I have two children in Alameda public schools. Both are enjoying fabulous years that I suspect they'll savor for a lifetime.
"Mrs. Jones says she would do math all the time if she could," reports my third-grade daughter. It's good for children to be excited about fractions.
My first grader says, "Mrs. Davidson really cares about capitals at the beginning of sentences and periods at the end."
Yes! Students need capitals and periods. Year after year, Mrs. Davidson takes 20 children's irregularly-formed block letters and converts them to conventionally-written English sentences. Mrs. Jones inspires her students to commit their multiplication facts to memory. Both teachers work on teaching turn-taking, respect for others, kindness, responsibility.
I thank these teachers, and, indeed, all their colleagues, for working, day after day, in rooms full of not-yet-fully civilized young humans, helping them build the skills they need to become members of society.
Remember that whole "takes a village" bit? I think we're seriously deceiving ourselves if we think we're not interdependent. If we imagine that our well-being is not tied up with the good behavior and honest dealings of neighbors and strangers. We all benefit from living in an ordered society, which comes, in good part, from having quality schools. Which brings me headlong into Measure H, the $120 parcel tax we'll be voting on come June 3.
I hear people say, "Cut administrative fat first." But the actual fact — gotta love actual facts — is that Alameda Unified ranks 12th out of 16 Alameda County districts in money spent on administrative overhead. AUSD spends $369 per student on administrative costs compared to a county average of $536. AUSD runs its administration with less money than do two thirds of the other county districts.
I hear people ask, "Why bail out the state? Let the state fix the structural funding issues." But that stance akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face. (Outdated funding formulas, unchanged since when the Navy contributed, mean AUSD receives less per pupil than other Alameda County districts — we're running sadly last, receiving $900 less per student than the best funded district, Dublin.) We have 10,000 students in Alameda schools right now. They need to learn this year, and next, and next. And while I hope against hope that all the good work being done by advocates from Alameda and other cities to increases the state contribution yields results, our schools need money now.
Alameda has always seemed to me the kind of town that rallies to support its own, without waiting for others to get with the program. So let's vote yes. Let's pass Measure H. Every dollar stays right here in Alameda. Together we can raise $4 million a year at the cost of about 34 cents a day per homeowner.
If we can't, the district is slated to pare down many things, including music from the lower grades and a big hunk of the high school sports budget. And class size will most certainly grow, leaving our lower grade teachers with about 10 more children in their classes in coming years. With the stringent requirements and testing demands mandated by No Child Left Behind, that's a heavy burden. (And, lest you believe what some say about it being teacher salaries that are breaking the bank in Alameda, please note that salaries in our town are about $5,000 below county average.)
So let us model for the children of Alameda the kindness, concern for others and logical reasoning that their teachers work to inspire daily. Let's pass this parcel tax. And, perhaps, when they are grown, the children will show us the same generosity when they are grown.
From the Alameda Journal blog, Life on the Island: Look for daily coverage and commentary of all things Alameda at www.ibabuzz.com/alamedajournal
Eve Pearlman also writes the Alameda Journal blog. Look for more news, impressions and discussion at www.ibabuzz.com/alamedajournal