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.


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.


Alameda’s Measure H lawsuit. Devil details.

As you have likely heard (Michele Ellson‘s got a link to the lawsuit) attorney David Brillant has filed suit on behalf of George Borikas in Alameda County Court against Measure H, the Alameda school parcel tax which passed in June 2008.

The suit alleges that Measure H violates the portion of California’s Education Code which stipulates that school parcel taxes must be ‘uniform’ and allows for seniors and people with disabilities to be exempted from them. Here’s the California code:

50079. (a) Subject to Section 4 of Article XIIIA of the California Constitution, any school district may impose qualified special taxes within the district pursuant to the procedures established in Article 3.5 (commencing with Section 50075) and any other applicable procedures provided by law.
(b) (1) As used in this section, “qualified special taxes” means special taxes that apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property within the school district, except that “qualified special taxes” may include taxes that provide for an exemption from those taxes for taxpayers 65 years of age or older or for persons receiving Supplemental Security Income for a disability, regardless of age.
(2) “Qualified special taxes” do not include special taxes imposed on a particular class of property or taxpayers.

And here’s the complaint, which talks about the requirement that parcel taxes be ‘uniform’ and, too, raises what seems to be the issue of seniors or people with disabilities having to actively opt out of the tax:

The qualified special tax set forth in the Election Order and in Measure H, as approved by the registered voters of the District, is not consistent with the uniformity requirement as set forth in Government Code Section 50079. Additionally, the special tax set forth in the Election Order and in Measure H contains exemptions from the qualified special tax yet imposes additional requirements for taxpayers to meet the exeptions that are not contained in Government Code Section 50079. For these reasons, the District’s qualified special tax against residential, commercial and industrial property, as set forth in Measure H, are not a valid or lawful lien on the real property of Borikas herinabove described, and any attempt by defendants to collect unpaid assessments from Borikas would be unlawful and improper.

For some background on why districts rely on parcel taxes as a way of funding education, I found this useful and, too, at least one area district, Albany, has a parcel tax (passed in 2005) with a structure similar to Alameda’s: it’s $250 per parcel and $.05 per square foot nonresidential. Other local parcel taxes with variable levels of taxation include Emeryville, Berkeley, and Piedmont. A quick look at some area parcel taxes and how they handle exemptions for seniors/people with disability/low income people, reveals they operate much like Alameda’s. Here’s San Francisco, Oakland, and Emeryville.


A teary wave to Alameda’s Karlyn Taylor

KarlynTaylorEach and every time I go into a classroom filled with small children and spend more than a few moments there I come away with renewed gratitude and respect for those among us, elementary school teachers I mean, who have the intestinal fortitude and whatever other strength of character it takes to spend days with young children, in sets of 20, helping them grow and learn.

Children are loud! They don’t always have complete control of their body fluids! And they need to learn all sorts of things, from the difference between to, two and too, to how to listen to a peer talking while they, too, have something to say (many adults, by the way, never master either of these two skills).

In any case, my oldest child was lucky enough to have Karlyn Taylor, who was profiled two weeks back in the Alameda Journal. What I found most remarkable about Mrs. Taylor (aside from the fact that she was teaching in the classroom in which she herself attended kindergarten decades back) was that she created, in a classroom of high readers and low readers, socially gifted and socially awkward, native English speakers and ESL students, the warmest and friendliest social environment. Those children cared for one another, and learned how to show it. As my daughter said, “I love Mrs. Taylor.” So happy retirement Mrs. T, and thanks for all your love.


Alameda’s Measure H…no new votes released today

So it sounds like there’ll be no release of votes today for Measure H, Alameda’s school parcel tax. This just in from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters‘ Spokesperson Guy Ashley:

There will be no update today of results for the June 3 election. Folks spent the day processing provisional ballots. Some work remains remaking damaged ballots as well… We most likely will update our results again on Wednesday.

So the vote stands at very, very close—the ‘yes’ votes have 66.66 percent. Stay tuned.


More on Alameda’s Measure H election returns

When the absentee votes appeared, some time around 9 p.m., it looked a little bleak: absentee ‘yes’ votes were at 61.88 percent. (Measure H needs, as you likely remember, two thirds of the vote to pass: 66.66 percent.) But now, at 11:40 pm, with 15 (of 51) precincts reporting the ‘yes’ percentage is up above 63 percent. WAIT! It just went up again: we’re now at 27 precincts and 64.74 percent ‘yes’ votes. You can always find the most updated Measure H results here.

Also check out Michele Ellson’s The Island for more details on election results, particularly the vote analysis comment posted by former city councilmember Tony Daysog.

[Ed. note 6:32 a.m: visit Mike McMahon‘s site for a chart of the votes and some info on the counting of the provisional ballots. And Michele Ellson’s got more at The Island, too. Don’t forget to visit Rob Siltanen at School 94501/94502, where he’s made a calculation about the number of votes H appears to have failed by.]

[Ed. note 6:56 a.m: Also go visit Lauren Do for a bit of macro perspective on the loss—y’know, why can we pass a constitutional amendment with a simple majority but we need two thirds to pass a small school tax?]


Paying the price to have good schools in Alameda

Today’s print column, “Paying the price to have good schools,” is up online. If you’ve somehow missed that today is election day, and Measure H, the parcel tax to support our town’s schools in on the ballot, go read it now. You can find all Alameda Journal articles online here.

Past “Life on the Island” columns
May 27, 2008: A civil rights issue in our time
May 20, 2008: What’s cooking in the hot weather?
May 12, 2008: When a man needs a cave
May 5, 2008: Enjoying that small-town feel
April 28, 2008: Support of tax teaches lesson
April 21, 2008: New garage can be a good habit
April 14, 2008: When the earth shakes, duck
April 7, 2008: Snails, ants, lice and light brown apple moths


It’s election day, Alameda

Morning! Today is election day. You can find your polling place here. And you can read the Alameda Journal’s editorial in support of Measure H here. And here’s more of the latest on Measure H. Go vote yes for a modest tax for our town’s schools. Remember, it needs two thirds of the vote to pass, so every vote counts.


In Alameda: From the mouths of Elks

So the very enterprising Michele Ellson over at The Island (yay, for Alameda blogs) has it from the Elks that they know they’ll not be responsible for square-footage-based taxation through the Measure H parcel tax.

So now, with six days until next Tuesday’s vote, perhaps we can turn our attention toward the big picture: that quality schools matter to a community, that good schools mean higher property values as well as more customers for local business. NOT TO MENTION, that good schools go a long way toward helping young people develop into thoughtful, productive, and participatory citizens. Who get jobs. Who pay taxes. Who become civic leaders. And engineers. And inspiring humanitarians.

But that’s all been said before. You can find your polling place, by the way, here.