July 11, 2010

County Grand Jury Recommends School District Consolidation. Expect Massive Migration to Palo Alto.

What puts a house in rather than out of the Real Bay Area (RBA)?  A damned good school district.  Now watch some meddlesome busybodies try and ruin everything!

Consolidate Santa Clara County school districts to save millions, grand jury recommends


By Sharon Noguchi

Posted: 07/04/2010 07:15:28 PM PDT
Updated: 07/04/2010 10:24:07 PM PDT

When budgets are tight, businesses often consolidate — so why not school districts?

After all, Santa Clara County school districts are a hodgepodge of large and tiny agencies, each with its own administration, and with century-old boundaries that randomly join disparate regions while dividing other communities. Some superintendents oversee 25,000 students, while others supervise only a few hundred.

So the Santa Clara County civil grand jury has recommended unifying and consolidating the county’s 31 school districts, which it projects could save $51 million annually.

District officials dispute the estimated savings, and question the benefits. In past decades, similar suggestion have been shunned as politically implausible. Why should this time be any different? For one, schools are facing unprecedented cuts to their budgets now.

The grand jury released two reports on June 24th: “Achieving School District Efficiency through Consolidation” and “Looking at Policies Our Schools Use to Find and Place Employees.”  These thrilling potboilers describe that “while the school districts in Santa Clara County are doing well in all areas, there are redundant administrative functions that can be made more cost effective through school district  consolidation.”  I tell you, I couldn’t put it down!

By merging elementary and high school districts that share attendance areas, the county’s 31 distinct school districts could be reduced to 16, unless the county actually has 34 districts (per 2008-09 Grand Jury report “Who Really Benefits from Education Dollars? (Hint: It’s Not the Students)“).  That’s the fun of an official report; you just never know what alternate facts could emerge!  Last year’s report had six findings and suggested actions, and it’s number 6 that must have led to this year’s threat to school administrators:

Finding 6

The operation of 34 K–12 school districts and four (4) community college districts
creates excessively high management and administrative costs. Five K-12 school
districts have excessively high Superintendent costs per student which is reflective of
the district’s having only one or two schools.

Recommendation 6

A consolidation of districts should be considered to reduce the numbers and costs of
Superintendents/Chancellors, Boards of Trustees, administrative staff and overhead.

One piece of good news for administrators and board members is the grand jury didn’t recommend all 31 school districts be rolled up into one countywide nightmare like Los Angeles Unified.  Instead, they selected feeder elementary districts that could be merged with high school districts, creating “Unified School Districts” that serve the same boundaries.  These are the four “lucky” high school districts and corresponding K-8 districts singled out:

  • Campbell Union HSD with Burbank SD, Cambrian SD, Campbell USD, Moreland USD and Union ESD
  • Fremont Union HSD with Cupertino USD and Sunnyvale SD
  • Los Gatos-Saratoga HSD with Lakeside JSD, Loma Prieta JSD, Los Gatos USD and Saratoga USD
  • Mountain View-Los Altos HSD with Los Altos SD and Mountain View-Whisman SD

imageThe civil grand jury’s reasoning is that unified school districts save money and can operate more efficiently than smaller districts with just a few schools.  The grand jury holds up these unified districts in Santa Clara County to support the concept: Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Milpitas, Palo Alto, San Jose, and Santa Clara.  And their gold standard of the benefits of school district unification is last year’s formation of Twin Rivers Unified.  In Sacramento.  Puh-leeeeeze!

Are they seriously suggesting that RBA cities such as Saratoga, Cupertino and Los Altos should emulate mediocrities such as Milpitas and Morgan Hill?  Seriously?  The only RBA city on the Unified list is Palo Alto, and they’re so Special none of the regular rules apply anyway.

Can you see parents who paid the RBA premium to live in Los Gatos wanting to share a school district with the hillbillies of Lakeside?  Or the families who paid the big bucks to live south of Fremont Avenue now finding themselves sharing a school district with North Sunnyvalers?  Wouldn’t every Los Altan sooner pull their kids out of public school than consort with those troublemakers from Latham Street?

image Obviously I’m not going to comment about the proposed Campbell Unified District, because they aren’t in the RBA so nobody much cares.  The Grand Jury also wants to merge four East San Jose school districts into two union districts, and even fewer burbed readers would ask. (Berryessa + Orchard, Alum Rock + Mt. Pleasant, if you insist.  You’re welcome.)  All 21 school districts suggested for consolidation have 90 days to respond to the civil grand jury, and expect the replies to be even more thrilling reading.

Now, some of these recommendations make sense.  There is only one school in Lakeside, Luther Burbank and Orchard School Districts.  One-school districts are clearly wasteful, and the Grand Jury has already noted criminal behavior in Burbank SD.  But some of the proposed unified districts will be much, much larger than others.  The proposed Mountain View-Los Altos Unified would have 21 schools, and the proposed Los Gatos-Saratoga Unified, 14.  But both proposed Campbell and Fremont Unifieds would have 41 schools each, which isn’t much smaller than San Jose Unified’s 43.  All the other current Unified Districts (which the Grand Jury report specifies as an ideal model) have between 14-24 schools.

41 schools?  Are they serious?  Does this fit the reasoning behind “Five K-12 school districts have excessively high Superintendent costs per student which is reflective of the district’s having only one or two schools”?  Cupertino USD, a K-8 district, already has 25 schools, which is more than all but one existing SC County unified district.  This is not a school district with excessively high costs, the complaint of the 2009 report.  This is a district that manages to produce perfect API test scores despite below-average funding.  But someone took the idea of merging feeder schools into high school districts and ran all the way to Twin Rivers Unified with it.

image At a certain point, large school districts lose the ability to respond to parental concerns, and nobody could call a 41 school unified district anything but large.  Effective and responsive school districts are exactly what parents expect when they spend the big bucks to buy in the RBA.  So recognize this plan for what it is: a recipe to remove Cupertino from the RBA forever. 

It’s clearly a plot by Palo Alto real estate agents.

Comments (99) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:01 am

May 23, 2010

PTA, Bunch of Others Sue State of California

And now, may I present a guest post.  Take it away, madhaus.  Why thanks, madhaus, don’t mind if I do.

Sacramento Bee: Education Coalition Sues California Over School Funding

California’s system for funding public schools is irrational, unstable and in need of overhaul, a lawsuit filed Thursday asserts, and prevents 6 million students from receiving the education they are entitled to under the state Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed by a coalition of students, parents and education groups against the governor and the state, puts California on a growing list of states slapped with what lawyers call "adequacy" suits

Thirty-three states have faced adequacy lawsuits, in which plaintiffs argue that a state does not give schools enough money to achieve that state’s academic standards. In most cases, experts said, the states have lost in court and been forced to come up with more funds and a new way of paying for schools.

image Now that’s the American way.  Something’s broken?  Sue ‘em.  The lead plaintiff in this case, Robles-Wong v. California, is a junior at Alameda High School.  Yay, Bay Area, We’re #1!  We’re #1!  And despite a press conference in Sacramento, the suit itself was filed in Alameda County.

A spokesman for the group noted California had some of the highest educational standards in the country, with some of the lowest funding rates.  Yeah, take that, New Jersey!  We do more with less!  We’re the best at writing standards, and the best at failing to meet them!  Boo-yah!

The article also described the method of determining each California school district’s unique funding as “a complicated funding formula.”  This is akin to noting that the General Theory of Relativity is “kind of tough,” as there are only four people in the entire world who understand how the state school funding algorithm actually works.  One of them has an unlisted phone, one refused to respond to repeated requests for comment, and the other two were driven insane by the process of mastering it.

Okay, assuming you were actually reading any of this, by now you’re saying, madhaus, you are just making that part up.  Am not.  See?

San Jose Mercury News: Schools, PTA sue California over education funding

For most of California’s roughly 1,000 school districts, the state budget crisis has caused per-student funding to fall for two years. But the complaint reaches beyond current cutbacks. For decades, California schools have budgeted according to a complicated funding mechanism determined by multiple laws and court rulings and resulting in unpredictable and different per-student amounts for each district. For example, in 2008-09, Evergreen Elementary School District in San Jose received $7,787 per student, but Palo Alto Unified received $14,214.

The suit contends that the state has neglected to do what the constitution requires: prioritize school funding.

See?  See?  “Complicated funding <miscellaneous noun>.”  Told you so.

Can’t get enough of this?  Read the lawsuit (PDF, 59 pages) by clicking here.

Comments (72) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:01 am

March 21, 2010

Their Future is Now: Support Our Children and Protect Our Schools

Their Future is Now:  Support Our Children and Protect Our Schools

State budget cuts are undermining the Cupertino Union School District’s quality of education. The School Board must now make cuts to core
instructional programs. Among the actions planned, our District will lose up to 115 teachers in Kindergarten through 8th grade across the
district. (This is equivalent to losing 4 schools!) Students in every grade level at every school will be impacted.

The time to act is now! With a $375 contribution per family – about $2 per day of instruction – we can save our excellent school programs

The campaign is ready to accept donations for the District-wide fundraising effort.http://www.savecupertinoschools.org/

1.  We need a large number of donations by this week (Wednesday evening) so that the fund raising team can get others
vested in the district to donate on Thursday morning in preparation for the Official March 16 Kickoff press conference.

2.   In addition this week, you can take advantage of the installment plan so that your donation can be divided by 2 monthly payments. Donation is tax
deductible. Sponsored by CEEF, 501(c)3 Feel free to share the informationwith other parents and friends.

Thanks to an anonymous Burbed reader for sending this in!

To all you cynics who claim that Prop 13 needs to be repealed to save our schools – take a look at this and weep!

We don’t need to raise taxes at all! Parents are more than willing to tax themselves directly to pay for the education of their children. This enables more of our precious tax dollars to go support the true hope for the future: retiring baby boomers.

This is win win. Property taxes stay the same for retiring baby boomers who pay 1/2 to 1/10 the property tax of their neighbors. Parents with their annoying children who are destroying the state with their greedy need for services pay for schools. Schools improve. House prices go up for everyone – including the baby boomers who pay 1/2 to 1/10 the property tax of their neighbors.

It’s clear – the next step is to cut school funding even further, and rebate residents based on how long they have owned their house. And keep those kids off the lawns!

Comments (53) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:09 am

March 4, 2010

bay area schools lottery

It’s search engine Thursday!

The other day, I noticed a dramatic uptick in lottery related searches

ohlone mandarin school lottery 

"mountain view" schools lottery elementary 2010 

cupertino school district are all students enrolled?

cupertino union school district lottery date 2010 

Wow. That’s a lot of lottery searches!

I touched upon this last week, and I think that it’s now time to discuss this.

So what are these searches all about? Now, you might guess that this is because Bay Area Schools are so packed because voters in the late 1970’s decided to close many of them to save money because children aren’t the future… or that some districts are dramatically better than others voters in the late 1970’s decided to defund schools believing that children aren’t the future so districts rely on direct parental donations…

Or, these searches could be about how enrolling your child into a Bay Area school is like buying a winning lottery ticket! You’re guaranteed to get back a huge reward on your investment – even if you need to bring $2000-$10,000 in cash to class. Your child will go to Stanford, and then booom start the next Google.

I think it’s the latter… not the former. But that’s just my guess.

Comments (11) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:54 am

February 7, 2010

How much would you pay to talk to the superintendent?

Should Money Buy You Privileged Access to a Public School System?

Schoolhouse In Palo Alto it does. Give Palo Alto Partners in Education — the district-wide foundation that supports all schools in the Palo Alto Unified School District — $2,500 and you get priority notification about middle and high school tours along with an invitation to a cocktail party with other wealthy donors to the district.

Give $5,000 and you get the same privileged access to information and the same exclusive chance to network with the community’s financial elite, plus an invite to a "special group event with the PAUSD superintendent."

Give over $10,000 and you get all the above, and an "invitation to individual discussion with PAUSD superintendent."

The message here is clear: in Palo Alto wealth buys differentiated access to the Superintendent of a public school district, membership of an inner ‘circle’ of local influencers and priority over the less well-off in visiting publicly-owned facilities.

Thanks to Burbed reader Herve for this find. A great post on SVMoms!

Personally I think this is a great idea. Let’s face it, we live in a market driven economy. Not a planned, socialist economy. It makes sense that if you invest more in your children, you will get better results. I don’t think there should be any outrage here.

Personally, I think you should be able to buy your grades, and even college acceptances – but let’s just start at buying good teachers and principals, without having to be all flashy and sending your kids to private school.

What? You don’t agree?

I’m tagging this post with the “Bay Area Schools” category. I’d appreciate it if you could help me find some older posts that should also get this tag.

Comments (41) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:52 am

December 27, 2009

Cupertino schools may have 30-1 student-teacher ratio in some grades – San Jose Mercury News

Cupertino schools may cut GATE program, have 30-1 student-teacher ratio in some grades – San Jose Mercury News
The Cupertino Union School District could face cuts as early as next month as the Board of Trustees decides how to close a projected $5 million deficit for the 2010-2011 school year.

The board is scheduled to make long-term cuts Jan. 11, Superintendent Phil Quon announced Tuesday at a school board meeting.

Possible cuts include staff reductions, reducing custodial staff to halftime, eliminating district office classified positions, cutting hours at a teacher resource center and eliminating summer school and the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program.

“We have scrutinized every aspect of district operations. We think this represents the best way to get where we need to be,” Quon said.

Cutting classes and increasing the student-teacher ratio to 30-1 in grades 1, 2, and 3 is possible, chief business officer Rick Hausman said.

Thanks to Burbed reader Herve for this find.

Merry Christmas students of Cupertino. Come on, you’d rather be at home playing Metal Warefare 2 anyway. Now, there’s even less of a reason to go to school. Hurray!

Comments (5) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:05 am

December 6, 2009

How much is your school’s suggested donation? Part 2

Let’s continue this discussion!

How much is your school’s suggested donation? | SF Bay Area Home Price and Mortgage Insanity Blog – Burbed.com
How much is your school’s suggested donation?

Live in a Mansion Condo in Menlo Park! | SF Bay Area Home Price and Mortgage Insanity Blog – Burbed.com

SiO2 Says:
November 4th, 2009 at 7:34 am

Las Lomitas elem school foundation has a suggested donation of $1100 per child. AFAIK this is the highest among RBA schools. Most are around $700.

SiO2 Says:
November 6th, 2009 at 6:54 am

The amounts are usually published in the foundation’s newsletter.

Saratoga and Los Altos elementary are around $700.

The donations pay for things that are now extras in elem school, like art, music, P.E. Districts that don’t have the foundations may offer these but will charge the parents. Or they may not offer them at all.

On the bright side, property taxes are low if you held your house for 20 years. And those folks probably don’t particularly care about schools anymore.

So CA school spending is around $5500 for most schools (revenue limit) but is higher for ones that are funded by local prop tax (e.g. Saratoga, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Palo Alto) – these range from $8000 to $12000. I’m not sure if those figures include the foundation donations are not.

Whereas in NJ (Burbed’s favorite) school spending between $12k and $20k per student!

It’s puzzling why it’s so low here. Our taxes are not as high as Rush Limbaugh would have you believe, but they are not particularly low either. The only thing I can come up with is that there’s relatively more children here per taxpayer. Or we spend money on other things – but we are low on spending on roads and infrastructure too.

Mike Says:
November 6th, 2009 at 7:55 am

Los Gatos suggests $600 for family with 1 child, and
$900 for family with multiple kids.

gallileo Says:
November 6th, 2009 at 10:12 am

Ahh, a subject near and dear to my heart. The PIE foundation for my kid’s schools in the slums of Palo Alto recommend $650 for one, $1350 for two and and $1950 for three.

Either someone can’t do simple multiplication problems or they really believe that multiple kids per family are more burdensome to the system than one.

This is all in addition to the PTA requested donations, which vary between schools, but average around $350. So I guess the total is $1000 per student in the slums of palo alto.

But don’t forget the library donations or the pertpetual fundraisers (you would think they could pick decent restaurants, but they don’t.)

Actually there’s more… here’s what else gallileo sent to me:

Hi Burbed,

You asked for a few of the donation appeals. Mostly they just hit the round file (after I donate–yes, the guilt trips work). But here are a couple from the Palo Alto Partners in Education newsletter that hasn’t met its maker yet.

Funniest thing is that the need for money never changes.


From the September 2009 PiE newsletter

Skelly says the district will work hard to be financially responsible and he hopes the community will continue to support our schools.  But he admits there are tough challenges ahead.  “I don’t think any one part of this solves our problem.   We have to be a little smarter and a little more careful with our resources.  It’s a combination of parcel tax, parent support, budget cuts, and using reserves that can put us in a position where we’re as strong as we possibly can be to meet the needs of kids.”   And the role of PiE will increase in importance in the face of the budget challenges over the next few years.  “My sense is that we’re really fortunate to have PiE at this point,” Skelly adds.  “In a strong economic headwind, people are still stepping up.  And I think those people who have the resources now have a special responsibility to help support the schools.”

From the November 2006 newsletter:

Klausner said it would be great if the district had more money for personnel resources.  “Letting the math specialists have more time to get into the classrooms, to be there with the teachers when they’re teaching and then documenting and sharing the best teaching strategies across the district — I think everyone would benefit tremendously from that, but like many things, it (this math specialist program) is way under-funded.”

Can someone explain how math specialists work with teachers? How does this all work?

And why aren’t these schools asking for more? If a private school like Harker can ask for $35,000 a year, why can’t these public schools ask parents to caught up at least $3,500?

The other day someone told me this stunning fact: “The grades of students were better before education became public and mandatory by the government.”

Let’s face it, isn’t it time we ended public school and privatized it so that only those who can afford get educated? That’ll definitely help our statistics!

Just a thought.

Comments (71) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:13 am

December 3, 2009

where will my child go to school cupertino school district

It’s search engine Thursday!

Recently someone found this site by searching for: where will my child go to school cupertino school district

As a bonus, someone also found this site by searching for: kennedy middle cupertino too much homework

Again, these questions can be interpreted in multiple ways. Here’s how I interpreted them: “Where will my child go to school in the Cupertino school district?” and “How can I make sure my child gets too much homework at Kennedy Middle School in Cupertino?”

Now, I could cheat and just paste snippets from the WSJ article on white flight from Cupertino:

CUPERTINO, Calif. — By most measures, Monta Vista High here and Lynbrook High, in nearby San Jose, are among the nation’s top public high schools. Both boast stellar test scores, an array of advanced-placement classes and a track record of sending graduates from the affluent suburbs of Silicon Valley to prestigious colleges.

But locally, they’re also known for something else: white flight. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of white students at Lynbrook has fallen by nearly half, to 25% of the student body. At Monta Vista, white students make up less than one-third of the population, down from 45% — this in a town that’s half white. Some white Cupertino parents are instead sending their children to private schools or moving them to other, whiter public schools. More commonly, young white families in Silicon Valley say they are avoiding Cupertino altogether.

White students are far outnumbered by Asians at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, Calif.

Whites aren’t quitting the schools because the schools are failing academically. Quite the contrary: Many white parents say they’re leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests.

The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian.

Ni hao!

Unfortunately, without knowing where the person who searched for the “where” question lives, an accurate answer cannot be provided. That said, if your house is below $600 per square foot the answer is probably “NONE”.

As for the second question, don’t worry…. it’ll happen automatically. Your child will be fine. He’ll simply be slaving away until 3am every night on homework so he/she can get rejected from Stanford/Harvard/MIT because all his classmates are slaving away until 5am every night, while someone who takes half as many AP courses in Idaho gets in because no one in his school even thought about applying.

But that’s ok. It’s better to introduce your child to the futility of life earlier, so he’ll be prepared for life in Silicon Valley. Woot!

Comments (20) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:15 am

September 6, 2009

Fremont Union School District Spending – Cupertino Fremont Homestead Lynbrook Monta Vista

From a flyer sent out to people living in the Fremont Union School District:


Wow. This is a bit of a shocker. The home of the juggernaut Monta Vista, the second most important high school in the world (after Gunn) has spending that is below the statewide average?

I think this is something we should all be proud of. This is an example of how the Bay Area perpetually wrings out more efficiency, doing more with less. It’s a key sign of our ability to innovate.


But on a more serious note, what exactly is this a sign off? How is this possible?

Comments (20) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:50 am

August 27, 2009

Foster City Elementary School overcrowding and information for parents

Cupertino School District Overflow information | SF Bay Area Home Price and Mortgage Insanity Blog – Burbed.com
Real Alex Says:
August 26th, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Cupertino, heh… If you want to see real disaster, stop by Foster City Elementary at Edgewater. This is a trailer park and war zone at the same time. They over enrolled about 200 kids last year! I don’t know exact stats for this year, but from what I’ve heard it’s not much better. School has about 900 students now and enrollment is going up to 1000 this year, though it was originally designed for 600. In the beginning of last year they had one big class of ~100 kids with 2 temp teachers from other schools and volunteers who were… students from the middle school nearby. It reminded me something… temp schools I’ve seen in Somali… But this was actual school with 900 rating in the middle of Silicon Valley.
This year they had to close all main permanent buildings because of poor condition long overdue maintenance. So, now it’s a set of trailers. Proposition to build another elementary school was rejected by the city. Instead city allocated land for new commercial development. Good job, Foster City. Way to stay in the RBA!

I agree. Let’s face it, children are not the future. Let me say it again. Children are not the future.

Prop 13 made that clear in 1978. Children don’t add to communities, they take away from them. All they want is more more more. Does building a school help bring more $200k jobs to Bay Area? Does building a school make it so you can drive 1 block to go to Best Buy/Bed Bath Beyond/Target instead of 5 miles? Of course not. Investing in children is a net loss.

Good job, Foster City! You certainly did pick the right priorities.

Comments (77) -- Posted by: burbed @ 4:06 am