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District: a thousand more kids to educate

Original post made on Jun 29, 2007

With new housing, an increase in birth rates and young families moving into the city, Palo Alto educators are asking themselves how they're going to educate all the new kids.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (198)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 29, 2007 at 4:58 pm

This board is on a very strange trip. When AAAG told them weeks ago that they needed to open a new elementary. The board ignored the advice saying it needed to look more into the matter. Now all of a sudden it is a big issue. Hello it was a big issue weeks ago along with MI but you choose to ignore it. Then you back track on MI to appease a minority of parents. One thing for sure about this board is that all you have to do is wait and they will eventually come around.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2007 at 5:19 pm

It was insanity to sell off our former school sites. Birth rates were bound to rebound, and they have. Couldn't tell that to the feminists at the time, though - it was so much about liberation from children that was in the air. A real disaster.

The soultions, since we face a crisis:

1. Terminate leases at Cubberly and Garland and Freemont Hills.

2. Terminate Tinsley (VTP)

3. Terminate 20 per classroom, and return to 25-32 per classoom, the way it was for many years.

4. Eliminate boutique options like DI (Hoover), SI (Escondido), CI Ohlone), MI (also Ohlone). Go back to neighborhood schools. Let the boutiques develop their own desires via charters or privates.

5. Realize that Palo Alto has FINITE resources, not infinite ones. Time to grow up.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 29, 2007 at 9:00 pm

Al, if alternative schools convert to charter schools, where will the district house them? Charter law says that if the programs have 80 district kids, the district must give them school space similar to what is offered in other district schools.

Clearly not everyone likes alternative education, but it exists because some people prefer alternatives. People hold different values on this question, and it behooves us to figure out how to coexist and not turn this into some kind of religious war. Societies that spit on what each other holds dear spend their energy squabbling instead of building something they all care about.


Posted by Former PAUSD parent, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 29, 2007 at 9:21 pm

The School Board must be kidding to think they can pass a bond of such high value! The board is struggling with strategy - approving issues they had already defeated (Mandarin Immersion), dismiss demographic reports only to circle back and raise enrollment as an issue and then to have the audacity to present a $700 million bond to vote - whew! Remember, execution is far the best measure of how you are doing and the board gets a failing grade on execution. Palo Alto schools have declined since our children attended - a mere 3 years ago.


Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 29, 2007 at 9:47 pm

I absolutely agree with Al. The financial resources of Palo Alto are being used for purposes other than educating our kids. Mandarin Immersion, Spanish Immersion and the like should be terminated, as should the voluntary transfer program, Tinsley. I doubt that a MI or SI charter school could pass state scruntiny, especially given the new Supreme Court decision,whereby race cannot be relied on, as it has in the past, to determine school placement decisions.


Posted by bah, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2007 at 11:30 pm



This is so very sad. The Board of Education was warned more than a year ago of this coming growth due to more housing and
families moving into homes formally lived in by seniors. But no
use to cry now. The Board and new Superintendent must act now to take back Garland either as an elementary or a Jr. High School. They already own part of Cubberly having traded the
other half from the city for Terman. (Cubberly could become a
Math and Science Alternative School). Fremont Hills is another possibility, but would mean the loss of lease money to the dist.
There is the possibility of a second story at Terman so as not
to destroy the fields and park. And possibility of the International
school next to Terman becoming part of the P A schools. But
all these possible considerations should be made in full view
of the public so they will understand that money will be a large
part of saving the Palo Alto school system. If the district wants
the public to support the schools, the public must understand what they are being asked to pay for.
asked to pay for..


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 30, 2007 at 12:39 am

Yeesh, what did they *think* was going to happen? This has been obvious for ages.

Obviously, they need to start getting ready to reopen Garland. I'd be curious, too, if they could work out a deal for the old Ventura site--the building's still there and it's relatively central. Otherwise, there's Greendell and Fremont Hills. And Cubberly, of course.

Converting choice programs into neighborhood schools won't affect overcrowding--those kids have to go somewhere. And, ONCE AGAIN, you can't convert a public school into a charter. It's right there in the law. In fact, closing the choice schools would mean there would be groups of parents with kids in Palo Alto pushing for a charter--space for which would then have to be proviced for by the district.

In other words, Al, majorly bad idea given the hundreds of kids at Ohlone and Hoover. You're better off keeping those schools around to alleviate some of the burden on the neighborhood schools. Yes, I know you're made about what happened 30 years ago, but you're not proposing a real solution.

Anyway, it sounds like Palo Alto has the buildings and the sites to accommodate growth--it's a question of money to bring the buildings up to code and compensate for the last rent. In other words, the big bond issue.

Too bad the board screwed it ups so badly on MI. They're astonishingly short-sighted.


Posted by Grandma, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2007 at 6:06 am

Al, the school district sold off school sites in the 1970s because the voters turned down bond measures and told the school district to sell off sites before asking for more money from the residents. Anyway, the school district still has four elementary scxhool sites available to it, the former Garland, Greendell, Ventura and Fremont Hills school sites.

I agree the Tinsley case (Volunteer Transfer Program) whereby some 450 students from San Mateo County attending Palo Alto Schools should end. The problem here is they don't have available schools to go back to.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2007 at 6:11 am

Al for School Board. Accept that resources are limited, then utilize them as efficiently as possible for their primary intended purpose. Leave the blue sky to another venue.


Posted by A Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2007 at 10:01 am

The Tinsley case (VTP students) are in Palo Alto schools because a Judge signed off on a voluntary integration plan in the 1970s. These students are with us forever and according to the agreement, the number increases every year. The only way to end the VTP program will be through litigation.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2007 at 10:59 am

Resident of Midtown

How do you work out that the number of VTP students increases every year? From my understanding, a certain number are given places in kindergarten each year, they come in from sibling preference and the remaining spaces filled by lottery. If there is any attrition in the first 3 years, then spaces are filled from a waiting list. After 3rd grade, any attrition is lost and the spaces cannot be filled with new VTP students.

This, in my reckoning, means that the number should be constant and any disparity is caused by variable attrition in grades beyond 3rd. If I am wrong in my assumptions, please explain.


Posted by steve levy, a resident of University South
on Jun 30, 2007 at 11:39 am

30 years ago we had 12,000 students and a smaller tax base. Before that we had close to 16,000 students and an even smaller tax base. We had more schools and a richer array of school programs.

Most people then thought we had great schools.

I am not disputing that there have been program cuts during the past 20 years. I am just wondering why it seemed so easy (and, perhaps, less contentious) when we had more students and less money than it does today.


Posted by A Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2007 at 12:13 pm

Parent, the first year of the VTP program there were less than 20 students from San Mateo County, now nearly 30 years later there are over 400, the numbers have increased over the years.


Posted by 14k/yr, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 30, 2007 at 1:10 pm

Mr. Levy:

Assuming that you are correct about the increased level of school funding (as measured inflation adjusted dollars) in the past 30 years , which I doubt, there are several reasons for the squeeze on school budgets. A major problem is the high cost of labor in California, which like housing costs, has increased much faster in California than the rate of inflation for the rest of the country. Another factor is the imposition of the 20 student per class mandate in the primary schools. The aging local population is also a problem. An older population is far less interested in funding schools because their kids are out of the system. I know the special education programs have expanded dramatically over the past 30 years, but I believe that special education is funded by the county.

If you have the time and inclination to do so, I would be interested in obtaining accurate data on school spending over time.


The discussion about he VTP is largely irrelevant, except as a poltical issue, because there is way to undo it.


Posted by Gary, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2007 at 2:03 pm

"The discussion about he VTP is largely irrelevant, except as a poltical issue, because there is way to undo it."

I wouldn't be too sure about that, given the recent Supreme Court decision. The Tinsley decision was a court madated desegregation order. The only voluntary thing about it is that it allows minorities (only) to voluntarily sign up for VTP. It looks, to me like is is now in blatant violation of the law. Expect lawsuits.


Posted by 14k/yr, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 30, 2007 at 2:41 pm

Sorry Gary, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle doesn't give anyone in Palo Alto standing to Challenge the Tinsley settlement. No one in PA is being discriminated against. Of course, a non-minority student in EPA might be able to challenge the settlement on constitutional grounds and you could even fund his court battle.

If Parents v. Seattle had been the law when Tinsley was brought, Palo Alto may never have settled. But everyone who enters into a settlement should understand what rights they give up upon settling.


Posted by Gary, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2007 at 3:06 pm

"No one in PA is being discriminated against."

Over 500 VTP kids are taking up spaces in PA schools. As soon as even one or two PA parents get transferred out of their neighborhood schools, when there would have, otherwise, been room, except for VTP, they will use the recent decision to claim discimination, based on race.

The Supreme Court decision is broader than you think, 14/yr.


Posted by 14k/yr, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 30, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Gary

The Tinsley settlement does not discriminate against any protected class in Palo Alto.
It is unclear why you think adding non-PA students to PAUSD schools discriminates against PA students on the basis of the race of any PA student. The race of PA students is not being used in school decisions to transfer students to non-neighborhood schools. The determinant used for transferring students to non-neighborhood schools is the date their families moved into the neighborhood. If that kind of discrimination was unconstitutional, I wouldn't be paying 10x the property tax of my neighbors.


Posted by Gary, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2007 at 5:22 pm

"The Tinsley settlement does not discriminate against any protected class in Palo Alto."

That was not your original statement ("No one in PA is being discriminated against"). One does not need to be part of a protected class to be disciminated against, as an individual or group of individuals, if the basis of the personal discrimination is based on race.

14/yr, your arguments may have worked last week, but not this week.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 30, 2007 at 5:25 pm

The Merc ssaid that the Supreme Court decision would have little effect on California because of 209 already being in place. Though I'm also wondering if a Caucasian parent could challenge the race criteria of VTP. Particularly as the number of white students in the district is actually dropping--not just the percentage.


Posted by Gary, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2007 at 5:33 pm

"The Merc ssaid that the Supreme Court decision would have little effect on California because of 209 already being in place. "

That's nice that the Merc has it figured out, but federal law trumps state law. It is a long standing thing, since the Civil War.

This is the start of something big.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 30, 2007 at 5:36 pm

Gary,

The point is that the state law is pretty much in accordance with the federal law. The use of race as a criteria is already limited here. In other words, what is there to trump. Particularly given Kennedy's qualifying his decision.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2007 at 8:23 pm

don't get confused. the clear issue is nobody can any longer "force" integration based on race against the wishes of the person who prefers the closer school.

beyond that it gets a little murky, which will be litigated ad nauseum until untangled.

so, Tinsley doesn't force anyone to do anything..but the ruling certainly finally opens the door to a more reasonable approach to such programs ( not arguing for or against Tinsley here) to at least NOT be based on RACE, which is racist, but based on other factors..such as economics.

It is horribly racist to assume that white poor kids in EPA can't enter the Tinsley lottery because of the color of their skin, even though they may even be poorer than their neighbor who CAN enter the lottery because of skin color.

I am delighted. I see this as a step in the direction of setting standards based on factors other than race. It starts unraveling the racist presumption that one color needs to "help" another color because the second color is somehow inherently less capable..and instead shifts our focus more on one type of person..educated, rich, whatever you want to say, regardless of color, needs to teach those who aren't educated/rich how to become educated/rich.

(Assuming you believe that is the job of the educated/rich, which is a different discussion)




Posted by Mary, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 30, 2007 at 10:28 pm

to: 14 yr. resident of Jordan community. You said

"The aging local population is also a problem. An older population is far less interested in funding schools because their kids are out of the system."

That statement really BOTHERS ME. Sadly, that is the growing climate of attitude toward
Palo Alto's 'aging population'. That's a big brush you are 'tarring with" I don't know how old you are, but time passes very quickly - and you'll be there faster than you think. Seems like yesterday when I was in the PTA, lugging water and goodies to AYSO soccer, driving cheerleaders to games, rooting at football and soccer games, and being a room mother. Unlike the Midwest where the older population is valued and respected,
I don't see that in Palo Alto except for Avenidas. The 'cold calls' we get from realtors wondering if we would like to sell, - and
when we might be moving to a retirement facility!!, makes us feel like the vultures are circling for the kill. And when we sell, there will probably be more children in this 3/2 house once again -in the Palo Alto school system. I intend to be carried out of this house feet first. "Old Age" is whatever one's age over the age of eighty. And WE don't consider ourselves a 'problem'.


Posted by young 'un, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2007 at 12:32 am

Mary - I hope you do feel valued and appreciated sometimes! You're so right when you say that even us 50 somethings will someday be the ones getting the calls and fending off the vultures. My kids used to go to our next door neighbor's house (a lovely older couple from England) and listen for hours to their stories. They loved the "happy noise" of my children playing and they never forgot a birthday, Easter or Noel. I miss them and feel very glad they were a part of my kids' lives.

You hang in there, Mary, you are NOT a problem!


Posted by mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2007 at 12:38 am

Mr Levy - 10 years ago we had classes of 30 kids in elementary. With class sizes at 20 for K-3 and 22 for 4-5, we just need more teachers and classrooms than we used to.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2007 at 6:37 am

I remember pictures of a governor standing in a doorway. Do we need the 101st Airborn to block the Tinsley buses?
Give it up and put race behind you.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2007 at 2:11 pm

14 yr. resident of Jordan community" You say "An older population is far less interested in funding schools." Do you know that for a fact?

I don't have kids, but I'm very interested in the quality of our schools. An educated population is important for all of us. But given the recent fiascos of our school board (MI, trust issues, etc.), I don't trust them with another $772 million.


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2007 at 3:00 pm


I have lived in Palo Alto for 17 years, and for 17 years the Palo Alto schools have been in a "crisis" of one kind or another. I think it suits the PAUSD establishment just find to be in a perpetual state of official "crisis". This way they can beg for more money all the time, only to mismanage it after getting it.

I heard in real estate/school revenue boom years, that there was still a crisis because we needed to raise teacher pay dramatically. Of course in real estate/bust years, we had to raise more money to close the budget gap.

I heard that schools needed to be fixed up, so we voted for bonds, and did a major remodel. Ten years after those bonds, and while the paint is still drying on some school walls, I hear that the remodeled schools are suddenly not up to code according to some, so we need another 3/4 billions in bonds... Uuuh ?

Oh, and then there is class size reduction in elementary schools. My daughter had 28 kids in her elementary school classes, with an aide for the teacher. Then we cut that to 20, still with an aide for the teacher. The kids' academic results don't change. The only impact is stress reduction for the teacher. Fine and well. But then we need a parcel tax, because, gasp, it would so horrible for the kids to be more than 20 per class...

Now, after spending months and months talking about a boutique program (MI immersion), voting it down, then reversing the vote and implementing it... we hear about a horrific school population boom ready to overwhelm us.

SCHOOL POPULATION ESTIMATES BY PAUSD HAVE BEEN NOTORIOULSY WRONG IN THE PAST.

And even if they are right this time, I have no sympathy for a school district that won't ever stop begging for money whatever the situation is. We don't have public schools any more. With all the extra taxes (parcel tax, bonds) we are paying and all the giving that is expected of families, more and more are school are as costly as private schools, and this, just because of GROSS mismanagement.


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2007 at 3:04 pm


I re read my comment, and I noticed a few spelling mistakes. I apologize for those.


Posted by Joan, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2007 at 3:26 pm

I just finished reading all the comments about how to meet the needs of PAUSD's increasing enrollment. As a high school teacher in San Mateo and the parent of a high school student in this district, I find the discussion generally depressing. Instead of organizing to make sure all public schools in California get the funding they need, most seem to prefer to spend time squabbling over how we should meet children's needs with underfunded budgets. The problem is more serious in some districts that, unlike PAUSD, are not basic aid districts. (See www.californiaschoolfinance.org if you are somewhat new to California and need an explanation.)
Because of the huge disparities in funding in this area, some districts like Ravenswood (E.P.A. k-8)have much lower budgets and can, therefore, not afford to pay teachers very well. Others, like Las Lomitas, which is a basic aid district, pay teachers an average of $20,000 more per year. Given the fact that ours is not exactly the highest paid profession and this is an expensive area to live in, most teachers will choose to work in a district where they make more and spend less of their own money for classroom supplies. This makes it harder for districts like Ravenswood to keep good teachers. Naturally, the quality of instruction suffers. How could it not?
Given these inequities, who would blame parents for wanting to take advantage of a program that offers their children a chance to study at a school with higher standards and fewer problems(or at least a different set of problems)?
The answer is not in offering to give Ravenswood some money to keep the kids their bussing to P.A. but to make sure that all districts have the funding they need to do the job right. The system for funding public schools in California needs to be redesigned, and all of the citizens need to realize that it's in all of our interest to fully support public education.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2007 at 3:54 pm

"SCHOOL POPULATION ESTIMATES BY PAUSD HAVE BEEN NOTORIOULSY WRONG IN THE PAST."

Here we go again, I have been here much longer than you, but I welcome your company. To your statement: The demographers don't have a clue about Palo Alto. All I have to do is walk around the block to see how many babies are being pushed around in stollers. I can personally guarantee that babies are up in College Terrace. Too bad that they will be sent to an unnecessarily overcrowded semi-neighborhood school. The more wealthy parents will probably decide to send their kids to private schools, which is a silent degradation of a neighborhood.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 1, 2007 at 4:06 pm

I agree with Al

We have loads more families in our immediate neighborhood than we did ten years ago. At present, we have a couple of houses for sale which will bring in more families. I have several very elderly neighbors who will not be here in ten years or so and their homes will again be filled with families. Also, what about all the new housing. I can't remember a time in Palo Alto when there was actual new housing being done rather than just remodling and I have lived here nearly 20 years.


Posted by steve levy, a resident of University South
on Jul 1, 2007 at 4:27 pm

I live in a city that had fine schools for my children. I feel lucky to live in a city that has far above average tax revenue in large part because Stanford's presence has created lots of jobs nearby.

My children and our family benefited from the Tinsley program. I )am many other residents benefit from low assessed values as a result of Prop 13 (which I would gladly vote to modify).

I am happy that we are able to pay our teachers above average salaries for teachers becasue I think salaries for teachers are low compared to similarly trained professionals. I do not favor ending Tinsley if it were legal or blocking more housing simply to raise the amount we can spend per pupil.

We still have far fewer pupils than we did 40 years ago even though we have more housing units.

As I wrote in the Alma Plaza threads I am concerned that we seem to put neighborhood over the broader community and put local interests above our place as a relatively rich community in the broader region.

I can respect that life seems more strained in the U.S. today than in the past but I am always hopeful that we in Palo Alto can model being gracious and civil to those whose lives may be even more difficult than ours.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2007 at 4:45 pm

"I can respect that life seems more strained in the U.S. today than in the past but I am always hopeful that we in Palo Alto can model being gracious and civil to those whose lives may be even more difficult than ours."

steve levy, In other words I should be made to feel guilty about wanting to preserve neighborhood schools. I don't, period. I hope others will also reject this plea to guilty. We are innocent, and we have been invaded.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 1, 2007 at 4:59 pm

I do respect those who live elsewhere and I also respect that there are many people who live in difficult circumstances within Palo Alto. There are many people here who struggle to live in the same house that they have lived in for over 20 years, have no children in the schools now, and are not in the type of income bracket that can afford all the parcel taxes and bond measures that some seem to feel are necessary.

I get very tired of so called philanthropic groups giving money to schools in low income areas and discovering that these same schools actually have better facilities than some of our schools in so called affluent Palo Alto. I get very tired of hearing how local companies donate to schools outside Palo Alto, when the schools in this very city where the employees of said companies live and send their kids to school, are unable to repair a gymnasium's leaking roof or update an outdated computer system due to lack of funds.

The phrase, charity begins at home, may or may not apply here. However, the sentiment that philanthopy can help basic aid districts would certainly be appreciated.


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 1, 2007 at 6:17 pm

Joan points out that the Las Lomitas district pays their teachers approx. $20k more than PA does. How can this be? PAUSD spends about $12k per kid, of which roughly 75% goes for teacher salaries. That is way more than LASD's $8k per kid and Cupertino's approx.$5k per kid. I assume that the three have similar class sizes, courtesy of class size reduction incentives. Perhaps you are comparing apples and oranges. For example, we've heard that Gunn has a high percentage of inexperienced teachers. We should assume they would be paid far less than, say, a 15-year veteran in the Las Lomitas district.

Perhaps some number fan can compare the actual pay scales.


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2007 at 6:23 pm

Al: to answer you, I will repost the end of my comment that you ignored in your response to me.

And even if they are right this time (ie: population growth estimates), I have no sympathy for a school district that won't ever stop begging for money whatever the situation is. We don't have public schools any more. With all the extra taxes (parcel tax, bonds) we are paying and all the giving that is expected of families, more and more our school are as costly as private schools, and this, just because of GROSS mismanagement and the permanent state of "crisis" you are made to believe we are in.


Posted by steve levy, a resident of University South
on Jul 1, 2007 at 7:06 pm

Al,

Who is "invading" us and what are you "innocent" of?

How does this discussion relate to preserving neighborhood schools--preserving from whom or what?

I never tell anyone to feel guilty. You are entitled to your own feelings.

The school population is rising as families whose children have left (like ours and many of our former neighbors) sell homes to folks who are starting their own families. As I have said before in this thread these homes had more kids in earlier days and the cycle is beginning again, although with fewer kids per housing unit than 40 years ago. What's to get mad about that?


Posted by 14k/yr, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 1, 2007 at 8:14 pm

Mr. Levy:

Have you considered the magnitude of the financial effect caused by new families moving into rental homes that are still taxed at a very low rate? Several such homes exist in my neighborhood. Based on the children my kids play with (not exactly rigorous statistical sampling), I'd be surprised if less than 15% of Palo Alto students live in rental housing.

As for Mary and Pat, they completely misunderstood my comment. Mr. Levy asked why school funding in Palo Alto has become increasingly more contentious. I am not saying that most senior citizens and older baby boomers no do not support well-funded schools. I merely stated that as the population ages the willingness to spend money on schools goes down on average. That is not just my belief, but the belief of the PAUSD. Did you ever wonder the PAUSD will never ask for a parcel tax that doesn't give seniors the ability to opt out? People are economically rational creatures and many will take the opportunity for free ride when it is offered. To act in ones financial self-interest isn't immoral; it's the American way!


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2007 at 8:38 pm

"Who is "invading" us and what are you "innocent" of?"

Escondido was, and is, invaded by non-neighborhood kids. This started with VTP (small scale, at first), then SI (big time). Escondido is now one of the most overcrowded schools in PAUSD. Yes, steve levy, we WERE invaded.

We are innocent, becasue we just want what we had always had, a neighborhood school. We did not fight, when we should have fought. Escondido would never have been closed, because Stanford leases that land to PAUSD in order to take care of their graduate students. If the total number of kids goes down, periodically, just reduce class size at Escondido...but don't dump on us! We don't owe the rest of the district anything, if it means that we have to sacrifice our school.

Just so the College Terrace homeowners can understand: Your property values will decline (relatively), once new potential buyers understand that Escondido is an overcrowded, semi-neighborhood school.. it is not the neighborhood school that your realtor promised you.


Posted by check it out, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2007 at 9:41 pm

I believe that there could be a very quick fix for the increase in population of students. If the district really got serious about checking student's eligibilty for attending Palo Alto schools then we might not be in need of finding more space. There are a large number of students who live in neighboring communities and attend Palo Alto schools. I have heard students openingly admit to living in the East Bay, Woodside, Portola Valley, etc. and their families either rent an apartment for the local address or find some other way to "fool the system". I have reported names to the district but those children still attend the schools. Instead of sending the district's "private investigator" to check out the students the schools should have a check-in day for every student during the first week of school (or before they get their schedule). The student should have to prove residency by supplying three different forms with their address which should include an active utility bill (this will tell if anyone is actually living at the address that the student is using by checking the electrical usage, etc.). Some of you might think that this is extreme but I can tell you that the eligibility check for Little League All Stars is tougher for players than the eligibility check for students in PA public schools.


Posted by Mary, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 1, 2007 at 10:10 pm

To 14 yr. resident of Jordan. You said
"People are economically rational creatures and many will take the opportunity for free ride when it is offered. To act in ones financial self-interest isn't immoral; it's the American way!"

You really know how to push MY buttons. Who do you think built these schools, the school libraries, the City Hall, the Main Library, Mitchell Park et al, the Arts Center, bought Foothill Park??? And WE did it on a fraction of the salaries that residents are getting today. Free ride?. Oh, puleez!! Previous bond issues? I lost track of how many there were over the years.. Try living in this town on fixed income and Social Security and hope your savings cover extended care - which is NOT covered by Medicare. Hope the twenty year old appliances don't roll over and die. Hope the roof lasts longer than you do. Hope your car with 90K makes it another ten years and outlives you. Hope you have some sort of supplemental medical insurance. And by the way, to act in one's financial self interest is not immoral. It's called 'survival" - and good financial planning.


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2007 at 10:22 pm

Mary:


I still have children in the school district, one entering middle school in September, and I agree with you fully.

Some people have no idea of hard it is for many Palo Altans to make ends meet. I also believe that in recent years the school district has been too willing to demand way too much money from residents, as well as from school families. We are constantly asked to donate money. I know we can't any more, and we are not senior citizens nor retired.

Also someone mentioned the fact that senior citizens are exempted from paying parcel taxes and bonds. It is my impression that this is due to some state voting rules rather than a local decision. Could be wrong on this one though. It would be worth researching it. On the other hand, I don't understand why people who won't pay those taxes are allowed to vote to impose them on those who will pay them. It does not sound fair to me.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 1, 2007 at 10:25 pm

check it out -- I thought they had to do all those things to register in the school district in the first place. Are you saying people rent an apartment in order to get the necessary documentation and then move out? If so, then what address does the various correspondence go to after that? I'm not saying I don't believe it, I'm just wondering how it all logistically happens. And to be fair, if someone rents in PA, that person is entitled to have the kids in a PA school I think. Though frankly, with ll that has been going on and with how much rentals are these days, I wonder why a parent would rent and empty apartment instead of just looking into private school at that point. I mean, isn't that what they are paying for anyway?


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2007 at 10:26 pm


SOLUTION TO growing school population and overcrowding, at least partial:

Bring class size back up to 28 children per class in elementary school, which is what it was until 9 years ago or so. It has been documented that class reduction makes no significant difference on academic outcome. Increased class size would allow to house 160 more students for each school with 20 classes without physically expanding the schools. Then no need to reopen an elementary school.

At the same time we could reduce (or why not eliminate) the parcel tax which was designed to finance class size reduction if my memory serves me well.

I think this would be a very reasonable solution.


Posted by Joan, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Nancy of Los Altos Hills,
Maybe I wasn't very clear--Teachers in Las Lomitas make $20,000 more per year on average than teachers in districts like Ravenswood and Daly City, which aren't basic aid districts. PAUSD is also a basic aid district and can pay the teachers better than districts which aren't. This inequity makes it even harder for some districts to improve the quality of education since teachers can (and often do) leave for better pay and an easier teaching situation.
Joan


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jul 1, 2007 at 11:46 pm

"We did not fight, when we should have fought."
You were at Escondido when SI arrived, yes? Did you fight? The teachers fought, and the site council fought. Maybe you don't remember, but ask any of the original SI parents and they'll tell you stories of how the Escondido teachers showed up at the Board Meeting(s) as a unified, agitated force, standing up together in solidarity against having SI moved to their school. The site council voted against SI and presented that vote to the Board. Escondido did fight, just not hard enough.

In retrospect, it was a lost battle no matter how hard it was fought. If you look at the district enrollment numbers and Escondido's enrollment numbers, there is no way that the district would allow Escondido to serve 200 neighborhood children while other schools are expected to serve 300-400. Like it or not, Escondido doesn't operate in isolation - it's part of a Unified School District. The district needed a means for distributing the burden of increased enrollment, and moving SI to Escondido was an easy way out for them.
"We are innocent, becasue we just want what we had always had, a neighborhood school."
Can you appreciate that nearly every other parent in the other neighborhood schools wants the same thing? We're all in this overcrowding problem together. Some of us are hosts, and some of us face a daily 6-year commute across town – hopefully to a welcoming community. In 2006 over 500 K-5 students attended a neighborhood school other than their own, according to the AAAG report. (This doesn't include SDC or lottery programs.)

Things change, Al. I'm sorry that Escondido isn't the same as it was 10 years ago. The entire school district is different. We have to adapt to how things are now and not live in the past. However, I do think Escondido's history is an important discussion. It's crucial that the board & new superintendent understand how we got here, and how their decisions today (MI, for example) will affect us for MANY years to come. Let's not fool ourselves that this is a 3-year problem. The real problems will begin in 3 years.

"Just so the College Terrace homeowners can understand: Your property values will decline (relatively), once new potential buyers understand that Escondido is an overcrowded, semi-neighborhood school.. it is not the neighborhood school that your realtor promised you."
This sentiment reminds me of the Southgate residents, some of whom are repulsed by the idea of having their neighborhood school change from Walter Hays to Escondido. "Sick to my stomach" I believe was the quote. If SI wasn't at Escondido, the proposed boundary makes sense strictly from a student distribution point-of-view. But Southgaters worry about what it'll do to their property values if they're associated with Escondido. Ah, well. Seems everyone's just after protecting their own. Human nature, I suppose.


Posted by PAUSD, but not Little League, Resident, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 2, 2007 at 7:08 am

To Check it Out:

YOU ARE SO RIGHT about the eligibility check for baseball being tougher than for the school district. We actually OWN a house in Palo Alto, but don't live there, but could produce mail to that house..and it wasn't enough to get our kid into local Baseball, even though we actually still live within the PAUSD boundaries. We had to come up with more mail that proved we actually lived IN Palo Alto..and since we couldn't, no PA Little League for us!


Posted by tired of bickering, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 2, 2007 at 9:13 am

Dear PAUSD but not Little League -

I know there is at least one kid who lives in EPA but goes to school in PA who played Little League in Palo Alto (North PA) - maybe you should see how he managed it?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2007 at 9:14 am

With the approval of MI, thorough checking of student residency is going to have to be one of the districts top priorities. Even Marilyn Cook in the original feasibility study said that one of her only big concern of the MI program would be creation of enrollment growth - attracting students from outside of Palo Alto into the district that wouldn't otherwise have come. And even way back last June they had already gotten "many" inquiries about how get enrolled. (What is "many", we'll never know for sure, until we open the MI doors, because they didn't bother to back up anything in the feasibility study with DATA.)

This program is going to bring residency cheaters out of the woodwork. The incentive to get a language academy for free is significant (compared to the cost of getting customized private school the old fashioned way - paying for it.)

Just what we need, another magnet for growth. Good thinking board. Barb, guess elementary capacity isn't such a big concern for you afterall?


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 2, 2007 at 9:40 am

I know of two families who lived elsewhere and rented apts so their child could attend school here. One family actually lived in the apt during the week, the other used it as an office for one of the parents.


Posted by former Jordan parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2007 at 9:50 am

Another way round the residency is Escondido village. I know of at least one student who "lived" in Escondido village with a "guardian" while her parents, who she visited each weekend, lived in Los Angeles.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 2, 2007 at 12:08 pm

Of course MI is a magnet for enrollment. One more reason why it made no sense to implement the program now.

I don't think the residence-cheating will be as big a deal though because the only time residency seems to be really checked is when you first enroll in the district.

Here are the ways I've known of people cheating:

Buying or renting a townhouse in Palo Alto, while living in Woodside.

Using grandparent's address.

Using one' Palo Alto employer as an address with employer's permission.

Seems to me that having to bring car registration should have stopped some of this, though I think the grandparent's one is tough--providing people set it up ahead of time.

The problem with the proofs demanded by the PAUSD, however, is that you can be a legal resident and not have exactly what they want. You're supposed to have a lease, for example, with your child's name on it. Pretty hard to do if your leasing agreement predates your kid's birth.

According to the PAUSD Web site, you can bring in your grant deed as proof, but when you get there, it turns out they want the property-tax bill--to make sure that you're paying as a primary homeowner.

Someone mentioned renters--there are a *lot* of families renting in Palo Alto--and not people you'd assume were renters. They're active in the community, belong to local rec. organization, live in the same house for years on end. In other areas, they would have bought ages ago, but it's gotten so incredibly expensive, they just can't buy here.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 2, 2007 at 2:02 pm

yet another parent,

Of course I can "appreciate that nearly every other parent in the other neighborhood schools wants the same thing?" (neighborhood schools) What the heck you think I've been talking about?!!!

Every neighborhood in Palo Alto deserves its own neighborhood school, period. Neighborhood kids only, no exceptions. If VTP and the boutique pregrams were eliminated, there would probably be no school in Palo Alto that would have as many kids as Escondido now has.

"This sentiment reminds me of the Southgate residents, some of whom are repulsed by the idea of having their neighborhood school change from Walter Hays to Escondido" (real estate values) I wouldn't want my kids transferring to Escondido either, given the current situation. You just made my point.

We need to go back to the future....


Posted by Periwinkle, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2007 at 2:48 pm

500 kids are transported across towm for six years? What's the carbon-load equivilent of that activity? Seems like PUASD may not be on board with Palo Alto's greening efforts.

We need to be better coordinated than this...


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2007 at 3:06 pm

These arguments seem to be over insignificant numbers. As long as we allow the city council to approve more and more big housing projects, the school population will continue to grow.
For example, a few days ago they approved 51 dwellings at Alma Plaza. And recently they approved 84 at 195 Page Mill. And about 100 at Loma Verde/West Bayshore, and 50 at the Elks Club, and 350 at 901 San Antonio. And, have you driven past the corner of El Camino and Charleston? 180 housing units are going up there.
As long as the city council is out of control, the schools will bear the brunt of it.
Oh, did I forget Stanford's plans? You'd better pay attention, another tsunami is coming.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 2, 2007 at 3:16 pm

"You'd better pay attention, another tsunami is coming."

I always thought it was a huge mistake to sell off our old school sites. They should have been leased out...not sold. The lack of foresight was stunning.

Quit the boutiques.

Sue to cancel VTP.

Insist on neighborhood schools.

The above would provide the most good for most of PA kids and parents.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 2, 2007 at 3:17 pm

Right. Stanford's plans. We got a lovely soccer field and Stanford gets to put housing for umpteen people all along California Avenue, without the restrictions that normal people and developers usually have. Whatta bahgain.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 2, 2007 at 3:27 pm

natasha,

I'm not a soccer fan, but that corner lot is truly a pretty thing. Stanford also got development rights for the reserach park, a good thing, I think. The additional housing, which will happen about ten years down the road, will be a great thing, if it provides enough neighborhood kids to force SI and VTP into extinction at Escondido. We will, fianlly, be back at where we should've never left (just some more of us neighbors, and I welcome all of them).


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 2, 2007 at 4:18 pm

My daughter IS into soccer. The field is really pretty, a vast improvement over the vacant nothing and weeds thatwas there before. It's just that if you read the concessions Stanford got, the development will have a HUGE impact on College Terrace in terms of traffic etc. Of course, College Terrace is nothing like what it was when I was growing up ther and went to Escondido (35 years ago, and boy was it ever a neighborhood school. Everyone knew everyone. That was in the early days of the Carousel.) But still, the level of concessions bugged me and boded ill for the fit between College Terrace and the Stanford development. Of course, it's all water under the bridge. By the way, the cutoff for Barron Park school is actually the south side of California Avenue at the moment, I think. Of course, you never know with boundaries.


Posted by Rocket Scientist, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 2, 2007 at 4:23 pm

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to plan wisely for district growth and shrinkage. Anyone managing their household finances could do a better job than the PAUSD has done managing its assets. A few years ago, I took a look at their budget (they used to publish it in a big book and you could buy one for $20 ... recommended reading for everyone, if they still do that). Under personnel, it listed a very large number of Assistant Superintendent positions. There was an Assistant Superintendent for just about everything you can think of, from curriculum to lunchroom cleanup. This district has enjoyed some of the biggest windfalls imaginable, situated here in the heart of Silicon Valley with home prices (and thus property taxes) skyrocketing over the past couple of decades. There is some joy in seeing them squirm now, but I am truly sorry for the teachers and the actual schools --and of course the students -- who are suffering because of the shortsightedness and overly fat payroll of those on Churchill Ave.


Posted by Mom_of_Three, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 2, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Don't blame the Tinsley program. It's not the problem, and the tiny amount of racial balance and diversity it adds to our community is wonderful. The fault and the blame should lie with the school district which apparently has not managed its money or real estate very well.


Posted by Sarah in Los Altos Hills, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 2, 2007 at 4:33 pm

When comparing teacher salaries to other professions, PLEASE PEOPLE, keep in mind that teachers work a 9-month year!!! I have relatives who teach, and they spend their summers camping, traveling, sailing in Baja. Man, what I wouldn't give to have a job that gave me 2-3 months off, per year. I wish they would stop complaining.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 2, 2007 at 4:54 pm

Al, Guess who approved the sale of our old school sites? THE BOE, of course. Another BOE boondoggle. What are the names of the people who were on the board then? Maybe we should publicize that, just so that our citizens know WHO it was that scewed up.

This is what happens when we politicize education. Look at the current BOE: the blind leading the blind (with one exception). Where will all these people be in 10 years when their boondoggle decisions create fallout? Will their be any consequences for political incompetence? Of course not.

Sarah, how many 12 hour days have you worked recently? That's about average for teachers these days. btw, if you think teachers have it so good, go get certified and become a teacher, and stop whining.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2007 at 8:05 pm

Given what the kids from the Tinsley program add to our classroom, I would prefer to keep that program over, say, MI, which can't take kids in the upper grades but will have attrition (less than full classrooms that can't take overflows from elsewhere like a regular classroom could). Regardless of what happens with the Tinsley program, the kids who are already in should stay in, a commitment was made to them that PA should keep.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 2, 2007 at 8:39 pm

Mike, "Al, Guess who approved the sale of our old school sites? THE BOE, of course."

And your point is? Every BoE in Palo Alto is infected with either guilt or excessive idealism or fear. They are almost never realists. It all translates into an attack on neighborhood schools. When was the last time you saw a candidate for school board who made support of neighborhood schools his/her main plank?

For those of you who say that VTP (Tinsley) is just too good to quit, I think you are blinded by your own true beliefs. What does Tinsley bring to our neighborhood schools? If you say "diversity", I will excuse myself, while I check the list of PA kids who voluntarily transfer to EPA in equal numbers (in fact, ANY numbers) - remember that is also part of the VTP program. It isn't diversity, it is a one-way invasion. And yes, it DOES take away from neighborhood schools.


Posted by George, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 2, 2007 at 9:06 pm

The BOE is being handed an insoluble problem by the city council approving more and more and more housing. If developers didn't run this town, the schools wouldn't be in this fix.
Parent above said:
>>For example, a few days ago they approved
51 dwellings at Alma Plaza. And recently they approved
84 at 195 Page Mill. And about
100 at Loma Verde/West Bayshore, and
50 at the Elks Club, and
350 at 901 San Antonio.
And, have you driven past the corner of El Camino and Charleston?
180 housing units are going up there.<<
I think Parent left some developments out, but you that's the problem.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2007 at 9:32 pm

Think of 30 minutes more education a day, think of a classroom aide.
This is what Tinsley has cheated EPA children of for 20 years, just to relieve white guilt.


Posted by tired of bickering, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 2, 2007 at 10:56 pm

Walter - always good for comic relief


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2007 at 1:00 am


Regarding the Tinsley students:

I am happy they attend Palo Alto schools. Our town is so homogeneous, economically and socially speaking, and our kids grow up in a fancy little coccoon of a town. If it was not for the Tinsley kids in our schools, many if not most of Palo Alto kids would never get to know children from other backgrounds. They would never learn to get along with those kids, including with the issues they may be bringing with themselves.

If we think of our kids as the leaders of tomorrow, as so many people on these boards think, well, part of their learning is learning the socio/economic, racial, psychological diversity there is around our community. After all, our kids, if they indeed become tomorrow's leaders will be seeing some of those other types of kids every day at work when they grow up.

Tinsley kids are an enrichment to our kids' education. It is in our kids' selfish interest to have them in our schools. (never mind that it may also be a good deed, doing good deeds does not seem to be popular these days).


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jul 3, 2007 at 2:10 am

"Every neighborhood in Palo Alto deserves its own neighborhood school, period. Neighborhood kids only, no exceptions."
In reality a "no exceptions" policy is nearly impossible. Let's say, for the sake of your argument, that VTP and lottery schools are eliminated along with children of out-of-district PAUSD employees, etc. Now all we're left with are 12 neighborhood schools and a tightly closed "border". The only remaining issue for completing your vision is getting rid of intra-district transfers (neighborhood kids "invading" other neighborhood schools). It'll never happen, for two reasons.
1) The way classrooms are filled. Here's a simplified version. Every summer principals look at the actual and projected (last-minute) enrollment numbers. They decide how many classrooms they'll need for each grade. Suppose they need 3 first grade classes which accommodate 60 students. Now suppose 5 additional first graders move into the neighborhood over the summer or during the following school year. The classes are full – where do we place these students? There are 3 options: ignore class-size reduction and the money that goes with it and squeeze the students into an existing classroom; open a 4th classroom; send them to another school.

2) Insufficient community support. There are approx. 1,500 K-5 PAUSD students who are attending a school other than their own. This number surprised me – it's a third of that segment of the district! If you remove the lottery schools (approx. 1,000) you're left with 500 intra-district transfers, or just over 10% of the K-5 enrollment. My hunch from looking at the numbers and intra-district movement is that most of these are voluntary transfers, but I don't know that for a fact. I think we're in agreement that near-elimination of involuntary transfers should be a district priority.

I don't think you'll ever see a board candidate win by running on a "neighborhood schools for neighborhood students only – no exceptions" platform. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of the issues surrounding enrollment, and there are too many parents benefiting from intra-district transfers who wouldn't support their elimination.


Posted by tired of bickering, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 8:20 am

Some of the "transfers" also occur when people move from one elementary district to another and choose not to have their kids change schools. Incoming siblings can also stay at that school.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 3, 2007 at 8:42 am

Some of the transfers have also occurred when kids were being bullied and needed to move to preserve their ability to attend school in a safe and nurturing environment. Unfortunately, with this moratorium on transfers, those kids are trapped in their schools and cannot escape. This is unconscionable. Someone, possibly the Board, should instruct Marilyn Cook on compassion and the purpose of exceptions to a rule.


Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 3, 2007 at 10:23 am

Is it time to reconsider class-size reduction? Is it worth it to have (what I consider small) classes of 20 if this means requiring us to install more portables/open up more schools? With a huge influx of students, can we continue small class sizes?


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 3, 2007 at 10:39 am

Well, class size WAS the basis for the last bond measure. How that will square with this suggestion I don't know. Of course, no one is surprised by now by the failure to make long-term plans. This global mismanagement is really tedious.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 11:47 am

Interesting discussion, with an unexamined subtext and need for deconstructing.

I pointed out that politicizing education has constrained it. Just look at this discussion, and the arguments being made.

We're arguing for reduced class size, eliminating the Tinsley program, a return to neighborhood schools, etc. How did all those programs and situations occur? they were LEGISLATED by school board members, who have left a twisted mess in their wake. Where are those school board members now? How have they been held accountable? The whole thing is like a bad joke on those who do the teaching and site administering every day.

When are citizens going to wise up and realize that the bickering, inefficiencies, and pure waste of human capital in education is mostly due to the fact that we have these arcane organizations called Boards of Education, mostly populated by well-meaning citizens who don't know the first thing about education, except that they "want to make a difference".
BOE members have good intentions, but isn't there a quote somewhere that talks about what Hell's roads are paved with?

I wonder how the medical profession would feel if it was run by average citizens without medical experience who "want to make a difference". Just a thought.

So, before you start asking about increasing class size, and all the other stuff that people talk about doing in this sandbox called a "school system", try asking a teacher or site adminsitrator first (not a senior admisistrator, they're out of touch), you might learn something.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 12:38 pm

"try asking a teacher or site adminsitrator first "

Mike, at what snapshot in time should we ask them? Teachers and administrators come with various ideological baggage, and that baggage is ususally determined by their mentors/professors/union leaders. For instance, the current crop reflects the cultural changes of the 60s/70s, notably cooperative ("team") learning models vs. the previous individual ("direct instruction") models.

Most current teachers will probably tell you that 20 kids/class is better for the kids. There is no proof supporting that assertion, in terms of actual learning, but, hey, it is easier on the teachers, so why not? Simple answer: It COSTS a LOT more!

The cooperative teaching model is a reflection of the socialist mindset that no child should be left behind (even Bush has bought into it). In practice, it means that smart Susie is required to assist dumb Johnie in group projects. Susie gets a headache, and decides that it is easier to act dumb. The teacher waxes poetically about the wonderful cooperation.

The administrators are in hog heaven when additional complexity is thrown into their laps. It puts them in the driver's seat, and they like power.

Mike, do you really want to leave it up to the pros? At least the BoE offers hope for the parents to fight back.

Go back to neighborhood schools!


Posted by Tulley, a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jul 3, 2007 at 12:50 pm

At one recent BOE meeting when increasing class size by one or two students was suggested, I was interested to see the the members of the board were fairly quaking in their boots about how that idea would not pass muster with the teacher's union. So it seems that there are many forces and factors at work when trying to solve some of the district's problems.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Tulley,

I wonder why the teacher's union would fight for lower class size? What's your guess?

Before you answer the question, I would like to ask if you're teacher, with classroom experience teaching both large and small classes.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Al,

Thanks for proving my point.

Looks like you want to hang in there with political arguments, mostly argued from ignorance about the reality in the classroom.

Are you a teacher? How much do yuo know about the situation on the ground, instead of what you've read or heard about it?

I'm very interested in your real-world experience in education; it appears that it's not very much more comprehensive than most of our past BOE members.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 1:08 pm

"I'm very interested in your real-world experience in education"

I think I had the best education: I sent my kids to Escondido, both before and after the cultural stuff I described, above. I respected the 'before' teachers better than the 'after' teachers.

Mike, you sound like a current teacher.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Mike - the 'why' is obvious. Tully's point is that if you think you want to put the 'educators' in charge, you are in reality doing no such thing.

You would actually be putting the union in charge. And when that happens, you don't have educators making the decisions about our children's education, any more than what you have today. You would have lawyers who represent the teachers making the decisions.

I'd rather have an elected board than unions that are in the business of protecting no one but the teachers.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2007 at 2:08 pm

And I forget to add how unbelievable naive it is of you MIke to suggest that you would remove the politics from our school system by putting "educators" in charge. "Educators" are one of the biggest, organized political labor groups there is. I love my teachers, but the fact is, they are unionized. They are not a-political as you suggest. As individuals they keep their noses to the grindstone and stay out of the politics of the day, but as a group they are a political body. (PARTICULARLY when RESOURCES are in play)

The answer is to correct governance and accountability of the board, including stricter procedures for transparency, guidelines for board operation under a much stricter long term/short term strategic planning structure, qualification requirements for board membership (like financial management background or education background), etc. The board which is a body of elected community representation should be able to provide checks and balances between the superintendent, the teachers unions, students parents and broader community.

The problem we have is that our current board is for the most incompetent or willfully flouting their responsibilities to represent the good of the community (exception Price).

Perhaps the board, instead of being elected, should be interviewed and appointed by a cross section of business leaders in the Palo Alto community (Business leaders that have an interest in the vitality, longevity, and preservation of the character of our community).


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 2:27 pm

Al, regardless your opinion about the quality of the education you received, I ask again "are you a teacher, or are you just talking through your hat?"


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 2:30 pm

"Al, regardless your opinion about the quality of the education you received, I ask again "are you a teacher, or are you just talking through your hat?"

Mike,

No, I am not a teacher.

Are you? At Escondido?


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 2:31 pm

parent, who said anything about putting teachers in charge? Where did I say that? How about simply ASKING teachers what their studied opinion is, and then taking that into SERIOUS consideration, because, after all, THEY'RE the ones who do the teaching. Right?

It's amazing to see how blind people are to the very fact that the reason why we're having discussions like this is because education has been politicized, with education (and kids) as the losers.

Public schools are a big sandbox for politicians and parents, most of whom have not spent even one day teaching in a classroom.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Al, I am not currently a teacher, but I have been.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 2:38 pm

"Al, I am not currently a teacher, but I have been."

When? Where?


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 2:48 pm

parent, your comments about the teacher's union, and further projections from that show even more naivete than you ascribe to me.

That you would suggest business persons, who themselves have probably not taught a day in a classroom. That you should claim that this BOE is incompetent - as if others haven't been (even though they've been well-meaning). All this reveals your naivete about what education really is, "on the ground".

If you have an axe to grind with teachers; if you think they have it so easy; if you think they're overpaid, etc. etc., then there's no reasoning with you.

Again, what continues to amaze me is that we have people in this community - in forums like this - in addition to senior district administrators (who are mostly on a political career path from district to district), and BOE electees who have never taught in a classroom - not to mention the state and federal politicos who want to leverage themselves into office on the backs of our kids and teachers. We have all these literal "know nothings" (no experience, only opinion) telling the people that do the work EVERY DAY how to do their jobs, and making decisions after decision that makes that job more difficult, ironically at a dear, dear cost to their very own children. Clueless!

When was the last time time you, "parent", or you "Al" spent a week in a classroom, or asked a teacher what obstacles have been created by current edminsitration and the BOE?

When was the last time a teacher or group of teachers was asked their opinions - and listened to - on language immersion, class size reduction/expansion, logistical placement of physical school infrastructure, and so on...and listened to?

It would be very easy to walk over to any school in the district and ask several teachers about the above. Have you? Will you? I doubt it, because it's more fun to invent enemies and conspiracies to rail against rather than point to strucural anomolies in an organization and work to fix THAT.

The senior administrators and BOE members who do and have failed - or made wrong decisions - in the past were all well-meaning people. Has anyone asked why and how it is that so many well-meaning people end up creating one problem after another, instead of moving forward? Might that not have something to do with the way their positions and responsibilities are structured? Might that not have to do with the fact that inputs from those most responsible for teaching our kids are rarely listened to when it comes to district strategy?

Consider that. Try it out, istead of continuing the fiasco we currently have on our hands, with everyone from Joe to Sally weighing on on what's best for education (not a bad thing), but NOT listening to those who know the most, the teachers and site administrators.




Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 2:52 pm

Al, that will remain private information. What counts in this discussion is that oyu have never taught, and I have yet to hear you or anyone else in this forum quoting teacher's opinions about anything you discuss. Why not?

Why do you assume to know more than the people who have been trained to teach, and do teach, yuor children every day? Why don't you insist on a significant representation on the BOE by teachers and site administrators, instead of letting amateurs and career education politico-professionals rain down one bad decision after another on your kids?


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2007 at 5:53 pm

k:

"Is it time to reconsider class-size reduction? Is it worth it to have (what I consider small) classes of 20 if this means requiring us to install more portables/open up more schools? With a huge influx of students, can we continue small class sizes?"

YES, YEs and yes. To me it is a no-brainer. Class size reduction did not have much an impact on the kids' academic outcome. It is expensive and takes up much physical room. So yes we should reconsider it, especially at elementary school level.

natasha:

No, class size reduction was NOT the basis of the last bond issue. The last bond (B4E) issue was to upgrade the school buildings.

Class size reduction was used to pass the renewal and almost doubling of the parcel tax. Maybe it is possible to reduce or eliminate the parcel tax? I don't know the mechanics of it all. I think it would be worthwhile to explore this solution.



Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2007 at 8:19 pm

mike - who said anything about an ax to grind with teachers? Who said anything about thinking they have it easy or are overpaid. I did not say anywhere, nor do I think any such thing.

I also never said anythign about any prior boards - although I assume that they operating under the same flawed system? Therefore how is it that you would say they were any better than the current board? Just curious, because I myself am only commenting on the current board when I talk about their incompetence.

Its amazing that you are so narrow in your thought process that you read into what I wrote whatever suits your shouting match.

First of all, 'educators' are asked all the time. At all the board meetings I went to in the past year, whenever there was an 'educator' present (a principal, a teacher rep, etc.) the board ~always~ invited their commentary. Where does that get us? Here. If you want them to be asked - done. Next?

What you were actually talking about was eliminating the board and putting "educators" in the policy making/financial management role the board currently holds. Educators are no more qualified to run the business of PAUSD than any other single constituent.

What I'm talking abuot is putting competent business managers in the role of the board. COMPETENT managers know how to turn to their functional experts (educators) for matters of operations (educating kids). What we don't have now is competent business managers. Who better to find competent leaders, than competent leaders?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2007 at 8:32 pm

And yes MIke, I spoke to several teachers and other members of our PAUSD community (parents, PTA leaders, etc) over the course of the past year specifically on the matter of MI. We literally BEGGED teachers, the teachers reps, PTA, PTA reps, Principals, and others to come forward with their opinions on MI. If only one single one would have. If the teachers would have only spoken up, the MI discussion would have been open and shut a long time ago.

I've also spoken to several teachers on the issues of closing the achievment gap and what the issues are there. What it would take and what they recommend.

Mike, I suggest you get off your high horse.

Organizations are run by managers. Its a fact of life. Workers have great ideas and know what is needed on the ground. ~Good~ manangers work hrough the organizational issues to get things done for their people, they are helpers in the system. ~Bad~ managers make people made, get in the way, and make things difficult and costly for everyone. The question isn't whether you need managers, its whether and how you get competent managers in place. And the processes that go with them.

Upper level managers have vision and set policy - they give us road map. They don't do it in a vacuum. They do it with appropriate inputs from everyone that needs to be giving input. In our case that would be teachers, administrators, parents, student, community.

Sure, no one else understand education besides a teacher. Please. Give us a break.

I'm sure you are the guy sitting around the water cooler blaming everyone else (but yourself) for the incompetence all around you. I think you need a mirror.


Posted by Al, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2007 at 10:12 pm

"Al, that will remain private information. What counts in this discussion is that oyu have never taught, and I have yet to hear you or anyone else in this forum quoting teacher's opinions about anything you discuss. Why not? "

Mike, I taught, as a suumer student from college for three months. I am not a teacher, because I think I learned my lesson. I truly respected the teachers that taught to each individual, but I also watched some train wrecks. I think I got a pretty good look at the system, especially the overriding power of the the teachers' union (just coming into power, way back when).

I am immune to your "teachers" arguments. The current teachers, currently, are pawns of their union(s). If you want a sober assesment, talk to the experienced teachers who taught prior to 1980.

Your basic argument, Mike, is bogus.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 4, 2007 at 12:56 am

Ummm, guys, we're in the U.S., remember--where there's this notion that we're able to self-govern? Okay, so I'm not wild about the current BoE--doesn't mean I'm about to favor tossing out the notion of an elected body overseeing our schools. I want someone who can be held accountable.

One note about experience in the schools. I don't know about the rest of you, but I spent 13 years in public schools and I saw a wide variety of teachers. I suspect many if not most of us have first-hand experience in public schools. Unlike, say, nuclear physics, I trust my ability to see and understand good teaching. And, yes, I've talked to lots of them because I've known lots of them.

Re: corporations--I've worked in those, too, and I've seen good managers and bad. Running schools and running corporations aren't, I think, fungible. Different type of accountability and a different sort of "customer". Private sector skills don't always translate into the public sector--i.e. the current prez comes from a business background, but that hasn't translated into a well-run government--i.e. record deficit.

Al,

Why is it a great idea to shift 1500 kids out of their current schools? They still have to go to school in the district, so it doesn't save the district money and it would be hugely disruptive. And while I think people should be able to get their kids into their own neighborhood schools at this point it sounds like some people use "neighborhood schools" as a code for separatism. I've been seeing some pretty ugly sentiments in some of these threads--makes me feel, frankly, that it's all that more important that our kids being exposed to kids from other backgrounds at an early age.

Re: SI at Escondido--you do realize, that even if SI had never come to Escondido, you'd still be dealing with a larger school than the one you remember? Others are right in that there's no way the BOE would have let that large a school site go without a population increase.

Just saying that everyone ought to go to neighborhood schools doesn't solve the overenrollment issues--it actually makes them worse. There's no *room* for my kids at my neighborhood school or the next two down the road. The way things are, we'd probably be routed to Ohlone, but unwillingly and without the benefits of choosing an educational philosophy I support.

And this would be an improvement because . . . oh, because you'd feel you finally won some skirmish from 30 years ago when the lefties were abrasive and offended your sensibilities.

Gee, thanks.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2007 at 7:35 am

The Noblesse oblige is deep on this discusion. If you really want to develop a sense of understanding of other people in our children, try throwing live rats into your children's bedroom or restricting them to mealiemealie for a year. This is Jim Crow rationalization all over again, condescending arrogant disdain for the Black experience and ability. Blacks, like every other folk, learn by being taught not by being toted.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2007 at 9:52 am

Walter, you're throwing out the baby with the bathwater. _Some_ people _need_ a break, really. Also, if you don't think that diversity is good for a kid, you're flying in the face of the best thinking on social evolution.

Al, we disagree. I assume that you will continue to spout from ignorance about what teachers should be doing, and how teachers are pawns of unions, etc. etc. etc. Your comments prove my point that those with the most to say about the current situation are mostly from the outside, looking in.

parent, your faith in "competent managers" running PAUSD is misplaced. What about EDUCATIONAL strategy? We've just gone through 6+ years of an MBA running our country - how has that gone?

We've had more than a half century of "professional class" managers running public education (i.e. the senior district executive teams that remain structured like 1950's management groups). It's been an educational and administrative disaster, with almost NO structural administrative innovation in education for 50+ years - just think about that. It's absurd, and an insult to our children and taxpayers.

We'be tried the BOE route, where one "politically active, educationally interested" well-meaning person after another has made promise after promise about what he or she will accomplish for the school system. What happens? Political ferment, and educational inefficiency and inconsistency. How is it that some kids in Kansas are studying Intelligent Design? Ta da! That was a local BOE decision.

Now, look at K-12 education in America - even in this district, where, despite our successful profile (due almost entirely to demographic), we are not able to avoid run-down infrastructure and staff dissension. It's a mess.

You say that educators speak at board meetings. How many of those ocmments are seriously discussed for consideration in decision making? I watch every board meeting - and I can tell you that most teacher and site administrator inputs are not given very much weight.

You ask why teachers don't speak up. Are you kidding? Do you think for a minute in a district like this, where every little decision is politicized, that any teacher or group of teachers would stick out his neck and risk derision and possible loss of position (especially given the environment created by the last Sup, and a few others [at least two of whom still remain at 25 Churchill, and are working hard to convince the new Sup that they really aren't incompetent]

Your plea for teacher input proves my earlier point, and your naivte about why teachers don;t contribute more further indicates that you don't have a clue about the day-to-day in the trenches. If you don't think I'm correct in this assumption, go ask almost any teacher (one that trusts you) what they think about most BOE decisions, and/or whether the BOE and senior administrators make their jobs easier, or harder. Do that.

Here's another suggestion: go volunteer for six months, with no breaks, as a teacher's aid in any classroom. Do it. Then come back and tell us what you've learned.

The problem here is that everyone but the people who teach and site administer our kids has their hand in the education pie. Endless opinion, endless theorizing, endless consideration of consequences from limited perspectives and points of view.



Posted by PALY STUDENT, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 4, 2007 at 9:54 am

In other words, lets get the non-educators out of education. YES!!


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 4, 2007 at 11:42 am

". . .given the environment created by the last Sup, and a few others [at least two of whom still remain at 25 Churchill, and are working hard to convince the new Sup that they really aren't incompetent]"

Mike, do you think there is a possibility the new Supe might recognize those administrators for the problem that they are, even though the trust investigation report refused to state anyone who might have been a *particular* problem? Oh, I hope so. A few principals in this district would be out on their ear too of the Supe took a close look at their performance, professionalism and track records. . .


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2007 at 3:35 pm


What I think is the problem with the BOE is that candidates to the BOE have long term goals that have nothing to do with the school district. THey usually use the BOE as a spring board to leap to other political positions. The BOE is only the foot in the door to elected office... Then they go on to city council, county offices, and state offices.

Examples: Liss Kniss: school board, city council and now county supervisor.

Other example: Joe Simitan: similar path.

I am not questioning the competence of my two examples or of any person in particular. I just want to point out that to many the BOE is just start, a stepping board to a political career.

Now, I don't think that putting teacher in charge of running the schools is a good idea. In my opinion they would naturally tend to do what is best for teachers, not was is best for the students and fiscally wise. What is best for the teacher is not necessarily best for the students nor fiscally wise.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2007 at 8:41 pm

Here we go again, I would love to see you even come close to proving your assumptions. When was the last time you were in a classroom?


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 4, 2007 at 8:55 pm

Mike, what assumption you are referring to? That teachers, if put in charge of the schools, would tend to do what is best for teachers? It seems hard to "prove" that kind of assumption, though it seems logical (as it would for any group you substitute for "teachers" in the sentence). Teachers of course need to be heard, since they do have an important perspective on many issues.

My sense is that the single most important decision a BOE makes is hiring (and sometimes firing) the superintendent - just as a company Board of Directors hires and fires the CEO. Our BOE seems to have botched it the last time around pretty badly (including renewing her contract after 4 years - can't blame bad reference checking for that). Not sure what type of BOE Member would do the best job of that, but ability to do that task well outweighs most "issue positions" in my book.

Fred


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2007 at 9:26 am

A couple problems...

Do teachers think in lockstep with eachother, by virtue of the fact that they are teachers? I don't think so. If we have 200 teachers, we probably have 200 opinions about how things should be run if they were in charge. If you put a group (any group) in charge, they will have to 'grow' a process for decision making, some kind of heirarchy, representatative voice, and/or voting process to make decisions. You really don't avoid the politicization of group decision making by putting one group or another in charge. You have to put appropriate accountability, checks balances, rules in place to govern the decision making process - for any group that is in charge.

Secondly, there are SIGNIFICANT functions of running the school district that teachers really don't do, don't have experience doing, aren't all that interested in doing. Managing mega value real estate, negotiating contracts, managing pensions and other huge dollar budget issues, (including program cuts, enrollment growth, choice programs, class size vs 13th school, etc), managing state and federal funding complexities, bond and parcel tax meausres, state, county and local political and business relationships, security, education regulations, charter laws and a bunch of other stuff that goes well beyond showing up to the classroom everyday.

A good administration, a good BOE would hire education experts to take care of the educational operations, and take all the other very complex administration off the plates of the educators. It works if there are correct checks and balances and if the BOE and the Staff were required to have proper background, transparency and accountability.

what you suggest would be like putting baseball players in charge of a baseball team. Sure, they are the only ones who make the plays on the field, but someone's got to run the organization of baseball -hire the players, book practice facilities, keep the records, book the travel, and buy the equipment and clean the uniforms, and someone's got to represent that team in the league. Its not all about fielding grounders and hitting home runs - there are a million other tasks required that you wouldn't want your players taking care of anyway. Let the players do what they do - let someone else take care of the admin.

Its called division of labor, you might recognize the concept, it goes back to the beginning of civilization.

And another problem with your suggestion - how many PAUSD teachers are palo altans? Palo Altans have a right to have a say in their school district. What happens when they dont? We get MI and other crappy decisions foisted upon us against our will, and NOT for the betterment of our children. It turns in to a special interest free for all. The board was hired by the constituents, and they've let this constituency down. The proper checks and balances were not in place, were not adhered to. For example, no adherance to a strategic plan.

The danger is not in having the school district run by a BOE or by administrators. Orderly management of the system is a necessity. The danger is actually in a system that fails in its accountability and planning processes, and which is allowed to be run in the backroom by secret deals, arrogant and/or incompentent players who are not held to standards. And who do not take expert educational advice from educational experts.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2007 at 9:37 am

Parent above

I fully agree with you. It is for this reason that it would make sense to me to have a BoE with special designations. We should have a teacher designate, an admin (who may also have teaching experience), a current parent, and a long term resident (at least ten years). If we had candidates who were elected to full designated spots, I feel that we would end up with a very balanced board. Yes, we do need a teacher who is currently teaching in our classrooms and actually lives in Palo Alto. Yes, we need someone who is in the admin of our district, either by working at one of the schools or at the district office, who actually lives in Palo Alto. We need a current parent who is likely to remain a parent for the whole time they are in office. Finally, we need someone who is a long term Palo Altan, who understands what the unique difficulties and advantages this area has. Someone, who knows from experience just how something will fit into Palo Alto. Someone who is able to look at new ideas and weigh them against what has been tried before. In other words, we need a balanced board with expertise in different areas to give the rest of us the benefit of their perspective. Too many candidates for board in the past have seen to be those with a single mindedness to make changes for the better, without willing to be team members and understanding that all members will have an area that they are weaker and an area where they are stronger. If we all knew in advance just what those weaknesses/strenghts were in advance, we would be better able to vote for a team we felt could work together rather than a group of individuals with their individual agendae.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2007 at 11:15 am

Mike - one recent widespread behavior proves clearly that teachers do what's best for teachers. The fact that all the teachers we spoke to about MI privately said MI was a very poor idea, but NONE spoke up publicly. In other words, they were saving their own skin, not fighting for the good of the district.

No on blames them. Of course people will protect themselves and their livlihood. Its human nature. Its what most people would do under the same circumstances.

But it certainly does prove that teachers ultimately do what is best for teachers. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 5, 2007 at 12:12 pm

parent, and others...

First, who said that teachers should be in charge of PAUSD? Show me where I said that.

Again, we're talking about, ideally, one site administrator and one or two teachers having REPRESENTATION on the board, as voting members. THat's what I and a few others have proposed in these forums.

Second, your argument about teachers not speaking up about MI absolutely proves my point about the cancerous effects of politicization that BOE's and heavy-handed, top-down, 1950's educational management structures have on educational efficiency (including the lack of attention to the opinions of good teachers, who have been kept mum, or had their opinions disregarded, for too long)

You say that you spoke to teachers about their opposition to MI. Did you speak to them about why they didn't gather to speak publicly about that? My bet is that you haven't. If you can find some teachers who will open up about this, you'll get an earful. (btw, I've been there, done that)

PAUSD (and other districts, but let's stay with PAUSD for now) is run in top-down fashion, using a 1950's style of directive management that is so outmoded that it isn't even funny.

Teachers and site administrators have been kow-towing to lame board decisions and union-busting sentiments for years. If you don't believe me, ask around. Do that. Ask about the senseless teacher-bashing begun by people like Kroynman and a few others, and the administrators that Kroynman and a few others brought in (some still here) to bully the teachers (and site administrators)

Are you even remotely aware of the animus that can be visited on a teacher for being too vocal about a political outcome? If you don't think that fear is the primary operative in consensual silence about MI, you're out of touch with what has been going on in this district for the last 15-20 years, and especially the last 7-8 years.

Find some teachers and site administrators that trust you, and ask some hard questions; you might be surprised at what you find out.

It's amusing to hear all the excuses why teachers and site administrators should not have voting weight on board decisions. What's happened here, and elsewhere, is that education has become a political football - a kind of passionate, socially-correct fun hobby.

We've managed (at the macro level) to institutionalize educational decision making created by traveling, six-figure-salary senior careerist administrators (who are not accountable, long term, for their blunders), and publicly-elected BOE officials who mean well, but rarely have any on-the-ground, long-term experience in education. Thus, they mostly legislate from ignorance, and again, with no long term consequence to their blunders.

Explain to me why California has almost 1000 school districts, each with it's own superintendent, and how any public tax-supported entity or private corporation would endure such a structure and survive. I want to hear that argument.

The whole system is set to operate at less-than-optimal efficiency; and, it _is_ failing - on a national level.

It's even more amusing to see people blame teachers and site administrators for all this when those groups have had only a tiny hand in the way primary strategic decisions about education are made - locally, and nationally.

It's a mess of our own making, but some people - like kids - seem to delight in playing in the mud and making even more of a mess, until they've had enough and move on to their next cause.

Here's a prediction: until we find a way to fundamentally redo the way this and other districts are administered, and until we start giving good teachers more say in how education isi delivered, our local and national K-12 systems will continue to suffer from unnecessary political ferment, and massive inefficiencies.

the only other way out is to watch public education unravel, year-by-year, until most of the good teachers and site administrators move on to private schools and charter schools. (this will be a few decades-long process, but it's one that has already begun).

Go take a look at the first year drop out rate among teachers. Why do you think that is?

Can you imagine physicians having their decisions ruled by non-medical boards? If you can't, take a look at what HMO's have done to limit good doctoring; take a further look at the growing trend for good doctors to leave HMO's and start private practices (usually small consortiums).

What most here don't seem to realize is that all this politicing ultimately finds its way back to the classroom. It wears on teachers and staff, and compels _constant_ workarounds to an already stressfull environement.

I'm begining to wonder if this district really has what it takes to do the necessary soul-searching, and then take _courageous action_ based on what we find out. I wonder further if that soul-searching will involve hard questions that challenge the current structural administrative, and structural governance constraints that got us here. We'll see.

In any case, life will go on. Those who get fed up will leave, and the lost opportunity will go largely unnoticed as PAUSD continues to be a playpen for would-be politicos and ambitious adminsitrators.


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2007 at 12:45 pm


Mike,


The last time I was in a classroom was a few weeks ago, right before the end of the school year. I have spent the past 6 years volunteering in my children's classrooms.

Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for teachers. Most of the ones I have known are hard-working, loving, dedicated, talented individuals, invaluable persons.

However, I am thinking in particular about class size reduction. Article after article that I have read, points to the fact that class size reduction has no significant effect on the academic results of our children. It does, however, result in a reduction in stress levels for teachers.

In the event of increased enrollment and space crunch in the PA school, increasing class size would be the logical, wise, and most practical solution. Yet, no one will talk about it? Why? Could it be that it would not go over well with teachers even though the children would mostly be unscathed ? Given what I stated above, could we expect teachers, if they were in charge of PAUSD policy decisions, to decide to increase class size to deal with the enrollment issue ? Frankly, and will all due respect, I don't think so.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 5, 2007 at 1:19 pm

HWGA,

Again, where has anyone said that teachers would be in charge. Show me.

Again, from a prior post "Again, we're talking about, ideally, one site administrator and one or two teachers having REPRESENTATION on the board, as voting members."

How does that put teachers in charge?

Next, about class size reduction. Most of the arguments I have heard against CSR are based on 2-3 year studies, with poor experimental controls applied to studied population.

Here's something that an academic friend of mine (at Stnford) sent over a few months ago
Web Link

In fairness, you readily admit that class size reduction reduces teacher stress. In fairness, I would like you to guess at how much bettter an education children in smaller class sizes are getting, than not, from teachers who are less stressed, and less burned-out.

Why is it that the average class size of 16 in Europe (which has had lower class sizes for some time) doesn't get included in the reported data coming from conservative think tanks? I want to hear that rationalization; I need a good laugh.

Let me answer why we don't hear about that. It's bec ause European K-12 education makes our system look amatuerish by comparison, in terms of _results_.

Have you ever taught in a class of 30 students, with primary responsibility for those student's cognitive development, day in and day out for years? Try that, and then come back and make an argument that larger class sizes are better for kids and teachers - and society.

It's getting pretty old hearing people wax about how much "xyz" costs, without _ever once_ considering the more broad spectrum of cost (often down-the-road costs) that will be incurred if "xyz" is not funded.

Penny wise, pound foolish.




Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 5, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Class size reduction. It seems unlikely that children are actually *damaged* by being in classes with 25-30 kids in elementary school, of even middle and high school. But in my children's elementary school, where there were only 20 children to a classroom and minimal aide time, one teacher after another had trouble differentiating the curriculum, and spent most of the time dealing (ith marginal success) with inappropriate behavior.

Now my children are in a (private) school with adequate supervision and 16 children to a classroom. The fact is, in the new school, between the aide and the teacher, every child gets more personal attention. Each child can and does have a more differentiated curriculum. When we are crying out for differentiation, who is going to monitor the specialized curriculum of 30 children when they already can't get it done for 20?

Maybe what the community wants or needs is a more homogeneous education for every child, with the high end going along without being particularly challenged and the low end being brought along as best those kids can make it. That is certainly one historical model. All I can say is that in my experience, my own children tanked in a 20-child, undifferentiated classroom, and have thrived ever since their move to a 16-child, differentiated classroom with supervision and a focus on stomping out bullying behavior.

I think it is more complicated than simply whether bigger classrooms endanger children. We as a community have to decide whether it is necessary or appropriate to expect individuated teaching from elemtary on up; smaller language classes; etc. I don't think anyone can seriously debate that smaller class size allows for more personalized attention to each child in the classroom, and more thorough review of each child's work during prep periods. But do our children NEED that? I don't know. That's for the community and the BoE to decide.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 5, 2007 at 1:38 pm

natasha, You raise some valid points. So far, the word is out on CSR because of all the other variables that interfere with it. This is made most obvious by your pointing out how bullying and other disruptive behavior is "stomped out". Bully for that!

We have gotten ourselves in a mess - even in the most hoity-toity districts - by permitting 5-7% of the kids who are most disruptive to continue with their disruptions. A visit to any public school classroom in Palo Alto will reveal a very small percentage of kids, who have simply not been socialized appropriately, requiring inordinate amounts of class time to manage.

We need to find a solution for those kids _outside_ of the everyday classroom,, and we need to do that in a way that doesn't include threats from the very small clueless minority ofo parents who persist failing to create appropriate limits for their children at home, leaving teachers, site administrators, and their fellow students to pick up the mess.


Posted by Rod, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2007 at 2:18 pm

Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.

1967 - Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the
Principal. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class
again.

2007 - Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability. Jeffrey learns to get high by crushing and snorting Ritalin pills.

Note: I stole this from the Internet. Still, it makes a point. Maybe this is why we were able to go to class with thirty-plus kids 40 years ago. All of my k-8 teachers had control in the classroom, except one. We drove him crazy, and he quit. He was the only male teacher that did not have a paddle hanging up in the classroom - he didn't believe in it; the female teachers always sent us problem kids to the principal - problem over (ALL of the principals could deliver a real wallop!).


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 5, 2007 at 2:50 pm

I think the small classroom size does help kids--it may not show up on test scores, but coming from a generation of large classrooms and seeing my child's experience in a small classroom, the difference is noticeable. The Ohlone Way includes differentiated instruction and I think that becomes very difficult with more than, say, 22 students at the lower grades. From my observation, there's something about classroom management that changes between 20 and 25 kids--you really have to manage by group then.

Regarding "problem" children--I don't think warehousing 5 to 7 percent of our kids is needed. I saw amazing, subtle managment of kids with issues in my child's class. A lot of it was pro-active, tut that means a teacher has to have the time and space to observe and anticipate.

We're talking about public education and that means educating kids who aren't perfectly behaved and have parents we think of as cluless and difficult. It's not a fun part of the job of public education, but it *is* part of the job.

Note to Walter,

What blacks? the Black population has been dropping for ages in EPA, we're talking latinos, primarily, along with Pacific Islanders and Asians. Your bias is showing in that you equate "minority" with one minority.

But you bring up an issue that makes me dubious about the whole notion of "color blind". Fact is, there *is* an ugly, brutal history in this country of institutionalized racism. "Color blind" seems to be used as a means of denying that there are any current ramifications because of that history. After all, if you make it illegal, as you propose, to collect any data relating to race, well, then, it becomes that much harder to show racial discrimination. Very convenient.

But, white guilt isn't why I value diversity in schools, it's because we *are* a diverse country and if we can't work and live with one another, we're in a big trouble. European country have smaller minorities than we do, but those groups have been isolated--and it's been a big problem over there. The less marginalized people feel, the better for *all* of us. Separatism, where our kids only play with kids who look like them from the same background is a dangerous luxury.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jul 5, 2007 at 3:11 pm

"You say that you spoke to teachers about their opposition to MI. Did you speak to them about why they didn't gather to speak publicly about that? My bet is that you haven't. If you can find some teachers who will open up about this, you'll get an earful."
I'm still trying to figure out why the principals were so silent through the entire MI debacle. Don't they have opinions that should be publicly voiced, heard and considered? What's behind their silence?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2007 at 3:28 pm

Teachers in this community are a closed bunch. They tend not to want to talk about what may do harm to their jobs in this district. There have been at least two instances in recent years when the teachers themselves are opting to remain silent, e.g. the Joe di Salvo issue, the Lisa Swagerty issue. The transparancy issue is slightly different as some formed an alliance and became vocal while the majority remained silent. What goes on behind the staff lounge doors appears to be their business and they don't want any on the outside to know.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 5, 2007 at 4:12 pm

YAParent, What principal in her right mind would raise opposition to MI, in a district where the Sup and BOE (or most of the BOE) are attached at the waist? The entire issue is a TRUST issue. The BOE hired Callan, who did each other's bidding when it came to most strategic personnel issues. (another reason that Cook and bowers should go; they play it like they were "good soldiers" - in essence, they enjoyed piling on until the management team got the courage to do the right thing - now Cook and Bowers are backpedaling. They should go..

Parent, apply what I just wrote, above, to teachers. Do you kow how easy it is to lose your job (in spite of the union, and tenure) or lose an opportunity for promotion as a teacher, if you tick off some of the few teachers that are aligned with the powers-that-were (and be)? You need to get out and ask around. Human "resources" are sadly missing within PAUSD>


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2007 at 4:39 pm


Note to Mike and Natasha:


I have a child who went through K-5 in Palo Alto schools with 27-28 kids per classroom each year. I have another child who went through K-5 in Palo Alto schools with only 20 kids per classroom.

I did NOT see any difference. They both got the same kind of education in the same kind of environment.

Natasha: I suspect that when you switched to a private school from public schools, other factors than classroom size made a difference. Factors such as demographics and parent involvement, among others.

Mike: suprise! How come I knew an educator would not be willing to revisit the class size issue ?

FYI it is not the ration of students per CLASSROOM that is 16 at elementary level in Europe (with wide variations between coutries by the way), rather it is the ratio of students per TEACHER. So we would have to take aides into account in our calculations to be able to compare these numbers. And aide time could increase with the number of kids per class in Palo Alto. We are talking about solving the space issue, and at what cost.

Furthermore, the class size allowed per regulations in most European countries is somewhere between 25 and 30 students. See interesting statistics at Web Link

Bottom line, Mike, your reaction was predictable. And it is natural. It is hard to give a perk to an employee only to take it back a few years later.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 5, 2007 at 5:26 pm

HWGA, how very convenient to say that you "suspect that when you switched to a private school from public schools, other factors than classroom size made a difference".

Do you have any evidence to back up those suspicions? If not, might your claims about teacher bias for smaller class sizes bias be the pot calling the kettle black? You give yourself away when you call CSR a "perk" for employees (teachers). Looks like, without sound evidence, that you've made up your mind about a policy that benefits students (in Europe, for sure) - and that there's no good evidence against re: showing long-term gain from smaller classes. PLease point those LONG-TERM studies out, instead of trotting out the usual biased stuff.

Isn't it funny how common sense can be throttled by unproven theory. If there are 30 people in room A, and 15 people in room be - givena normal distrivution of inteilligence, interest, aptitude, motication, etc. - which students, given a good teacher will OVERALL learn faster, and learn more. Next.

btw, I'm open to revisiting class size based on information that isn't biased. Your web link shows...what? That class size if lower in Europe than it is in America, generally. And, that the trend for class size in Europe is SMALLER. So, your point? It looks like you're another one of those people who is always looking at the "bottom line" with a bookkeeper's visor, yet somewhat unable to see what ALL the costs of NOT having smaller classrooms is.

Let's see some unbiased fiscal accounting on your part, for both real capital, and human capital, rather than trying to balance your property tax pittance on the backs of our kids.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 5, 2007 at 5:26 pm

Geez, what teacher around here in her or his right mind wouldn't keep discreetly quiet?

Susan Charles, did, of course, speak several times to the school board, but she was always quite cautious and did not tell the board what she thought they should do. And you know what? It's *not* her job to do so. There's a chain of command issue here and I think teachers are completely aware of that.

I have heard some of the behind-doors complaining by teachers (not in this district) and it's what you might expect--they do find a bunch of us annoying with unrealistic expectations about our kids. Sometimes, I think they're dead-on at other times I think a certain amount of burn-out is at work. I'm not sure, frankly, what purpose it serves to make this more public.

Public education is a balancing act, no one side is in the right all the time. I do think we need a lot more transparency and the rules about choice programs need to be changed so that we don't get another case of charter blackmail. I'd still love to know how we're going to get real oversight of MI' costs--there's too much of a foxes-guarding-the-henhouse issue at this point.


Posted by Former PAUSD Teacher, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2007 at 9:31 pm

As a former PAUSD teacher with many friends in the district, I've come to the following realizations:

1) Classroom size isn't a big deal in terms of managing the class, although the teaching union will fight before giving it up. It really comes down to those 1-5 kids in the class that take up 95% of your time, usually for behavioral issues. In almost all of these cases, the behavior issues stem from the parents' issues. The parents either ignore the problems and disruptions their child makes in the classroom or they blame the teacher; usually it's both. I've yet to meet a teacher that would have a problem with moving from 20 kids to 25 kids in a classroom if the kids that misbehaved were properly dealt with my the administration and the involved parents were supportive (instead of being part of the problem).

2) The VTP situation will never go away unless there's a huge uproar from the Palo Alto community and the BoE is FORCED into action. Please remember that fewer kids in the district mean layoffs for teachers (uh oh...) and the possible removal of a few high-paid managers at 25 Churchill that oversee the problem. Why would they eliminate a program that justifies their paycheck?

It's important to point out that there is a very large overlap between point 1 and point 2. I would wager that VTP students have a higher percentage of behavioral incidents percentage-wise than those students that live in Palo Alto. I've seen actual discipline records from one PAUSD school and the results were mindblowing.

3) Palo Alto teachers have a great salary structure, a great benefit package, and only work 180-190 days during the year. Many of them also only teacher 5 periods out of the possible 7 (5 classes is full time). That said, I know many teachers that spend 12 hours a day, preparing lessons, returning phone calls & e-mails from overinvolved Palo Alto Parents, dealing with the outcomes of the school day, grading papers, and even taking night classes to keep up to date on the latest teaching advancements. When mid June hits, many teachers are burnt out. It's a hectic pace with challenging situations.

I've got a lot more thoughts on these issues and yes, I've walked the walk and did so in PAUSD schools. It's a great place to be, mostly due to the incredible kids that populate PAUSD schools. Every decision should be replied to with the following question: What's best for (PAUSD) kids?

Unfortunately, I'm not sure that's what's taking place.

(sorry for the spelling errors... long day)


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 5, 2007 at 9:38 pm

Thank you, Former, that is one of the more enlightening posts I've seen about our schools in a while. Thank you.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 5, 2007 at 11:58 pm

Former,

Thanks for posting. You make an interesting point about why the school bureaucracy wants to keep the VTP. I know the board refused to even consider adjusting it when the north-cluster overcrowding problem erupted, which did mean some kids were bumped from their neighborhood schools by Tinsley transfer students, which, while I don't oppose the Tinsely program, struck me as just sort of whacky and deeply unfair.


Posted by Current PAUSD teacher, a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2007 at 12:00 am

Thank you so much to those voices of reason. I only came to this thread in the last 20 minutes and have tried to catch up.

Based on some of the earlier posts (until Mike thankfully stepped in) I would have thought that the PA adult population really and truly believed that teachers were a mindless group of creatures only following movement created by stirrings from large group.

I think some of you would be surprised to know the long hours we keep, the weekends we visit our classrooms (from other far-off, less expensive communities), the heated discussions we have about pedagogy during our meetings and professional development days and afternoons, the time we volunteer beyond school hours to be on committees or to teach other teachers our specific interests.... Not to mention the classes we take a night. The lunch hours spent with noon sports or giving students help. The e-mails we answer after 11pm. The books we read. I am certainly not complaining about my hours. I am only asking that when discussing a teacher's work year, that you do so with some delicacy. I love my job, because of my students, not my vacation time.

I have taught in this district for over 10 years. In the beginning, I had a class of 29 students and an aide 2 hours a day. Currently, my class size is at 22 (I teach upper grade elementary) with an aide 3x's a week for just under 2 hours each time. Aide time changed with class size reduction. (this is in reference to someone's statement from before)

Looking at class behavior: If I really think about the students who have given me grief in my ten years, and I have to be honest, NONE of them were from the VTP program. Imagine that. I even paused for a few minutes and thought about each of my classes (and believe me, a teacher remembers the "ones") and I am serious when I say, NONE of my previous behavior problems have come from the VTP program. Please, could we stop stereotyping?

In my humble opinion, I would be more aimiable to a larger class size than denying children an opportunity to come to PA for lessons. AND if people who are far more knowledgeable, than me, in the subject of VTP (and the pros and cons for STUDENTS) decide that the program is not serving the needs of the students that it was meant to serve and determine that the program is no longer viable, I will accept their conclusion. I would accept their conclusion with some regret because some of my most cherished families, whose gratitude has been overwhelming, are part of the VTP program. I would, however, defer to the experts on the subject.

Kindly give us a break... Al, never suspect that I would allow "Bright Susie" to sit on her laurels, and never would I refer to a student (someone's child) as "stupid". But, yes, I would expect Johnny and Susie to work together on occasion, because they are part of the same class, the same learning community. And like it or not, we are all under the same roof for many hour for those 180 days...

Be kind to teachers. It is good for the soul...


Posted by steve levy, a resident of University South
on Jul 6, 2007 at 8:21 am

"be kind to teachers. It is good for the soul..."

Sounds good to me. Most of the teachers who taught our children were wonderful, dedicated, hard-working men and women who enriched the lives of our children and were always available to us.


Posted by Tulley, a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jul 6, 2007 at 10:35 am

I agree with Steve. My children and now my grandchildren have wonderful teachers in PAUSD. My earlier comment about the teacher's union was not pro or con. It was simply to point out that seemingly simple decisions about larger class sizes, longer school days, more school days in the year, etc are not only subject to what the BOE, the Supt, the community and even the teachers believe are best for the children. These decisions are also seem to be contract negotiation points between the teacher's union and the district. So changes from the status quo, no matter how practical, beneficial or sensible, may not be as straightforward and uncomplicated as one would hope.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2007 at 11:13 am

agreed with the "stop the VTP stereotyping". The major behavior issues at our elementary school have NOT been "VTP" kids.

One was my own kid, frankly, until a couple years ago ( Thank God for Ritalin, which I fought for far too long, handicapping my son more and more with every passing year as I tried every behavior technique, including spanking, first. Poor kid, it was like disciplining a kid born with only on leg because he won't walk)

The others that I see have not been dealt with because of PARENTAL DENIAL that there is a problem behaviorally, or because of PARENTAL REFUSAL to put on a Ritalin equivolent..none of them VTP.

If we drop the VTP program, it shouldn't be from this kind of stereotyping ( at least in elementary school..I have no idea what the behaviors work out to be in high school)


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2007 at 11:13 am

born with only ONE leg, not ON leg...


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 6, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Oh yeah, Resident, I have seen a LOT of entitlement in this district from parents of problem kids and the problem kids themselves. It seems unreasonable to say if ONE or a FEW of the kids should have behavioral issues the whole program should be cancelled, when so many behaviors start right her in Palo Alto, at home, with permissive parents who undermine teachers. when I was a kid you got benched if you were running where you weren't supposed to, etc. etc. In my kids' school, when I suggested benching kids who were physically injuring others, I was told by the administration that this was an insensitive approach because it would undermine the offending child's self esteem. Never mind the safety of the other children, the self-esteem of the victims.


Posted by Porsche, a resident of Ventura
on Jul 6, 2007 at 3:57 pm

not to mention what other kids are learning as they watch the most disruptive kids get break after break after break,, because schools are not empowered to expel egregious offenders of common decency and common respect


Posted by Urbanist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2007 at 10:39 pm

I believe in regional planning -- for land use, education and almost everything else. Our current city and school district boundaries make as little sense as our single-story school buildings. We live in the 4th largest metropolitan region in the US. As our region continues to grow, the illogical boundaries that we have now will make even less sense. So too will our suburban, single-story school buildings. There is plenty of room for more people in Palo Alto and more kids in our schools if we replace our suburban fantasies with a vision of a more compact, urban form. The biggest mistake the BOE made in the 20 years I've been here was to refurbish our single-story school sites and add single-story portables. We should build multi-story urban schools to accomodate enrollment growth while liberating precious school-site land for playing fields. And we should even out per-pupil funding in the Bay Area by adopting regional land use and education governance mechanisms. Palo Alto is not an island.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 7, 2007 at 12:55 am

Urbanist, ahhhhh...music to my ears - yours is a voice of visionary reason - - welcome! Anyone doubting Urbanist's point about multi-level schooling should go visit the beautiful campus of Los Gatos High School. Marvelous!


Posted by NBND, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2007 at 4:51 am

Wow, so PAUSD has a few disruptive kids. A modest proposal to beat them into submission, and another to drug them up. Who said PA is a progressive community?

The diagnosis and prescription (parents fail to create appropriate limits for their children; deal with these kids outside the classroom, and make administrators and parents handle it) says more about those posting (two teachers), than about the problem or the kids.

I don't doubt there are some kids who don't belong in the classroom, but they are extremely few and far between. As for the rest of the "problem kids," it is the job of public education to teach those kids, too, as OhlonePar noted.

As a teacher, it is your job to manage your classroom. You ought to be able to rely on the support of parents and administrators in doing this (e.g. parents should reinforce your message in the home), but the management needs to happen in the classroom and you need to do it. As another poster said, it requires attention and pro-active management. I have seen students turn to "problem kids" in the space of a summer because their new teacher (in the fall) could not manage the classroom, and then return to non-problem kids the next year with a new teacher.

Ask around the teachers' lounge, everyone knows who can manage and who cannot.

If you personally, as a teacher, have trouble in this area, you should seek out further training. Or get out of teaching. We are no longer living in an era where we allow teachers to use beating to manage children. You have to seek out other tools and stop wishing for an other-worldly problem-free classroom. It is part of a teacher's job to socialize children to a classroom environment.

Timeouts: sure; benching: great; losing recess: why not?; drugging: bad; beating: very bad; sending off 5% of kids: incomprehensible.


Posted by Natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 7:12 am

NBND -- I agree, the solution is not to drug or beat misbehaving children. However, in the school I am referring to, which is a PAUSD elementary and I don't think the only one that thinks like this, teachers would hve been able to do a fine job managing if they had not been undermined by administrative ideology. that is to say, I watched a teacher come in new to teach a compeltely out of control class. In 3 weeks he had them under control. He was used to teaching in East LA, so clearly used to managing. The big, bad system he used was the "traffic light" system used in the scouts, at most enlightened private schools that focus on emotional intelligence and have behavioral standards. In this system, a kid who misbehaves once gets a warning. Twice, a warning. Three times, the kid gets up and moves a clothespin with his or her name to the "yellow light" position on a posterboard traffic light. More nonsense, and the kid gets a "red light," and a note home. Now, in normal circumstances, the kids don't want to geta yellow light, that happens a few times and they understand boundaries and consequences. In my kids' former school, however, the principal came in and informed the teacher that this system was disrespectful and demeaning and made him take it down. DEMEANING! So the kids understood perfectly well that while the teacher told them to behave they didn't have to and that if they didn't, NOTHING would happen to them. Please. That's ridiculous.

Oh, I should add that the same enlightened administrator shot down my idea (taken from Award Winning School Law Lomitas) that kids could have boxes in each classroom where they could secretly nominate any child they saw doing something nice, thoughtful, etc. and the principal could call their names once a week or once a month or so at lunch so they would know people noticed. The reason this idea was bad was apparently that some kid might at some point do something great and no be noticed and be so discouraged his self-esteem would be forever damaged.

So for those of you who keep harping on the idea that good teachers control their classrooms, I agree to a point. But when every tool for controlling kids is taken away, and they are not allowed to give rewards for good behavior (forgot to mention that gem ealier) and they are not allowed to give consequences for disruptive behavior, well please tell me how they are supposed to control their classes?

Of course, this may be the only school in the district that has this problem for all I know, but the trend seems to be for parents to protect their kids from consequences and think their little darlings are extraordinarily brilliant. Oh, and a final note -- we cannot stop the trend fast enough of forcing bully and vicitm to apologize to EACH OTHER to make it equal. I hear it happens everywhere. Sometimes, I kid has just been mean, and both children are not equallyto blame. This practice emboldens bullies and undermines victims and it's just stupid. Another example of a well-intentioned philosophy (takes two to tango, taken to its absurd extreme.

I will give just one more example. I used to volunteer countless hours in my kid's classroom. I did drama with them. It was wonderful. Once I was given a group of four completely unrult boys to manage. Luckily, I am a volunteer and not a teacher. They acted up, I gave them a warning. They acted up again, I gave them a second warning. Third time they got going, I informed them that practice time was over, that I was not here to wste my time with them, and that I would be back the next day. And if they could not get it together the next day, there would be no play at the end of the week because we would not have time. Guess what? Those four little boys were a dream the next day and for the rest of the week and several ended up being my particular favorites for the rest of the year. I can only imagine if I had been a teacher doing this. Parents, calling and complaining, principal saying I have to "understand" them bette, blah blah blah. I did have one parent come and tell me her son said I had yelled at him. That little kid was arrogant and over the top bright and was ruining the play for everyone else by running around mocking them -- not because he was ADHD but because he thought he was so much better than all of them. I told him "You are either part of the team or not, but you do not get to ruin this for everyone. So you need to decide whether youwill be in or out." He freaked out and went home and reported I had yelled at him. I said he needed to decide whether he wanted to be a soloist or part of a trupe, and stood my ground. Guess what? That kid came around too.

There are so many consequences that don't involve paddling, berating, etc. Swift, natural consequences (benching, etc.) will weed out the problem kids from those with impulse control issues, who can then be helped appropriately. I think the teachers in this district are heroes, teaching our kids with all this pedagogical psychobabble being thrown at them and hampering them from just doing their job.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2007 at 10:05 am

2 comments

Urbanist - I agree with most of what you say except for boundaries. The AAAG spent over a year discussing boundaries, most on the committee expected as you say to rehash and come up with some great boundaries. Unfortunately, there was much, much more to the subject that any member anticipated and in the end the recommendation was basically to leave things alone until such time as the High School task force had come up with its recommendations and a decision was made by the board for a 13th elementary school. Yes, peer streaming became a very big topic, and although many scenarios were looked into, 3 middles into 2 highs mean that one middle must be split. If you have some positive ideas then please pass them on because a great many people worked hard and could not come up with any.

Disruptive kids - as a parent who knows from experience, benching or losing recess is only going to make a disruptive child more disruptive. What most of the disruptive kids I have come across need is actually more exercise. In my school days, I had one teacher who routinely sent the class out for a run around the field when she was having trouble in the classroom. It worked magic, we were then so tired (it was a large field) that we sat silent for the rest of the class. What is needed is to get the disruptive kids some exercise. I expect most of the disruption is by kids who arrive at one minute before the bell, breakfast in hand, having been driven to school and have not had time to properly wake up. This transfers into wiggles at a young age and disruption as they get older. Instead of time out, a strenuous double pe would wear out the bodies enough to make them sit still and behave for the rest of the day. And, to the parents of these kids, probably the whole family needs more exercise, so as a family, find ways to get the family moving.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 10:17 am

It looks like there are various methods that people like for managing the classroom, and various things people think DO NOT work. This suggests to me that there is no single answer and in fact maybe no real solution at all - disruption in the classroom ye will always have with ye.

If a VTP child is consistently disruptive, can that child no longer be allowed to attend (perhaps making room for a less disruptive child)?

Fred


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jul 7, 2007 at 1:47 pm

Fred,
Your posts are generally filled with calm and reason. I'm disappointed with the last one you wrote where you started off with your usual opened-minded "there is no single answer" comment, then pulled in VTP as if those kids are the main problem and that their punishment should be harsher. Please read Current PAUSD Teacher's post – perhaps you missed it?

"Looking at class behavior: If I really think about the students who have given me grief in my ten years, and I have to be honest, NONE of them were from the VTP program. Imagine that. I even paused for a few minutes and thought about each of my classes (and believe me, a teacher remembers the "ones") and I am serious when I say, NONE of my previous behavior problems have come from the VTP program. Please, could we stop stereotyping?"


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 2:41 pm

YAP - sorry to disappoint and of course you are correct. Former Teacher implied the data she'd seen (for one school in one year, I believe) indicated VTP kids created disproportionate discipline problems; Current Teacher said she could not remember a major trouble maker from her classes who was in the VTP. The data, as usual, is ambiguous.

My context is this. My mother, 40 years a jr high teacher and principal, has told me that if the 5% (about 1 in 20, so 1-2 per class) of seriously disruptive kids could be pulled out of the classroom, learning and teacher effectiveness would skyrocket. (She argued that this was the reason that selective schools, private or charter, might be look more effective - they, unlike the regular public schools, could turn away kids if they chose).

I am ignorant on the particulars of VTP, but I was assuming that, for VTP participants, attending PA schools is a privilege vs. a right for PA residents. If it is a privilege, then it might make sense to take it away if the children pose a serious discipline problem.

I don't know if VTP kids cause disproportionate discipline problems or not - but even if they are no different from the rest, it might make sense to turn away kids who are persistently disruptive.

Fred


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2007 at 3:09 pm


Mike, I won't respond any further to your comments on class size since you side-stepped the real statistics, such as children per classroom vs. children per teacher and aide, and talk about 15 vs 30 children when I talk about 20 vs 28 children per class. A little good faith would help the debate. (By the way we thankfully have a teacher above who says she would not mind an increased class size under proper conditions.)

Where I take issue with you is when you utter the following statement:

"Let's see some unbiased fiscal accounting on your part, for both real capital, and human capital, rather than trying to balance your property tax pittance on the backs of our kids."

Guess what Mike ? Like you, if you are indeed teacher, my husband works for the government and is paid by the governement, at the kind of salaries the governement pays. You know what I am talking about presumable (except that he does not get 2 or 3 months off in the summer). And I am a home-maker who has spent countless hours volunteering in the classroom, helping teachers do art, writing, math, and special projects, as well as chaperoning the kids on field trips.

We, as a family, scraped every penny to buy a house and move into this community quite a few years ago. For us, property taxes are not a "pittance" as you contemptuously say. It is a real issue. Every time there is a new parcel tax, or a double of an existing parcel tax, every time there are new bonds, we have to wonder where the money will come from in our budget.

It is both mind-boggling and sad to see a teacher who is supposed to serve the children and families of this community have so much contempt for the families of Palo Alto and spit so much venom at them.

Where I am concerned, I am done discussing anything with a person like you.


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2007 at 3:12 pm

Same text, with a few errors corrected, sorry:

Mike,

I won't respond any further to your comments on class size since you side-stepped the real statistics, such as children per classroom vs. children per teacher and aide, and talk about 15 vs 30 children when I talk about 20 vs 28 children per class. A little good faith would help the debate. (By the way we thankfully have a teacher above who says she would not mind an increased class size under proper conditions.)

Where I take issue with you is when you utter the following statement:

"Let's see some unbiased fiscal accounting on your part, for both real capital, and human capital, rather than trying to balance your property tax pittance on the backs of our kids."

Guess what Mike ? Like you, if you are indeed a teacher, my husband works for the government and is paid by the governement, at the kind of salaries the governement pays. You know what I am talking about presumably (except that my husband does not get 2 or 3 months off in the summer). And I am a home-maker who has spent countless hours volunteering in the classroom, helping teachers do art, writing, math, and special projects, as well as chaperoning the kids on field trips.

As a family, we scraped every penny to buy a house and move into this community quite a few years ago. For us, property taxes are not a "pittance" as you contemptuously say. It is a real issue. Every time there is a new parcel tax, or a double of an existing parcel tax, every time there are new bonds, we have to wonder where the money will come from in our budget.

It is both mind-boggling and sad to see a teacher who is supposed to serve the children and families of this community have so much contempt for the families of Palo Alto and spit so much venom at them.

Where I am concerned, I am done discussing anything with a person like you.






Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jul 7, 2007 at 4:59 pm

"Former Teacher implied the data she'd seen (for one school in one year, I believe) indicated VTP kids created disproportionate discipline problems;"
Fred, just to clarify, Current PAUSD Teacher (not to be confused with Former Teacher) was referring to 10 years of experience within this district, and that it was not simply a matter of "disproportionate discipline problems" but rather that "NONE of them were from the VTP program."

As far as it being a privilege for VTP students to attend PAUSD schools, I agree that it is a privilege and a right, just as it's a privilege and a right for students within the PAUSD boundaries to attend PAUSD schools. Once they are legally admitted into a school, they have every right to be there. It's not a greater or lesser right, or a greater or lesser privilege.

I can't imagine having two sets of disciplinary standards, one for PAUSD students and one for VTP students. One student repeatedly misbehaves and he's sent to the principal to be sent home for the day; another repeatedly misbehaves and he's sent "back where he came from", essentially going from one of the area's best school systems to one of the worst. That's extreme. (Expulsions are a different case, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here. At any rate, expulsion leads to the same end result for either student.)

I agree with your mother. Too bad the solutions aren't easy to come by.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 5:21 pm

YAP, I also agree with my mother (go Mom!) and largely with you.

As I tried to say, it doesn't matter (much) whether Former or Current Teacher has better data (fwiw, my take is that one seemed to have 1 class x 10 years of data , the other one school x 1 year, so neither much more than the other and neither enough to draw any conclusions). Let's just assume that VTP and PA residents are equal is their proportion of disruptive kids.

I can in fact imagine a rule like you describe - I don't view it as unfair, just based on reality. My view is if you want to attend as a Voluntary Transfer, you are a guest of the district. I do not agree that once accepted the VTP participants have a "right" to attend, equivalent to the "right" of residents, no matter what their behavior (though perhaps has a matter of law, my view is incorrect - do you know?). If you a very poor guest, you won't be asked back next year. I don't think that is a disservice to the VTP families - it is the way the world works. Obviously there would be appropriate process and documentation requirements, and probably more than one chance.

But very likely this would address just a very small part of the total issue of disruptive kids. I wish I had a proposal for the rest.

Fred


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2007 at 6:17 pm

Fred,

I'm pretty sure by rule of law, a VTP transfer is not in the district on a guest basis. That would undermine the grounds of the Tinsley suit (equal access to education). It's possible to overturn the Tinsley settlement, I suspect, but while it's there I don't see that you can treat VTP kids under one set of rules and PAUSD kids under another. (To me, the most vulnerable part of Tinsley right now concerns its being limited to minorities. I also have to wonder about a program that takes priority over neighborhood access.)

Are disruptive kids really that huge a problem, though? I think maybe all of us experienced teachers who were good at classroom managment and those who were not. With the best of them, it doesn't even get to the disruption stage. They spot potential problems before they happen.

A very good teacher I know--who'd strike most of you as a no-nonsense, force-of-nature type--is surprisingly nonjudgmental when she talks about kids acting out. To her, acting out is both something to be handled on its own terms and also an indicator that there's something going on. Often the kids *do* need extra attention and a discipline problem can turn into a great kid if he or she feels valued.

I've also, like Parent, seen kids with the wiggles. They really do need to move and kids today just don't get the opportunities to run around during the school day that we did (I remember three recesses, lunch and P.E.).

The main thing that feels like it's getting dropped here is that most kids don't want to be bad. They don't want to be unhappy. They're not there to punish the teacher. So it's worthwhile trying to find way to manage them. And as the reasons for misbehavior differ, I think, so do the treatments. Some kids do need a good solid limit. Other kids need a gentle touch and a lot of attention. Others need a few laps around the track.

And teachers need nice fat gift cards for the nearest coffee joint.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 7:48 pm

Thanks OP. My question is whether a PARTICULAR kid is entitled to attend in PA under VTP (once accepted) or whether SOME kid is? I believe there is a waiting list of eligible kids(true?) so if one kid is not allowed back for behavior issues, another would take his/her place. Is that acceptable under the settlement?

I generally agree with your (and others) thoughts that there are many ways to handle kids. But again, listening to Mom, there definitely seem to be kids who are resistant to being handled (often because they parents either don't care or don't agree) - it's a reality. And handling them, successfully or not, takes a lot of teacher time. Probably not as big an issue in PA as it was in urban upstate New York, where Mom taught, but still a big issue in almost any public school setting.

Fred


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jul 7, 2007 at 9:00 pm

"My question is whether a PARTICULAR kid is entitled to attend in PA under VTP (once accepted) or whether SOME kid is? I believe there is a waiting list of eligible kids(true?) so if one kid is not allowed back for behavior issues, another would take his/her place. Is that acceptable under the settlement?"
From what I understand new VTP students are added only in the first 2-3 years of school. An opening in first grade, for example, can be filled, but an opening in the upper elementary grades and beyond is a permanent vacancy.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Jul 7, 2007 at 11:05 pm

Fred, I've been thinking about your analogy, "My view is if you want to attend as a Voluntary Transfer, you are a guest of the district." This is a commonly-voiced analogy but not entirely accurate. I view the VTP arrangement more as an adoption. Through a legally binding agreement PAUSD has committed to educating these VTP children *as their own*. The teachers and staff are committed to treating all students equally, regardless of how they entered the system. From my limited experience, the teachers I've known have done an exceptional job of treating all students fairly and equally; it's the parents who are most troubled by the presence of VTP students. I wonder what message this conveys to their children?


Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 8, 2007 at 7:10 pm

I've heard that teachers spend around $1k per year, out-of-pocket, for supplies for their classes. So if I were a teacher, instead of a gift card to the local coffee joint, I'd prefer a gift card to whichever educational supply store I patronize.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 8, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Before I pulled my kids, I routinely gave hundreds of dollars in used books, cash, supplies, etc. (after asking whatt hey needed, I mean)and worked hard to find grant opportunities for teachers as well for this very reason. Other than volunteering in the classroom in a nonjudgmetal way, this is the best thing you can do for teachers. However, I also liked to give them a nice lunch once a year or so in their lounge with homemade food and real silverware and napkins, not paper and plastic, and they all seemed to enjoy that immensely as well.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2007 at 8:34 pm

YAP, you may be right. I can't say I have any direct experience with it and I don't know the rules. But I do stand by my view - if there are consistently disruptive kids that come through the district without a residence-based (or other) entitlement, it would be good if, after due process, they were asked not to return. It may not be as good for them if this is the case; but it is better for the rest. As you say, kids with this status may feel less secure; on the other hand, they may emerge with a greater appreciation of what they have. I'm ok with it.

Fred


Posted by NBND, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2007 at 3:57 am

Natasha,

I agree with all you said. I hope the situation you described is isolated nuttiness.

Yes, if we take away all a teacher's tools for managing the classroom, we should expect chaos. Of course, that's not the kids' fault (look to the administrators or parents who are pushing such ideas), and barring 5% of kids from the classroom would be unfair.

I have also never heard of making victims apologize to bullies. Where do these ideas come from?

Yes, give the teachers the tools they need, support them with good pay, teach kids to respect teachers, give them generous ongoing professional development. Oh, and weed out the bad ones.

As for gifts, just give them cash--they can decide where to spend it.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 9, 2007 at 9:13 am

NBND -- the saddest part is that the Board members, I think withoiut exception, all know about the situation I hve described and nothing has changed in nearly a decade. The victims apologizing to bullies routine is a classic distortion of the otherwise wonderful "talk it Out" program that is supposedly in place in all the PAUSD elementary schools. In that program, kids go through a defined process to resaolve conflict -- cooling off, then giving each other a chance to tell their persepctive uninterrupted, recognizing each other has a valid perspective, working together toward a resolution, and moving on. Unfortunately, people who are not toroughly trained in the program or just don't have a lot of intuitive sense for these things shortcut by having both children in a conflict apologize to each other (thus the victim who ends up apologizing to the bully, instead of hte bully beaing pulled up short -- the victim in this scenario is demoralized, the bully knows he or she is getting away with an insincere bilateral apology and no meaningful consequence for antisocial behavior). Worse still, the originator of the Talk it Out program came to two parent ed meetings at our old school in one year, and was HORRIFIED to find out that they were using talk it out in bully situations -- in her words, "you DON'T talk it out with the bully. You do triage. Talking it out forces a victim to give the bully exactly what they want -- validation that the behavior did hurt." You'd think this is common sense, but I have seen perfectly well-maening administrators not get that basic premise.

I am actually not a proponent of banning VTP kids. Wish we could suspend kids who do material damage to others (emotional OR physical), but that's a rarity. I AM aproponent of letting teachers do their jobs and giving kids consequences for bad behavior. You find out much sooner which kids CAN'T behave and which kids WON'T behave. Oh, and I think most teachers recognize impulse control and hyperactivity issues and distinguish them from what I call "brattiness" and entitlement and disrespect.

My parents are both retired academics who saw a change in the ability to concentrate over time as children were more and more prone to watch TV instead of other activities. My godsister is a long-time teacher in Bend, OR, and when I talked to her this weekend she said she thinks it is actually a national pandemic of entitled children, not limited to Silicon Valley. So I don't know whether to celebrate the fact that this hothouse isn't causing the problem, or to despair that it is hard to teach a child to behave respectfully when she is marinating in a Veruca Salt culture. Sigh. What to do, other than be profoundly and vocally grateful to the teachers who get up and come back every day and eevn inspire affection and love of learning in our kids, and keep fighting to support them more.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 9, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Ummm, guys, I wasn't suggesting what teacher gifts should be *really*--I was making a joke--i.e. with all the running around a good teacher has to do they can use some artificial stimulants.

Natasha, thanks for explaining the Talk It Out context. FWIW, I haven't seen that sort of situation at Ohlone, so it sounds like you had some clunkers there. It's more like the aggressive kid gets sent to the office and the teacher keeps an eye on him or her. I have heard a couple of brain-dead therapist types, though, say stuff that could result in what you describe. (Hey, let's make the victim feel even worse!)

I have to say I've been hearing about how kids don't focus like they used to since I was a kid. I even got called a "throwback to the good old days" because it was a nonissue for me. That said, I don't really see much difference between my generation and my child's in terms of ability to focus and learn. My own TV-distracted generation sure managed to turn out a lot of programmers and coders who seem to concentrate just fine.

I do see the hothouse flower phenomenon. The kids are given a lot, but there's also a lot expected of them in return. The teenagers I know seem so serious and clearly worry about being inadequate. They seem less independent--they're less likely to get ordinary summer jobs the way we were--and less certain of who they are. They're cossetted.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2007 at 3:50 pm

here we go again, btw, I'm not a teacher...

It is both mind-boggling and sad to see a parent whose children were educated (and probably socialized) by hard-working and dedicated teachers have so much contempt for those teachers, and make innuendo about teachers that comes from second hand experience.

As for your property tax pittance, it _is_ a pittance, compcared to the real value in real estate inflation that you will profit from.

Your further negative comparisons of other government workers with teachers is also unfortunate. You imply that teachers have it easy - yet you've never walked a day in a teacher's shoes. (volunteering in a classroom gets you points, but volunteers are able to come and go at will - you haven't _been_ there...bottom line...

You say you scraped by to live in Palo Alto and educate your kids here; after all the vitriol you've visited on teachers here, one wonders why you even bothered. Maybe you would have been happier somewhere else.





Posted by Sick of Mike, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2007 at 4:12 pm

Wow, Mike really is a piece of work. I don't have time to argue with almost every opinion that Mike has...but I really take offense at saying that Palo Alto residents pay a pittance for property tax. The real problem is how differentially property taxes are being assessed. I pay $30K/year...certainly not a pittance. I've only been here a 1 year, and the 30 year owner before me only paid $3K/year. My neighbor who has been here for 12 here for q1


Posted by Sick of Mike, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2007 at 4:16 pm

My neighbor who has been here for 12 years pays $10K/year. We all are sharing in the same real estate inflation...though I doubt I'll get as much inflation as the prior owner enjoyed.


Posted by Sick of Mike, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2007 at 4:27 pm

I've got to believe that Prop 13 really has messed up school's funding among other things. Long time residents don't pay their fair share and new buyers pay way more than their share. Assessed values should be real...and the percentage paid should be much less. And folks regardless of age should be able to apply for discounts based on their financial situation.


Posted by I love Mike, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 9, 2007 at 4:28 pm

Whatever that inflation is, it's far higher than the pittance paid in bond money for infrastructure.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 9, 2007 at 5:02 pm

Sick of Mike,

Yeah, Prop 13 benefitted existing property owners at the expense of future property owners. However, those of us in basic-aid districts do get our parcel-tax money back in that our housing prices are as high as they are because we have relatively well-funded schools.

And, ummm, not to get too personal, but if you're paying $30K in property taxes, you weren't buying the smallest house in Palo Alto.


Posted by Sick of Mike, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2007 at 5:21 pm

OhlonePar,

Yes, my house was expensive. What's your point?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 9, 2007 at 8:16 pm

Sick of Mike,

Given the cost of your house, you're not paying a huge property tax. It's less the property tax and more our obscenely high property values.


Posted by SOM, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Yes, the property value is obscenely high...but 1.1% of the real assessed value is a huge amount for new buyers...sure if your assessed value is some bogus 1970 value like $200K, 1% is nothing. I'm all for everyone paying their fair share of taxes. If we want to tax based on property value...then let's all pay the same rate against a real assessed value. And if we had equity in the system where new buyers weren't subsidizing long time owners, the rates could be much lower.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2007 at 10:04 pm

Come back and complain about the inequity of the taxes in 20 years when you are making about what you make now, but your taxes would be quadrupled or quintupled what you pay now ( if you weren't protected by the tax ceiling).

That is the status of your neighbors who have been here longer.

We each accept the tax structure when we buy. There is not change, and hasn't been for 30 years. Why complain about it? Just be grateful you know that you won't be taxed out of your house.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2007 at 10:08 pm

by the way, Ohlone par, I do not see how my neighbor who is 83 living in a house of almost the same value as mine, but who has lived there twice as long, somehow is benefitting at the expense of me, who has only lived here half as long. When he moves on, the next person will then pay the yet higher tax base, and I will be the lower one. So? If the person buying doesn't want to do that, they shoudn't buy.

you must remember, your security will feel good to you, too, in about 20 years.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2007 at 10:12 pm

SOM, you do not understand the term "equity". The tax rate for us pre-prop 13 was that we paid based on value of home.period. There was no "equity". Peole were forced to A) sell and move to a much smaller place, or a place far away B) mortgage their house in a reverse mortgage, and eat up all their life's savings in paying the mortgage.

No thanks, I do not want to do that to my older neighbors, and i don't want that to happen to me.


Posted by SOM, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2007 at 10:41 pm

Resident,
Oh I see how you think. Now that I'm "in" I should be grateful that in 20 years the burden will get transferred to future buyers and future generations. You clearly do not understand the meaning of "equity". If we're going to tax based on property value...then do it fairly...otherwise find a different way to tax. I do not support the status quo just because that's how it's been done for the past 30 years. Clearly the people...like you...who are now making out under this scheme don't want to see it changed. I have no problem with seniors having to downsize. Why should society subsidize widows to live in 5 bedroom houses when poor families are cramped into small apartments?


Posted by Libertarian Dad, a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2007 at 11:26 pm

I posted at Web Link:

"If the person buying doesn't want to [pay the property tax], they shouldn't buy." One could just as easily say: if the retiree doesn't want to pay the same property tax as other people with the same property value, they shouldn't not sell.

"When he moves on, I will be the lower one. So?" So I don't feel better about my grandparents ripping me off just because you promise that I will someday be allowed to rip off my grandchildren.

If everybody was paying based on the current market value of his property, then I agree retirees should not be forced into paying the fees involved in a reverse mortgage. Instead, the government could just put a lien against the house for unpaid property taxes, to be settled when the property next changes hands. A 1% property tax could then take up to a century to eat through the equity in a home, with the offsetting effects of lien interest and rising property value.

When a widow is living in a two-million-dollar home, she is enjoying an imputed rent of around $60K/year. If she chose to live with her kids and rent the home out, she would have to pay taxes on that $60K. So we're talking about a multi-millionaire enjoying what is effectively a tax-free $60K/yr income stream. Each of those statistics puts this widow well into the upper percentiles of American society. Meanwhile, a working father in East Palo Alto can have negative net worth but still pays 15.3% payroll taxes on a much lower income -- primarily for the privilege of financing Social Security payments to higher-net-worth widows until his shorter life expectancy makes him die before ever coming close to breaking even in this pyramid scheme.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2007 at 9:16 am

Talking about property tax and its inequities, it was this very thing that lost Maggie Thatcher the job of being prime minister in Britain. The old system was called "rates" and every home had a ratable value which was fixed at the time it was built and this was something that was disclosed in all realtors flyers, etc. Each year a rate was fixed on this ratable value and that was the amount of rates or property tax that was paid. This was always being classed as unfair, so Maggie looked for a new scheme. A new tax called poll tax was introduced and the old rates were scrapped. The new tax was a tax on each person that lived in a home and it was regardless of whether the home was owned by the resident or rented. It was the resident who had to pay. This was deemed to be a very unfair tax by the poorer people who felt that it was a tax on life, and a tax on children, etc. etc. This was Maggie's downfall. She lost her job, although her replacement, John Major, was still a member of her party and there was no election by the people.

There is now another tax which is again assessed on the house rather than the number of people living in it. It is based on the size of the home, number of bedrooms, size of lot, etc. The difference now is that a home can be re-assessed if improvements are made which is different from the old system and also that it is supposed to be comparable with similar homes in the neighborhood, which is also different. It still causes problems and even though there is no chance of changing it in the foreseeable future, it still causes major contention.

The point of all this is that no one likes paying taxes. There isn't a system to raise these type of moneys that everyone will think fair. There will always be someone who feels that they are paying more than their fair share and someone they know is paying less. This is one of the facts of life that you only learn from experience and there is very little you can do about it.


Posted by Libertarian Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2007 at 10:25 am

Resident,

I for one would like to see changes in tax policy to promote more fairness and would like to see reductions in government expenses (this society has way too many "entitlements"). If everyone had the attitude "don't complain and just accept it" about every government policy we'd still have slavery, women couldn't vote, 90% marginal tax rate, etc.


Posted by Current PAUSD, a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2007 at 12:40 pm

One of the greatest things a parent can give a teacher is guidelines, parameters and time for their children at home.

There was a parent SEVERAL posts up who basically said it was the job of the teacher to "control" his/her kids. Fine. I can manage my classroom, just fine, thank you, however when parents don't give any guidelines, consequences and parameters at home, my point is moot. Surprisingly, students from all walks of life walk in with all kinds of baggage. To parents in general: be emotionally supportive and present for your students.

However the Peet's cards are always a welcome.... (yes, we do spend about $1000 or more out of pocket each year, but a card to a teacher supply shop is just seen as more to spend on work, rather than on "me")...

I have to say that I do really like the Palo Alto community. You are a generous group (not just with Peet's cards) with your time and patience. You are advocates for your children, and, for the most part, the global community. I am appreciative of my chosen job and for the community in which I teach.


Posted by Rod, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2007 at 1:06 pm

I feel both sorry for, and critical of, current teachers in PAUSD, and other similar districts.

On the one hand you insist that you have control in the classroom, but you also plead for parental support, even guidelines, in order to make it work. Why should you be left dangling by fickle parents? It is YOUR classroom, period. If you cannot handle that, you do not belong in a classroom. You cannot depend on all parents, or even most of them. If the PAUSD does not support teacher control in the classroom (including the paddle), then it will get what it deserves - which is what we now have...a dysfunctional school system that pays way too much attention to individual needs.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 10, 2007 at 1:30 pm

Rod, I read that statement differently. I thought the teacher was saying parents should give their children boundaries AT HOME, so that when they get to school they are familiar with the concept. I don't understand your preoccupation with beating children. That is NOT going to make a comeback, and nor imho does it have a place. There are so many other ways to discipline a child and provide consequences without inflicting physical harm.


Posted by Rod, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2007 at 2:16 pm

Natasha,

I have read a few of your posts. Didn't you remove you kids from public schools, because bullies were harassing your kids? Or do I misunderstand?

There were bullies and problem kids (I was a problem kid) when I went to grammar school, but the teachers had control, period. They were backed up by their administration. Some parents raised a stink, but it didn't matter.

"...parents should give their children boundaries AT HOME"

Suppose they don't, Natasha? In fact, many parents in PA have almost no boundries that they will actually enforce.

Natasha, you don't like the paddle, yet you have no other realistic answer. Just a bunch of theory. Sounds like it didn't work for you...why should it work for anyone else?

Go back to the paddle. It is the most humane approach.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 10, 2007 at 2:41 pm

Yes, Rod, I did. Bullies were harassing my kids to extremes, and everyone I went to, from the teacher to the principal to Marilyn Cook to Mary Frances Callan said "not my problem." A teacher even asked me please to take my concerns up the ladder because the site administrators had wacko theories about protecting the self-esteem of the bullies by not giving them meaningful consequences and the teachers' hands were tied. Yes, it was outrageously bad. I'd have kept my kids in that school if it hadn't been.

If the administration backed up the teachers, they would not need to paddle the kids to keep control. If parents taught their children pretty basic (albeit retro) values, that would also help. Will all parents do this? Of course not.

You say I ahve no solutions. Oh, yes, I in fact have MANY solutions. None of them have to do with beating children. I don't find that method "humane." Try sending them to the office where a principal will give them meaningful and unpleasant consequences for theire behavior. Try allowing the *teacher* to give them meaningful but unpleasant consequnces. Hey, try giving all the children *consistent* consequences for the same behavior. These are not theoretical solutions. I seem them work all the time, in lots of schools.

I don't beat my children. I have strong ideas about the way people ought to behave, and my kids know it. People tell me all the time what nice, thoughtful, polite, sweet, blah blah blah children they are. They do well in school and are helpful and lovely at home. When they are sassy, I don't smack them, I tell them not to behave that way because I treat them with respect and expect them to do the same. Guess what? I get great results with this method.

I also don't want anyone hitting my kids, for a very simple reason (aside from my feeling that it is WRONG). Look at what I have described going wrong in my kids' old school: the adults on campus wouldn't or couldn't differentiate between the kid bullying and the kid being bullied, and everyone had to apologize to each other whenever there was a conflict. Extending this example to a situation where those same adults had unbridled authority to paddle the kids, and wer a little free with it, I can imagine my kids getting paddled just for the same reason everyone is forced to apologize. While I can get a ceratin vengeful satisfaction in the fantasy of some of the children who tortured my daughters getting back some of their own from teh adults in charge, it is a fantasy and I would not in fact support its happening in real life. No thank you very much.


Posted by Rod, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2007 at 2:58 pm

Natasha,

To cut to the chase, you use guilt to try to achieve good behaivior. Much more damaging, IMO, that a good swat or two.

When I went to school, it was the bullies that got spanked, not the victims. The teachers and principals found it easy to differentiate.

Projecting guilt causes a life-long damage. A good swat on the butt, just resets the thermostat. Very therapeutic. And effective.

Natasha, if you have a husband, what does he think about your approach, based on guilt?


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 10, 2007 at 3:19 pm

Hm. Rod, you sure assume a lot. My kids hardly feel guilty. Trust me. I know you won't, but that's ok -- people who know me and my kids have never suggested that my approach is one based on guilt, that my kids are anything but robustly comfortable and articulate expressing themselves and standing up for themselves. And thank you, my husband of 18 years supports this approach and appreciates its results completely.

BTW, what you were suggesting was "paddling." That is not a swat.


Posted by Former PAUSD Teacher, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 10, 2007 at 4:15 pm

I'm the same "Former PAUSD Teacher" that posted a few days ago. To follow up on a few of the replies...

I was a PAUSD teacher for over 5 years. The data collected by the administration on who was receiving detentions (and such) was compiled for a single year. I'm not judging, but merely relaying the facts that there were a disproportionate number of VTP students receiving detentions. That's what the data told us. It might be beacuse the teachers couldn't teach (doubtful) or maybe bad luck (unlikely). For whatever the reason, ask any middle secondary school to run a SASI behavior tabulation and my guess is you'll see the same thing. Unfortunately, I'd like to add.

I have nothing personal against VTP students nor their families. Some of my favorite and most treasured students were from East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park. I spent countless extra hours with them, phone calls, home visits, scholarships, lunches, and more. They were MY students regardless of where they lived.

That said, from a financial standpoint, I have concerns with the cost of educating additional kids from outside the Palo Alto city limits, ESPECIALLY in a time of overcrowding. I would include the children of PAUSD staff (that reside outside of Palo Alto) in this equation as well.


Posted by Rod, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Natasha,

Yes, I have heard your story before. I am completely confident that you believe it. Nevertheless, it IS guilt. If your kids were "robustly comfortable" they would still be in public school.

I suggest that you look a little deeper, Natasha.

"Robustly comfortable" kids can surf the waves, if the teacher has the paddle. Even if the teacher is forbidden to have the paddle, a robust child will learn to defend him/her self. You sound, to me, like you are a victim, even if you think of yourself as a warrior.

BTW: "paddle" = "spank" = "swat". All the same thing. And all humane, compared to to guilt.


Posted by Spare us the Rod, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2007 at 6:38 pm

Natasha,

You should know better than to try to engage in a reasoned discussion with someone who begins by advocating corporeal punishment in public schools. Classic troll behavior.

Don't feed the trolls!


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2007 at 11:22 pm


Re Property Taxes

When a person buys a house anywhere, they presumably make a calculation on what they can afford to pay 1) for the house (or as a monthly mortgage payment) and 2) for taxes on the house (ie property taxes). If one buys a house in Palo Alto this year for 2 million dollars, I assume they can pay the exhorbitant property taxes that go with it.

Part of the reason real estate prices have ballooned so much is BECAUSE of prop 13 and the property tax laws. So now some of you want to say, "Sorry, those of you who bought 10 or 15 years ago, you know what, I can afford to pay property taxes on a 2 million dollar value, and you can't, but tough. You ought to pay as much as I do". Don't you realize that prices escalated this much BECAUSE of prop.13. I never voted for prop. 13. Yet if we now go back and increase my property taxes to match those of my neighbors, I'll have to sell and move, even though I'm middle aged and with several kids, including in the Palo Alto Schools. Well, yes, it would be unfair to us.

There is no easy solution but to now go back and levy huge taxes on those of us who can't afford it is not a solution either.

[By the way, when we bought our house a number of years ago, we paid what was considered back then a mind-boggling price by our neighbors who had bought 10 or 15 years before us, and they pay even less property taxes than we do...]


Posted by SOM, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2007 at 9:31 am

Here we go again,
So you now have a "right" to live in Palo Alto and should get subsidized to do so...and tough to anyone else that would like to come here...let them pay 10 times the property tax that you do. I suspect that most people that are new buyers into Palo Alto are barely squeaking by to pay the mortgage and property taxes on their highly priced home. Since you think it's fair that they pay ten times the property tax that their neighbor does...should they also pay 10x for gas, food, utilities, etc.? The new buyer may have more income than their neighbors (but probably not 10x)...but they certainly don't have more assets than the neighbors who have been there a long time. So who's wealthier? If you want wealth redistribution let's look at the assets in addition to the income. Isn't it interesting how the people who are getting such a benefit from the current scheme don't want to see it changed? The reality is that newer buyers could lose their homes very easily if they had any loss of income...and all kinds of new buyers in the State are losing their homes due to risky financing...but heaven forbid if someone who bought their home years ago gets more than a 2% increase to their tiny tax bill!

I'm not advocating an overnight change to property taxes...but would like to see the gap that exists narrow over time by allowing more than 2% increases per year on assessed values that are way out of whack...like 3% or 4%...and folks that could clearly show an inability to pay the extra amount could claim an exemption.


Posted by B.F. Skinner, a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2007 at 12:12 pm

about physical punishment: decades of research show that it does not create consistent change in behavior. rod needs to do some research, and keep his paddle for playing in the sandbox


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 11, 2007 at 8:24 pm

Yikes,

Property taxes AND corporal punishment in one thread.

Look, Prop 13, no matter how you slice it, created an inequitable situation in that some people pay much higher property taxes than others for houses that have the same market value. Basically, the longer you own a home, the more financial benefit you've gained from owning the property and the lower taxes you pay.

While elderly poverty was once a serious problem, many of today's elderly are very well off--in part because they've made so much off of real-estate increases.

Sorry, Resident, my own elderly parents had a much easier time financially than their kids. Real estate made all the difference.

Corporal punishment. Truth is, I tend to see spanking and resorting to corporal punishment as a loss of parental control. The kids I know who are spanked tend to act out more and have more emotional control issues than kids who are not. I think there's an essential breakdown in trust when you physically hurt a child. I think a child should feel safe with a parent.

I think, also, as a parent, if you learn nonphysical ways to discipline and train your child, you're teaching your child to use constructive ways to deal with conflict. "Use your words," doesn't come off so well if you're waving a paddle in one hand.



Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 7:43 am

Come back in 20 years and beg to pay 4-5 times the property tax you are paying now, and I will believe you are not motivated by envy.

I was glad to be able to move into my neighborhood that had 4 couples in their 70s and 80s..they wouldn't have been there otherwise. All but one woman in her 90s have died. I am grateful to have been their neighbors, and didn't resent their paying no more than 1/5 of what I was paying in taxes at all. I knew that this was our tax cycle.

I like it this way. It is secure. Those of you who presume to believe that you will be able to have the buying power in 20-30 years that you have now are inexperienced in life. Who knows, maybe you will. But, I advise instead gratitude and appreciation for what you have now, instead of looking at your neighbor with envy.




Posted by Libertarian Dad, a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2007 at 8:11 am

It's inane to argue that California property taxes are sufficiently equitable simply because Margaret Thatcher replaced property taxes in Britain with a horribly regressive capitation tax. Just because there is no tax "that everyone will think fair" doesn't mean that some tax regimes aren't clearly less fair than others.

To Here We Go Again: Yes, people presumably calculate whether they can afford property taxes when they buy. That doesn't make them fair. It's shockingly amoral to suggest that foreknowledge of injustice constitutes endorsement of it just because one doesn't rearrange one's entire life to avoid being subject to the injustice. The fact that your longer-tenured neighbors enjoy an even lower property tax than you is a poor argument for the equity of your tax burden. If you lived next door to a Klansman, would that excuse you for being a milder bigot?

Prop 13 is of course not the reason for the rise in California real estate property values. Prop 13 applies uniformly throughout the state, and yet property values have risen disproportionately in some parts of California like the Bay Area. Property values have also climbed sharply in housing markets outside California that do not have such a cap on property taxes.

You wouldn't necessarily have to "sell and move" if property taxes were made fair. Your property tax could just accumulate as a lien against your house, payable when it next changes hands, and capped at the market value at the time of transfer. Objecting to such an arrangement would be equivalent to claiming that younger poorer families should pay extra taxes just so that you don't have to shave any value from the seven-figure inheritance you plan to bequeath to your children. I guess it's easier to be progressive when you're playing with other people's money, or when you don't have to see the brown-skinned people who can't afford to move into your neighborhood because of the Prop 13 bias toward the tenured.

Wikipedia describes the inequity of Prop 13 quite well:

Assuming that the price of a house is somewhat a determinant of a person's wealth (and therefore ability to pay) and benefit received, this feature would lead neighbors or business owners who purchased a property at different periods of time to pay a different assessment, without any relationship to ability to pay or benefits received. Overall, these qualities create serious inequities and potentially introduce some amount of regressivity into the tax structure. Proposition 13 contributes to an inefficient housing market because it provides dis-incentives for selling property in favor of remaining at the current property and modifying or transferring to family members in order to avoid a new, higher assessed tax rate. California has more rigidity and friction in both its housing market and in renting due to the policy; one study comparing California's market to that of other states found that it increased tenure in owned homes by 10% and in renting by 19%. D.R. Mullins points out that "prospects of increased property tax liabilities triggered by residence or business location changes likely constrain mobility and filtering in the housing and property markets."(pp. 118) If these policies favor remodeling or modifying over buying, the policy would have efficiency implications because it limits individuals' mobility from one community to another and other private economic activity. [...] The Proposition can be seen as a transfer tax from the working classes to the retired class, as retirees are subsidized and the young have fewer working hours in their day because of long commutes.


Posted by SOM, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:42 am

Right on, Libertarian Dad!

Resident, in 20 years, if I can't pay my property taxes (which is actually a very real possibility because I'm paying against a 2006 assessed value), then I'll have to downsize or move to a cheaper area. I'd be surprised if we saw the same real estate appreciation of the last 20 years in the next 20 years...hard to imagine folks paying $10M for a 2500 sq fixer-upper...so don't think property values will go up 4-5x in the next 20 years.

And, yes, I'm motivated by fairness, not envy. I don't know how you can possibly think it's fair for a rich elderly couple living in a 4000 sq foot 1 acre $2.5M home in Los Altos Hills to only pay $3K/year in property tax while a young family, if they're lucky enough to even become homeowners, has to pay $6K/year for their property taxes to buy the cheapest home in East Palo Alto.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:50 am

well duh, SOM, the young family in EPA is not qualified to live in Palo Alto because they had the bad judgment to be born 20 years too late. ;0)

I could see how hard it would be to bring people up to today's taxes in one fell swoop so they could not live in their houses, but I also don't see how the accrual of taxes to be paid upon transfer impacts elderly people's ability to live in their homes until that time.

And if ONLY my modest new house would appreciate 4-500% in the next 20 years, I wouldn't have to kick myself for not having become a dot com millionaire too.


Posted by SOM, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:52 am

Actually, the biggest beneficiaries of Prop 13 are actually commercial property owners as well as holders of significant residential estates. Commercial properties change hands very infrequently and so the assessed values for most commercial assets is about 1/10th of its real value. And the super rich can hand their estate to their children and the children retain the low tax base. These fat cats just love hiding behind the poor widow's skirts who have made Prop 13 the "3rd rail" of California politics.


Posted by Joan, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:09 am

Mike,
I appreciate your comments and agree with most of them. As a public school teacher with 27 years of experience, I'm constantly amazed at the number of people who talk about public schools and have almost no recent first-hand experience in classrooms. It's so obvious that many people's opinions are based on what they would like to believe or their own experience in classrooms 25 or 30 years ago.
It was interesting to read the many postings about classroom management and disruptive students. While it's totally true that some teachers are much better than others at managing difficult students and bringing out the best in them, the most disruptive students are harder to handle than they were 15 or 20 years ago. (Ask any teacher who's been teaching for a while.) This makes it harder for teachers to focus their energy on the other students in the classroom, which is extremely unfair and upsets teachers and others who spend time in the classroom.
While I would never advocate banishing(or hitting)the most disruptive students, I firmly believe that teachers need more support and more training to learn how to deal with them. As the parent of a well-behaved student who has gone through PAUSD schools, I have often been upset to hear about how lame the response to unacceptable behavior on the part of the administrators seems to be. Young teachers struggling with this issue often need the most support but are hesitant to talk about it for fear that they will be seen as weak teachers.
As for class size, I think having 20 students instead of 28 can make a huge difference, but so much depends on the teacher and how much she/he puts into teaching. I definitely saw that with my daughter's elementary school teachers.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:24 am

Resident,

No, it's not envy. I was in school in California when Prop 13 passed and I saw the awful effects on education right away. In my district, they dropped many of the graduation requirments and phys. ed.

And my parents, who lived in a very nice house, got a tax break that they didn't need. And, yes, they voted against Prop. 13.

Your argument, by the way, supports my earlier point--the elderly get a disproportinate tax break, while younger families pay a much higher tax burden while simultaneously paying a much higher mortgage for identical pieces of property. Now, you can argue that the elderly deserve that break and would have to move out of their homes without it, but that inequity is there.

And, yes, commercial property owners particularly benefit. SOM is dead right.

The property tax structure in this state doesn't work well--even if you individually benefit from it. I'd rather see a structure that more fairly distributed the tax burden with some allowance or waiver made for the fixed-income issue.

Libertarian Dad,

Prop. 13 does affect the disparity in property values in Calif. Districts that have the backing to pass parcel taxes for the schools tend to have better schools and, thus, higher property values. Prop. 13 when it passed was devastating to school funding. The state's been attempting to compensate, but a tremendous amount of damage was done.


Posted by Taxman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:46 am

It seems everyone is missing a minor detail: the elimination of Prop 13 wouldn't result in long-term property owners paying the same rate as short-term owners' current rates. The tax rates would even out in some way that's determined to be more fair than the current system.


Posted by SOM, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:56 am

Taxman,
Nobody in this thread has given an explicit proposal for how the tax system should work if Prop 13 were repealed...we're just pointing out that the current system is inequitable and should be changed. There would obviously need to be a lot of policy discussion to ascertain what is a more equitable way to tax....should it be based on ability to pay, should it be based on consumption, etc., etc.


Posted by question assumptions, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2007 at 4:14 pm

"Assuming that the price of a house is somewhat a determinant of a person's wealth (and therefore ability to pay) and benefit received, this feature would lead neighbors or business owners who purchased a property at different periods of time to pay a different assessment, without any relationship to ability to pay or benefits received."

This is an incorrect assumption. It would be more correct to say that the price someone *paid* for a house is somewhat a determinant of a person's wealth (and therefore ability to pay) etc.

Even if you tend toward a 'redistribution of wealth based on ability to pay' way of thinking, the ability of a home owner to pay can not be determined by the current market price of a home. For many in this area, home equity makes up a huge part of their net worth and does not reflect earning power at all.


Posted by Libertarian Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 5:12 pm

question assumptions,

There are a lot of ways to look at "ability to pay" besides just looking at someone's current income. A retiree's current income may be less than a working family's income...but they could have way more disposable income given that they probably don't have a mortgage to pay, etc. In addition, I don't think we should think of assets as sacred. My uncle owns a $4M beachfront vacation home (purchased in 1960) in So. Cal. that he pays $2K/yr in property taxes. His only source of income is a small social security check...but he can rent out the beachhouse for additional income. He gripes about his property taxes, and rents out the home a few weeks a year to pay for this. His new neighbors pay $48K/yr. So is my uncle poor (because of his income) and have a low "ability to pay"? He's 80 and will bequeath the beachhouse to his children who will maintain the low tax base. Isn't Prop 13 great!


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 5:44 pm

I'm intrigued by this information that even the next generation gets to keep the low tax base, like slipping into a rent-controlled apartment. Is this definitely true? Because my mom and her brothers sold my grandmother's nearly beachfront house in La Jolla several years because they thought they couldn't afford the taxes. But my grandmother bought her house in around 1930, so how much could it possibly have been assessed at?


Posted by Libertarian Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Natasha,

It is my understanding that transfers to spouses, children or grandchildren are exempted...see below from the Orange County Assessor Office...there is a clause about the property having a $1M limit for non-principal residence...but folks probably claim it's their primary residence...

Parent-Child Transfers (R&T Section 63.1)

Real estate that is transferred from parent(s) to child(ren), or from child(ren) to parent(s) may be excluded from reassessment

The established Prop. 13 taxable value is not affected by the transfer

The new owner's taxes are calculated on the established Prop.13 value, instead of the current market value when the property is acquired.

$1 million limit (taxable value) on transfers of non-principal residence property

No dollar limitation on the original owner's principal residence

Generally, transfers between legal entities (i.e., corporations, partnerships) that are owned by parents or children do not qualify




Grandparent-Grandchild Transfers (R&T Section 63.1)


Real estate that is transferred from grandparent(s) to their grandchild(ren) may be excluded from reassessment

Parents of the grandchild must be deceased as of the date of transfer

The established Prop. 13 taxable value is not affected by the transfer

Taxes are calculated on the established Prop.13 value

$1 million limit (taxable value) on transfers of non-principal residence property

No dollar limitation on grandparent's principal residence

Generally, transfers directly between legal entities (i.e., corporations, partnerships) that are owned by grandparents do not qualify


Posted by Libertarian Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 5:56 pm

Go to zillow.com if you want to get an idea of the current value of your grandmother's former property...look at the going prices for recently sold homes in the neighborhood


Posted by Libertarian Dad, a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:44 pm

Question assumptions, you need to question your own. It's economically illiterate to claim that "the price someone *paid* for a house is somewhat a determinant of a person's wealth". Your house is worth it's current market value, regardless of what you paid for it. Wealth is of course related to ability to pay -- it's just a question of the right market instrument. In the case of reverse mortgages, they are a relatively new kind of instrument, and when I investigated them recently for my mother-in-law I found the fees were high. Until they come down, I'd favor (as I said earlier) that the government simply allow unpaid property taxes to accumulate as a lien against the house. That would take "earning power" out of the equation altogether, and any widow would be able to live for decades and decades in a paid-off house whose taxes she can't afford.

However, as I said earlier, outright ownership of a $2M Palo Alto home represents the ability to earn about $60K/yr in rent. If you decide to occupy it instead of rent it out, you still enjoy the imputed rent -- tax free. No money changes hands, but it's still an income stream that is counted as part of the economy, and in fact the imputed rent of all owner-occupied housing is a major component of Gross Domestic Product. Again, a $2M net worth and $60K/yr of income puts any widow among the most privileged cohort of Americans, and yet bleeding-heart Palo Alto liberals want to her to pay very little property tax and no tax on that $60K/yr imputed luxury income. Instead, they want near-zero-net-worth new buyers in East Palo Alto to pay much higher property tax and at least 15.3% payroll taxes on their lower income. That's simply unconscionable.

OhlonePar, the claim I was disputing was that the general rise in property values is due to Prop 13. Property values would have risen regardless of Prop 13. It's not the case that school funding in California has been "devastated". Jill Stewart of the SF Chronicle gives California voters an "F'" in education (Web Link):

As a wonderfully sneaky test of awareness, PPIC asked Californians in a recent survey how much of the state budget is spent on public schools. They were clueless. Only 1 in 3 knew that public education is by far the biggest item, sucking up half the budget [...] Ignorant voters insist more money pour into the schools, not knowing California [ranks] in the middle on per-pupil spending [....] We're at the comfy median. We do not "underfund" our schools, despite our many troubles. Why doesn't everybody know this? The PPIC poll shows how misconceptions are driven by partisanship in California. Democrats tend to believe (ridiculously) that California's prisons get the most state money. Republicans tend to believe (absurdly) that social welfare gets the most state money. People are ignorant in part because our crisis-driven media often lazily push the myth that California is near "the bottom" in school funding. That myth is a product of the education lobby, led by the California Teachers Association, which makes sure California teachers earn the highest salaries in the nation, yet constantly whines that schools are underfunded.

For a very readable 11-page primer from the Reason Foundation on K-12 education in California, see Web Link . For a 3-page survey of the economics of education, see the article from the Concise Encyclopedia Of Economics at Web Link . For a 12-page overview of how to improve K-12 education in America, see the Cato Institute's Policy Handbook chapter at Web Link .


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:51 pm

Lib Dad, thanks for sharing the data. Very helpful.

I do agree that the value of your house today is its value - it's a wonderful thing if you are an owner! It is tricky getting value out of an appreciated home, though. Reverse mortgages seem like a natural, but they don't seem to be a mature product yet, so people tread carefully (correctly IMO).

In many other parts of the country, though, the policy is exactly what you describe - for means-tested individuals, unpaid taxes accrue as a lein against the property, which is paid off when the house is sold or or the owners pass away. I always wondered why this common solution didn't seem to get applied in California.

On the topic of education spending - one of the reasons, I believe, that CA schools rank poorly in test score results is that CA has by a fair measure the largest percentage of immigrants vs. other states. I have read (not 100% sure true) that almost half of children starting school in CA are immigrants or the children of immigrants. The immigration is not a problem (in my view), but it likely does result in lower test score results per dollar spent, simply because the task of educating such a diverse group is harder than what other states face.

If true, should we therefore be spending more than average, since our task is harder? Maybe we should.

Fred


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 13, 2007 at 12:09 am

Libertarian Dad,

I saw educational spending "was" devastated. I'm referring to when Prop. 13 passed. It was a huge spending cut for the schools. The reason it's not that way now is that we've passed a series of propositions that mandate a percentage of the state budget be spent on education. Why? Because we went from have good schools with strong funding to poor schools with near-the-bottom funding. And, yeah, some of those teacher groups did push through some of those measures that tie up our state budget in order to guarantee school funding.

As for "liberals" wanting widows to pay little property tax . . . hello? Prop. 13 was created and backed by conservatives. Resident identifies herself as a Republican and a conservative and opposes repealing Prop. 13. I mean, c'mon, if you're going to bash liberals, at least get the political agendas right. Don't just use the term as a synonym for whatever view you oppose. Because right now, you've got it flip-flopped and are kind of insulting both sides of the taxation debate.

Do yourself a favor and gather research from groups with a variety of agendas. And keep in mind that we don't all fit into narrow groups. Resident and I disagree on several political issues, but we're pretty much in accordance on the mess in the school district and what ought to be done.


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