No More Cuts To Public Education – The Case for The Parcel Tax

by on July 12, 2010 · 27 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Education, Labor, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego, The Chronicles of Edumacation

education cuts vs warThe San Diego Unified District Board of Education will be voting Tuesday, July 13th, at 5pm in the evening to place a temporary parcel tax up for voter approval on the November ballot. While this move on the surface is a response to the “funding cliff” that public education systems state-wide are facing as Federal stimulus dollars expire next year, the reality is that much larger stakes are in play here.

The school district is facing the prospect of $127 million in projected cuts for the school year beginning in September 2011 after cutting more than $370 million from its budget over the last four years. They have tentatively proposed a long list of budget reductions, from eliminating librarians and counselors to halving the school day for kindergartners. More than 1,400 employees – ten per cent of school district employees – will be facing layoffs if those cuts become reality.

Beyond the job cuts, which would entail eliminating school athletics, arts & music programs, vice-principals, libraries, school nurses, gifted programs and magnet schools, is a struggle for the very soul of public education. Hidden behind the “no-tax” and “blame the unions” rhetoric of the measure’s opponents is an agenda that would shrink public education to a bare bones institution that would functions as holding tank for the children of the lowers and middle classes whose parents cannot afford private education.

As with private schools in the higher education business, this agenda won’t actually reduce education costs; these monies will simply be re-directed to profit-making institutions with no public oversight or real interest in student achievement. (For more on the cruel, cold world of private college education, I suggest that you read this investigative report.)

The reality of proposed parcel tax is that it will cost individual home-owners a whopping $8 a month, apartment owners are looking at paying $6 per month per unit. Low-income seniors would be exempt from the parcel tax. In other words, for the cost of a martini or a couple of lattes, the local school district will be able to deal with a looming fiscal crisis. That money goes directly to the school district and not Sacramento. In San Diego Unified, the money would be used to hire more teachers, which would help to lower class sizes.

educate no privatizeThe tax expires at the end of five years, and the monies raised are strictly targeted: Under the proposal, none of the money would be spent on administrators or the central office. Expenses would be monitored by an oversight committee. Each school would get $150 per student to pay for academic programs. The money could be used to hire teachers, pay for supplies, vocational education or technology. After per-pupil funding is distributed, half of the remaining funds — about $20 million annually — would be spent to keep class sizes low in kindergarten through third-grade.

The counter-attack on the proposed parcel tax has already begun. Sunday’s Union-Tribune editorialized on flaws they perceived in the District’s web site explaining the details of the parcel tax. (You can be assured that a follow-up attack will happen over the next couple of weeks over the choice of consultant Larry Remer to run the campaign in favor of the proposal, despite the fact that he has a good track record on such issues. Full disclosure: Remer and I were, four decades ago, co-editors of an alternative newspaper that used much of its editorial footprint towards denigrating the local dailies.)

Since it now appears that the two initiatives that appeared likely to gain the most interest amongst reactionaries will not be on the ballot in November—Carl DeMaio’s “Clean Up Government Act” and the proposal to raise the local sales tax by ½ percent*—the proposed parcel tax will become the lightning rod for pro-privatization forces.

(*Insiders have told me that the decision has been made not to expend political capital in the face of proposals to build a new city hall and other new shiny toys.)

Advance polling by education advocates shows that the battle is likely to be hard fought. Poll respondents demonstrated a significant depth of support for the tax. The problem is that State law mandates that such measures must be approved by 2/3 of the electorate. Over the past year more than 20 California districts have attempted to pass parcel taxes, with 16 passing in mostly small and affluent districts.

The voting districts with the most swing, depending on the questions posed by pollsters, were district six (inland north city, i.e., Clairemont & Kearny Mesa) and district two (which includes Ocean Beach and Point Loma). This means voter turn out in OB could be a real determining factor.

As one business leader reportedly told School Board President Richard Barrera, he’s opposed to this initiative and will work for its defeat so he can make the schools “come to us on their knees” to beg for survival. That pretty much sums it up. The survival of schools is now on the line. Here’s where we stand now:

  • California has more students per school staff than the rest of the US.

California’s schools:

  • Ranked 50th in the nation with respect to the number of students per teacher.
  • California averaged 21.3 students for each teacher in 2009-10, more than 50 percent larger than the rest of the US, which averaged 13.8 students per teacher.2
  • Ranked 46th in the nation with respect to the number of students per administrator.
  • California’s schools averaged 358 students for each administrator in 2007-08, compared to 216 students for each administrator in the rest of the US.
  • Ranked 49th in the nation with respect to the number of students per guidance counselor. California’s schools averaged 809 students for each guidance counselor

More than $17 billion has been cut from California public schools and colleges in the last two years, equaling a cut of nearly $3,000 per student. This is the single largest cut to public education since the Great Depression. Because of this, more than 26,000 pink slips were issued to California educators this year.

Do we really want to make things worse? The school board hearing on the parcel tax is scheduled for 5 pm Tuesday, July 13th at the Board of Education Building in University Heights. The anti-education people will be out in full force to try & discredit this idea.

Please attend if you can.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Ken Seaton-Msemaji July 12, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Doug this is an excellent article !!! The Community will also lose hundreds of Construction jobs because without the Parcel tax money the district’s credit rating will go down making selling the bonds more difficult therefore slowing down the school construction projects !!


avatar RB July 13, 2010 at 12:45 pm

The school district already sold bonds for school construction using Prop MM.
In addition the school district has already secured bond financing for the next 40 years with Prop S. The new building at the end of Voltaire at PLHS is a new Prop S project. In fact the district has so much bond money that they gave $20 million to the downtown library project. This ‘Schoolbray’ project has doomed any new money, like the Parcel Tax, from being given to this school board. The Parcel tax will not change bond financing. Prop S bonds already have a revenue stream for bond payment and credit rating. The reality is the parcel tax is needed to fund the 7% raises already promised over the next couple of years to the teachers union to secure this years teachers furloughs.


avatar doug porter July 13, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Prop MM was passed 12 years ago and, among other things, built new schools. Prop S is for retro-fitting, renovating and putting in computers so every student will have one. Prop S is for 10 t0 15 years, by the way, not 40 yrs. It includes 20 million for the Downtown Library includes a new High School in the Library building.

It very well may come to pass that because of Prop S the voters may not go for a Parcel Tax but I hope voters understand that Prop S is for construction, while the parcel tax is to keep class size down by not having to lay-off 1000 teachers. The monies cannot be mixed by law.

If the teachers get a raise down the road (to get back what they are willing to sacrifice now) so be it. San Diego Unified Teachers are the 2nd lowest paid in the County of San Diego and it’s got 32 other School Districts. And San Diego is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, so if we want talented people teaching our kids, we’d better be ready to pay competitive salaries.

If the Parcel Tax isn’t approved the District’s financial standing will go down and that will lower their Credit Rating which will make us have to pay a lot more for any kind of borrowed money and that will slow down the selling of the Bonds to a snail’s pace and therefore slow down the construction projects.


avatar RB July 13, 2010 at 5:53 pm

No, Prop S is not just for renovations and retro-fitting. It is being used for new construction at existing campuses. Please see the new Humanities Building on campus at the end of Voltaire. Do you remember seeing a building there before?
Prop S was a $2.1 billion extension of Prop MM and the property taxes will be paid until 2044. The $20 million for Schoolbrary was just a transfer to the library. It is illegal for the district to operate any elementary school in the library and their is no need for a high school in the area. The high school proposed for the library will not meet earthquake standards for a public schools so it must be operated as a charter. You are correct that the Parcel tax can’t be used for construction, that is what the $2.1 billion in Prop S covered.


avatar Frank Gormlie July 13, 2010 at 8:40 am

Doug, thanks for leading a one-man campaign to bring OBcieans kicking and screaming to the reality of our public school crisis.

Every OBcian who has kids at OB Elementary, Correia, Dana or Point Loma High should be sitting up and taking notice.


avatar Dean July 13, 2010 at 12:47 pm

You make a very good point; however, I’d like to see the actual balance sheet for the schools and see actually where the current dollars are being spent before agreeing to spend more.


avatar doug porter July 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm
avatar doug porter July 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm

go to
the budget is up there for anybody to see.


avatar RB July 13, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Almost 90% of the $1.16 billion budget is employee salaries and benefits, and 25% of the budget is $282 million in employee benefits . The only part of the budget that was increased year over year is employee benefits, which increased 8% or $20 million. Unless state funding is increased, the Parcel tax will be used to cover the 7% salary increases promised to the teachers and benefits increases in each years budget. There will be no class size reduction unless state funding for the schools increased. I am sorry to say this but the state, city and school district can no longer afford defined benefits pensions or full benefits for nine months of work.


avatar Molly July 13, 2010 at 3:00 pm

I say, dammit, let the kids teach themselves. I mean what are we doing spending hard-earned taxpayer money on teaching children in the first place? This is true socialism. Next you’ll want public-funding for roads, bridges, parks and other infrastructure. I say if you can’t cross that river on your own, maybe you should just go back home. Why should the public pay for you to cross that river?


avatar bodysurferbob July 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm

molly, i’m with you on that. just give these kids a freakin machine. sit them down in front of it, strap them in, and press the button.


avatar RB July 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm

If we got rid of the kids we would have more money to please some adults.
“When school children start paying union dues, that ‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” Albert Shanker, President of the United Federation of Teachers


avatar doug porter July 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm

yes, the way the budgeting process works (blame Sacramento), the school budget is mostly about people. that’s the most important part of the equation when it comes to educating. one third of our schools are year round, by the way. many teachers teach year round.
you wanna screw the employees out of what they were promised when hired; what they planned for when the went to college and ran up big time debts paying tuition? is that your solution? really?
you really think we ought to skimp on paying the people that have the most influence over the development of young minds?
do you really think the State has benefited employers by letting our educational system slide from best (okay, it was 5th) to worst (it’s 47th or lower, depending on who’s rating it) ?


avatar RB July 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

No, one third of the district schools are not year round. I don’t know of any district school operating on a year round bases. The District operates summer school for students who are failing classes on a very limited bases. Summer school for all students was cut during past budget problems.
You don’t seem to understand that ERISA requires all earned pension benefits for teachers to be paid. No earned pension benefits can or will be taken for teachers. But there is no reason, other than union contract, that defined contribution retirement programs could not be substituted for new hires and for future earned retirement of current employees.
No, you are wrong again. Parents not teachers have the most influence over the development of young minds in particularly the years from 0ne to five according to the scientific literature.


avatar doug porter July 14, 2010 at 11:12 am

i’m sure it will come as shock to the parents of students at the following schools that their schools are not year round: Audubon, Baker, Balboa, Bethune, Birney, Boone, Burbank, Carson, Carver, Central, Chavez, Cherokee, Clark Middle, Darnell Charter, Dewey, Edison, Emerson/Bandini, Ericson, Euclid, Farb, Garfield, Golden Hill, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardy, Horton, Ibarra, Jerabek, Johnson, Jones, Joyner, Kimbrough, King-Chavez, Knox, the Language Academy, Linda Vista, Logan, Marshall, Mason, Miller, Montgomery, Normal Heights, Paradise Hills, Penn, Perkins, Perry, Porter (Both Campuses), Rosa Parks, San Diego Cooperative Charter, Sequoia, Tierra Santa, Valencia Park, Walker, Webster, Wilson, Zamorano
I think I’ll let your lack of knowledge speak for itself here.


avatar RB July 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm

These schools still have teachers who teach 180 days (175 days next year) and are merely replacing instruction in April for instruction in July. A true year round school is a multi-track system where one group of students is always on break and schools are able to accommodate up to 33 percent more students in a building. For every three schools on a multi-track, year-round calendar, that is one less school that has to be built. Teachers in a year round school, not unlike every other profession, are able to provide 240 work day per year or a full years work for a full year of benefits.


avatar doug porter July 14, 2010 at 10:48 am

i attended the school board meeting last night where the trustees voted to place the parcel tax on the ballot. the large crowd was in favor of the proposal by about 10 to 1. Churches, PTAs, unions, charter schools and small business people all spoke up in favor of the Parcel Tax.
The speakers against the tax were pretty much representing people with a grudge against past actions of the current school board. Particularly obnoxious was speaker Eric Christen, who prior to lambasting the board for it’s stance on district labor agreements with contractors, managed to create a stir in the audience when outgoing SDEA president Camille Zombro called out for help as Christen harassed her. She was seated, he came down and started in on her. He is a very big man who was clearly very angry. Ms. Zombro was sitting down watching the hearings and refused to engage him until calling out for help.
It seems clear to me that the anti-union forces in this fight are willing to literally throw our children under the bus in their quest for supremacy, based on his actions and the disrespectful comments made last night.
You don’t have to be pro-school board or pro-union to understand that the State budget cuts–which are affecting school districts all over the state, regardless of their stance on unions– to education are putting our children’s future at risk.
Board member Nakamura–who was not supported by the unions in the past election– said it best: “If they’re so damned good at math, maybe they should tell us how this district can go without a half billion dollars and not affect children.”


avatar J. Browne July 14, 2010 at 4:24 pm

The parcel tax should be for restoring cuts in programs like GATE, VAPA, OCILE, arts, science, etc. (Kids programs). It would be a better sell. Knowing that the tax will go for paying back the teachers, without telling us, tells me all I need to know; they are not going to be responsible with the money.

They said it should be a shared sacrafice, but they won’t give those instructional days back to the kids when they reimburse the teachers. Every other large urban district in the country has laid off and cut pay. SD hasn’t laid off a teacher in 3 years. Many of my neighbors are out of work, or they have had their hours cut. These people have a guaranteed job and excellent medical/retirement benefits.


avatar RB July 19, 2010 at 7:42 am

J., I agree with your main point. I would vote for the Parcel Tax if it was limited to restoring the student programs cut by this District. As for instructional days, I will not vote for any state incumbent until funding for the schools is restored and those days of instruction returned.


avatar LockDeltz July 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm

The only solution to this mess is to privatize the schools. The public school system is a failure, pouring in billions of more dollars to this garbage institution will not make education better, it will not improve test scores. The problem with public schools is that the government has a monopoly over it, they can set wages for teachers; for example a PE teacher makes the same amount as a Spanish teacher. What we need is free markets, what we need is FREEDOM of choice. We need to end tax-payer funded schools and compulsory education laws, that is the only solution to improving a child’s education.


avatar Frank Gormlie July 18, 2010 at 3:41 pm

You are a dinosaur, my friend, if you think we should privatize public education. (Unless you’re being sarcastic, which I doubt.) We approved your comment to display the true agenda of the right-wing. That’s right! “Freedom of choice” – choose not to be educated! End compulsory education now! We want to be ignorant! The free market of education. See who can teach the children the cheapest. I love this line: “the problem with public schools is that the government has a monopoly over it.”


avatar LockDeltz July 18, 2010 at 4:46 pm

lol resorting to name-calling to try and prove your point. You are an ignorant fool if you think public education turns people into educated decent human beings once they graduate out of high school, which is clearly not the case. I hear stories about students who don’t know how to write a letter after they graduate from high school, that is just one of the many flaws of public schooling. Yes the government does have a monopoly over education, through the federal, state, and local level. There is very little competition, which is why most of the schools look like prisons. You also seem to be economically ignorant; for a example a child goes through 12 years of compulsory education, why isn’t there classes on building houses, economics, political science, cooking etc in secondary education? You want to know why? Because government controlled education is unmanageable, through teacher unions, the pension funds for teachers are extremely high, so the school budget can’t afford a class on culinary arts, they can’t afford any more economists teachers. Public schools is just pure bureaucratic junk.

There is always an incentive for people to be educated, the government should not force citizens through laws and tax-payer money to be educated. Schools are nothing more then a service that consumers pay for, just like a hotel or a hospital, want proof? Just look at the college level.


avatar kenloc July 18, 2010 at 5:20 pm

In the 1st sentence you criticized Frank for name calling(a dinosaur,my friend?).In the second sentence you called him an ignorant fool.Huh?


avatar LockDeltz July 18, 2010 at 5:34 pm

You nitpick my post because of that? If someone “criticizes me”, I “criticize” them back, it’s not a big deal, only a fool like you makes a big deal about it.


avatar bob May 4, 2011 at 7:31 am

Yeah, why is there money always for WAR and not EDUCATION. What kind of country does that? Why are we as a species still killing one another? Maybe if we had more education on how to love one another the world wouldn’t be such a mess.
Rev Robert Schuler


avatar bob May 12, 2011 at 8:21 am

It just seems so obvious to me that if the corporations and those who have more money then they can use, would just pay their fair share of taxes we would not have such a huge budget deficit. To listen to some of our publicly elected servants call teachers parasitic and blame our fire,and police,education,healthcare,social security, for our budget woes.
There are a lot of problems with our elected servants who seem to be for sale, and now corporate America because of the bad decision made by the supreme court allowing corporations to give an unlimited amount in campaign contributions to people running for public office.. I SAY IT IS THE RICH AND THE CORPORATIONS WHO ARE NOT PULLING THERE WEIGHT. It is not those of us who are all ready paying taxes creating this budget woe. It is the corporations and the rich who do not pay their fair share. If it is one thing I have seen from corporations they intimidate and push their employees to do a much as possible with the least amount of resources possible.
What ever happened to having a decent life in the U.S? We should not have to work 14 hrs a day or work 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet Take back America from crooked politicians and corporate greed. Let your elected servants know you have had enough. Check out public they are actively as well as I to change America for the better for all.

Rev Robert Schuler
Peace and blessings


avatar Doug November 30, 2014 at 12:17 pm

The children are our future, and not just the children with wealthy parents.


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