Monday, June 13, 2011

The Armageddon That Wasn't

The Sky Was Falling

Pleasanton Teachers Union president Trevor Knaggs boldly predicted “If Measure E fails, our schools will be facing Armageddon.”

The California Teachers Association declared a “State of Emergency”, held a week of protests, disrupted state legislature meetings, and got arrested (including CTA President Sanchez at 2:12 in this video).

Superintendent Ahmadi trumpeted around Pleasanton to Realtors, business leaders and school parent groups that PUSD had a $7.7M budget shortfall and championed a new school property parcel tax. She authorized the expenditure of a district-wide four page glossy mailer claiming schools are “protecting our property values.”

School board trustees and community members predicted significant property value declines if parcel taxes are not passed. Former mayor Ken Mercer in 2009 predicted property values would fall if Measure G did not pass. Mr. Mercer repeated the same claim in 2011 with Measure E.

One month after Measure E failed, PUSD is flush with cash and is spending it

The PUSD second interim budget report shows a $4M net for this school year

In the latest 6/3/11 budget update at the school board meeting (which PUSD has yet to post online), the fiscal situation looks $3.2M to $6.9M better than it did just two months ago. Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services said that if the CA tax *increases* are not implemented, California would likely re-implement an already anticipated deferment of funding, with little to no impact to PUSD. This echoes the advice written here, from School Services, Inc. and from the CA LAO.

Earlier this year, PUSD quietly increased teacher salaries and benefits by $1.8M by not continuing furlough days in the upcoming school year.

On 6/3/11, PUSD restored $2.45M in funding for K-3 CSR, elementary PE and reading specialists, middle and high school counselors, and a few extra sections for the comprehensive high schools.

Armageddon talk and fake layoffs destroys trust

Like the May 21, 2011 Armageddon-that-wasn’t event that raised millions for Harold Camping, the PUSD Armageddon-that-wasn’t along with the CA state budget theatrics was messaged/timed to condition voters to extend the temporary state tax increases and to heighten Pleasanton voter angst to impose a new parcel tax.

Why should voters trust either PUSD or its union leaders to give an honest accounting (or prediction) of the district’s fiscal health? And should we trust those who claim that failed parcel taxes will destroy housing prices?

Lack of Trust in PUSD is a key component of why all three attempts at a school parcel tax failed.

When PUSD and union leaders change their practices and behavior to be fully transparent and utilize all local fiscal controls before crying ‘wolf’, they will see an educated voter population supporting their new-found fiscal maturity.