After months of sharp debate and impassioned discussions, the voters will decide Tuesday on Measure H.
The proposed $120 parcel tax requires a two-thirds majority to pass. It would be on top of the $189 that homeowners already pay annually toward local schools. Both taxes would sunset in 2012.
Both sides know this will be a close election. The last parcel tax passed by only 51 votes, so anyone who feels his or her vote doesn't count should consider the impact of doing nothing.
The facts have been repeated numerous times by countless letter writers and individuals in public forums, blogs and campaign posters.
The school district made the decision to put the parcel tax on the ballot after being faced with yet another round of deep cuts. In the last seven years the Alameda school district already has cut $7.7 million from its budget. This spring when it was hit with the projected loss of $4.5 million in state funding , district leaders issued teacher lay-off notices and cut music, sports and other programs.
The governor's later revised budget did little to help Alameda's troubles. While fewer teachers actually will be laid off next year, due to retirements and attrition, there still will be a loss of 25 full-time teaching positions under the current budget crisis. That hits the classrooms, no matter how you look at it. There will be cuts in programs, services and possibly even school closures on the horizon.
Passing Measure H will not be a panacea for all the fiscal woes facing Alameda schools. But it's a critical bridge to keep our schools functioning at the level and quality that we want for our students.
Long-term solutions must come, but that will take time. Right now our students don't have the time to wait for Sacramento and political leaders to come up with a plan that will work.
Some residents grumble that they are being unfairly burdened with another tax when they don't have children in school, or their children graduated long ago. They don't like the way the education system is run these days and they don't see any advantage to paying more taxes to support it. What was good enough in the past is good enough for the schools now is their reasoning.
The old saying, "No man is an island," is so true here on the Island of Alameda. Residents do have an investment in the community. They do reap the benefits of the graduates of Alameda schools who become our leaders, neighbors, business owners and employees. Paying for good public education is just good business sense.
Among some of the strongest voices in the Measure H debate have been students and young adults. Ian Merrifield, Encinal High student body president, wrote eloquently last week in a My Word piece about the value of education and what it means to him and his classmates. Leslie Fales, a third-generation Alamedan and Encinal High 2000 graduate, has a letter in today's paper that says it so well: "As a student in Alameda, I was blessed with numerous opportunities including Advanced Placement classes, sports team membership and participation in the dramatic arts. It was a culmination of these factors that made me a competitive, responsible and confident individual — prepared for college and adulthood... If the proposed cuts are enacted without anything to counter-balance the impact, the children of this community will not be afforded the type of opportunities I was so fortunate to experience. "
These two young adults see the big picture through all the haze of rhetoric and political wrangling. They have received a good education here in Alameda, but those coming up in the years ahead may not have the same chance. It's up to us to see that they do.
Every vote counts. Make your voice heard Tuesday. Vote for Measure H. You can make a difference.