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You are here: Home Newsroom Our Ideas Themes in the News Archive June 2010

June 2010

June 4: Parcel Taxes Could Widen Gap between Wealthy and Poor Neighborhoods, Schools// June 11: Recent Election Could Increase Education Gaps// June 18: California’s Budget Is Getting Redder// June 25: Parents and Organized Labor Work Together for Education

Parcel Taxes Could Widen Gap between Wealthy and Poor Neighborhoods, Schools

  • 06-04-2010
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Themes in the News for the week of June 1-4, 2010


Many, perhaps most, California schools are facing further cuts in their already-inadequate budgets. Next week, residents of a handful of districts will vote on parcel taxes that could generate additional money for their local schools. If the special taxes pass, schools will be able to keep teachers on staff and keep crucial programs alive (Huffington Post). A key issue for fair and just public policy, however, is that wealthier neighborhoods are much more likely to pass these taxes than poorer neighborhoods.  

For example, a preliminary survey by the Las Virgenes Unified School District, serving  higher-wealth suburban LA County communities including Calabasas, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village, found that enough of its residents would support a parcel tax to restore some programs at the schools (The Acorn).

Similarly, voters in several Northern California districts passed parcel taxes earlier this year, including affluent Palo Alto Unified’s $589 initiative, which will raise an annual $11.2 million for six years. Less than 10 percent of Palo Alto’s student population qualifies for free- or reduced-price lunches.

By contrast, Los Angeles Unified, with more than 75 percent of its students in the lunch program, is struggling to find the two-thirds support needed to pass its parcel tax. If passed, Measure E would raise $92.5 million annually over four years by collecting a flat $100 per parcel. The funds would go toward restoring music and arts programs; keeping class sizes from swelling further and maintaining clean and safe campuses.

Even though most people agree that LA schools desperately need more money, the campaign for the measure was, until recently, “practically invisible” (Los Angeles Times) and news coverage and public enthusiasm are not widespread. Some of that could be attributed to a mix of reluctant opposition and tepid support.

Both Los Angeles metro daily newspapers have voiced their opposition to Measure E, even as they acknowledge the disastrous state of school funding in Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News). The district and the teacher’s union favor the measure; however, neither has invested substantial political capital to make the campaign for Measure E competitive.

Next week, our Themes in the News will analyze the results of the June 8 elections, including the measures from Los Angeles and others across the state and discuss what options remain for those districts which failed to pass them.


Related parcel tax Themes in the News can be read here and here.

Recent Election Could Increase Education Gaps

  • 06-11-2010
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Themes in the News for the week of June 7-11, 2011


On Tuesday, California voters in seven school districts approved parcel taxes to boost their local school funding.  Parcel tax votes failed in two districts—Cutler-Orosi USD in the Central Valley and Los Angeles USD.  (Ballotpedia).  Last year 29 school districts put parcel taxes on the ballot, and 20 passed (San Jose Mercury News).  This year 22 such measures have been brought to a vote, and 16 have passed.


As California’s schools face continuing budget crises, more school districts are turning to parcel taxes.  According to Ballotpedia, an online site dedicated to promoting elections transparency, parcel taxes are “a form of property tax, which must be paid by the owners of parcels of real estate. However, unlike standard property taxes, which are based on the value of the property, a parcel tax is a flat assessment which is identical for all homes or businesses in the affected area, so that the owner of a $200,000 home would pay the same parcel tax as the owner of a $5 million home.”


LAUSD’s parcel tax, Measure E, failed even though it garnered 53% of the vote.  (Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News).  Districts’ use of parcel taxes may worsen school inequalities across the state (Educational Opportunity Report). because larger and/or poorer school districts are less likely to muster the required 2/3 majority required to pass such taxes (Educational Opportunity Report).  All of the districts that have passed parcel taxes this year have enrollments below 15,000, with the exception of San Francisco Unified. Also, in the 16 districts that approved parcel tax measures this year, the average free and reduced lunch rate is 27%, compared to 54% in the six districts where the measures failed (UCLA IDEA calculation).


LAUSD lost out on much-needed funds in Tuesday’s vote. The tax would have decreased the district’s $640-million deficit with a $100-a-year tax per parcel for four years. The money would have prevented further class-size increases and cuts to arts and music programs (San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times).

California’s Budget Is Getting Redder

  • 06-18-2010
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 Themes in the News for the week of June 14-18, 2010

Redder States
California schools’ ability to educate and support students becomes further compromised with each passing week.  The Wall Street Journal’s map shows that while many states’ budgets are getting more in the red, none is redder than California, which is is cutting core instructional programs and services (Wall Street Journal).   According to a survey released this week by the California Department of Education, 58% of districts have cut funds for instructional materials and 40% of districts have reduced their teaching force (New America Media, California Department of Education).   48% of districts reported they have cut nurses, counselors, and psychologists.  14% of respondents say their schools will cut food and nutrition services (California Department of Education) .  These are services students desperately need, especially those without health care (New America Media, CDE).      


Over the past many years, the state’s lawmakers have consistently failed to pass the budget in time for the state’s June 15th constitutional deadline.  These late budgets cause confusion, uncertainty, and waste for educators and community mentors at the local level who cannot make well-advised program and staffing decisions if they don’t know how much money they will have.  One result, even in years that include modest budget increases, is that students can be in school for weeks or months into the fall, while schools are still scrambling to make last-minute hires of teachers. 

One weak ray of hope, however, is attached to the current budget delay:  state legislators still have the opportunity to address educational shortfalls.

Legislation in Congress that would help out schools is also under consideration, but there, too, the prospects look grim.  One bill would prevent schools from losing thousands of teachers. The Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson (Washington Post)   describes Senator Harkin’s jobs bill as hanging “somewhere between limbo and death.” After passing in the House in December, the Harkin bill has languished in the Senate.  What began as a $23 billion bill may be reduced to $10 billion- if it passes (Education Week).

This erosion of the bill is a small victory for the bill’s critics who claim it did not force states to choose more “effective” over more experienced teachers.  Although it is not clear that current measures of effective teaching are reliable and the best way to build a highly skilled teacher workforce, it is certain that there will be many fewer teachers if states cannot afford to pay their salaries. 

Meyerson notes that the layoffs will force schools to shrink programs as you cannot “hold summer school without teachers” (Washington Post).   As Students across California leave their schools early due to shortened school years many will also be denied the chance to go to summer school.  According to USDA spokeswoman Jean Daniel, "federal studies show that 'food insecurity' for children peaks during summer" (AOL News).   Without summer school, many children who depend on school nutrition programs will go hungry until “school rolls around again in the fall [when] they will be less healthy and less ready to learn than their peers” (AOL News).

Parents and Organized Labor Work Together for Education

  • 06-25-2010
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Themes in the News for the Week of June 21-25, 2010

The Los Angeles Unified School District passed a 2010-2011 budget that will lead to layoffs of at least 2,700 office workers, teachers, custodians, and many elementary school plant managers (Los Angeles Daily News).   Unions representing these workers, joined forces with students, parents, and teachers to protest the cuts.  For now, their efforts did not succeed, but all the protesting parties saw promise in this growing coalition. The protesters spoke of how economic threats to families, layoffs of school employees, school program cuts, poor working conditions at insecure and low-paying jobs, and job losses in the community all combine to impact children’s education. 

One rally saw the California School Employees Association (CSEA) the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), and the Teamsters join to oppose layoffs and salary cuts.  Another rally brought together students and parents from the Labor and Education Collaborative which includes East Los Angeles’ InnerCity Struggle, South Los Angeles’ Community Coalition, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877, SEIU Security Officers United in Los Angeles, as well as many other labor unions.

The Labor and Education Collaborative staged a protest to demand that the LAUSD board fully implement a 2005 board resolution mandating that district high schools offer more college prep, or “A-G” classes (A-G Resolution).    Many union members have children in LAUSD and think that implementation of the A-G Resolution is essential for their children’s success.  Laura Medina, of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877, said, “It is important for the union to be involved to have better schools for children in our communities.” 

As of the 2008-2009 school year, more than half of LAUSD’s non-charter high schools still did not have enough of these courses (Labor and Education Collaborative).  Dr. Veronica Terriquez, a University of Southern California professor who spoke at the LAUSD board meeting, said that increasing the number of A-G courses will help the children of union members realize their dreams.  Los Angeles union members overwhelmingly expect their children to graduate from college; but often they live in communities where local high schools do not offer enough A-G courses (Labor and Education Collaborative).  High school student Jason Pinzon, a member of InnerCity Struggle, said that A-G coursework “opens the door” to students.  Parent and InnerCity Struggle member Blanca Dueñas said (translated from Spanish), “We are here at LAUSD to demand these A-G courses so that our children have those classes to get to the university.”

The board took no action on the A-G Resolution at the meeting, but parents and students intend to press for  full implementation.   High school student Taylor Griffin, a  Community Coalition member, said, “Five years ago some of my friends were active in passing A-G and I wanted to follow in their footsteps to make sure it is implemented.”


Weekly Themes In The News

Each Friday “Themes in the News” explores one of the current week’s “breaking news” topics—selected by IDEA staff and its partners—for summary and reflection.   Hyperlinks of the news stories, which are cited, allow readers to explore the theme on their own.