Sunday, May 15, 2011

Final Thoughts on the Parcel Tax and BCS

With the parcel tax now complete, there are a few closing thoughts I'd like to put out there. I don't pretend that this will change the past- please consider them "suggestions for the future". These questions directly address some of challenges we faced, and complaints we heard during the parcel tax campaign.

Why didn't we share?
BCS is fond of saying that LASD could share the tax revenue if we chose to do so. Yet when we asked them to find us a single example of a charter school that is NOT sponsored by their district that still shares parcel tax money, they found none.

LASD is legally responsible for the taxes we collect. Without direct control over the expenditure of those funds, we can't share the money. It would be like saying "LASD students walk along city sidewalks to get to school. Let's spend LASD money on repaving the sidewalks". That would be an improper transfer of funds from the school district to the city. The charter school, as a separate legal entity, is in the same position as the city.

Would weaken community support
Part of the process of asking for a parcel tax is assessing the need for the money. The opposition campaign made the question of "need" a central theme by suggesting repeatedly that teachers are overpaid, and that we'd wasted taxpayer funds. How, then, would we reasonably approach taxpayers and ask for additional parcel tax funds to share those funds with a program that spends $13,400 per student? The taxpayers would have rejected that request as outrageous. There isn't an elementary school district in our community that spends that kind of money. Asking the taxpayer to foot that bill wasn't rational.

The Charter School can still request a tax
BCS still has legal avenues through which they can request a parcel tax. LASD is not their sponsoring entity, so we're not in a position to sponsor a tax on their behalf. However, there's nothing that stops BCS from going to their sponsor, the Santa Clara County School Board, and asking the SCCSB to put a measure on the ballot asking for parcel tax money for BCS.

The No Campaign skirted or violated the law
Regardless of the outward positioning, it was clear to everyone that BCS was driving the opposition. Their failure to file the appropriate paperwork with the FPPC (that regulates Calif. elections) was, in my mind, a specific attempt to hide who was funding the no campaign.

I also believe that BCS violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the law that is intended to stop government entities from lobbying for or against ballot measures. As I told one BCS board member, our community will long remember that their superintendent published a letter on BCS letterhead that was a thinly veiled effort to stir up no votes. I actually believe they've hurt themselves. At some future point, LASD will need to consider a bond measure to reconfigure campuses and provide a future home for BCS. When that bond is put forth, people are going to remember that BCS declared open war on the students of LASD. In fighting Measure E, they have damaged relations more than they can possibly imagine.

Focusing on the Future
Having said all of this, I am still very pleased that we were able to pass the parcel tax and help the students we serve. As I have met with community members and friends over the pat week, the resounding theme is "thank goodness!" Measure E won't eliminate the need for layoffs, and our district continues to work to bring expenditures in line with revenues in a structural way. Measure E affords us some short-term assistance in making those transitions in an orderly manner.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the many volunteers who made this happen. In an election this close, every singe volunteer makes a difference-- and in this case, they made a difference not just in the outcome of an election, but in the lives of the 4,500 kids we serve as a district, and in the quality of life in our community as well.