Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 30, 2015

Critical mess

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

There’s one issue regarding the School Board appointment that has been hinted about but I haven’t touched at in detail.  I might have mentioned it in my “cons” section when Anne McKereghan was reduced as the “parcel tax” candidate as though that were the only qualifications that she had to offer.

At the end of the meeting during the reopening of public comment, a lot of people came up to tout Gray Harris’s parcel tax experience in order to counter-balance this particular narrative about Anne McKereghan.

As you can see, a few people went slightly overboard in their effusive praise about Gray Harris which — unfortunately — reflected poorly on her even though she wasn’t the one endorsing this particular line of messaging.

Between this and the dismissing the next parcel tax as being “easy” to pass because the demographics of the Alameda community has changed, I imagine that the community members who put in the real work on all the past parcel tax and bond campaigns must have felt their contributions minimized and co-opted.  Look, I’ll be honest, as supportive as I am of parcel taxes I do very little to help out the actual campaigns themselves.  I think I might have helped out once like three campaigns ago by agreeing to schlep some boxes of materials from San Francisco to Alameda.  And that’s only because I was already in San Francisco, it was close to my work, and I had a car that could haul it.

I don’t think any of us that are on the outside looking in can fathom the amount of effort and labor that it takes to get a parcel tax campaign passed.  Two-thirds is definitely a threshold that is hard to meet and it’s going to take the skills of all of the veterans of past campaigns to get this next parcel tax passed.

Which is why, even though a decision was made, it probably wasn’t the right one, here’s why: while teachers are an important and powerful constituency to keep happy what it sounded like was that relationships between the unions and AUSD are better than ever.  In fact — if we’re talking about union solidarity — one of the union officials (speaking not as a union official) questioned during the second public comment if no one had heard what Mrs. Tam had said.  The widow of Niel Tam had endorsed Anne McKereghan in her public comments.

What was really important, and was mentioned by one of the other public commenters was that the lead up to the next election for the School Board is important because it will also lead up to the parcel tax campaign.

While teacher relationships are important, the passage of a renewal parcel tax is critical to retain important programs for the students of AUSD.

I don’t believe that supporters of Anne McKereghan are going to abandon the parcel tax campaign because she wasn’t appointed to the seat, but what is — understandably — a turn off is minimizing the contributions of these supporters to the success of past, and future, campaigns.


  1. Today the Chronicle named the California school system as 9th worst in the nation, so it becomes increasingly difficult to sell the schools as “doing well.”

    Think about the other 18 candidates for round one of the school board appointment process in which Phillip Hu was chosen…they were all parcel tax supporters. None of them applied for the vacant Tam seat. It is doubtful whether they will show up for the parcel tax campaign. Now it is McKeregan. This process was both calculated and cynical. Of course, Kahn said passing a parcel tax was “easy.”

    If you recall, Trish Spencer voted not to put the bond issue on the previous ballot because she argued that the district’s real need was to pass a replacement parcel tax and she feared that the timing and expense of the bond would make passing the parcel tax too difficult given the 2/3 requirement. You think?

    Comment by Breathless — July 30, 2015 @ 7:42 am

  2. The ballot measure for Measure H read “To offset severe state budget cuts to Alameda schools ……shall Alameda Unified School District levy a temporary, 4 year emergency tax….” The state funding has been restored. Why is there a proposal to make permanent a tax that was an emergency and temporary?

    Comment by Ed Hirshberg — July 30, 2015 @ 12:32 pm

  3. #2 the State has still not restored funding to 2007 levels. That is why AUSD still needs another parcel tax. When AUSD made the current parcel tax for 7 years they thought the State would have restored funding by this time. However, they have not! Don’t get me started on Prop 13.

    Comment by S Olaes — July 30, 2015 @ 1:32 pm

  4. Ed, It was never meant to be temporary, once the district got Measure H passed ( 2008 ) and found out how easy it is to get more funding, the district came up with an even larger tax in 2010 to replace measure A and H , that tax would have more than doubled the existing tax ( from $309. to $ 659. a year ) but did not pass. In the meantime they had a lawsuit going and were eager to replace the illegal measure H tax. Presto, in 2011 they hit us with measure A at 32 cents a sq. foot and a cap of $7,999./ year, which also makes it an illegal tax since it is not uniform as required by State law 50079. Now we are looking again at a new tax which will have to be uniform across the board. It will be interesting to see how the district will address this.

    Comment by Regina Beck — July 30, 2015 @ 1:49 pm

  5. The Money is going somewhere

    On a per-pupil basis, Proposition 98 spending would reach $9,667 in 2015–16, up from $9,361 in 2014–15. When all funding sources are considered, per-pupil spending would total $13,462 in 2015–16, up from $13,223 in 2014–15.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — July 30, 2015 @ 4:57 pm

  6. At issue here is the credibility of the school district, when they assured the citizenry that the tax was an emergency measure and that it was temporary. If the words they put in the voter pamphlet cannot be trusted, what other statements cannot be relied upon? As for Proposition 13, the state has thrived since its passage. Prior to 13 the state was in a perennial funk because investors were afraid to invest. Certainty of taxation has created an investment boom that continues to this day.

    Comment by Ed Hirshberg — July 30, 2015 @ 5:46 pm

  7. “One thing we have done that has Hurt our Children our Community and our Country tremendously is we have Dummied down and reduced the standards and testing for learning to make our politicians look good. We were actually Lying to our Students and their Families telling them they are being prepared for being successful when frankly they were not even close. To me that is insidious and heartbreaking and that is the worse thing that can happen to a student and a family that think they are on track for college and career ready and not even in the Ball Park.”

    Interview of Secretary of Education in “Having a Honest Conversation about Education”

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — July 30, 2015 @ 5:59 pm

  8. Ed:

    Fuck you.

    PS Fuck you again

    Comment by Fuck you Ed — July 30, 2015 @ 8:40 pm

  9. Alameda schools was rated in the top 10 last year. I’ll be voting for the parcel tax, because it’s good for schools, it’s good for our children, and Ed – it’s good for property values.

    Alameda was right up there with Piedmont who was number 1, Palo Alto was number 2, and Danville was number 3. Alameda was number 10.

    Folks, this is something we want to build on!

    Comment by Karen Bey — July 31, 2015 @ 6:21 am

  10. Karen- there haven’t been any school scores for three years as schools transition to the Common Core, and testing results in NY and other places all show scores will plummet as students are generally unprepared for the new tests. Graduation rates have also been inflated as a recent state court decision invalidated the results of the high school exit exam.

    Comment by Breathless — July 31, 2015 @ 6:47 am

  11. #10 – Like I said, we need to build on this rating — not find ways to tear it down. I’m happy for Gray Harris, but I agree with Lauren, I’d like to see Anne McKereghan on the school board. She is well deserving of a seat on the board, and it’s long past due!

    Comment by Karen Bey — July 31, 2015 @ 7:04 am

  12. 7. John, you want an honest conversation about education maybe think about taking the focus off test scores and focus on stuff like Pipeline to Prison:

    Comment by MI — July 31, 2015 @ 9:33 am

  13. This guy Marty from Teamsters ( he doesn’t identify himself as a teamster in this tape) also spoke for AFD contract with typical union speak “Where I come from a deal is a deal”, etc. His blustering assertion about Gray having “earned” the job by having made the most significant effort on the parcel tax campaign is simply inaccurate and preposterous. Twenty plus years ago he came to council to protest a recycling fee being embedded in annual tax bill as some sort of stealth tax strategy. I’d never been to a council meeting and was intimidated by the parade of snarky anti-tax people including Marty who wore his Sunny Barger T-shirt, which to me seemed like one more layer of subtle aggression to go with his speaking style.

    The other woman who says Anne didn’t run the whole parcel tax is correct, but nobody was saying that.

    I’m sorry Mike McMahon apparently stigmatized himself to the point of being radio active by “not playing well with others” or whatever, because his over all skill set is an asset. I know teachers felt he didn’t show them enough respect, but they’ve stacked the deck now. I hope teachers get out and kick ass on the next parcel campaign and bring people like Marty along to walk precinct. I’m sure the tactic of urging people to vote yes with a verbal poke in the chest will be very persuasive.

    Comment by MI — July 31, 2015 @ 10:15 am

  14. 5. BTW- if you are SOO upset about kids not getting dollars properly spent on them, think about annual dollars per prisoner in CA, about $60,000 average. Compare that to per pupil. Talk about skewed priorities.

    “Fifty-five percent of the growth of corrections spending is the result of the state simply putting more people in jail. Over the past three decades, the number of inmates in California facilities has increased eight times faster than size of the overall population. ”

    Comment by MI — August 1, 2015 @ 3:30 pm

  15. 5. this caught my attention because of your previous lame attempts to compare teacher unions to southern Democrats’ support of post slavery Jim Crow, or slavery itself before Abolition. See the part about segregation: Per Frank Pasquale (University of Maryland School of Law) and Siva Vaidhyanathan (University of Virginia) discuss their term “nullification”:

    “Nullification” is a wilful flouting of regulation, based on some nebulous idea of a higher good only scofflaws can deliver. It can be an invitation to escalate a conflict, of course, as Arkansas governor Orville Faubus did in 1957 when he refused to desegregate public schools and president Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce the law. But when companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and Google engage in a nullification effort, it’s a libertarian-inspired attempt to establish their services as popular well before regulators can get around to confronting them. Then, when officials push back, they can appeal to their consumer-following to push regulators to surrender.”

    I contend charters have the potential to in many areas “nullify” public schools by skirting regulation, like Uber and Airbnb.

    and a foot note to 13. above: An example of the up side of Teamster muscle is the unionizing of Google buses. Note that teachers in our own charters have been compelled to organize.

    Comment by MI — August 2, 2015 @ 10:18 am

  16. Back to the original post, Lauren is correct that there is a lot riding on the renewal of the AUSD parcel Tax. I believe the newly negotiated contract with the teacher’s union hinges on renewal of the parcel tax as a revenue source. The contract would have to be renegotiated if the parcel tax fails unless Gray Harris can pull money out of Sacramento for AUSD from all the politicians that supported her.

    Comment by BarbaraK (not Kahn) — August 3, 2015 @ 5:29 pm

  17. The new contract is only for one year, so the current contract is not dependent on renewal of the parcel tax. But the next one (which is likely going to be negotiated during the parcel tax campaign) will be dependent on renewal of the tax. Let’s hope that all sides remember that public labor strife will not help the effort to pass the next tax.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — August 3, 2015 @ 9:43 pm

  18. I don’t ever remember passing a Parcel Tax as being ‘easy’. It is usually a bloodbath. Part of the ‘changing demographics’ of our City is that many older residents are cashing out and moving on. These are the same people who were relied upon for a yes vote as they could always get a pass on the Tax. With properties selling for 800000-$1 Mil the exixting Property Taxes of the new residents are considerable.

    Comment by frank m — August 4, 2015 @ 7:28 am

  19. 19. but presumably people who can afford those prices won’t even notice the tax and the main reason many move here are schools. And the tax will be a continuation, not an increase (presumably).

    The one year contract was specifically because the tax expires. The timing is good motivation for teacher participation in tax campaign.

    Comment by MI — August 4, 2015 @ 8:19 am

  20. 6: Ed, you say that “the state has thrived since it (Proposition 13) passed,” but our schools have been starved of resources since then, too. Although AUSD students–and teachers–are *slightly* better off now than they were in 2010, and AUSD facilities will still face a $300 million maintenance and upgrade backlog AFTER there Facilities Master plan bond money is spent.

    If you think moving our schools from “on life support” to “critical” means that they are in terrific shape, I suggest that you spend a week volunteering at any AUSD school to see just how under-resourced they still are. (I am volunteer with AUSD, so I know whereof I speak.)

    And with all due respect, Ed, I would not think your court challenges to the previous school funding measure–even if they were based on your genuine conservative beliefs and principles–qualify you to accurately analyze or comment on the state of our public schools. I would also feel better if I knew of comparable evidence that you have a genuine concern for our kids or for the public education system to counterbalance the history of your legal challenges to the district.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 4, 2015 @ 4:34 pm

  21. 6: The fruits of the “investment boom” that have directly benefited you and other investors in the monied class have NOT been shared equitably across the population of California, which is depressing our economy. The schools have seen their tax support decline (in constant dollars as a proportion of state GDP) a since 1978 and we are seeing the grim results–California’s schools are at the very bottom of the barrel by almost every accepted measure compared to schools in every other state. Are you really pleased with that economic metric?

    The accumulated profits that capitalist investors and corporations have seen have been locked away and not shared with schools; state, local, and city governments; local water districts, transit agencies, or other public agencies. Businesses now avoid paying their fair share of property taxes in California and are getting a “free ride.” What are you doing to equalize the unequal property tax burden now placed on homeowners compared to commercial property owners?

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 4, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

  22. If you’re against a parcel tax for schools, tell us what you stand for instead. Been there done that. We beat the lies about “evil” parcel tax and lying fliers last time, and we will beat the lies again.

    Why do I support public schools? Because an educated citizenry with critical thinking skills is invaluable. You’re motivated to save some money and/or undermine education. My acquaintance in Oakland told me he’s paying over 20k to pay for private school next year, too bad he doesn’t live in Alameda.

    Alameda measure A parcel tax for schools supporter

    Comment by Nolaurendotorg — August 12, 2015 @ 6:40 pm

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