I've been focused on the parcel tax efforts for over a year now and I'll admit the crowd at most of these meetings seems smaller now than it did 8 months ago. With huge budget problems looming what's it going to take to motivate people to get involved?
The district has released data reflecting the impact of many years of consecutive cuts. Sad.
The community needs to find ways to engage people, what do you think will do that?
Note: Fractional numbers represent a reduction in the number of hours for the specified position. Whole numbers represent individuals.
2.5 School Custodians
1.6 District Maintenance
0.5 Business Office
2 Library Clerks
0.75 Secretary/Clerical (0.25 each at Middle school, high school and District Office)
0.5 High school campus Supervision
3.5 Instructional Assistants - General Ed
15 Elementary teachers
2.9 Middle School teachers
7.6 High School Teachers
1 Elementary School Counselor
0.4 Middle School Counselor
0.6 High School Counselor
0.5 Assistant Principal
The chart below puts into perspective how difficult it will be to use fundraising as a means to offset the SVUSD budget crisis. The pie equals $950,000 with the level of current fundraising dollars ($78,000 as of Jan. 27, 2011) carved out. As you can see total fundraising for the year represents less than 1/10th or just 8.2% of the projected shortfall. Unfortunately, the scale used on the thermometers posted around the district severely mask affect fundraising has had at offsetting the shortfall. I've included the thermometer used on the SVEF website here for comparison using a linear scale for comparison. The whole point of this post and this site is to ensure that people have accurate information. While having the signs around the district is a fantastic idea I think the impression is misleading.
I'll note these numbers do not include dollars raised to be raised at the upcoming auctions. However, those dollars are PTA dollars (vs. SVEF) and therefore typically used to pay for programs at their respective elementary schools.
For comparison here is the sign by the Scotts Valley Middle School.
The results of the recent poll authorized by the Scotts Valley School District were presented to the community on Wednesday January 19th. The district was advised to move forward though only after a sustained community outreach campaign to ensure passage of a parcel tax measure. I won’t rehash all the numbers as they’re covered well in the above link. The base level of support was found to be 68% with a 6% margin of error.
On the up side the survey provides a wealth of information regarding how to best shape a measure to yield the desired results that will be incorporated into all the work that’s already been done to this point.
These results indicate there’s a lot of hard work yet to be done to reach a point where it’s worth asking the voters of Scotts Valley to support a parcel tax.
With Jerry Brown’s pending “fasten your seatbelts” budget things are likely to get very ugly sooner rather than later.
If you’re not already involved feel free to contact me for ways in which you can help.
I've spent a great deal of time working to understand the issues facing public schools in Scotts Valley and thinking about the options available to the community to mitigate the budget crisis. Throughout the process I've gathered and published answers to many questions, attended many meetings, spoken with lots of people and given the variety of socio-economic hurdles we currently face I'm struggling to justify continuing to push forward with a parcel tax proposal. Here are the factors that I see affecting these efforts:
- Economic Climate
California voters nearly unanimously rejected new taxes by defeating16 of 18 parcel taxes this past election and neither the economy nor voter sentiment can be expected to improve measurably in the immediate time frame currently under consideration for SVUSD (first half of 2010).
- State budget crisis
The state of California is in the midst of a fiscal disaster further complicated by a flawed public school financing and unless the Federal Government comes to the rescue yet again no reasonable person can assume Sacramento is going to "right the ship" any time soon. The situation is further exacerbated by the pending changes in Sacramento where turmoil is likely to rule the day. Forecasting the projected need becomes a dart game which doesn't help when you're trying to explain to voters why you need the amount you're asking for. At the end of the last school year we were discussing a $950K shortfall for two consecutive years, with the new state "budget" that number has decreased by over $100K based on imaginary figures from our governor and legislature.
- Community Apathy
Having put in many hours attending a wide variety of meetings, building this website and setting up Organizing for Scotts Valley Schools I've come to realize while people are concerned about class sizes my sense is this crisis hasn't reached beyond a fleeting interest for a majority of people. Over the last two weeks the school district held five very lightly attended community meetings to engage and educate Scotts Valley residents a fact that does not bode well despite district wide email and newspaper advertising. Likewise many, if not most of the meetings I attend draw a small group of usual suspects, an issue often raised, which speaks to people's overall level of interest.
- Competing interests
There are various organizations associated with the district's four schools essentially competing for the same fundraising dollar. Naturally parents are more likely to donate to their child's school for supplies and programs like art, music and sports often to the detriment of the SVEF or the District itself.
- Lack of financial transparency
With four schools in SVUSD there are, at a minimum, five organizations (PTA's and SVEF) with five separate balance sheets not readily available to the public via the web or other medium. The lack of transparency makes it difficult at best to understand the flow of dollars at the various schools. One issue this raises is that many times people are confused regarding which organization they should donate to especially when site specific fundraising overlaps with district wide efforts such as Dollar-A-Day (DAD).
- Guidance from the District
While I've attended numerous meetings where the Administration has laid out a thoughtful and considered presentation on its financial state there seems to be a dearth of guidance as to how the community should or could approach tackling the problems at hand. Public school financing is so overly complicated reliance on those with deep knowledge of the subject seems critical and I'd like to see the district take a more proactive approach to guiding community efforts surrounding a parcel tax or other fund raising efforts. This could be a catch-22 considering the third bullet item above.
- Ongoing perception of poor communication
Unfortunately, the perception persists that communication is inadequate. In some cases this is threaded into the fabric of the district as a result of union contracts and things such as adherence to rules dictating decorum at public meetings. Although again, I'd refer back to bullet item 3 above. It's hard to spark conversation with an apathetic audience.
It's hard to imagine a more adverse set of circumstances under which to move forward with a parcel tax initiative. Last May/June I was buoyed by the fact a parcel tax could serve as a viable bridge to better times but the last several months have curtailed that optimism. While I continue to believe a parcel tax is the only viable avenue large enough to thwart further cuts the required 66 2/3% seems unfortunately beyond grasp until at least some of the above items are resolved.
Where do things stand
At this point, the district has been asked to price a professional community-centric poll which would run in the range of $10-20K. The results of the poll are intended to help guide the Board in determining whether or not to move forward, test ballot language, set an amount and gauge community sentiment. In addition to polling costs placing a measure on the ballot isn't free and would likely run into the thousands if not 10's of thousands. My understanding is the district would spend upwards of $30-40K to get a measure in front of voters. The number would vary depending on the type of survey conducted and type of ballot used (mail-in vs. polling place) and although these funds could come from outside the district it's difficult to assume the community could find alternative funding to hit a February 4th cutoff date for the earliest possible vote in 2011.
Over the past several months I’ve read plenty of criticism in print and online of the Scotts Valley District and School Board and I rarely see mention of the many things they do to help in these challenging times.
I nearly missed the following line item from minutes of the May 11th Scotts Valley school board meeting (emphasis is mine):
1. Accept a Proposal From the Scotts Valley Unified School District Administrative Team to Reduce the Length of Their 2010-11 Work Year by 2 Days
MSP Gumz/Roth 4-0 Student Advisory Vote: Aye
As the representative of the district’s Leadership Team, Director of Technology Shannon Calden presented to the Board a proposal of a two-day reduction to each administrative work calendar for 2010-11 as they have also done in 2009-10. She explained that the Leadership Team consists of 11.5 administrators which constitutes less than 5% of the district’s workforce. The Leadership Team is also proposing for the 2010-11 school year that when a Leadership Team member must be present at a site or district event on a weekend or holiday, the administrator may count that as a work day, up to five days per school year. Ms. Calden also mentioned that the Leadership Team would be willing to consider a larger reduction to the work calendar if any other bargaining units also agreed to a reduction in their work calendars. Board Members expressed their appreciation and gratitude to all the members of the Leadership Team for their willingness to step forward and help during the district’s fiscal crisis. Board President Michael Shulman said that it is difficult to ask parents and the community to help financially during this crisis if the district has not done everything it can to reduce expenditures.
Ann Codd, SVEA President addressed the Board to applaud the Leadership Team for their contribution, but requested acknowledgement and consideration from the Board for what teachers have taken on with increased class sizes. SVEA members will not be offering furlough days.
I believe the above is a clear demonstration of the District’s leadership in these difficult times and deserves to be recognized. In previous posts, looking at Cupertino’s fundraising efforts it’s clear a large component came from their district’s four unions electing to take five furlough days saving $2.5 million dollars.
Based on data from the most recent SARC reports teacher salaries (for 2008-2009) constitute roughly 39.3% of the SVUSD budget. From that same report we learn salaries in SVUSD are consistently below the state average for districts in our same category though the percentage of SVUSD’s budget spent on salaries was greater than the state-wide average (39.2% vs 38.2%).
Update May 20, 2010 Added other local district furlough information.
Santa Cruz 5 days 2010-2011
Pajaro Valley 10 days 2010-2011
Cupertino 5 days 2010-2011
San Jose 5 days 2010-2011