Measure S loses with 61% of the vote

Breaking news

Posted by on Tue, June 6, 2006

Cheri Parr
At the Measure S party at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, supporters check election results before the final count came in.

Measure S, the school parcel tax, failed to pass. The measure received 61% of the vote, but 2/3 (67%) was needed to pass. All 31 precincts in the school district have reported.

This is the fifth time the district has failed to pass a parcel tax since 1999.

Polls closed at 8pm tonight.  For local results, including San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and Measure S parcel tax, check San Mateo County’s results. 

For statewide races, including democratic primaries for governor and state senate, check the California Secretary of State’s election results page.

This is surprising. Not the loss so much as the margin, which is wider than the last two attempts (and I don’t recall the first two).

It’s about a 5% drop in support. The registrar is reporting a turnout of less than 27%, so it appears that the parcel tax supporters simply didn’t show up. 3.063 yes votes—how many were there in prior attempts?

It is with mixed feelings but no surprise that I saw Measure S defeated (by even a larger margin than the last attempt, no?). I definitely think our kids lost out here, and I read in the HMB Review online article that supporters don’t anticipate trying again in the “foreseeable future.” I think that would be a sad mistake.

Please see my June 6th post in “Coastsider endorses Measure S” thread for why I think Measure S didn’t garner the super-majority it needed <>. But let me reiterate the following here too:

I finally voted for Measure S despite all my reservations. I lay the failure to pass it completely at the feet of CUSD in making it so difficult to support. If I, a parent with two children in the district, found it hard to support this measure - think how others with no children felt.

I hope we can get together as a community and fix what was wrong with Measure S and do what is right for our schools.

Brian Dantes
El Granada

When telephoning for Measure S, I heard two repeated objections. Many said they did not want to give more money to the district when it had “wasted” the funds raised ten years before for the middle school. They just don’t believe the school district.

And by canceling bussing, the board angered many and reduced its historical base of support for the tax on the mid coast.

Many of us supporting the tax were ambivalent for the same reasons expressed by Mr. Dantes in announcing his decision yesterday. I have not studied Ken Johnson’s reformist agenda, but like much of what appears on his site: 

Would it, or something like it, foster enough trust to recommit citizens to backing local schools? There is a hard core that will vote against any proposal, and there are moderates who are plain weary of all of the past attempts, and who will continue to be confused by further arguments pro and con. Getting to 67% will never be a slam-dunk.

ken king


I agree with Jonathan that the Measure S folks didn’t get out the vote.

However, their campaign was both professional and heartfelt.  They had the support of 100% of the public figures in the community, which is an astonishing consensus. What happened?

Based on Ken’s experience, which rings true for me,  the responsibility for this failure has to be laid at the feet of the school board. It’s clear that a significant portion community has been unable to forgive the board’s failure to build a middle school.  Then there’s the lack of school buses, which would have been a minor issue but for our current traffic crisis.

So, here’s the bonus question:  Why is a member of the school board promoting a $40 million (or whatever) bypass to “solve” a traffic problem that is clearly exacerbated by the board’s unwillingness to address transportation? The problem is not getting cars more efficiently to a new bottleneck on Highway 92. One big piece of the problem is that school traffic is contributing to the mess that is our morning commute. And that’s only one reason that the board’s failure on transportation is so damning.

Comment 5
Wed, June 7, 2006 10:53am
All my comments

I have also heard rumored that over $35,000 was spent marketing Measure S. That’s a good chunk of a teacher’s annual salary.

The alternative measure on looks reasonable to me although I’d like to see any exemptions removed unless they are based on verfifiable income levels. But Mr. Johnson’s efforts hits on the key issues—that any measure will have to acknowledge the electorate’s deep distrust of CUSD and include strong oversight.

But most importantly, the next effort needs to go through a lot of grass roots public review to have any chance of getting a super-majority. Perhaps iterations of such a measure could be posted by Mr. Johnson or our wonderful hosts here at Coastsider along with polls. Maybe then we could come up with something that works.

Brian Dantes
El Granada

To answer my own question:

June 2003: 66%: 4895 to 2530
June 2006: 62%: 3063 to 1809

The 2006 numbers will rise a bit as some late ballots get counted, but that’s a serious drop in turnout, which would ideally be an ideal situation for the parcel tax measure. 30% of the 2003 no voters didn’t show up.

Granted that the CCF (or is that CQF?) silliness can’t have helped, I wonder how many voters made the connection.

Would a commitment to busing have turned the vote around? I’d like to think so, and the Slide traffic would have been a perfect hook. What if, what if….

One bonus question deserves another: What DID Mr. Gardener do to help pass S? And why wasn’t he out the night before the election drumming up support for S instead of promoting the Big Wave development in El Granada?

Does anyone know what the typical percentage of absentee ballots is? I remember in the McClugh election last year that is was the absentee ballots that reversed the outcome?

It is indeed a huge loss for our children.

My take on why the parcel tax was defeated yesterday is different from most of the posters on this issue.

I attended the first school board meeting when they first discussed the parcel tax and school busing within the same initiative. I affirmed my support but with a caveat.

I suggested that they split the school needs and busing into two separate parcel tax initiatives. Why? For two reasons:

•  There will always be a percentage of the voters that will vote
    against even $1.00 increase in taxes.

•  With a far flung large rural population on the coastside, school
  busing is an ethical obligation on the part of the CUSD Board of
  Trustee’s, even if not mandated by law.

If they had split parcel taxes with one initiative for the school’s needs and a second one to fund bus transportation, the bus initiative would have been a “slam dunk” and carried the reluctant voters into approving both initiatives.

The CUSD board completely caved on busing. That might have been a critical mistake—but now we’ll never know.

John Lynch

There are quite a few ballots left to be counted; the elections department claimed not to know how many a couple of hours ago.

But Measure S got only 55% of the early absentee ballots, so I wouldn’t raise my hopes too much about the late one pulling it out.

The child abusers win again. The same ugly greed that defeated us in the past did so again, and our kids will suffer greatly for it. We will have higher crime for sure.

The problem isn’t the system or marketing, it is the presence of too many barbarians among us, people who don’t care about kids or the future. The measure will fail as long as these ugly people outnumber people of faith and understanding who have a desire to see our community advance. Many of these people live here, but ferry their kids over the hill to purchase education for their kids while leaving the community behind.

Child abusers. That’s what they are, and as long as there are so many of them, we can’t expect to create a decent and effective educational community. The children have a better chance of recovering from some horrible incident than of survivng with an inferior education.

Fine-tuning the proposal won’t help. These people are not acting rationally, but simply doing a greedy calculation on their bank balance.

Those of us who value education shouldn’t give up, but as long as our community continues to welcome the child abusers, we won’t make progress. I have no suggestions for how to proceed at this point, except perhaps to tie education funding into building permits and get the money that way.

Mr. Schiller,

I’m trying to temper my reaction to your inflammatory post. Perhaps you missed Mr. Parr’s earlier admonition for civil posts(*)? I and others with children in CUSD had serious reservations about Measure S—and none of us appreciate being labeled as “child abusers.”

I’m also sorry that you consider rectifying some of the major misgivings with Measure S as “fine-tuning.”

I find people of your type of “faith” to be far less “understanding” and more “ugly” than we “barbarians.”

Brian Dantes
El Granada

(*) Honestly, what’s the point in having a moderated list if posts like this are allowed?

Jonathan Lundell writes “The 2006 numbers will rise a bit as some late ballots get counted, but that’s a serious drop in turnout, which would ideally be an ideal situation for the parcel tax measure. 30% of the 2003 no voters didn’t show up.”  But Jonathan, by my calculations from the numbers you supplied, 37% of the 2003 yes voters didn’t show up.  That said, I still don’t know what to make of this other than what I replied on Midcoast-L (not yet posted), that nearly every measure which cost money lost on Tuesday’s ballot.  I think the only exception (in San Mateo County) is a school parcel tax in Menlo Park.

To Eric Schiller, there is nothing stopping people from donating the same amount of money to the schools that they would have paid on the parcel tax.  Are you going to do so?  After one of the previous attempts failed, a number of people came to a school board meeting and presented checks for that amount.  (If I recall, Ric Lohman gave 2 years worth in his check.)  Wouldn’t the tax deduction be identical?  So the question is why won’t people contribute that money unless everyone has to?  If 61% of the parcel tax supporters voluntarily contribute the same amount, that would still be a huge help to the schools.

P.S.  Calling the non-supporters “child abusers” probably doesn’t help your case.

That is pretty harsh Eric, but I can understand your feeling this way. I heard no valid arguments against S from the folks that were fighting to stop it. All I heard was complaints about the CUSD board. And to me they are not related. What has happened is that a few folks have raised their political agenda against the board at time when we need their support the most. I’m sure the folks against measure S feel like they have won a victory against the board, but it is not the Board that has lost, it is our kids.

It’s so frustrating that the majority has spoken 5 years in a row and said we need to increase our local funding for our schools. That totally outweighs the 5-6% difference between who is for the measure, and the required 2/3. Only about 300 voters would have made the difference.


Just so everyone is level-set on how poor we as a community are funding our schools:

on average HMB is generating 79% more than the average family income of California. $104,559 HMB avg family income compare to $58,327 avg family income

And yet..

Revenue per child in CUSD = $6,984
Revenue per child in the state = $7,658

The statewide avg dollars per student is 9.7% more than in CUSD even though we generate 79% more in family income than the state. This is a huge difference!

And this is to Ken Johnson… Please tell me what would we possibly be giving to our children by voting No on measure S? I’m sorry but I don’t see one thing that benefits our kids by voting No. I really need to see what we have GAINED as a community by measure S not passing.




Ray: as Leonard points out (and as was my point), the no vote dropped pretty dramatically, but the yes vote dropped even farther.

The problem isn’t with the “child abusers” who voted no; it’s with the large majority of district voters who didn’t even bother to cast a vote. Only 21% of the district’s registered voters bothered to vote for Measure S. Child neglecters, maybe?

Granted, this wasn’t a very exciting ballot, but June 2003 was even less exciting: it was just a special election for the parcel tax.

Which leads me back to my original puzzle: where did the parcel tax supporters go?

Mr. Olson,

“Valid” is onviously a subjective term in this discussion, but I’m truly amazed that you found none of the arguments I made in my earlier post to be so: <>

I know for a fact that I am not the only parent with kids in CUSD, arguably the group with the most vested interest in seeing Measure S pass, that had these concerns.

Do you honestly not find Ken Johnson’s alternative measure much more reasonable given that there is a deep loss of faith in the board?

I believe the board and the funding are directly related, for it is they who manage the money. I for one don’t quibble with the amount of the parcel tax at all. I’d happily pay more than $175 per year if I thought the money would be managed well.

I do agree with you heart and soul on one point - it is our children who have lost here. That’s why I ultimately did vote for the measure in hopes of holding CUSD accountable in other ways.

But I don’t want the community to give up—I’d like to see the same old tired approaches given up. Let’s start with Ken Johnson’s alternative measure (with an income-based exemption rather than one for seniors) and toss it around in a grass roots fashion until it popularly polls with the required support. Then and only then put it back on the ballot for a vote. And let’s throw $35,000 at the teachers of our choice directly this time instead of a marketing campaign.

I think if we all pull together, we could do it by November. What do you say?

Brian Dantes
El Granada

Mr.Olson, Mr. Warren, Brian, and most importantly Mr. Schiller:

I have been around on this planet longer than any two of you combined.  Our current education system does not focus our childrens “up-bringing” on what is a moral life style.  They are educated not in the things that has made America a beautiful and wonderful country, made up of loving and caring people, but rather in more socialistic insignificant values that will only bring about more intollarence.
Our kids are so confused today.  More than half are unable to read or write.  They are prime targets for hate mongers to take advantage of because they have no critical thinking training.  Has everyone forgot just what this one of a kind, great freedom loving country is founded on? 

Do they teach American History anymore? Do our children understand what sacrifices were made to create their way of living as it is now?

Why are you interested in Seniors?  I’ll tell you.  If you think pandering to this age group will get you any support for school money…think again.  We are appaled when we see Your Children in the streets acting like Britney Spears wannabes, or hip hop rappers, that the only conclusion we arrive at is…A completely lost generation, one that will accelerat the demise of this, “The greatest country on Gods green earth”.

I second Brian,s remarks about the Schiller rant & Rave it shouldn’t be allowed on this or any site!
Cant believe it! Labaling those who disagree with him “child abusers” Naziism is alive & well!
This is a great example for our children.

I am willing to commit to what you say Brian. I still believe that the sentiment against the board is not a valid argument for doing away with S. It could mean that we need to reform the board, but it doesn’t mean that we should not invest in our school system, especially when we are lacking in that area so much.

Measure S has been around for 5 years, correct? Did Ken have an alternative after that first year? When did Ken’s alternative start? And the big question.. Why am I only NOW hearing about it? This has lead to me think was there some other agenda behind starting the alternative?? My question above to Ken is really to hold him accountable for the dissent he has raised. If they are legit reasons, then I will definitely back his plan.

And Brian, I think it was you that threw out some $35k expense to back measure S. Again you only have the dissenters to thank since in an ideal situation there would be no need to spend that $35k.


A little more than five years:

November, 1999: $125/parcel for 4 years
March, 2002:  $75/parcel for 3 years
March, 2003: $250/parcel for 5 years
June, 2003:  $250/parcel for 5 years
June, 2006:  $175/parcel for 5 years

Mr. Schiller is just another emotional liberal. He didn’t get what he wanted so he threw a tantrum.  The politicians and bureaucrats are playing a shell game with educational funds.  The schools pay for social programs, such as medical care and eye care, that have nothing to do with education.  We don’t get to vote on those social expenditures, we are only allowed to vote on things that they think we care about.  Every election they force us to vote a tax increase down.  The average amount of money spent per classroom is about $300,000.  Can’t we educate our kids with that much money?  Teachers get 1/3 of the year as vacation.  Are they really overpaid?  They also get a $5000 a month pension when they retire and their health care is paid for by the district 100%.  I don’t get that in the private sector.  The impression I get is that no matter what we give them they will ask for more.  When can we see the financial audit from an independent auditor?  Or, better yet, when will they release the real books on our schools?  The district’s web site doesn’t give us details.  I don’t trust liberals anymore.  They are so emotional, like Mr Schiller, and they have no data.  They just attack people personally.  Mr Schiller, it’s unfortunate that you can’t apply your tremendous chess logic to real life.

Devin Jones

We can discuss the sense or non-sense of measure S all we want – it’s not going to improve our schools in the year to come.

I would suggest getting back to basics – volunteer your time, help organize events at your schools, donate money and supplies to your classrooms. It will get people involved, help build better relationships with the teaching staff and you will see the direct impact on your children.

But its not just the board.  If you recall, Superintendent Bayless refused to reveal the identity of the anonymous donor who paid for the last parcel tax election.  After many weeks of pressure, Bayless finally reveals that he contributed the money himself. 

Look, the administration of schools should be completely above board - transparent with no secrets - to set a positive example for the youth of the community.  [This is a school district, for Christ’s sake, not the Defense Department] 

Add that to the shenanigans of the present HMB City Council & the involvement of at least 2 school board members in the founding of CCF and you’ve got that dangerous combination of voter apathy and voter disgust.

My wife and I are going to contribute $200 to one of the direct channels of support for the schools (to fund the purchase of materials by school teachers).  We challenge everyone to do the same.

To Ray:

You quote average household incomes, and compare to per-child funding. Perhaps you should also compare it to per-child funding from local taxes - which is about *double* here, than the state average. By this measure, taxpayers here already fund education at a rate substantially higher than the state average.

By the way, that information is also in the ballot argument. You also say you heard no “valid” argument against S; but again, please read the ballot arguments. You will disagree with them of course, but it’s just hyperbolic to call them “invalid” just on that account.


All this said, this election has once again divided all those of us who want better for our children. I too wish that our students had what they need; but I do NOT believe that they will ever get it absent a radical change in district priorities. No point in rehashing the reasons; I have put them out there for all to see, and that’s all that can be done. There’s nothing up my sleeve.

Where do we go from here? Now is the time to put pressure on the board to change its priorities, in oh so many areas. Top of my list: employee benefits and compensation must not be allowed to trump essential student needs such as books, supplies, and art, music, drama, science, English, library, sports (and etc the rest) enrichment opportunities. I also believe that a stong volunteer program will work in our district, as there are many talented professionals here with skills to share.

Probably these comments will not please teachers, but as I am already Public Enemy #1, feel free to toss the fruit anyway :-)

With wealth ever more concentrated in a few percent at the upper end, average income is a poor measure of anything for an election like this. To get more of a handle on a typical voter in a population, median income of citizens is a better number. And if one is going to compare to other places, cost of living needs to be factored in. It is entirely possible for a large majority of people to be slipping backward in terms of adjusted income and quality of life measures at the same time the average income of the same population is going up.

But I suspect other, more immediate conditions played more of a role in the strange slippage of the percentage in favor of the parcel tax for CUSD. One will never figure it out with speculation, but a well-constructed survey would probably provide the answers if anyone is interested in having them.

Carl May

First, I would like to compliment Ms. Cindy Epps and those who worked on the ‘Yes on Measure S’ campaign. The problem was not with their efforts, but with the client – the CUSD School Board.

I had quipped to an acquaintance that I was toying with running a full-page ad of a picture of Jolanda Schreurs and Dwight Wilson, Charles Gardner and Ken Jones in the corners – with the caption “would you trust her with a $9 million slush fund?” I decided against it, as Ambassador Joe Kennedy quipped after receiving the bills for his sons’ campaigns – “ I am paying for a win; not a landslide”. I didn’t pay a penny in opposition to Measure S! I don’t know anyone else who did! Besides, I couldn’t find a Newspaper that covered the coastside. Ask Mr. Lundell about the strange thing that happened about his campaign ad he ran 2 years ago in the review.

How can anyone forget last fall, surrounding the City Council election, those School Board members who grasped defeat from the jaws of victory, in a Public Relations sense, for the school district?

It has taken until now for someone to FINALLY connect two of the many dots [there are sooo many dots there – so tempting to blow it out of the water!] regarding CCF: Mr. Gardner opposed school bussing, Mr. Gardner immediately after ‘discovered’ his district has traffic congestion, Mr. Gardner formed CCF to alleviate traffic congestion. Reminded me a bit of the old child’s poem [an elocution exercise]: ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair, Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy was he’.

A decade ago, the voters approved in June 1996 a $35,000,000 bond measure with 74.9% of the vote. The voters are still paying on that bond. We don’t have a new school. After a decade, the voter’s rejected a $9,000,000 slush fund with only 61.7% – as one of mine would put it – Duhh!

The School Board majority have squandered a year and a half on a PR offensive – with the review’s complicity, there was a ‘tell only positive stories’ whether true or not. Well guys, the Internet is real! Average people can compare all those high performance claims and find that they are at best false!

As to the School Board minority – I have yet to see a “Profiles in Courage” moment! As an optimist, I am still hopeful.

[“Profiles in Courage” - if you are not familiar with the Pulitzer Prize winning book – get it!]

I had always intended to follow up on the proposed “An Alternative Parcel Tax Measure” on CUSD.Info if Measure S failed, using the Internet and if possible public meetings. It might just also prove to be an interesting experiment in democracy. Definitely better than the few moments the public had to comment on Measure S. The current version is intended as a first public draft to encourage discourse – some of that has been received and will move to a wider circle. My personal goal is not to get 66.7% to merely pass but to meet or exceed that 74.9% that the bond measure received a decade ago.

I thank those that have made constructive comments and engaged in factual discourse.

To that end, I am signing off of what has been, on occasion, a less than edifying thread by some people. Unless those visually observed few provisional ballots strangely turn the vote – Measure S is history!

Ken Johnson - out

P.S. There is a School Board meeting: Thursday, 08 June 2006 at 7 PM.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were more than the usual 3 members of the public [including the MCTV cameraman] beyond those on the agenda showing up?

Mr. Johnson,

At least you are somewhat gracious in your “win.”

You have made obvious hints at it, but now you show your true colors.  Your efforts were not about kids or teachers, but about Mr. Gardner.  You (and others) allowed a personal dislike for school board members (Mr. Gardner in particular) to saturate (infect?) your opinions about how a school district should be run.

For that, you should be ashamed.  You seem to delight in the fact that it didn’t cost you anything out of pocket.  It will, just going to take some time.

For you, and seemingly Mr. Pettengill, it was truly a referendum on the school board, the school system and the personalities involved.  You don’t seem to be anti-tax.  That is why I referenced “holding them hostage.”  Taxpayers lose a bit (eventually), teachers lose a little, kids lost big time.

Thanks, buddy, you win.  If “your” alternative makes it to ballot, chances are I would vote for it, giving you two wins in one year.  Good luck.

PS Mr. Falcone - you could have just donated the money, felt good about it and left it at that.  I am not sure what you gain by publicizing your gesture.  If you donated $20,000 and wanted to challenge people, recognition would be in order.

Local revenue in our school district is only $9 more per child than the state avg ($427 for CUSD vs 418 for the State). It is not as you say.

However all of the other revenue components are lower for CUSD vs the state. 

Look at the data here:

median family income numbers account for the lower end vs. higher end of the spectrum. The point I have made is that as a community we are totally out of alignment as compared to the state. Can you disagree with that fact?

Just more rhetoric from you on how bad our board is. You did not even attempt to answer my question to you: Give me one benefit our children have received by measure S not passing? All you stated above is just how much you dislike the board. Again, just another politcal agenda.


Brian Ginna,

I’ll let the rest of your errors slide, but I don’t have a “personal dislike” of Charlie. ‘Hell, he’s the only one up there that doesn’t have an accent’: maybe you have to of lived in the South to understand that one.


You say: “Local revenue in our school district is only $9 more per child than the state avg ($427 for CUSD vs 418 for the State). It is not as you say.”

I said it was more than double. It is.

From the ed-data site:

Revenue Limit Sources
Cabrillo Unified,  2004-05
    $/child, Cabrillo     $/child, state avg
Local taxes $4042           $1857
and fees

It’s really not that hard to look these things up!


Mr. Olson,

You wrote “give me one benefit our children have received by measure S not passing? All you stated above is just how much you dislike the board.”

Despite the need for funding (which I happen to agree with you is correct—in spite of the flurry of confusing statistics), such funding does no good if there is little faith in the managers of that money. And such unfortunately is the case between the electorate and CUSD. Measure S had good goals for the funding (although I and others believe busing should be part of it too), but the oversight was not enough for some voters. The dislike/distrust of CUSD of course directly impacts such funding measures, since they control the purse strings. Unless the voters have rock solid assurances and legislative checks that the money is being spent as they intended, they’re not going to do it. As far as I could tell, if CUSD decided to spend Measure S funds on spurious stuff - voters’ only recourse would be the ballot box and the courts. The former would be closing the barn door after the horse has left, and the latter would cost more of the voters’ money as well as yet more CUSD funds that should go to our kids.

Mr. Johnson’s alternative measure provides for much stricter controls over CUSD’s ability to disburse those funds and that is one its main appeals to me.

It is deeply sad that there seems to be such a huge disconnect between CUSD and its constituents. Hopefully, CUSD will take this to heart. But if not, we have a chance to improve things in November.

I have also learned that CUSD spent over $50K (not $35K as I previously stated) marketing Measure S. $35K of it was donated from private sources, so I have no objection to that. However, the remainder was taxpayer money spent marketing another tax—and now there is discussion by the PTA and other groups to restore that money from private sources. I doubt if I’m the only one who feels that this is yet another example of CUSD mismanagement. I don’t think this money should be restored to CUSD directly—but anyone so inclined to restore these funds should give directly to their schools.

Brian Dantes
El Granada

Local revenue comparisons are something of a red herring, in that, for revenue limit district (which CUSD and most other districts are), local revenue is “topped up” from the state general fund to the revenue limit.

The whole point of the Serrano decisions was that basing school funding on the amount of local property tax revenue that happens to be available is unconstitutional.

The court, to its credit, did not mandate the current mess of a funding structure, only that the old one was unacceptable (which it was).

To Mr. Schiller,
You are so off base. I and many of members of the community STRONGLY resent your comments. Perhaps you need to take a good hard look at yourself. Who is the adult in your family. It is clearly not yourself.

Mr. Jones,

I am not sure where the figure of $300,000 comes from for spending per class but I am sure it is an average amount (if accurate) that includes things like textbooks, pay for teachers as well as other staff, electricity, water, etc., testing fees, classroom supplies, as well as salaries for higher ups in the school system and so on. 

I must mention that by state law, special education MUST be paid for BEFORE anything else (including electricity and water).  Special education classes have a smaller teacher to student ratio and depending on the disability many types of specialized equipment.  The county takes care of the most severely disabled but I believe that the school districts have to reimburse the county for those services, and that does include busing.  Special education is expensive but it is NOT a social program.

The CUSD has one of the lower salary scales in the Bay Area.  Your comments on here have made it out like teachers have such a wonderful job with so much “vacation” time.  We just sit there reading books and playing with Play-doh waiting for our next vacation…..

A teacher’s salary is based on days worked not how many months.  (
If you take into consideration all the extra hours a teacher works you would find that it probably averages out to a years work.  For example, a middle school teacher teaches 6 periods a day, they are at school at least ½ hour before school and ½ hour after school.  (More often longer than these minimums.) Usually they use their prep time for making copies and administrative tasks.  With about 150 students that teacher often grades papers and tests at home during the evenings and on weekends.  There goes the 40 hour week….

Textbooks are a major part of classroom costs.  The state has a mandated schedule of when instructional materials MUST be adopted, ( which means school districts have to buy new materials almost every year in a different subjects.  For example the basic cost for a Houghton Mifflin Kindergarten package for one class is almost $1800, but this does not include the workbooks and extra reading books, plus other available products.

I have worked at schools where some teachers had used up their copy allotments by February and could no longer make copies on the new copy machine because THERE WAS NO MONEY to make more copies.  Or I could talk about how we wrote letters to the parent begging for basic school supplies such as paper and pencils because of the budget crisis.  Or how we spend a lot of the money we earn(our salaries which you seem to think are so high) on classroom supplies. Or how schools no longer get money on days students are absent, excused or not, so any school day your child misses is money lost to the school district.

I could go on but I think I partly made my point. 

Public schools teach EVERYONE not matter how rich or poor, smart or not.  So public education is a social program I suppose. BUT, the strength of our country depends on the abilities of our citizens.  We will continue to be a wealthy powerful nation as long as we educate and care for our children.  If it weren’t for public education in the 20th century and now I don’t think we would be where we are now; instead of Silicon Valley and a large middle class, we would be a land of farmers and share croppers.  I hope I wasn’t too emotional for you and if you want more data just ask.

Where can I find precinct-by-precinct breakdown of voting results for Measure S? I am interested to see if the support is even across the board or if some parts of the coastside are more supportive of a parcel tax than others.

Eric suggests that parcel tax opponents are child abusers. Sam suggests that Eric is a Nazi. I suggest that it wouldn’t hurt to tone down the rhetoric; neither approach is likely to win converts.

What a shame for coastside students… thanks to coastside adults, who shot down measure S.

Mr. Don Pettingill is adept at pulling the bluff of dismissing others (and their “ilk”), spouting disconnected out-of-the-air stats, and admonishing any who think differenly. As to what Ken Johnson has said and done about this school district, there is just no point going there… just a mean-spirited personal agenda.

I was asked to host the web site for Measure S. So I spent some time on the Ed-Data site to research some meaningful data about what is really happening with our local public school funding. It’s not good, and it’s about to get worse, especially in light of the vote that just happened. There is a summary at:

Hi Jonathan,

As far as the school district is concerned, yes, you’re dead right.

However, if one looks at all the assorted things that “property taxes” are supposed to fund, then to the extent that education funding squeezes out other things like libraries, parks and recreation, roads, transportation, etc etc, it makes a very real difference. Our unincorporated coastside is very ill-served in all these areas. Apart from incorporation, which brings its own problems, I really don’t know what the solution is.



Thanks for asking folks to be reasonable.  I’ve been trying to get folks to tone their posts down behind the scenes without stifling the conversations.  It would help a lot if everyone would keep this less personal.

Brian D: You have been the only person making any sort of rational and logical comments regarding any sort of oppostion to measure S. I’m sure I am not alone in asking to see some positive outcomes of measure S not passing. Unfortunately there are none, but thank you for stating your case (and thanks for voting yes on S)

My stance is this: If you have a problem with the board then there is a specific path to try and solve it, and that is through the election process of the board members. It is in that process that you should place your efforts in affecting a change. So, we vote YES on S, but if you are unsure as to any board members ability to spend the funds wisely then you press hard to change it.

But, don’t lose sight of what we are trying to accomplish, which is: Our funding for our school system is dismal and embarassing (numbers back this up). Let’s make sure we have enough resources so that the teachers can do there jobs in a high quality matter. Let’s make sure children have all the resources needed to enable their learning (like updated textbooks). Nobody has argued that by voting NO on S means a better quality education for our children.

And now we are seeing the real agenda behind voting No, which is to try and make a negative impact on the Board. Come on, they have not lost anything. Because of this election I don’t think I trust or believe what the NO faction states.

I hope you see where I am coming from.

Brian G. You are dead-on with your assessment of Ken. Ken… I am still waiting?

Don: Again you are wrong. Maybe I can come over to your PC and show you..
Go here please.. []

[Huge url replace with tinyurl in order to fit on page]

look for the line item that say “Subtotal Other Local Revenue” it states.
$427 in the column “This District”
$418 in the column “Statewide Avg, All Districts”

Comment 44
Thu, June 8, 2006 11:10pm
All my comments

Mr. Olson,

I do very much want to believe that the majority of us really have the same goal at heart: improving the schools for our children. I do hope fervently that the bitterness fades quickly and together we put something together via the bottom up this time. I am told that is how La Honda got some of their funding done - through grass roots consensus before it even reached the ballot. If that’s true, perhaps someone in that community can lend some advice?

Now a little bit about the statistics…I took a closer look at the web pages both you and Mr. Pettengill were referencing. I have to say I think you are right, but I can definitely see how the confusion arose.

The numbers Mr. Pettengill cited ($4,042 in our district vs. $1,852 in the average of all others) are from the 2004-2005 Revenue Limit Sources page. I think these numbers are the *total* amount of local property taxes of which only a portion goes to school district revenue. I notice that ours are very high in comparison - which makes a lot of sense given property values in the Bay Area compared to most of the rest of the state. Notice that our state aid is much less than the average as a result.

But as you indicated, I think the real numbers of interest are on the General Fund Revenues main page. Indeed, CUSD’s total revenue is 8% less than the statewide average. But what’s interesting is that the local funding (revenue limit sources, including a portion of our property taxes, and other local revenue (what is this if not parcel taxes?)) are both *higher* than the statewide averages. What drops the total down appear to be the federal and “other state” revenue sources. I’d sure like to understand why our district’s revenue is so much less than the statewide averages from these sources.

I’d like to see how we compare to other school districts with similar costs of living not only statewide but nationwide. But it appears to me that at least statewide, we are doing slightly to somewhat better than the average in terms of strictly local revenue for the schools. But because our cost of living is so much higher, and we have to pay more for quality teachers to consider coming and staying here, it stands to reason that our total revenue should be well beyond the statewide averages. So from that perspective, we are very underfunded. Does this capture what you’ve been trying to say?

So whose fault is all this? I think it’s certainly ours to a large degree - we enjoy the bounties of this area, and we pay for it in our costs of living every day. Are prices insane around here? Of course - but that’s reality. However, that all said, a big question here has been raised for me: why are we getting lower federal and state funding in some areas? I bet it’s based on population or something.

Bottom line for me, $175/parcel is not nearly enough in all likelihood. But the concerns regarding oversight, the allotment of funds, and the exemptions are real and legitimate and need to be taken very seriously in the next effort. Frankly, I wouldn’t blink an eyelash at $250-$300 as long as the extra amount was specifically targeted at teachers’ *merit-based* compensation.

I’d like to close this particular monologue in this long diatribe with a thanks to the teachers in our schools. It must be frustrating and discouraging in the extreme to feel that the community doesn’t appreciate you at all. As I have come to know this community better, I do not believe that is true of the vast majority. We entrust our most precious treasures to you everyday, and I have confidence that we as a community can get it together and fix this.

Brian Dantes
El Granada

Comment 45
Thu, June 8, 2006 11:26pm
All my comments

Mr. Olson,

One other thing…you wrote:

“And now we are seeing the real agenda behind voting No, which is to try and make a negative impact on the Board. Come on, they have not lost anything. Because of this election I don’t think I trust or believe what the NO faction states.”

I was part of the NO faction literally until the moment I got to the voting booth. My pen literally wavered above the ballot for a minute. With all of the discussion that has happened since, I think I ultimately made the right vote—but were the same measure to come up again, the choice would still be difficult.

What I’m asking you to accept is that if a parent with children in the system can be this torn then the concerns are legitimate and sincere. I know I am not alone in these concerns. I think a grass roots effort can fix the failings of the past proposals—and then I think it will pass well beyond the required super-majority.

Brian Dantes
El Granada

Donald Graham: We’ll have to wait a while for precinct breakdowns, though the active Measure S folks might be able to provide some preliminary numbers from election night.

I’m told that there were some 20,000 ballots left to count on Wednesday morning—late absentees and provisionals, I suppose—countywide. We won’t get the official results and precinct breakdowns until they’re all counted.

(Could that be enough new votes to turn Measure S around? I suppose it’s mathematically possible, but pretty unlikely, given the margin. The precinct voting must have strongly favored S, though, since the early numbers (absentees) were only about 55% yes.)

Ms. Hurley,

I believe I must not have made my point clear.  My children have wonderful, hard working, teachers in the public schools.  I understand that they work long hours.  I do to.  They still get 1/3 of the calander year as vacation, have a far richer benefits package than most private sector jobs, and have a very attractive retirement program.

I also understand that, from the teacher’s level, there is not enough money.  That isn’t because the voters of our state don’t provide the money, it is because the politicians play shell games with the money through “state mandates”.  They create programs that are required by law that take funding away from the majority of classrooms. I am not talking about symptoms of the problem, such as the copy budget for an individual teacher; I am talking about how the California State Legislature and Department of Education caters to special interests to implement social programs that are logically beyond the scope of the goals of education.  This takes money away from education.

If California and our School District funded the classroom needs before these “special programs” then there would be plenty of money and voters could make decisions on how we want to expand the scope of eductation.  Instead, the politicians and bureauocrats take funding from the classroom to pay for programs that voters would never approve and create a false funding crisis with the intent of coercing an ill informed electorate to increase taxes.

Our money would be better spent paying for an independent auditor to go over the state Department of Education budget and each individual district’s.  I suspect we would find a large number of “pet projects” that cost a great deal but have little value to most Californians.  This is why I continue to vote against tax increases for schools.  I have very little confidence in the business acumen of the administration of the California State Legislature, Department of Education and school districts.

Devin Jones

Wow what a volitle issue.  I guess I am on the side of the child abusers in this.  My abused kids go to a private school where the tution per child is LESS than the amount the state alots per child in this school disrict.  My question is if they can provide a quality education why can’t that CSUD?????

If you really want to try to get some funds for the school may i suggest something.  Once Caltrans is done spending their bounty of money on the overdone repairs for HWY 1. The communities of the san mateo coast should take control of the section of road (emminant domain—it is such a vital roadway to us that we can not allow caltrans to maintain and control the road).  When the tunnels are done in 2009 we could then charge a toll for tourists to drive over the road($5 each way-).  All of the proceed from the road could go to help fund our schools…...Why do you liberals just want to tax us, why not be a little imaginative and come up with a solution that doesn’t make me feel like i am throwing good money at a bad system?

Mr. Steger -

Lots of grumpy rhetoric with your post, so let’s just try and put one thing into perspective.

You state that “My abused kids go to a private school where the tution per child is LESS than the amount the state alots per child in this school disrict.”

FACT: The tuition for the one private school in HMB totals about $12,000/yr. The cost per student in CUSD was $6,984 for the 2004-5 school year.

You have found a private school with tuition less than $7M! Really? Something tells me I just don’t care where you are sending your kids to school.

As to delusions of locals taking over roads… not going to happen.

Coastsiders had a chance to support public schools, and they blew it.

Where we go from here, I don’t have a clue.


Can you tell me what private school you send your kids to where the tuition is less than $7K annually per child? I am truly interested.

Unfortunately in the US it is every citizen’s responbility to invest in our public schools.

Oh, and we don’t own the coast. We are all lucky to be living on the coast, but it is everyone’s right to come over here and visit.


Re: how much in local taxes is used to fund our district -  I know where your numbers are from. I know that ed-data site very well. The “Revenue Limit” income is where (most of) the local taxes are listed. As Jonathan has pointed out, the State sets the total “Revenue Limit” number, then the local taxes are used to get towards it, and any shortfall is made up by the state. All this is explained on the web site, and there are other resources on it too, on the state dept of ed site.

I’m sorry but I don’t have time to explain this any further. Maybe Jonathan or someone else does. Ask the school district - one of the district’s main complaints is that “the formula” gives us less state money than most other districts (which is true). The balance is local funding, from fees and taxes.

There are a lot of numbers being thrown around pretty freely here, and some of them bear closer examination. Does the district really spend $300K per classroom? Here’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation. The district’s operating budget is about $25M. $300K per classroom suggests that we have 83 classrooms, which in turn, with 3500 students implies an average class size of 42.

But according to the ed-data site, our average class size is about 28 (about what I’d have guessed). That gives us 125 classrooms, which works out to $200K per classroom. That still seems like plenty, but it’s not $300K.

On the other hand, the $25M doesn’t include facilities costs. Which makes the public vs private cost comparisons misleading. CUSD’s $7K per student per year doesn’t include the cost of facilities, while private school tuition does.

My own internal debate on Measure S is dominated by two considerations. One is that I do think that public schools in California are underfunded (though there’s not quite the budget emergency that we had three years ago). On the other hand, I think it’s bad public policy to fund public education through parcel taxes, which tend to be unfair both to taxpayers (because there’s no consideration of the value of the property or income of the owner, and because it’s unfair to school districts who can’t manage to pass fat parcel taxes).

The problem needs to be fixed in Sacramento, and for all the talk about education support, there’s precious little substantive action.

Good Shepherd School or any other Catholic school.


My comments may sound grumpy to some but until CSUD can demonstarte that the money they have they are using for best result i will vote against any and all tax increases.  Make the tourists, that the fine mayor of HMB is forever grovelling for, pay for the schools.

So far no one has come up with why it would take more than 7g’s a yr to educate a child???

I agree with what you are saying Jonathan. But because there are a lot of numbers, I see that the only way to make sense of them is to compare them to like communities. I did that in a prior thread to show we as a community do a bad job in generating the needed revenue per child.

Don: you just keep spinning a tale but avoiding the facts, which are the numbers. I guess there is no getting through to you.


Mr. Steger-

Oh, so Catholic Schools are the solution.

And do you really believe your so-called tuition reflects the true cost of education? Or is it maybe subsidized in that system?

I’ve read enough about Catholic Schools, and to be polite in the extreme, it is not going to work for the mainstream.

We need to somehow get back to a basis where public schools are fundamental to our community.

Ray and Jonathan,

You are both obviously people who look for the real data.  I can’t find solid accounting, in detail, about our district.  If Dr. Bayless would open the books to the community we would have a much better understanding of what we are actually paying and where the money goes.  What is important for someone like me is to have confidence in the information provided.  The $300k per classroom was thrown out by me.  It’s as good as any other data on this thread, not very.  It’s a average statewide that I heard quoted in the Chronicle.

The issue around Measure S, and all the measures that we will perpetuallly have to vote against is that we don’t trust the schools to spend the money wisely, and we believe that the state is mandating programs that we don’t approve of. Dr. Bayless should open the books to public scrutiny, including all of the state funded programs, such as doctors visits, eye doctors, special assistance that follow around individual problem kids.  I suspect that most of the people who voted against Measure S are like me, they believe that politicians and the school administrators are playing games with the money to pay for programs that we don’t approve of, at the expense of our children.

Must See TV – MCTV - CUSD - 7PM Monday 12 June

See our esteemed School Board President, Ms Jolanda Schreurs, muse about Another NEW Additional School BOND Tax – as if already squandering $15 Million of the original $35 Million Bond, because of the 10-year delay at Cunha, wasn’t enough! I still can’t believe I heard that one right – some one out there still on cable, please tape this one for me – I’ll bring the popcorn!

I think her argument went something like this: can’t get a Parcel Tax because [she] can’t get approval of 66.7% of the voters; so lets go for a Bond which has a lower threshold and she can find a way to spend the money!

The plans for the new Cunha are quite promising. Construction someday would be nice.

Only CUSD Governing Board member Mr. John Moseley is interested in hearing from the public regarding a Parcel Tax brought forward from the taxpayers.

For those still fighting out Measure S, a cathartic process might help with Ms. Cindy Epps.

For those wanting to move on, I spoke requesting working together on an alternative. [I have to check to see if my tetanus shot is still current.]

Ken Johnson


Sorry, I don’t know what you are talking about re: “spinning a tale”. Surely you are not still talking about how much in local tax dollars goes to the schools? I agree the facts are the numbers and they are at the referenced web site: over $4,000 per student comes from local taxes and fees. What’s more, that figure is in the ballot argument and would have been challenged if incorrect. It wasn’t challenged because it *is* factually correct - as is the assertion (also in the ballot argument) that it is over double the California average.

FYI, argument writers are all very well aware that if anything in the argument is successfully challenged, for instance, if the numbers I put in were incorrect, then the writer - I, in this case - has to pay legal expenses for both sides, plus any other incurred costs. You can be very sure that everything I put in was carefully checked, because I don’t have any $50,000 war chest, or 150 volunteers, on the anti-S side - just me, and $0, my net campaign expenditure :-)

Best regards,


So, Ken Johnson, Don Pettingill, Pat.. whoever -

You all have a lot to say about the CUSD Board. It doesn’t seem to matter who is elected over the years.. they are all just bad :-{

So put your money where your mouth is and run for school board in Nov/06… now there's a concept. Good Luck ;-}


Tell me the Object Code for the line item you are referring to in the Fund Revenues Detail found here:

I do not see the numbers that you are stating. Again, my numbers are taken from the above page which breaks down the revenues for the district.


Mr. Pettengill,

Could you please read my post in this thread dated Jun 08, 06 at 11:10 pm? I’d like to know specifically why you believe my read of the data is wrong. From what I can tell, Mr. Olson is correct.

Brian Dantes
El Granada

Mr. Jones, I was fascinated by your statement on Wednesday evening that Eric Schiller “is just another emotional liberal” because you label him so. That’s the post, if you want to scroll up and reread it, where you give your emotional screed about all of the things that you don’t like about the educational system run by (you say) liberals. You offer no evidence in support of your claim about liberals, and the only data that you offer about how we’re chiseled by the educational establishment is when you say that the average class costs $300,000.

Two days later you admit that this is a figure you “heard quoted”  (sic) in the Chronicle. For an avid data miner such as yourself, that is, if you will pardon me, a bit weak. Ms. Hurley gave you a view from the trenches, real data, but you dismiss her experience and say you’d still never pony up because you “suspect” that a rigorous, qualitative audit would turn up expensive “pet projects” of no value to taxpayers like yourself.

The other thing you said is that liberals just attack people personally, this while you attack Schiller (and liberals). I love it when people point a finger at others, but can’t see the rest of them pointing back at themselves. Some of the actual data being cited in this thread, btw, is coming from liberals, but I won’t out them here.

However, I will say this about many conservatives that I observe, which is that they operate from a priori assumptions that remain in tact even when the contradictory evidence against them is overwhelming. There are enough facts cited in this thread to give at least some of us pause. There is no point of coming to a forum like this if all you want to do is persuade and never learn anything at all.

ken king

Anyone who uses “liberal” as an epithet instantly loses all credibility and any possibility of respect from me.  (I’m neither a liberal nor a conservative, or else I’m both.  See the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” at )

Mr. Dantes and Mr, Olson,

I’m sorry; I just don’t have the time to explain to person after person, time after time, the school finance numbers from the ed-data site. I believe a careful exploration of that site will reveal what the numbers mean, but to the extent that some remain confused, they will have to decide for themselve whom to believe. The numbers quoted in the ballot arguments should be decisive, as they are presented under threat of severe sanction if incorrect, unlike Coastsider comments, which may range from wise to daft without penalty.

Mr. Skelton,

The finance numbers on your web site are just fine; but where you see penury, I and others see financial mismanagement. In our view, the top priority is correcting this, as more funds mismamanged will do students no good anyway - and, based on past experience, will actually hurt them - much as the large *increases* in district funding from the 1990s to the 2000s, led not to more and better programs, but instead to cuts in many important areas. Of course no arguments pro or con in this forum will convince any true believers one way or the other, but onlookers deserve to hear both sides of this story. As for running for school board, I’ll consider it. I would be happy to see merely rational people on it, regardless of political orientation, but the last notably rational candidate, Jonathan Lundell, whom I supported believe it or not, did not get elected. I suspect that The System works against independently-minded candidates who might rock the boat. That’s not a good sign, as this is one boat that could use a pretty good rocking.

Best regards,

Don Pettengill

WRT differential federal funding, I suspect that you’ll find higher federal funding (Title I funding in particular) in districts with higher levels of poverty than CUSD has. I imagine there are other considerations as well that drive the difference.

California education funding does pretty much ignore local differences in cost of living, and with 85% of our operating budget going to salaries and benefits, that’s a problem. Our teachers, administrators and other staff have to live in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the country.

As a percentage of total income, California ranks in the bottom two or three states for education funding. California’s income is fairly high, but our living expenses are high as well.

This has changed substantially over the years, by the way. As a percentage of per capita personal income, California’s spending on education was 5.6% in 1972; it’s just about 4.2% now. That’s a 25% drop. Maybe it’s mere coincidence that our public education system was regarded as one of the best in the country back then, and below average today.

But as I’ve said before, it would be bad public policy to make up the difference with parcel taxes. At the very most, a parcel tax should be viewed as a stopgap fix for a budget emergency, not a continuing part of our revenue stream.

How to get elected to the CUSD school board.

Run for office in 2002. Tell the voters that your top priorities included getting the middle school built quickly. Get elected, stonewall the middle school for three years, and in your re-election year, reveal to the voters that by “soon” in 2002, you meant 2009-2010.

Can’t miss.

Comment 68
Sat, June 10, 2006 10:40am
All my comments

Mr. Pettengill,

You and Mr. Olson have cited two different sets of numbers, both of which appear in the data referenced. At this point, I am fairly certain that the spin you put is misleading at best (both in this forum and in the ballot arguments). The numbers you cited I believe are the *total* property taxes in this area as compared to statewide averages, which of course are higher due to the outrageous property values. But only a fraction of those taxes go to the school district, so using property taxes as a metric of school funding is bogus.

I am sorry that you have chosen to evade the question - which only further convinces me that you are incorrect.

Mr. Olson, would you care to weigh in here? I’d really like to know if you agree with my analysis in my post in this thread on Jun 08, 06 at 11:10 pm?

Brian Dantes
El Granada

I want respond to the following comment about liberals: “I don’t trust liberals anymore.  They are so emotional…and they have no data.  They just attack people personally.”

Speaking as a moderate who finds himself leaning left just to retain his sanity, I find this statement to be the opposite of my experience these days.

The congressional debates on the definition of marriage and the “death tax” are two excellent examples in just the last 48 hours of how the right has abandoned reason for appeals to emotions.  And don’t get me started about their systematic attack on science. But I think it might be a good idea to let the conservatives speak for themselves on this matter:

“In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend—but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’

—Ron Suskind, “Without a Doubt”, New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004

[I’m going to exercise moderator’s prerogative an not let this turn into a thread about the merits of right vs left.  You all know what you think and no one is going to be persuaded here. I’m also happy to stipulate that the Democrats (many of whom were liberal) did all kinds of stupid and corrupt things when they ran the country.]

Mr. Lundell - you can scroll up to the top of this post. It is about funding our public schools. It is not about why you did not get elected in 2002. But since you raised the issue, I will tell you that you spoiled your chances, and mobilized a lot of opposition, when you choose to run a slate campaign with two very strange bed-fellows. On your own merits, you may well have won.

I, for one, am disappointed that you are not on the CUSD board. You obviously have a lot of intelligence to add to this debate. It is too bad you are not part of the leadership, and now just get to snipe from the sidelines.

So my real point is, now that Measure S has been shot down, what are you guys doing… Pettengill, Johnson, Lundell; to make things better for CUSD school funding? There obviously is a problem.

You are all very opinionated guys, and you had your fun with Measure S…
But please, come to the point. What are you now doing to make things better?

Just to re-iterate my point on how poorly we as a community our investing in our local schools I’d like to show a comparison report I ran on ed-data. This report shows the finances of our district as compared to finances of “like” districts. You can find the spreadsheet here:

In cell H7 of this sheet you will see the local revenue per child we generate for our schools. It ranks 2nd to last of the other like districts. Now compare that to our avg family income here vs the other like districts and there is NO DOUBT that we are not contributing what we should be. In Total Revenue per child we are also 2nd to last. Why Is That? 

Also look at column P to see that Teachers Salaries are not high. They are within reason and compare well with the state avg ($58K in CUSD vs $57K in the state). What is also interesting is to look at the relationship between Teacher Salary and pupil-teacher ratio. Again, it makes sense that a teacher would get paid slightly higher if they have more students. Add to that the higher cost of living here on the coast, and you can see it is within reason. I’ve run the numbers and from 2000 - 2005 CUSD teacher salaries have increased 24.7% while the state avg increased 20.8%. Seems reasonable to me given the fact of where we live.

Don: I think I question ALL of your data that you have been supplying. I’ve shown how many studies report that small class sizes do improve academic and teacher performance, I’ve shown that we are not investing sufficiently in our school system. I’ve shown that teacher salaries are in alignment with the rest of the state. The only reason I see for not voting for S is to somehow make a negative impact on the board. I really wish you and others would support our school system.

I just now read Don’s post above. Basically what you are saying is that your numbers do not add up.

Jonathan: Everything you stated in your last comment is dead-on. I admit that I do not know how best to manage a school system, and that it does seem logical that a parcel tax would only be a band-aid. Frankly however, We elect the board to do this, and if there are problems with the board lets fix it. But we still need that band-aid.

I really would like Ken and Don to run for the board as I (and my wife) would be voting for them. They seem to put alot of time and effort into dissing the board so what better than to have them be part of the solution.

Don: I know see the numbers you are referring to. Under the Revenue Limit sources in says:
Local Taxes CUSD: 4,042
while State Avg: 1,857

But that in now way tells the real story. The real story is that the “State Aid” numbers are 1/3 for CUSD vs state avg (1,126 is CUSD vs 3,205 in state). The reasoning is simple: We have to draw from the local tax pool because the state is not giving us near enough. But even with us having to draw funds from this local tax item we are still poorly investing per child, as is shown in the post above. All of the numbers speak to the fact our per child revenue is dismal.


Dean, my point, and I should have been more explicit, was that suggesting that a district (or parcel tax) critic run for the board isn’t all that useful.

And while voters in 2002 were free to allocate their votes any way they saw fit, I continue to believe that Susan and Karen would have made fine board members, and that, had we been elected, the Cunha rebuild would have started in 2003 rather than 2006.

Still, running for the board is neither here nor there. I’ve tried it twice, and am not likely to go for a third strike.

Let’s move to a more interesting and relevant discussion: why did Measure S fail?

In my opinion, blaming the opposition is misguided. Tax measures will always have opposition, parcel taxes perhaps more than most. What strikes me about Measure S is that it got the fewest no votes of any CUSD parcel tax measure in recent history, going back to 1999.

That’s remarkable, because the registered voter base is bigger than it’s ever been, so as a percentage of registered voters, the gap is even more dramatic. Opposition to a parcel tax, measured in no votes, has evaporated, down from a high of 2607 in 1999 to a low of 1809 this year (admittedly, this will go up a bit when the count is finalized, but in all likelihood it’ll still be the smallest no vote on record).

The opposition wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the erstwhile supporters of parcel taxes (4895 in 2003) stayed away in droves, with only 3063 (so far) voting yes on Tuesday.

The reduction in the yes vote, from 2003 to 2006, is bigger than the entire no vote in 2006. And that’s why Measure S lost, not because of “child abusers”.

Which doesn’t answer the more difficult question: why did the parcel tax support disappear? I have nothing but conjecture. Certainly the board lost support through its cynical attempt to manipulate the HMB city council election. The board’s refusal to include busing in the measure was a bonehead political move. And more significantly, the budget emergency of 2003 is largely behind us. Sure, the district could use more revenue, but we’re no longer facing big cuts.

But, as I say, that’s my own conjecture. What’s yours?

Please, step back and read your posts. It sounds just the like the gobbledygook we are getting from our politicians and the CUSD. And why in the world do people need to engage in name calling and political banter when everybody is supposedly just interested in the well-being of our children? Where is any pragmatic approach to helping our schools in the meantime?

Ray, that’s not how California school funding works. This comment thread isn’t the place to explain revenue limits, but here are a few considerations.

1. Local property taxes are essentially fixed by Proposition 13, now part of the California constitution. We can’t raise them, except by additional development (expanding the property tax base) or by specific bond measures (which can’t be used for operating expenses).

2. Every extra dollar of local property tax revenue that the school district receives (perhaps because a new house was built) reduces the state’s contribution to our budget by a dollar. No net change in district revenue.

3. Parcel taxes (unlike ad valorem property taxes) increase district revenue beyond the revenue limit, and can be used for operating expenses.

There are some online references that explain this in great detail, but I don’t have them at my fingertips. Let me know if you’d like me to look them up.

Mr. Lundell,

Thank you for your measured response.

I do not disagree with any of your points… but let’s all get away as far as possible from that child abuser comment.

Personally, I think including busing in the measure would have made the difference. Before the measure was drafted, I pleaded with some board members to include busing, and recommended a $195 annual parcel tax to include it. That was rebuffed.

I do stand by my challenge for anyone who spoke out against this parcel tax to step forward with positive ideas, and assist this school district.

In case you do consider running for school board again, just let me know.

Dean Skelton

I just love it when I hear someone say something like Devin Jones did: “Teachers get 1/3 of the year as vacation.  Are they really overpaid?” If I couldn’t laugh at his ignorance I’d have to cry, I’m guessing Mr. Jones doesn’t know too many teachers who have to live on their salaries. Let me use myself as an instructive example.

1. I have been a teacher for almost 30 years, so I’m at the top of the scale.
2. I would love to teach in CUSD, but I can’t afford their low pay, so I teach over the hill.
3. I never work less than a 12 hour day, often more.
4. But even with all that, I still can’t afford to live here, so I have a second job, after my 12 hours of school, on nights and weekends.
5. During my “1/3 of the year as vacation,” I have 2 more jobs, plus I spend a good part of the summer finding and developing curricula and new materials.
6. Lest you think this is all so I can live some luxe lifestyle, it is all so I can afford my little condo in Pillarcitos Park, behind Tres Amigos.
7. I don’t know if what Mr. Jones said about CUSD pensions is true, as I don’t work there, but I can tell you that, after contributing the maximum allowed to my retirement plan for 25 years, my financial advisor tells me that at this rate, if I retire when I’m 65, I will be destitute by the time I’m 72.

Say what you will, Mr. Jones, about Measure S, liberals, school boards, whatever, but please don’t think you have a clue about the sacrifice and dedication it takes to teach your kids. The only teachers who get any vacation at all are those who have spouses with jobs that pay them what they’re worth.

Matt, I know of several teachers that are in a similar situation as you, only they have been teaching for just a few years (3 to 7 at most) and so their pay is on the lower end. Thanks for your rebuttal: it really puts the folks against measure S in their place.

It is sort of like a slap in the face of our teachers when there are comments like: “I didn’t pay a single penny to campaign against measure S”.


I have just scanned the long thread of comments folowing the failure of Measure S.  Unless I missed it, none seemed to place the blame where it ought to be.

At last night’s MCC meeting CUSD Board member Charlie Gardner said it was DUE TO THE CLOSURE OF DEVIL’S SLIDE!

You can all turn on MCTV and hear it from the man himself.

Sofia Freer

I see some of you are still at it with income or wealth averages and per-capita figures (which are another kind of average).

Sorry folks, but the way wealth is distributed in America, those figures are meaningless when one is trying to characterize typical voters. Those with most of the wealth nationally and here in our little coastal microcosm have only a very small percentage of the votes.

Perhaps the (sincere) emotions one sees in this thread must be played out as a release after every one of these elections; but they, too, do not get one closer to why votes were cast the way they were. Someone will have to become objective and do a well-constructed, unbiased survey to determine that. There is probably some truth in a lot of the speculative points made—even Gardner’s, which relates to a general foul mood due to ongoing Caltrans-created (the slide has been driveable for some weeks now) traffic messes. But no one will get closer by the sort of guessing that is going on.

I’m one of those missing “no” votes Jonathan refers to. And I didn’t make a peep against the tax this time. But I didn’t hold my nose and vote “yes” either. You folks will need to dig a lot deeper than you have to find out why different income, age, geographic, and even cultural/social segments voted or abstained the way they did.

Carl May

You need to open the spreadsheet I attached in a post above. Here is the link:

The numbers do not lie. Our community is not contributing near enough to our public schools. But I am guessing no amount of evidence will convince you of that.



Ray makes the statement “Our community is not contributing near enough to our public schools”.

What, exactly, is “enough”?

“Everybody is doing it” won’t wash. Ordinary citizens can tell full well what is going on, when presented with the facts: education spending is soaring, while student achievement is at best flat, and at worst, declining. School district “peer pressure” is a poor reason to send more money into this sinkhole.

There are many changes to improve our schools that cost not a penny, and which most people believe in - such as, laying teachers off when necessary not by seniority, but by teaching ability. How many times have we seen young, enthusiastic, talented and dedicated staff laid off, and deadwood from the central office inserted? I have seen this in another school district. It’s the Law. The Law is made by lawmakers. And the lawmakers are ruled by the political gorilla of the teacher unions. For the same reasons, we have uncountable other insanties:

* We pay elementary school teachers the same as high school teachers; few (if any) other countries do this.

* We refuse to pay teachers in short supply (eg, math, Physics) more then teachers in ample supply (eg, social studies). This is supposed to attract good scientists into teaching?

* We insist that teachers have a “certificate”, despite the lack of evidence that this actually helps - or that the “certificate courses” actually are of any use to teachers. Many private schools regard a “Teaching Certificate” with suspicion, and prefer candidates without one. In fact, teacher certification is a job protection issue, rather than a student education issue. Here in Silicon Valley we have vast talent, in the Universities, in Community Colleges, and in private industry; none may teach high school, and our high schoolers suffer for it, as witness the lack of AP Physics at our high school. What insanity is this, when Richard Feynman, the preeminent Physics educator of all time, is “unqualified” to teach High School Physics?

* We insist on “class size reduction”, when the evidence is that especially in middle and high schools, teacher quality, rather than class size, best determines outcomes. Students in other countries with larger class sizes do better than ours, but if you don’t believe “international comparisons”, look no futher than right here at home: class sizes are smaller now than in the past - they’ve been going down for decades, and the results? Nothing. Nada. In many cases, worse than nothing: student achievement is at best static and, once again, at worst, in decline. The fact is: the unions love CSR because it increases union member count, and income. Teachers like it because it’s job security. Parents should fight it tooth and nail, because even today, the schools of education are scraping the bottom of the barrel - the bottom 20% of college students. That will get worse as we struggle to get more bodies into the “profession” to meet this “teacher shortage”.

And so on, ad nauseam. In the US, there is no correlation at all between $/student, and achievement. While I’m sure there is some $ amount below which an education can’t be provided, nowhere in the US do we spend that little. Educational achievement is completely dominated by other factors, such as education philosophy, union strength, principals’ control, district size, student demographics, and numerous political factors. None of these things will change with “more money”; indeed, strengthening the beast will make taming it that much harder. Citizens did our children a service when they defeated Measure S. Now let’s turn our attention to all these and more factors, to change things for the better.

Best regards,



Your reply is nothing but strange to me. Yours is a personal opinion arrayed against no opinion on the matter from me. If you want to tax the wealth you see in this district, then fine, come up with a measure to tax the relatively few wealthy and see if it will float. In a society that is heavily top-loaded in terms of wealth, the great majority of people fall below the average in income. Where are you going to get a supermajority of people, including property owners willing to tax themselves disproportionately (remembering the set amount per parcel in the proposed tax)?

Simply put, each registered citizen gets a vote in our system. All the opinions in the world from the outspoken here won’t tell you diddly about why the Measure S vote came out the way it did. And the browbeating of people with the “you owe it to our kiddies” line has not worked for five elections in a row, now. Previous polls involved in past elections were slanted to produce the answers desired (“push polls”). Don’t you want to know why people are voting the way they are, especially in this past election when there was not the Wavecrest fiasco to cost the measure votes?

The absurdity of casting about randomly for explanations is aptly shown by the person in the dozens of messages above who tried to roughly equate the midcoast with Burlingame for this issue. Almost fell out of my chair in a spate of sarcastic laughing when I read that. Why not try to get real information, if greater understanding is what is desired?

Carl May

We have new election numbers as of Friday 6/16. Measure S’s percentage dropped a hair, from 62.87% election night to 62.63% now.

The count is up considerably, to 4135-2467. That’s now a higher yes vote than the March 2003 special election, but down from the June 2003 try (4895-2530).

As on election night, both yes and no votes fell from 2003, but yes votes fell more than no votes.

In reference to Jonathan’s “As on election night, both yes and no votes fell from 2003, but yes votes fell more than no votes.”—If anyone is going to do a poll, I’d suggest that one question be “did you change your vote this time compared to previous CUSD parcel tax measures, and if so, what influenced that change?”  The neutral wording is required because it would be useful to know both yes->no and no->yes reasons.


I had also noted the trend as categories of votes were counted.  Wavecrest II and bussing decisions; along with the ‘bizarre dance of the four majority’ of the School Board on 13Oct05 regarding approving the new middle school site; was the campaign against Measure S. The School Board did an effective job of grasping defeat from the jaws of victory!

It would be interesting to compare the survey results from last September to today. I suspect the School Board negatives are considerably worse now – I didn’t think that possible!

I suspect today, poor ole Charlie is even worse today than Jolanda and Dwight in negatives – I also didn’t think that possible. They seem to be in a race with Bush to see who can first get down to only their ‘friends and family network’ for job approval.

Maybe it is poor ole Charlie’s plan to make Jolanda and Dwight look better by comparison for the reelection campaign this fall.

Ken Johnson


Re: Don Pettengill’s comments above.

1. I’d agree with laying off teachers by teaching ability rather than seniority, just as soon as they come up with a valid method of determining comparative teaching ability. Such a thing does not exist now.
2. I’d be interested to see your data source for the statement that few countries pay elementary teachers the same as secondary. I’d also be interested to know what you are implying—do you believe they should be paid the same, that secondary should be paid more, or that elementary should be paid more? I’d also be interested in a justification for such a position.
3. We can’t pay teachers in short-supply fields more until we have enough money to pay them all a decent wage—then I would agree with you.
4. I completely agree with you on the worthlessness of certification—it’s a huge waste of time and money, and accomplishes nothing.
5. I’d be interested in your evidence for the statement that “especially in middle and high schools, teacher quality, rather than class size, best determines outcomes.” It seems to me that both affect education, the ideal being a great teacher who is able to give each child lots of individual attention. It also depends on what you mean by “outcomes.” If you are one of those who see standardized test scores as the be-all and end-all, then you are probably right.
6. As always, when you make simplistic, categorical statements, you tend to run into trouble. You say, “class sizes are smaller now than in the past - they’ve been going down for decades, and the results? Nothing.” By what measure? When I was in school 40 years ago class sizes were about the same, but teachers were only expected to be teachers, in one language, not to make up for all of society’s ills, and they were supported at home by a population with mostly homogeneous values. Comparisons to the past are at best invalid—different times, different situation.
7. I don’t know where you got your statistic about the bottom 20% of college students, but it wouldn’t surprise me—teachers are at the bottom of the heap in terms of professional salaries. That problem is easily solvable—with more money. You can’t have it both ways. Either “there is no correlation at all between $/student, and achievement” or we should ” pay teachers in short supply more then teachers in ample supply” and pay them enough so that we aren’t scraping “the bottom of the barrel - the bottom 20% of college students

Beneath all of your comments it is easy to see your not-so-veiled contempt for teachers and the education profession. As with any profession, you may have had the bad luck to have a bad personal experience. But in my experience, involving hundreds of teachers as well as administrators, the vast majority are competent, hard-working, dedicated, and committed to doing the very best that can be done for each individual child.

Carl, I’m sorry that you just don’t get it. Of course the majority has spoken, they agree we need to improve our schools. And, I figured I would get this kind of response from you. Measure S failing really will impact our kiddies in a negative way.


Matt Berman’s point (“I’d agree with laying off teachers by teaching ability rather than seniority, just as soon as they come up with a valid method of determining comparative teaching ability. Such a thing does not exist now.”) applies as well to merit pay. We can all agree that good teachers should be paid more and laid off last, but how do we measure teaching ability?

Not from test scores. Even if we concede the value of standardized tests, a classroom of 20-30 kids is way to small a sample to give us a statistically meaningful measure of teaching ability. It’s a real problem, and I have no idea what the answer is.

“We can’t pay teachers in short-supply fields more until we have enough money to pay them all a decent wage—then I would agree with you.” This is a difficult discussion to have. It’s true enough that teachers have a better benefits package than most Bay Area workers (vacation, retirement, health care). But that doesn’t necessarily mean that their compensation is adequate, only that the basic wage scale doesn’t tell the whole story.

The market-based argument for higher teacher compensation is that higher compensation will in the long run attract more qualified people to the job. But market-based arguments implicitly assume that we have a means of measuring teacher performance, which we do not.

In most jobs, supervisors (and supervisors’ supervisors) make merit decisions. Mostly it works, though of course unfair decisions are made from time to time. By that model, we could let principals make the merit decisions—after all, a good principal should have a good idea of how well their teachers are teaching. We object to this idea because we’re afraid that principals will play favorites and make unfair decisions, but how is that different from life in any other organization? An unfair (or unperceptive) principal is a bad principal, and should be replaced.

A side note of thanks to Coastsider. This is a great community forum.

Matt Berman

Actually, we do have “a valid method of determining comparative teaching ability” or more precisely, teacher effectiveness.

The required STAR end-of-year testing measures how much of the State required grade level material was mastered. STAR provides an option of reporting by teacher. It is also possible to extract the prior year results for each of the teacher’s students. It is then possible [as a simplified example] to determine the average range of improvement attributable to each teacher.

I had some great teachers when I was a student and I wanted to recognize and reward those same types of teachers at CUSD. Dwight Wilson [former School Board President and current member] and the Teachers Union representative [now replaced] were not pleased at my plan at a recent School Board meeting.

For me, the difference between good day care and good schools is how well the student is mastering the subject. Not all seemingly agree with that philosophy.

Ken Johnson

STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting)
CALPADS (California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System)

wholeheartedly agree with your comments especially item 7. It makes perfect sense and is totally logical. I think some folks just want to believe what they believe.

In regards to the Yes/No statistics, what makes it difficult to determine is because of the amount of people that did not vote. Still, it would be very appropriate for the Board to open up discussions with the community to see what it would take to get the remaining 5-6% of votes.


Dear Ken et al.,

Much as I would love to get into a discussion with you over the validity, or lack thereof, of using standardized testing even to evaluate student learning, much less teacher competency (a particular peeve of mine, and two uses for the tests which even the makers of the tests will tell you are invalid, though they’re happy to sell them to you anyway), this is probably not the forum.

But for a good way to look at it, try here:

Determining Teacher Success

As to principals making merit decisions, by and large I agree with you—I would completely trust the good principals I have worked with to do this, and with the 1 principal (out of 11 I have worked with) who was so bad that I wouldn’t trust him to make those kind of decisions, I couldn’t wait to get out of the school he was running anyway.

But without taking up too much space here, I can tell you that this, like everything else in schools, is far more complicated than it appears from the outside. The business analogy for schools simply doesn’t work. I have worked in business, been a senior manager, editor, writer, consultant, as well as taxi driver, bus driver, loading dock worker, short order cook, and lots more, and I can tell you that there is simply no other job or environment like a school. It has to be taken on its own terms, not by trying to apply knowledge from other fields that really doesn’t fit.

The root of this problem is that, through a long and mostly accidental history, the way teachers are treated falls somewhere between professional and teamster. They are unionized like the teamsters, and their contracts are not much different, with every protective clause having grown out of repeated abuses. But their jobs, in terms of training, certification requirements, ongoing education, etc., is more like other nonunionized professions (doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc.), except that teachers are burdened with far more administrative oversight.

Add to that the fact that, unlike other unionized or professional jobs, they are cursed with packs of no-nothing politicians who control how they are allowed to do their jobs, jump on the simplest sound-bite solutions, and change their minds every few years, and you have a situation that pretty much untenable, That the schools function as well as they do is something of a miracle. And that miracle comes about because of the dedication and committment of teachers to do the very best they can for their students, no matter what nonsensical roadblocks the politicians are throwing in their way this year.

Matt Berman,

Hmmm, teachers “are unionized like the teamsters, and their contracts are not much different”. Did you check to see if the Teamsters were offended by your statement – Teamsters accept that their performance IS measurable!

Seriously, I probably would have agreed to your personal feelings on standardized testing and measuring teacher competency – then I encountered CUSD. From my personal experience, Accountability standards represent a minor distraction for good schools but a necessity for improving substandard schools.

Ken Johnson


I wanted to comment on your opinion of yours you stated above. You state this:

“* We insist on “class size reduction”, when the evidence is that especially in middle and high schools, teacher quality, rather than class size, best determines outcomes. “

Per the studies that were done (the Star study for example), they were inconclusive as to the middle and high school grades. But, every study reported that Teacher Quality improved with a smaller class size. That is why smaller class sizes is an important factor in all grades.


Ray Olson writes above that I (Carl May) just don’t get it. Don’t get what? Here this post-election thread is over 90 messages long, and all one sees is the same unsupported speculation that was on Coastsider before the election and that took place in the previous four parcel tax elections.

Sorry, all, but the “do it for the kiddies” approach has been part of a failure five times in a row. In each of those elections, a majority of the voters favored the parcel tax proposed, but a supermajority necessary to pass such a tax did not. That is fact. Taking the same approach over and over and ending up with the same negative outcome becomes senseless at some point, doesn’t it? At what degree of senselessness can one call the repeatedly failed approach “insane”?

I understand that there is nothing more important to most parents than the welfare of their children and that this goes to the biological roots of emotion with them. I also understand that in almost every tax election or vote for candidates, one viewpoint or group makes out at the expense of others. And I understand that parents of school children and others who work for, benefit from, or sympathesize with public education believe in the depths of their being that this is something that everyone should pay for at the level they desire. And I understand that these are sincere feelings in most.

But none of that does anything to make false economic arguments about the financial status of voters valid. None of that changes personal opinion about what society in general owes children in general into fact. And none of that brings objective understanding of why voters chose the alternatives they did in the recent parcel tax election or any other. Does it ever occur to the emotional parent or educator that if the electorate is better understood, a parcel tax, or bond issue, or whatever for the schools might be better framed to be acceptable to the needed percentage of voters?

Simultaneously, saying the election went the way it did because people are unhappy with the CUSD board is just as speculative. As Lundell can attest, time and again people have re-elected board members who have put failed parcel tax measures on the ballot. Or they elected new board members who closely aligned themselves with the viewpoints of departing board members. Those previous measures had all the same major campaign issues as the current one, including traffic problems, except the middle school site at Wavecrest was taken off the table as an issue (by the current board!). Voters of this district have elected board members of a similar persuasion repeatedly, so with virtually nothing new to make the CUSD board more unpalatable this time, it is speculative, at best, to say *increased* discontent with the board is the answer to the negative outcome this time. No one can know that without much better data, which no one has.

So enjoy the emotional and philosophical release, because that is all this kind of post-mortem discussion can be without better information. When something doesn’t work after many tries, one needs to do something differently to have a different outcome. Get it?

Carl May


“Accountability standards represent a minor distraction for good schools”?! Are you kidding? You seriously have no idea, do you?

NCLB and standards-based assessment drove me out of the public schools. I taught at a very good public school, the best in the district. I had a great principal. My kids did very well on the testing. But despite my and my principal’s best efforts, it was destroying any semblance of education. Art, music, social studies, science, literature, creative writing, field trips—all gone. They weren’t on the test. Discussions, exploration, projects—sorry, not allowed, they distract from test prep. Not to mention recess—the district took that away too.

In my last year I added it up, and we spent 1/4 (yes, that’s ONE QUARTER!) of the entire school year on either taking mandated tests or preparing for mandated tests. And the kids in fourth grade (one year above mine) who were taking the high-stakes test were throwing up every morning of the tests, while the entire school was locked down for test security. I simply could no longer be part of a system that would do that to children.

It may not have gotten that bad here in California yet, but it will, don’t doubt it for a second. We were just a few years ahead of CA.

If I set out to completely destroy public education in America, it would be hard to think of a more effective method that standardized test-based accountability. And on my darker days, sometimes I think that’s what it really is all about.

And, while we’re at it, let’s talk about the tests themselves. Norm-referenced tests were never intended to be used to judge either individual students, teachers, or schools. In simplified terms, norm-referenced means that they force all scores onto a bell curve, so that 50% of all those taking it will always be below average. If the goal, as they say, is to get everyones’ scores up, it will NEVER HAPPEN with a norm-referenced test—it’s mathematically impossible! Just as one example of how these tests are created—each year they take any questions that too many students got right, and throw them out! The questions are not intended to test knowledge, they are intended to place students on the bell curve.

Even worse, the tests don’t test what they purport to test. Every section, whether it’s called writing mechanics or math computation or whatever, tests the same 4 skills—standardized test-taking ability (which is a knack unrelated either to intelligence or achievement), vocabulary, reading comprehension, and how similar the test taker is to the test maker.

As an example, kids in the South always tend to score lower than kids from the North on the items involving negative numbers. Want to guess why? Because kids in the North are more familiar with negative numbers from early childhood because their weather temperatures go below zero! Here’s another—many of my kids here in CA missed a reading comprehension item where the correct answer to “month of blooming flowers” was “June.” Want to guess why? Because they don’t live in NJ, where the test makers live, and where flowers bloom in June, not in March or April or May (well, pretty much year round, actually) as they do here.

ARRGGHH! Ok, I’m going to stop ranting now, and maybe drop out of this discussion, because the whole topic makes me crazy. People outside the schools just have no idea what is happening right under their noses. Public education is being destroyed because it is being “fixed” by those (politicians) who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. I wonder what they’ll move on to after they’ve desttroyed it. They’re already well on the way to destroying health care as well—maybe next they can go after artists, yeah, that sounds good. Let’s start assessing artists, not by airy-fairy stuff like the beauty and intellectual and emotional content of their work, but by something more, you know, measurable. Like how much canvas and paint they use. Or how many of some artificially created set of “art standards” each painting matches.

Comment 98
Tue, June 20, 2006 1:57pm
All my comments

Mr. Berman,

Please don’t take your teacher’s perspective from this forum. I for one very much appreciated (and enjoyed) your “rant.”

Brian Dantes
El Granada

It sounds like you do not want to accept the facts that were presented to you. In our district our revenue per child is 2nd from the
bottom of other like districts in our state. Compare this to the fact that as community we generate more income on avg then the rest of the
state. The Median family income was stated to show perspectives relative to the other districts and state avg. None of my numbers were false, they are all accurate and you can find them yourself.

I find your comments above perplexing and can only surmise that you do not live on the coastside. Do you know how much the avg home here on the coast is??? There is a direct correlation between your mortgage payment and the income you must have…. The reason to compare this is not to quantify exactly HOW MUCH we should be giving to our local schools, but to show we are BELOW what we should be giving. If you can’t understand that then there is no reason to be debating this with you. And by the way, the majority of the coastside believes this as they voted YES for S.


A parcel tax is not “giving”, but perhaps “giving” is the answer.

Instead of debating how much is spent or how little, maybe the folks who support Measure S ought to devote their energies to raising money by donations. Or maybe they could support a ‘Child Tax’, let’s say $500 for each for 5 years, so the people who utilize the schools can fund them, like a gas tax.

I also think it’s optimistic to say that “...the majority of the coastside believes this as they voted for Yes for S”. I think it’s pretty clear that the ‘majority’ didn’t vote for anything. Maybe more than half of the voters did, but the ‘majority’ chose to sit it out, thereby insuring it’s defeat.


The proposed tax that was just defeated was to be on parcels, not on incomes. Consequently a focus on income is irrelevant with regard to the specific measure. *Average* income is an indicator of nothing when it comes to the incomes of the individual people voting. One might hypothesize that people with higher incomes tend to be the people who “own” property and that property owners voted disproportionately against the parcel tax; but you don’t know that. That is why better data is needed if such hypotheses (and there are plenty of others) are to be given any credence.

Reciting revenue figures that reflect a personal outlook has nothing to do with how people voted in the past election. Clear heads are needed to concentrate on the actual people casting votes for proposed CUSD taxes and bonds. Agreeing or disagreeing any given personal rationale does nothing to illuminate real-world voting patterns for the five-time-loser parcel tax.

Everyone who has looked at it for a moment has learned that many of the problems and inequities with public school funding in California originate with the several methods for funding schools practiced on the state level. One way of looking at it would be to say *all* local measures for getting monies for specific school districts are, at least in part, compensating for shortcomings on the state level. There is a much bigger picture involved than can be overwhelmed locally by attempting to brow-beat voters with “do it for the kiddies” (or teachers, or whomever) moralizing.

Maybe I’m correct in my suggestion (less tongue-in-cheek than it used to be) that the real purpose of these repeated tax initiatives is to provide some people with a philosophical and emotional outlet, no matter what the outcome of the actual election?

Carl May

First, thank you for toning down your posts. I for one really appreciate it. Just to let you know… I am a very level-headed person who has a deep commitment for my children’s education. My goal is not to change the state’s method of funding schools.

However, you are correct in suggesting that the typical voters are the ones that have the most vested interest in the outcomes, which happen to the folks that own property. For our small community I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure that out.

There are certainly other ways to increase the revenue per child numbers for our district. One of the ways is through a parcel tax. This is a practice that has been used in several cities in our county. I’ve shown 2 things: that we live in a pretty wealthy community, and that we are giving way below what other like communities are giving. I see that the parcel tax is one immediate solution for this disparity, and one that we as a community have control over. I’m sorry you do not see this.

I donate money and time each month to my children’s classes, I attend every auction and fundraiser that comes along, buying stuff that I normally don’t buy (and mostly giving them to my family and friends). I have no problem with this and would keep doing this even if the parcel tax passes. I know many parents that would do likewise. Unfortunately it is not enough however. And, it is everyone’s civic responsibility to invest in our public schools, and we need everyone’s support to make it a high-quality system.

And finally on a sad note.. I just found out 3 teachers in our district were just laid off. Of course it is a funding reason. And, one of the teachers (I think from the el-granada school) I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews from.

So now please tell me… What have our children benefited from Measure S failing???

Thanks for listening.

Matt Berman,
I attended good schools – maybe that is understated. My first experience with government required tests was at age 12-13 – without test prep. My school felt that prep was unnecessary, if they had done a good job in teaching. Apparently the school’s arrogance was correctly placed because my entire class was at the top end of scoring. And good / great schools still exist today, who consider the government mandated tests as a minor annoyance, while they continue their real task of providing an excellent education to all their students.

It is to the schools that are not providing a good education that I am concerned.
A good source that has had rigorous peer review is “California’s K–12 Public Schools: How Are They Doing?” Rand
ISBN: 0-8330-3716-1; a pdf full copy or summary is available on-line.

The “Educational Lobby” would like people to believe that their profession is unlike any other – “You seriously have no idea, do you?” ‘You can’t hold US accountable!’ Well, there are only two professions that make that claim today – clerics and union teachers! I’ll let others debate cleric’s accountability; but teachers can and must be held accountable today if the US public schools are to survive.

K-12 is not some esoteric profession requiring significant post graduate studies to command some basis of common language – we are speaking of plain ole basic education! Every reader who has attended K-12 and parent has the basis for judgment.

I found it interesting that you sighted your experience teaching in one of only two states that were lower ranked than California. [Ibid Figure S.5 Summary page xxxiv “Average State Performance on NAEP Reading and Mathematics, Grades 4 and 8, 1990–2003” page 36] By a strange coincidence, I lived for a while in Louisiana and was quite familiar with Orleans Parish. I love the area there – but the quality of government schools were a prime source for local humor.

The test you related was “high-stakes” – for the teachers and school principal only!
The fourth graders should have benefited academically when they were identified as needing caring additional academic help. The students “were throwing up every morning of the tests” as a result of cruel emotional stress thrust on them by their self-involved teachers. You claimed the school “had a great principal” – in my book, any principal who condoned their teachers performing in the manner you recounted, deserved to be fired, at a minimum!

As one of the few benefits of Hurricane Katrina, your old schools improved – it allowed reorganization of schools: replacing principals, testing teachers, etc., where in some, only 10% of the previous teachers were offered jobs in the reorganized schools.

CUSD intermediate school, Cunha, may well face reorganization as a failing school – ergo the war against NCLB!

Ken Johnson