Serious math

Over the years, I feel like I’ve come to know you — your political leanings and life experiences, your writing style, sense of humor and average snark level. But what about your math skills?

For example: Can you (or any high school student you know) do this?

Show that there are only finitely many triples (x, y, z) of positive integers satisfying the equation abc = 2009(a + b + c).

Or this?

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No one’s running for school board!

OK, they have until 5 p.m. Friday to make their candidacy official, so there’s probably no need to panic just yet. But as your trusty source for Oakland school news, I feel you should know that as of a few minutes ago, not a single person had filed in any of the three Oakland school board races (Districts 2, 4, or 6).

Not even the (would-be) incumbents.

The person I spoke with at the clerk’s office said candidates often wait until the last week to tell the world that they’re running for office, but that this was pretty unusual. Maybe no one wants to be an Oakland school board member right now — and who could blame them, really?

School board member David Kakishiba and Jose Rocha, a pre-admissions counselor for Cal State East Bay, pulled papers for District 2, but Rocha tells me that because of an “unforeseen reason,” he’s no longer planning to run.

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Parcel tax for Oakland teachers, Take 2

Will two-thirds of Oakland’s voters approve a parcel tax that would generate about $20 million a year for teachers and other school employees — and cost property owners $195 per year?

Will the teachers union, itself, back the measure this time around?

Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland school district, said proceeds from the levy would amount to raises of about 6 percent for school staff (“teachers,  teachers’ aides, safety officers and other student support staff,” as the summary reads ). The text of the Nov. 2 measure doesn’t spell out how those raises would be distributed.

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Teacher pay, staffing and shrinking budgets

File photo of a second-grade class in San Ramon, which passed a tax to reduce its class sizes.Few would argue that teachers are well paid. But because their pay and benefits make up more than half of a school district’s budget, and because those budgets are shrinking, compensation and staffing levels have become a sticking point in school systems around the state.

Given the current funding constraints and the grim fiscal outlook, what should school districts do? What are they doing? How are labor unions responding?

I spent months collecting data from East Bay school districts to find out. I analyzed the salary/staffing dilemma — as well as the gap the state budget cuts are threatening to widen — in two stories that appeared in Sunday’s paper. You can find a spreadsheet of East Bay school districts’ decisions on these issues here.

Note: At the beginning of the main story, I wrote that California schools are funded way below the national average ($2,500 less per student), but that its teachers are the highest-paid. I included those figures to illustrate the budget challenge facing California schools, not to suggest that our teachers are rolling in the dough. (When I moved from the Midwest to Oakland, my rent doubled. I know it costs more to live here than in other parts of the country.)