parcel taxes is that, by law, they must stay in our community. They provide a steady, reliable source of income that the district can count on.

I'm just a regular person, not an elected official or district employee, but I predict that we are headed for some very painful and difficult years in our district, and that we will need to raise class sizes and cut back on staff and programming to make ends meet.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:38 am

We bought in Palo Alto for the schools primarily, and for the nice residential neighborhoods without too many big apartment complexes crowded in. I know a couple other families that moved here recently for the schools too. It wouldn't be wise to underestimate the importance of the school district in supporting inflated property values, especially among recent immigrants who highly value home ownership and believe in the API (test score). Look at Cupertino, Saratoga, and Mission San Jose property demand... If Palo Alto schools were to measurably deteriorate , it would make a lot more sense to move where the housing cost is ~1/2 for a nicer house that is 2x the size and use the tax/mortgage savings to pay for private school (because housing prices in PA wouldn't be immune to decline).


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 18, 2008 at 5:17 pm

R. Wray,

In other words, you've voted against supporting public schools while you've benefitted from the property-values boost that comes from living in a good school distrist.

Sam,

In 1900, a high-school education wasn't required for the vast majority of work. However, even then, kids were sent to public schools and the majority of the American population was literate. The norm was to go through 8th grade. Literacy was considered necessary for a self-governing country. Not everyone who wants their kids to be educated can *afford* private schooling. I'm not sure what sort of bubble you've lived in if you don't realize that.

As for those squawking about not wanting to hear about MI--sorry, it's not over and done with, so here we are. Interestingly enough, Susan Charles mentioned the possibility of two-story buildings at Ohlone if MI stayed--but that would require a bond passing. Thanks to the anger aroused by MI, it's not at all clear to me that a bond has any guarantee of passing--not when Camille Townsend came in behind two non-incumbents and squeaked through with 200 votes.

I hadn't realized the grant required the district to pay out an equal amount. Hmmm, no FLES and a sizable sum dedicated to a tiny program? Oh, yeah, *that's* not going to create resentment.

Of course, I think we all know that the PACE crowd is really eyeing Garland in three years. Hmmm, hold off on MI, then use the federal money to bring Garland up to snuff . . .

One other interesting point about MI alluded to by Charles--the program's going to be self-limiting because we don't have very many native Mandarin speakers. We're not Cupertino. So while CLIP has so means to compensate for attrition, we do not. You can see our problem with the upper grades of SI.

Anyway, MI's going to continue to be on the table around here--particularly if we're facing budget cuts. There are just too many unresolved issues surrounding it and the way it was forced on the district.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Not a fan of MI, but the "matching" the grant money can come from paying the teachers we would pay even if they were not MI kids, the Mandarin program in HS, etc. It doesn't mean we need to come up with an extra cash contribution. As far as flexibility, there is nothing to prevent us from combining grades k-2 in one MI class and grades 3-5 in another. Our new superintendent seems to be a flexible, pragmatic person, open to ideas that work. Also, if the state budget impact education enough, we may not be able to afford to reopen Garland for anything.


Posted by Oh hum, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Here we go again,


Please, be my guest, increase class sizes. I had kids in PA schools before and after class size reduction and I did not see any significant change in the quality of education. Another bogus thing.


Posted by Oh hum, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Dan

Please feel free to move to Cupertino or wherever else any time. I know people who want to move here from Cupertino, no matter what else.

You are falling prey to scare tactics.

Having lived here for 18 years I have become immune to them.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Please do not look on selling Cubberly, in part or whole, as a means of making up the shortfall. This would be shortsighted to say the least.


Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 18, 2008 at 10:06 pm

OhlonePar says,
--"In other words, you've voted against supporting public schools while you've benefitted from the property-values boost that comes from living in a good school distrist."--
On the contrary, I suffer because of reduced property values. If we in Palo Alto had freedom in education (no forced taxes or public schools), the property values would be much higher here.
Those without kids would pay more for property to escape the taxes.
Those with kids would know that all their education money would stay in the area and not be shipped down state. There would undoubtedly be many great private schools with a lot of choice. Parents would pay more for property if they had the free choice of where to spend their education dollars.


Posted by curious, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2008 at 9:25 am

I cannot understand why anyone would buy a house in Palo Alto if they are not going to use at some point the Public Schools. Why would you pay the "PA premium"? Somebody who just bought a house here in the last 5 years who never plans to use the PAUSD, please tell me why you paid so much for your house here, versus MP or MV/LA/LAH, Saratoga etc.


Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2008 at 9:29 am

I like the comment above about how a $1,000,000 cut on a $141,000,000 budget is not great, but as a percent isn't that bad, either.

But, our entire budget is more like $180,000,000 ( or more, I haven't added it all up lately), so as a percentage cut, it is even smaller than it looks.

May I add that we have gone from a $109,000,000 operating budget 3 years ago to $141,000,000 operating budget this year. A little over 20% increase in 3 years with less than 8% increase in student population.

I don't think the sky is falling, and I think worrying about how to pay, even on an incremental basis, for a FL program reflects poorly on our priorities. Even just expanding FL to ALL 6th graders would be a massive improvement in our FL program!


Posted by Janet, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 19, 2008 at 11:10 am

Another way to look at the issue of whether the public schools are driving values in Palo Alto is to imagine that they were all eiminated (no more public schools). Each child would then get an educational voucher to attend the private school of his/her parents' choice. If anything, this would probably drive PA home prices even higher.

I agree with Roger, above. People pay high prices in Palo Alto for a variety of reasons.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 19, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Whoa, PA mom,

Three grades per class? For all subjects? That seems a bit of a challenge.

I *could* see a Yew Cheung approach, where kids were in normal classes most of the time and then spent some serious time doing Mandarin in a mixed-age group.

Right now, the program is supposed to be two sets each of mixed classes--so two K/1, then two 2/3s--oops, we're now out of space.

Realistically, I could see two K/1s, two 2/3s, one 4/5--as the attrition kicks in and the allowable class size expands.


R Wray and Janet,

Sorry, guys, you're both dead wrong on this one. Not only do we benefit from having good schools, we *really* benefit from having lousy schools in other districts.

If there were no public schools and thus an even playing field, our property prices would flatten since we would cease to be one of the relatively few districts in California with good schools.

People pay a premium for our schools because there's a scarcity of good public schools in California.

Change that, other values would come into play--we would be convenient, but we'd have relatively small lots and houses. The huge disparity between our housing prices and those of Redwood City would disappear.

Or, for that matter, more scenic venues such as Half Moon Bay, which have mediocre schools, would gain in value while we would lose.

We do not benefit from evening the playing field this way, because the school factor has been to our extreme advantage as people bid wildly against one another to get into our district.

There is study after study on this, by the way--top school districts show the greatest rate of increase in home values. Of all the factors affecting home prices, school district quality is number one--thus, the cost per sf is higher here than it is in Woodside and Portola Valley. Even where people can afford private schools, the quality of the public schools plays a factor. Thus, Woodside and PV have excellent elementaries and a mediocre high school (so people with money send their kids to the public elementary and to private highs) And way higher than in East Palo Alto, which is just as convenient as PA and closer to the water to boot with the same weather.

*You* may not buy for school quality, but most people do--particularly in a family-oriented city like ours. They sure don't come here for the nightlife.


Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2008 at 11:13 am

OlhonePar wrote:
---"If there were no public schools and thus an even playing field, our property prices would flatten since we would cease to be one of the relatively few districts in California with good schools."---
This is really an odd statement.
1. One of the main purposes of public schools is to provide an "even playing field". There is the same basic indoctrination for all students and CA tax money is spread around the state to even up expenditures. To claim that a private school system would be more even or level is ridiculous.
2. The statement implies that private schools would be better than public schools. That's part of my argument. I'm surprised that OhlonePar would concede that. That means that her arguments in favor of public schools are based only on collectivised premises and not on quality education.


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 20, 2008 at 2:23 pm

R Wray,

CA tax money is spread around the state to bring each district up to its revenue limit, but that falls far short of evening up expenditures. That system does not apply to the roughly 60 Basic Aid districts, of which PAUSD is one. Basic Aid district's property taxes surpass the state-determined revenue limit, and are allowed to keep the "excess."

Both Revenue Limit and Basic Aid districts that are able to pass bond measures and parcel taxes bring in additional revenue for enhancing the school buildings and programming. Districts with private foundations to raise money for schools have yet another source of funding.

The entire funding model for public education in this state is a disaster. It's not equitable, or fair, or even adequate. It ensures that the majority of students perform well below those of most other states.

Palo Alto is one of the very few exceptions. If you wonder if our housing prices have anything to do with that fact, just look at Los Altos Hills, which is split between PAUSD and Los Altos School District for K-8 and Mountain View-Los Altos Union for 9-12. Homes in the PAUSD attendance area go for more than comparable homes in the LASD/MVLA area. Just ask a real estate agent.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2008 at 11:58 pm

R Wray,

Do you have any idea how the school funding works in the state? You don't seem too. Here we go again puts it out pretty cleanly.

As a matter of fact, I *don't* like what Prop. 13 did to California's schools. I don't like that even districts like ours have buildings in lousy condition and overcrowded cubicles because we don't have the money to build new facilities or even reopen old ones.

However, it's obvious, as a property owner, that I paid for the privilege of being in this district and that someone else will pay me through the nose for the same privilege later on.

I don't have to morally approve of the situation to see what the hard facts are here. What I'm surprised at is that you, who seems to be in the Ayn Randish category, doesn't understand what the selfish stance is in this case--the bigger the discrepancy between PA schools and other districts, the better for my home's resale value. A good school district is a scarce resource in this state, so people pay a premium for it.

However, while it might not be in my immediate best interest to improve the overall school situation in the state, I'd still vote and pay to do so because I'm not a libertarian and I think, longterm, we benefit when everyone has access to a decent education and a decent standard of living.

But then, I studied the French Revolution.


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 21, 2008 at 9:03 am

I forgot to mention that there is a small part of Palo Alto in the Los Altos/Mountain View attendance area. Those homes sell for less than comparable homes in Palo Alto in the PAUSD attendance area. The Palo Alto premium exists, and it's about the schools here.

I agree with OP that it's vitally important to lift up the quality of schools across the state. Our enrollment here is increasing so fast that it will be difficult to keep up with the demand in terms of classroom space and funding for the additional staff salaries and supplies.

As someone on another thread pointed out, that enrollment increase is not coming from sales of big mansions, but from complexes popping up all over with below market rate prices. Taxes from these homes will not cover the cost of the students who live in them.

If schools across the state were to improve, people wouldn't be so desperate to move here to ensure an adequate education for their children. The shameful quality of public education that is available to the majority of students in this state will eventually drag down even the districts that have managed to stay excellent so far.


Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 21, 2008 at 11:56 am

OhlonePar, It makes sense that you are a fan of the French revolution. A Robespierre quote: "Children belong to the mother until the age of 5 and after that to the republic until death". The French revolution became based on the corrupt ideas of Plato and Rousseau. That's why France failed and became a military dictatorship right after the revolution. Compare that result to the American revolution--based on the ideas of Aristotle and Locke and the idea of individual rights.


Posted by perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2008 at 2:12 pm

OP - please tell us how much higher of a percentage of your income you would volunteer to pay into the State coffers to improve education in California ( which presumes that money=quality in education...a poor presumption since DC pays the most per student and has the poorest outcome).

Or are you referring to voting for standards for allowing kids to pass from one grade to the next?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2008 at 2:46 pm

R Wray,

It has nothing to do with my being a fan of the French Revolution--more that extreme social inequity can lead to ugly consequences. I don't view historical events like sports--I'm not interested in taking sides, but understanding what happened. Extreme inequity destabilizes societies. You need people to have a stake in the system--otherwise, well, you don't have to look further than the Middle East.

The last thing we need is a permanent alienated underclass.

Perspective,

If we hadn't passed Prop. 13, I'd probably being paying less not more. I wouldn't have had to pay as a high a price for my home because there wouldn't be such a premium on good school districts. So, lower housing price, even with a higher tax rate, I'd probably be better off.

What we have in California is unstable cash flow since the distribution of property taxes in so inequitable and a tied-up budget.

Given that our system went from being one of the top to being among the worst, I think that says way more about the effects of money/quality here than what goes on in DC, with its particular challenges.

Or more to the point, Basic Aid districts have more income per child than do general revenue districts. Guess which districts have better results?

So, it's less, really, about how much more money am I willing to pay than about how much profit potential am I willing to abandon if good public schools stopped being a rare commodity in this state.

YMMV, but yes I'm willing to possess less individual wealth to live in a society with a healthier infrastructure. I realize that this is not everyone's choice and we have different things we think are worth paying for, but that's me personally.


Posted by Sally, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 21, 2008 at 3:04 pm

OhlonePar,

I usually like to hear your analysis, but your notion that educational vouchers would bring up the rest, thus making PA seem realatively worse, is a real stinker! I am choking on my diet Coke! Before I proceed further, does this make you an advocate of vouchers?

There were a couple of posters, above, that made the argument that PA is expensive, becasue it has some many things going for it, especially Stanford, good weather, and smart people. If all the smart people decided to send their kids to private schools, how would this fact diminish our property values? As one of the above posters said, San Francisco has lousy public schools, yet it has high property values. Do you suppose that those rich parents in SF are willing to sell out at fire-sale prices, just because they need to send their kids to Marin Country Day?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Sally,

Vouchers? I didn't say a word about vouchers. I don't support them as it happens. I don't see the point of taking money from public schools which are open to all to private schools which are not.

San Francisco is a very different place than Palo Alto. Younger, more singles. People don't move there for the same reason as they move to here.

My posts are less about what I favor than the economic realities of the situation. We're not that different from our neighboring cities--except when it comes to our school situation.

Vouchers wouldn't begin to address the problem--they'd probably make it worse.


Posted by Eric, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2008 at 10:42 pm

I'm not sure if folks who are saying there isn't a Palo Alto premium based on schools are naive or just simply have been out of the real estate loop for too many years.

When we bought (in Menlo Park) some years back the best advice we got was to look at school district maps, not just city maps. Sure enough, you could see property values fluctuate by school access. As somebody already pointed out, the area of Palo Alto served by Mountain View has lower prices for equivalent houses. Similarly, there is a little chunk of Mountain View served by Los Altos schools. Prices there are noticeably higher than for similar houses mere blocks away.


Posted by Sally, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 22, 2008 at 1:44 pm

OhlonePar,

You said, "If there were no public schools and thus an even playing field, our property prices would flatten since we would cease to be one of the relatively few districts in California with good schools."

It was my assumption that you were referring to vouchers, otherwise, how would the kids go to private school, unless they were rich? However you want to slice the cake, assume that all kids go to private schools, then track my argument.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Hi Sally,

My comments were in response to R Wray, who seems to think that if there were no public schools, parents would just cough up the money for private schools. His is an extreme libertarian viewpoint--I was just pointing out as a hypothetical why this wouldn't actually be to his advantage.

So, I didn't get to the "how" part of the issue. I have horrible feeling I'd be stuck in some sort co-op with massive volunteer duties . . .


Posted by JennieLyn, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 22, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Why are we viciously accusing one another -- older people, new residents, those interested in language programs -- of greed when, in fact, it is commercial and industrial real estate holders that have been the biggest winners from Prop 13 over the past 30 years?

About four years ago I read an article in, I believe, the Weekly, that detailed how commercial and industrial real estate owners were paying an ever smaller share of total property taxes in Santa Clara County. The reason (if memory serves) was (a) that such real estate turned over more slowly than residential homes, hence was revalued rarely to current market rates, and (b) that real estate could be held by corporations, which could themselves be sold without the real estate, technically, changing hands, hence being revalued.

I just checked this out for San Mateo County and learned that single-family homeowners paid 50% of total property taxes in 1977-78 (start of Prop 13) and commercial/industrial property owners paid 26% of total taxes (plus 11% for "unsecured" businesd property). In the most recent year that the County did the math, 2002-03, these percentages had changed substantially. By then, single-family homeowners were footing 62% of the total bill, vs. 21% for commercial industrial (and 7% for unsecured property). This despite the fact that, according to someone in the County assessor's office, the County was substantially "built-out" residentially by 1978 -- whereas considerable new commercial and industrial building has been constructed.

Bottom line: if all taxpayers -- commercial and industrial real estate owners, utilities, and landlords -- had seen their taxes go up at the same rate as (still Prop 13-limited!) single-family homeowners, San Mateo would have an additional $212.8 million to spend each year on ... yes ... schools, police, libraries, senior centers, community colleges, ...

But Prop 13 was all about helping business, wasn't it?

Or was it older people?

Has anyone asked what the deal is in Santa Clara County these days? Are all those lovely Silicon Valley companies funding education ... or sports pavillions at Stanford?


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