Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 14, 2017

Anne McKereghan: Destigmatizing Prop 13

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

On June 27th, the AUSD Board of Education voted on the district’s three-year budget prioritization. The budget report included the need to make an anticipated $1.2 million in cuts for the 2018-19 school year and an additional $8 million in cuts for the 2019-20 school year. These cuts are necessary in order to reflect the ability for AUSD to meet its financial obligations for the next three years.

The question begging to be asked is, why is our district, and so many others, once again facing drastic cuts. Though there are many financial pressures stressing districts, the greatest culprit facing public education in California is our own government, plain and simple. The State of California does not see education funding as a priority. According to the California Constitution “From all state revenues there shall first be set apart the money’s to be applied to the State for the support of public school system and public institutions of higher education,” Clearly our legislators continue to fall drastically short of meeting the constitutional requirement. As reported in January 2016 by the California School Board Association, funding of $22-$42 billion in additional resources is needed annually to prepare students for college and careers – no, that’s not a typo, that’s billion with a “B”!

So where do we go from here? We must stop blaming school districts and turn our frustrations and energies where they belong, to Sacramento. Where do we start? We start by destigmatizing Prop 13. We must assure our elected officials addressing changes to Prop 13 no longer carries the stigma of a career ending discussion. How do we do this? There are several organizations working to equalize Prop 13. For instance, here are two organizations’ working to equalize corporate property taxation under Prop 13:

Make it Fair, FaceBook Make it Fair California
Evolve, FaceBook Evolve

Join them, follow them, endorse them, and if you are able to, financially support them. Once you’ve acted, let your legislators know you have. Search for their names on the endorsement lists of these organizations working to change Prop 13. If they have endorsed, thank them, if they haven’t, ask them to do so or explain why they will not. It may not seem like much, but revolutions start by voices joining together, If we were ever in need of anything, it is a revolution supporting public education.

In closing, I had the pleasure of attending the Alameda County School Board Association’s networking event recently where we heard from former State Superintendent and Gubernatorial candidate, Delaine Eastin. She closed with one of her favorite quotes; it comes from the 1982 book The Disappearance of Childhood by Niel Postman. “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” We need to ask ourselves, and our legislators, what message are we sending to our children? Mine is determination and hope that we will once again live in a state where our students are receiving the highest education possible. Californians should no longer accept anything less.



  1. So the living message your parents sent though you was to raise taxes.

    Comment by jack — July 14, 2017 @ 7:51 am

    • The living message my parents taught me was nothing worth having in life is free.

      Comment by Anne McKereghan — July 14, 2017 @ 7:07 pm

  2. Sacramento? We have heard this same song for 25 years. Our local Demo political machine now headed by Rob Bonta has done nothing to move the needle on this issue and never will. The Cavalry is not coming Nancy. All solutions must be local.

    AUSD should consolidate services with the City of Alameda to cut maintenance costs, cut 10% of administrators across the board, move their administrative offices from the $552,000 per year current location to City Hall West, consolidate Encinal and Alameda High, and sell valuable land like Thompson Field and now Lum School to make up the deficit. There will be no federal help- possibly because AUSD declared itself a sanctuary district and the City called for Trump’s impeachment.

    And how about using some imagination? Build alliances with local businesses who now benefit from Prop.13. Calculate how much each saves, then recruit them to start a voluntary giving program to support local schools. Business and real estate interests want strong local schools.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — July 14, 2017 @ 8:13 am

    • All good points, but either not possible or feasible. School district and City governance operate independently throughout CA. Consolidation would require massive state legislation changes.

      City Hall West was considered for the District Office and would have been more costly than the existing location.

      Many organizations have worked tirelessly to engage business. Many of our local smaal to medium businesses step up on a regular basis but larger corporations see no upside to helping communities like Alameda. In addition, in order to use the funds for operations, the revenue stream must be deemed ongoing and reliable. The likelihood of companies agreeing to something that would qualify is unlikely.

      Consolidating high schools has been explored several times. Once again, cost were too high and logistics very difficult.

      If we don’t require our electeds to address this, who’s fault is that? If we don’t allow them to address every possibility, why would they?

      Localities, like ours who are willing and able, are maxed. Creativity is in the hands of our legislatures because local districts hands are tied by existing legislation.

      Comment by Anne McKereghan — July 14, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

  3. Destigmatizing Proposition 13 would facilitate discussion of inequities of the application of Proposition 13 to commercial businesses. Is it fair for Disney companies to pay much lower property taxes than a small businessman because the Disney corporation acquired their property decades ago and the businessman only last year?

    Eliminating the discounts on property taxes paid by those, especially long-established corporations, who acquired property decades ago has the potential to not only make the tax burden commercial enterprises bear more equitable, but also to lower property taxes for many small businesses while still allowing total tax receipts to increase. I agree with Anne that we should encourage our legislators to discuss changes to Proposition 13.

    Comment by William Smith — July 14, 2017 @ 9:04 am

    • Corporations don’t pay taxes. Raise their taxes and bingo, up go the prices on their products.

      Comment by jack — July 14, 2017 @ 10:05 am

      • Let’s remember that argument when landlords complain about parcel taxes and claim tenants don’t pay them.

        Comment by BC — July 14, 2017 @ 10:21 am

        • Not if rents are frozen by fiat.

          Comment by jack — July 14, 2017 @ 11:48 am

      • There are alternatives to using property taxes to financing the education of the next generations. Targeted sales taxes or income taxes, especially eliminating the mortgage interest deduction for McMansions (which disproportionately benefits owners of the most expensive homes), could lead to a more equitable formula for financing our schools. If you agree that our schools need more funding, then how do we raise the funds if we don’t modify Prop 13?

        Comment by William Smith — July 14, 2017 @ 12:48 pm

        • Sales tax is not an option for most districts unless the county is geographically the same as the district, like SF. In addition, it’s a very regressive taxation, impacting lower income families far more than others. Even if it was possible, I once calculated what it would take to raise the $12M we currently have in parcel taxes and it was something like 10-12%.

          Comment by Anne McKereghan — July 14, 2017 @ 7:35 pm

        • Regarding your point on the sales tax, as you also pointed out, state legislation would be required. If most of the school districts in the state got strong support for enabling legislation for a targeted sales tax on ‘luxury’ goods, the new tax could make an incremental contribution to school budgets. I agree, other revenue sources would be necessary.

          Still, our schools could do much more with their existing budgets if they adopted educational models that were supported by pedagogical research. The traditional model used in Alameda is teacher centered. The research shows with nearly the same degree of confidence of research supporting man’s role in climate change, that student centered models like those used in Finland accomplish more with fewer resources. Studies of both public and private progressive schools in America also indicate that student-centered schools, when supported by parents and the general community, generally perform well. Finnish schools were not performing well in the 1970s, so Finland remade the system from the bottom up, using the best pedagogical research, including research published by Americans. We know how to do it – we lack the incentive to motivate wholesale reform in education.

          Comment by William Smith — July 14, 2017 @ 8:14 pm

  4. Bravo to #2 for some much needed straight talk!

    Comment by Il Cane di Ferro — July 14, 2017 @ 9:54 am

    • William, another option is to take a look at the Ed Code and start stripping away costly ineffective processes that aren’t benfitting our students, strapping our educators with relentless paperwork, and wasting money on unnecessary administration requirements.

      This can only be done in Sacramento, but it won’t happen if the public doesn’t apply the pressure.

      Comment by Anne McKereghan — July 14, 2017 @ 9:45 pm

      • Sorry, William, missed your follow up comment. I think we are very much on the same page when it comes to exploring educational options!

        Comment by Anne McKereghan — July 14, 2017 @ 9:47 pm

      • I agree that reducing paperwork and giving teachers professional license to adopt instructional methods to their particular students will yield incremental advances. Such changes are more feasible in the short term than shifts in the education model that have been shown in schools throughout the world, including in the United States, to yield major advances.

        Major shifts in the educational model are underway, but at the current pace will require decades to realize in public schools such as Alameda. To be successful, such fundamental shifts require parents, teachers, businesses and the broader community to support educational models that they did not encounter as a child.

        Comment by William Smith — July 14, 2017 @ 10:41 pm

  5. Anne,

    Prop 13 reform is only the beginning. As much as it needs to happen, with regard to education funding it is likely not most important driver. As you well know, Prop 98, the Serrano decision, and a host of other laws & precedents have as much or more to do with funding issues as P13 does. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is the State Constitution itself which sharply constrains local taxing powers. Reform like this is a very tall order.

    “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable, the art of next best” said the Iron Chancellor and with that in mind, I say yes, let’s try to reform the corporate side of P13 as a first step, but one should not view that as a panacea. The incremental funding raised would be a help — every nickel is a help in a state that only funds at approx 70-75% of per pupil national average — but the proceeds would be slow to roll in & would have very lumpy and uneven distribution. Residential is still where the real money lies and still where the inequities are very stark.

    This is a step we need to take, but let’s be mindful that is is only the first in a very long journey.

    Comment by dave — July 15, 2017 @ 8:22 am

    • Completely agree! But it’s a big hurdle, and one we have to be willing to undertake. Funding is not the only way to improve this as well, it’s time to look at that Ed code and fix it.

      Comment by Anne McKereghan — July 15, 2017 @ 1:47 pm

  6. While we’re looking at Prop 13 to correct the unbalanced portions paid by large corporations, shouldn’t we also examine the discounts given to large commercial companies through our local Measures?
    Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I was told that the Special Assessments paid by large companies in Alameda are capped at a reduced rate.
    What’s different from Alameda’s give-a-ways to large holdings from those of Prop 13?

    Comment by Pat Colburn — July 17, 2017 @ 7:06 am

  7. It is unfair for me to pay $8,000 a year in property taxes and my neighbor pay $1,000 for the same square footage because her grandmother purchased the house in the 50s and I am a relatively new homeowner. It is unfair because my neighbor sent three kids through the AUSD (two of which include her sister’s) and my kids do not attend the AUSD. End Prop 13!

    Comment by Keith — July 17, 2017 @ 2:39 pm

    • Your neighbor didn’t tell you to buy the house at the price you did. That was your decision. Why should they be penalized?

      Comment by Ed Hirshberg — July 17, 2017 @ 3:03 pm

      • Imagine a workplace where your income tax was determined by how many years you’ve been in the job rather than your salary. Imagine a sales tax based on how long the product had been on the shelf rather than its price.

        That’s Prop 13. You like it because you like having public services (like your UC degree) that other people pay for That same UC degree that the public paid for so you could go on to a career of fighting taxes for education that were voted on by a super majority.

        You’re a class act, Eddie Boy.

        Comment by Fuck you, Ed — July 17, 2017 @ 3:09 pm

      • While I might express it a little less harshly than the commenter above me, the point is a good one. Do you really think Prop 13 is a legitimate way to handle the problem that existed? And does it not, even slightly, trouble you that the young are subsidizing the old as a consequence? Probably not, but I thought you deserved the answer to show you have a slightly more developed sense of social ethics than what your comments indicates. Howard Jarvis was wrong.

        Comment by BC — July 17, 2017 @ 5:23 pm

        • You’re talking to a guy who got a public education then sued to avoid paying for public education and you think he has a sense of social ethics?

          Comment by Fuck you, Ed — July 17, 2017 @ 6:54 pm

  8. It is now almost 40 years since prop 13 was passed. Those who worked in the real estate business prior to prop 13 are getting fewer and fewer. I got my license in 1975 and helped several people who were being taxed out of their property. The average house was selling for less than 70K then. But these people were living on fixed incomes but generally had their houses paid free and clear. They simply couldn’t afford the 20% annual increases in property taxes. Some moved to mobile homes and others out of state. Their nest egg took a second hit from the inflation of the late 70s and early 80s. A retired PE teacher listed dozens of these sales per month, and after the passage of prop 13 he abruptly retired and left town. These citizens did not deserve what was done to them. Regarding the person living in their grandmother’s house, they may well be struggling. This is frequently the case when someone stays on in the old family home. Also note that much of the destruction of the Victorians was fueled by the tax assessor insisting that he had to value the property based on the ability of the owner to build a 20 unit apartment on the site. This made the house uneconomic and forced the sale. Prop 13 with its 18% more or less yearly increase in tax revenues has brought prosperity and order to the marketplace while producing enormous tax revenues. We don’t need a blast from the past.

    Comment by Ed Hirshberg — July 17, 2017 @ 7:01 pm

    • You’re clearly not an economist by training. Two propositions: 1. There was a problem. 2. Prop 13 was a disastrous answer to said problem. Both can be (and indeed are) true. I thought you might be brighter and better educated than your dim-bulb partner in crime over at Action Alameda. Oh well.

      Comment by BC — July 18, 2017 @ 9:04 am

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