Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 24, 2023

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

So yesterday’s post was a micro look at what AUSD is dealing with but today’s post is the wider problem which exists for the school district that, understandably, a lot of families simply don’t know about or don’t care about because — for the wide majority of us — we will spend (and expect other people) to spend anything to ensure that our kids are well served. However, the role of the school district is to make sure the money we have, stretches. This exercise of discussing winding down Bay Farm Middle or ASTI or reexamining the innovative programs is not done lightly because, look, in the past School Boards have been held hostage by the need to go for parcel tax after parcel tax and avoiding angering families who vote was worth kicking the can down the road. We can talk about the need to fix funding at the State level and, definitely, that work should be done but it doesn’t help AUSD in the short run when AUSD is projected to dip into its reserves every year to fund all these nice to haves and, in three years, is projected to have a sub $1 million reserve eating away millions of dollars every year in reserves.

There are a few things that can be done, we can go out for another parcel tax or we can look at programs and school sites which have been untouchable in the past. Parcel taxes are notoriously hard to pass because of the high percentage rate required for passage and there becomes a certain amount of fatigue for voters who normally would support our schools but then begin to question why the District can’t seem to live within the budget allotted to AUSD,

So what is costly in the district? Well, certainly the innovative programs which exist. Currently the non Title 1 schools are using unrestricted general fund money to fund these programs on top of their ADA but, my criticism back when these were approved at two of the wealthiest and most resourced schools in the District back in 2011-2012 was that the “innovative” programs should have been reserved to help shore up declining enrollment and neither of these schools were suffering from that.

What else costs a lot of money, is, honestly, our small neighborhood schools. Yes, they are what makes Alameda special but they are expensive. We’ve had the conversation about shuttering small schools again and again and every single time we kick the can down the road because we’re trying to pass a parcel tax or we get “lucky” with a school site like Lum having seismic safety issues.

We need to have a difficult conversation about the goals of this district, if it is to appease every parent who believes their child is a special and distinct case that needs a school specifically designed for them then there may not be an AUSD in three years to serve anyone let alone these special and distinct children. If the goals of the district is to serve all kids and address the clear populations that the district have failed year after year it appears that these new strategic plans are designed to do just that. No parent wants their kid to be left behind but some communities seem okay with allowing other communities to go without so that their schools can have more.

And therein lies the problem of this specific discussion just around BFMS, it ignores the reality the district as a whole is in. It’s easy to “save” one school site’s special program but it then requires the school district to cut from other programs and the easiest thing is always to cut from school sites whose community doesn’t have the time to organize a mass response in a short amount of time. This is going to be an uncomfortable conversation but we’ve avoided it for so long because it is uncomfortable and no one wants less for their children.


  1. The biggest challenge for CA school districts is funding comes from state revenues. In 2022 CA projects a $100B surplus and in 2023 a $40B deficit. CA is very dependent on income tax revenues and they swing due to health of the big tech companies going public. School districts are forced to do three year budgets and it would be nice if the state of CA did the same.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — January 24, 2023 @ 7:24 am

    • Mike, you misspelled Prop 13 there. That’s the real biggest challenge.

      Comment by Ezra — January 24, 2023 @ 8:21 am

      • Prop 13 is indeed a major problem, but it’s far from the only one. P13, as we all know, caps local taxing power, but Prop 98 and the Serrano decision curtail local spending power, effectively centralizing education spending in Sacramento instead of locally.

        All three serve to handcuff education in California, and we’d be better off if this triad were scrapped, but the focus is too often narrowed to 13 only. We need more than one reform.

        Comment by dave — January 24, 2023 @ 8:55 am

        • Dave is correct. The Serrrano decision effectively eliminated local funding of school district as providing free and equitable funding. As for how the State funds education is another can of worms. Prop 98 created a floor for guaranteed funding which turned into a ceiling. As a result, CA is only state which allows parcel taxes to raise funds locally for school districts.

          Comment by Mike McMahon — January 24, 2023 @ 10:58 am

        • Yes, all three of those developments have consolidated most of the funding levers for public schools at the state levels — but this also helps to ensure more equal funding per student across the state.

          Wanting to rollback all of that only seems like a useful goal if you live in a Basic Aid district. Alameda maybe more affluent than many districts… but it’s not that rich.

          (Yeah, I know Basic Aid has now been superseded but I still haven’t learned how LCFF actually works 🙂

          In any case, Prop 13 is the limit on the “size of the pie” — which should ideally get bigger, rather than just fighting over who gets the largest slice of the current inadequately sized pie of funding.

          Comment by drewda — January 24, 2023 @ 11:04 am

  2. Didn’t Bay Farm MS just win a distinguished school award, and isn’t ASTI the most highly decorated school in the District? Didn’t the recent school bond and previous parcel taxes result in having each Alameda property owner now paying almost $2,000 per parcel and wasn’t the promise repeatedly made for world class schools? Equity apparently now means close high performing schools.

    Comment by Facts matter — January 24, 2023 @ 8:32 am

    • “World class schools” and “equity” doesn’t mean providing highly resourced schools with more goodies because their families have a louder megaphone than other schools. “High performing” apparently just means “tests well” which is not a determination of the quality of the education, mostly just how educated the parents are and how much money they have.

      I realize that is not information that you learn on QAnon sites, but hopefully your journeys here can help some non crazy shit break through.

      Comment by Lauren Do — January 24, 2023 @ 8:47 am

  3. Fact: BFMS just won a distinguished school award which is not just based on test scores-check the criteria.
    Fact: ASTI is an early college high school allowing students to earn dual degrees and enter college as sophomores, and it tests well.
    Fact: our school taxes are higher than any district except Piedmont.
    Fact: the District promised “world class schools” in exchange for voting for the endless taxes.

    Your response: That’s QAnon!

    Comment by Fails to meet the standard — January 24, 2023 @ 11:20 am

    • Both Bay Farm and ASTI are not cost effective because the smaller the school the more expensive they are to run. Bay Farm’s Middle School is self selecting as is ASTI. It’s easy to “distinguish” yourself when you’ve weeded out students that require a lot more support.

      Guess what you can do at a regular high school? Earn degrees and/or take classes for credit at the local City College as well. Both my kids have taken college classes at the City College. Encinal offers a Biotech pathway which concurrently enrolls students at Laney College.

      Comment by Lauren Do — January 24, 2023 @ 11:48 am

  4. thanks

    Comment by Biol Volut — January 25, 2023 @ 8:47 am

  5. Where is all this money going? The FAQ for BFMS mentions saving 300,000 to 500,000 but that number doesn’t include possibly moving those affected staff members to other sites.

    We have 118M in expenses. Are we saying the other 117M (minus Earhart, May Lin electives, and BFMS, and rounded) is being effectively spent?

    Comment by HUH — January 25, 2023 @ 4:24 pm

    • Rough numbers here but here goes:

      AUSD has 9,000 students (quick google search)
      BFMS has 20-24 students per class, 2 classes per grade level, and 3 grade levels

      Expected expenses is 118 million.

      188 million divided by 9000 students is approx $13,000 per student, if equitable. Assuming some of this funding is for title 1, let’s say a BFMS student is only owed half of that.

      So, (20 + 20 + 20 + 20 + 20 + 20) students * $6500 = $780,000.

      The district is saving $300,000-$500,000? I would have expected BFMS to be using way more money than that for it to be deemed inequitable.

      Comment by HUH — January 25, 2023 @ 4:31 pm

      • Hi Lauren, I took a look at the linked presentation and other documents but I couldn’t find expenditure by school. Do you have a link to that info, along with enrollment numbers?

        Comment by HUH — January 25, 2023 @ 4:46 pm

  6. While Earhart serves a more affluent student population, it is not true of Maya Lin 10 years ago, or frankly even today. Maya Lin was the former ‘failing’ Washington school serving a high percentage of unduplicated students. The innovative arts program helped turn around this school and making it one of the only schools with increasing enrollment.

    Regarding the innovative funds, Haight now Love, submitted a proposal for the innovative funds for a STEM program and it was turned down because it was too similar to Earhart and considered not innovative enough. The admin rewrote the plan and included a global theme and it was then funded.

    Comment by Sandy — January 26, 2023 @ 3:03 pm

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