Education

San Leandro schools reap rewards of parcel tax

Thursday, August 30, 2012

While most California school districts are struggling because of budget cuts, the San Leandro Unified School District has found a way to thrive. They've put their trust in the ballot box and educators there did it by putting their trust in the voters.

"Measure M" and "Measure B" were part of grassroots efforts to raise funds to repair aging facilities or build new ones. It's a strategy that seems to have paid off big time. "It's amazing what the community is doing for our children," San Leandro High School Principal Linda Granger says. Before any back-hoes would break ground, voters approved a ballot measure that has the taxpayers of San Leandro breaking open their wallets. "What we have to do as a community to address the building needs or facility needs is pass bonds, and the community has really stepped up and done that for our past two bond measures," Linda Granger says.

Thursday's ceremony was meant to highlight the grassroots efforts that got them there, the two voter-approved bond measures, Measure B and Measure M. "I look at these buildings or these facilities as an investment in our kids," Granger says. Measure B is a bond passed in 2006 to address overcrowding and modernization through new construction projects. Measure M picks up where B left off. It's a $50 million bond focusing on health and fitness.

Both measures passed with more than 60 percent of the vote, making voters in San Leandro rather generous on the heels of a global recession. However, there are challenges. The money from the bonds can only be spent on construction projects like their new theater, a high-tech classroom used for physics, and their new football field, track and swimming pool. All three projects are slated to be complete by 2013.

The hurdle to get a voter-approved increase in funding for classroom needs like books and supplies is a lot higher. "The parcel tax has a pretty high bar," says Jon Scheer, president of the San Leandro Teachers Association. He says class sizes are increasing and various programs have been cut. All the while, the money teachers need in the classroom continues to come up short and teachers know why. "It's because of this rollercoaster funding we've had from the state," Scheer says.

In order to increase funding for teachers and the supplies they rely on, they must pass a parcel tax and that is a tough sell. "It's got to get 67 percent. So, you've got to get two-thirds 'yes.' When we're asking for a parcel tax, it goes into the program and that isn't as visible to parents," Scheer says.

On Thursday, they celebrated the passage of Measure M which was voted on in 2010. All eyes in San Leandro will now be on Measure L which is on the November ballot. If it is approved, the money generated from that parcel tax will stay in San Leandro and the state won't get a dime.

The last time a parcel tax to increase funding for teachers was on the ballot was 2006. It did not pass. They will try again this November and Scheer knows there will be very little help, if any at all, coming from Sacramento. "Any money that's generated by Measure L will stay in San Leandro. It can't be taken by the state," says.

Just to give you an idea of how every dollar counts, the teachers' association is also keeping their eyes on the Governor's Tax, Prop 30. Part of their budget is built on that passing. If it fails, there could be a $4 billion cut to public education across the state and $4 million to San Leandro Unified Schools.

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san leandro, taxes, construction, education
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