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By Tim Hunt

School trustees want more state money

Uploaded: Apr 10, 2018

It cannot come as a surprise that the Pleasanton and Dublin school boards joined the statewide drive to increase education funding.

When the board approved the resolution, Superindent David Haglund pointed out that state schools trail the national per-student average by $1,961 or—adjusted for higher California costs (this would be in liberal coastal counties), it should be $3,462.

Any government agency wants more money and school districts—at the end of the day—are just that, albeit with an important societal goal.

What’s tragic is how poorly many school districts in California has utilized the huge increase in state funding--60 percent overall since 2012 with larger increases targeted to districts serving students in difficult situations such as poverty, second-languages, single-parent homes.

Statewide, about 60 percent of students are not reading or doing math at their grade levels. Given that abject failure, taxpayers should be screaming about putting more money into the public school system as opposed to injecting competition by empowering parents to choose where their children go school. That’s controversial because the education establishment, particularly the teachers’ unions, want to maintain their monopoly.

For students with engaged parents in well-performing districts (think suburban districts from Lamorinda through the Tri-Valley), there’s a valid concern about the coming cash crunch. Unlike cities or counties, school districts cannot increase funding without more money from Sacramento or a local measure.

With retirement costs climbing as the state teachers’ system tries to overcome a significant shortfall in assets to cover its future obligations, districts are facing a cash crunch in coming years. From 2014-16, teacher contributions increased from 8 percent to 10.25 percent, while district contributions increase from 8 percent to 19.1 percent in 2020. For teachers in Pleasanton, who pay their own health care costs, the combination of cost increases has eaten up most of money for salary increases.

Given the ease with which the school bond measure passed in Pleasanton and the family focus on education, turning to local pocketbooks could be a better choice for sustainable funding.

Of course, Tri-Valley residents already are targeted in on Alameda County’s June ballot with the childcare initiative. That proposes another half-cent increase in the county’s sales tax with proceeds going to fund childcare programs and scholarships in poorer communities.

The package allocates almost 60 percent of the money to North County; 22 percent to Mid-County; 13.6 percent to South County and a paltry 4.3 percent to East County. Certainly, there are fewer poor people in the valley so what’s going on is a massive shift of resources from here.

The current sales tax for valley cities is 9.25 percent, while it’s 10 percent in other municipalities in the county.

This seemingly well-intended measure again assumes that government taxing and spending can solve fundamental societal problems. Given the track record of government programs, hold onto your wallet—particularly in this county that never saw a tax it did not like.

The good news is that this will take a two-thirds majority to pass.