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Motions filed in Alameda’s Measure H lawsuits

In a story to appear in tomorrow’s Alameda Journal, reporter Jennifer K. Rumple tracks the movement in the legal battle over Measure H, the Alameda school parcel tax that voters overwhelmingly approved last June.

Attorney Page Barnes of Foley & Lardner LLP, one of the firms representing the Alameda Unified School District, told Rumple, “I take this litigation very personally. I am fighting to preserve the educational quality of 10,000 students and uphold the will of an overwhelming majority of voters who recognize the importance of passing this parcel tax for our kids. I have a firm belief that the money being generated through Measure H is absolutely essential to maintaining the quality of our schools.”

The whole story is here.

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More California budget cuts proposed for the current year

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced additional cuts to the state budget today. To bridge an estimated $11.2 billion budget gap, he’s proposing to raise $4.7 billion with new taxes (including raising the state sales tax by 1.5 cents, taxing services like car repair and veterinary visits, and raising taxes on drinks served in bars and restaurants). Cuts to K-12 education funding in the current school year total $2.5 billion under the new plan. No word yet on what cuts will look like for 2009-10. “A drastic situation like this,” Schwarzenegger said in a news conference, “takes drastic measures.” State Republicans say they’ll fight the increase in taxes.

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Alameda election returns 12:44 am

New returns just in. There’s now 37 of 52 precincts reporting. Measure P has an ever-so-slight lead: 10,429 yes votes to 10, 318 no’s. The school board ranking order is still the same (remember the top three candidates will get seats). Right now that’s Niel Tam with 11,392 votes, Trish Spencer with 8,495, and Ron Mooney with 8,238. Janet Gibson has 8,049 votes and David Forbes has 7,346. In the race for city council, Doug DeHaan and Marie Gilmore have tidy leads (DeHann has 10,068 votes and Gilmore has 9,527). Tracy Jensen trails with 7,533 votes while, at this point, Justin Harrison has captured 5,240


And now for your history in the making moment: At 114, the daughter of former slaves votes for Obama.

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Movement in the Measure H suits

Michele Ellson of The Island blog has a post up today about the Measure H suits. (Lauren Do makes note of them too, in her post today about Alamedans for Fair Taxation.) The upshot? The district lawyers filed a motion to invalidate the suit filed on behalf of Borikas and filed a request for an extension of time in the Beery suit. The hearing on Borikas is set for February 9.

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Nea Charter school applies again

As reported by the Alameda Journal (the host publication of this blog, where you can find all the stories from the print paper), the folks organizing Nea, a K-12 charter school, have submitted a new charter school application to the Alameda Unified School District.

Back in January 2008, the first Nea application was turned down by the District for lack of detail, and then turned down by the County Board of Education in April. While many people in the education field I respect have, over the years, made clear some of the problems with charter schools—primarily that they deplete already-scarce district resources—I understand, too, why they appeal to parents, especially those with children who, for whatever reason, are not thriving in the regular school system. My understanding is that Berkeley Unified has done a good job not losing money and students to charters by having programs that attract parents and children who are looking for options, including bilingual classes, an arts magnet, and a school-based garden and cooking program. The Alameda board will hear the proposal (thanks for the link, Mike McMahon) at their October 28 meeting.

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In Alameda, vote Mooney, Forbes and Tam for school board

A careful follower of Alameda Unified School District affairs these past couple of years, this week’s “Life on the Island” (the column I write for the print edition of the Alameda Journal), makes my choices for school board quite plain. If you want to see the candidates in action yourself, you can watch this school board debate, hosted by Alameda’s PTA Council and the Alameda Education Foundation. You can can also watch the incumbents in action in some recent school board meetings. The City of Alameda Democratic Club endorsements are here (they endorsed both incumbents, Janet Gibson and David Forbes, as well as challenger Ron Mooney). Here’s links to all the candidates Web pages. You can go see the candidates tomorrow night at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Details: Wednesday, October, 15, 7:00 p.m., Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Road.

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AUSD retains counsel to fight Measure H lawsuits

For those of you who haven’t seen it, the Alameda Unified School District released a statement Wednesday regarding its legal team and the fight against the Measure H lawsuits. Here it is in its entirety:

Two Alameda taxpayers have brought separate lawsuits to invalidate Measure H, a new parcel tax to support Alameda schools that over two-thirds of Alameda voters approved in last June’s election. The tax, which will raise over $16 million in the next four years, will help close the budget gap caused by a reduction in State funding.

The lawsuits, Borikas, et al. v. AUSD, et al and Beery, et al. v. AUSD et al., are commonly called “reverse” validation proceedings. Each alleges that Measure H violates certain provisions of the California Government Code.

The Alameda Unified School District has retained the law firms of Chapman, Popik & White LLP and Foley & Lardner LLP. The District will vigorously defend Measure H.

In other school news the group, Alamedans For Fair Taxation, a group for which no one, to my knowledge, has stepped up and claimed public responsiblity, has a double-length, unsigned editorial in this week’s Alameda Sun. While we’re all used to pseudonymous postings on the Internet (I don’t much like ‘em, but they’re here), it continues to mystify me that no one from this group that is, as I understand it, responsible for funding at least one of the legal challenges to the popular parcel tax, doesn’t step up and say, “Hello. This is who we are and why we’re doing what we’re doing.” It’s all well and good to disagree—many reasonable people disagree much of the time—but the refusal to take a public stand (while having a willingness to fund a lawsuit) continues to confound me.

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Alameda candidates for school board debate tonight

There are five candidates running for three school board spots. Incumbents David Forbes and Janet Gibson are trying to hold onto their seats, and Trish Spencer, Niel Tam, and Ron Mooney have also throw their hats in the ring. Incumbent and current president Bill Schaff is not running and so the top three vote getters with join sitting board members Mike McMahon and Tracy Jensen (though, if Jensen succeeds in her quest for a seat on Alameda’s city council she’ll give up her seat on the school board). Alameda’s PTA Council and the Alameda Education Foundation are hosting a debate tonight at Alameda High’s Little Theatre at 7 pm. If you can’t make it, Alameda’s League of Women Voters is hosting a forum for the school board trustee candidates on October 15, details here.

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State budget leaves Alameda schools in the lurch

The new California state budget lowballs the cost of living increase for schools (anyone notice the rising cost of almost everything these days?). Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued this statement about the budget’s funding for education:

[It] includes a reduction of the cost-of-living adjustment that will further tighten the vise on local school budgets as districts across the state face increased costs for supplies, food, transportation and employee health care costs. These reductions are a disservice to California’s 6 million school children and the thousands of educators across the state.

Read all of Contra Costa Times reporter Kimberly Wetzel’s story on the budget and education here. As for blame? George Skelton has this piece in the Los Angeles Times: Blame all the players for a gimmicky budget.