0

Alameda School Board approves capacity-increasing plan for east-side elementary schools

The Alameda Unified School Board voted just moments ago to approve the district’s plan for accommodating increased enrollment at several East End schools.

The approved plan includes moving Edison Elementary School’s computer lab into its library to make more classroom space, and adding two portables to the Otis Elementary School campus. Otis will likely have 100 kindergarten students next fall, and Edison will likely have 80. Other highlights: a kindergarten class with be added at Bay Farm, and some students in the Franklin attendance zone will likely be diverted to other schools. You can read the whole approved plan here. Blogger Lauren Do has a bit about the plan. So does Michele Ellson of The Island.

3

School board trustee Mike McMahon launches blog

Mike McMahon’s web site has long been the motherlode for school-district-related documents and information. And now he has launched a blog.

And while all heads have been turned toward the change in leadership at the national level, there are lots of fish to fry re the state budget and school funding in particular. McMahon’s site is sure to be a good resource.

0

California budget stalemate continues

To recap, Repubs proposed this on Monday:

…GOP leaders released a $22 billion package of their own that called for deep cuts to education and social service programs, as well as raiding other pots of money voters approved for early child development and mental illness. Democrats contend the Republican’s plan to cut more than $10 billion from schools amounted to shutting down every school in the state for two months or increasing class sizes by 40 percent. [Read the entire AP story here.]

The state is facing a budget deficit which is now estimated to be something over $40 billion. If nothing is done, it is looking like California will run out of cash to pay its bills some time in February. Dems have a counterproposal, which wriggles around the tyranny of the minority (a solid majority of California lawmakers are Democrats), caused by state laws which require two-thirds vote of both state legislative bodies to pass any new taxes. A bit about the Dem proposal from the Chronicle:

State lawmakers are expected to vote today on an $18 billion budget, put forth Wednesday by Democrats, that contains more than $9 billion in added revenue and requires only a simple majority vote of the Legislature to be approved. The move boxes in Republicans, who have just enough votes to block lawmakers from approving tax and budget bills that require a two-thirds majority in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

But a spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will not sign off on the Dem plan without some changes. More up-to-the-minute budget news at Calitics.

5

State Republicans propose $22 billion in budget cuts

Despite having strong majorities in both the California Assembly and the Senate, California Democrats have little power to take action to make budget numbers line up. Any new taxes in the state require two-thirds vote of both legislative bodies, so staunchly anti-tax state Repubs can block any legislation they like. It’s pretty much the reverse of majority rules.

Republican cuts in the package presented today:

* Cutting monthly payments for supplemental security income recipients – to $830 from $870 for singles, and to $1,407 from $1,524 from couples

* Cutting nearly $10 billion from K-12 education over the next 18 months

* Cutting $6 billion from higher education funding

More state budget crisis details here and here and here and here.

0

Southern California teacher sells ad space on student tests

Crazy world, yes indeed. But one Southern California high school teacher has found a new way to pay for the copying services his school no longer pays for.

Math teacher Tom Farber began selling ads on tests and quizzes this fall when the district cut its per teacher copy budget from $500 to $316. Local businesses can insert ads for services, and some parents have paid for inspirational quotes.

The State of California cut more than $4 billion in education funding for this year school year and is poised to make even deeper mid-year cuts, to the tune of $2.5 billion.

2

For Alameda: Economic news from around the state

Los Angeles Times: Foreclosures, delinquencies skyrocketing among ‘prime’ borrowers

Los Angeles Times: Shopping malls are running on empty

The Sacramento Bee: Demand for social services rises as funding falls

The Sacramento Bee: 3 California budget practices fall short. More Dan Walters.

The Mercury News: State legislators call off Sunday session as budget impasse deepens

And even more state budget crisis news.

0

March 11 Alameda school board meeting

March 11 music protestsI’m not going to lie to you: school board meetings, while often colorful and always-educational (What is ADA P-2? Hah!) are not actually my most favorite, first-choice activity. I might prefer, for example, to sit outside with neighbors in the twilight drinking wine while the children play.

Nonetheless, I am able to report to you that some of the last night’s most cheerful moments came from the grade school students who marched outside city hall in support of music before the meeting began (next year’s budget chops music classes from grades one, two, three). Some members of that group went on to make lovely speeches, including Adam Orlabukowski a fourth grader from Bay Farm Elementary School, who thanked his teacher, “Ms. Bonnie,” for introducing him to music and performance:

If I grow up to be a famous actor I’m going to give California schools the money they need to fund music and everything else. But until then, it’s up to you. Please save the music.

The board discussed what would be reinstated—elementary music and high school athletics top the priority list—if the June parcel tax passes. But, because the tax is by no means a certainty, and because the budget now in place includes reductions in music, nine grade English and math, middle school counselors, AP classes, and reading specialists–state law requires teachers who may be laid off be given notice by March 15. The cuts add up to the equivalent of 25.79 positions (no joke, scroll to item five), though there’ll be somewhat fewer pink slips because of retirements and attrition.

For more info about the parcel tax, visit Keep Alameda Schools Excellent. Particularly helpful, I think, is their FAQ. The parcel tax, for those of you have not been paying attention, would raise $120 per parcel (.15 cents per square foot for commercial properties with a cap of $9,500) and is expected to raise about $3.8 million.

0

State Superintendent meets with Alameda students

Responding to Wednesday’s student protests over cuts to Alameda schools, State Superintendent of Instruction Jack O’Connell came to Alameda Friday to meet with student leaders and discuss how they can continue advocating for their schools. This Contra Costa Times video features Alameda student leaders Nargis Shaghasi, Kelsey Canalin, Mebrak Kahsai and Ian Merrifield. (And here’s video from Wednesday’s protest.)

5

Alameda Unified needs a pickup

Wait! What is it, parked outside Alameda’s Edison Elementary School.
AUSD truck 1
Let’s get closer.
AUSD truck 2
And closer.
AUSD truck three
Ahh, it’s an official Alameda Unified School District truck. A quick chat with the district employee driving it reveals that it’s of vintage 1978. It’s well older, one can be quite certain, than the oldest student in the district. And, not to give away my age–I’m told ladies of a certain age should not–but I was eight when that truck was new. One hopes I’m holding up better. Said the driver of the truck:

Our trucks are all old and they all waste too much gas and require a lot of maintenance. They’re not even cost efficient.

It requires an investment in schools and the people and supplies that support them to have it all coming out well in the end. You can starve public institutions but, eventually, as we’re seeing here in Alameda, stuff starts to hit the fan.

Word is that, in response to the student protests in Alameda this week, the state’s superintendent of instruction, Jack O’Connell, is coming to our island tomorrow to meet with Alameda and Encinal High student leaders. Encinal Senior Class President Mebrak Kahsai, who helped launch Tuesday’s protest, is one of the students who will meet with O’Connell Friday afternoon. She says the feeling of being heard by the powers that be is has been inspiring:

We’re actually–even though what the governor said was kind of negative—we’re actually happy that they heard us; we’re glad that he heard. People at school have been saying, “I never felt so powerful before.” …The governor responding made us feel good.