TODAY IS THE BIG DAY for the vote on Measure H, the modest parcel tax designed to support Alameda's public schools.

For those who have been working hard walking precincts, making phone calls, writing letters, talking to neighbors, it may feel as though it's been a very long campaign. But it only began in early March when, in response to the governor's proposed 10 percent cut to education funding, Alameda's school board placed Measure H on the ballot.

Many of the volunteers I've talked to feel positive about the campaign.

"It's been good to meet neighbors I never knew," said Angie Klein, a parent of two AUSD students.

Susan Davis, another Measure H supporter, said, "I've been delighted to find that when people learn the facts — whether it's about the short-term budget cuts the governor is enacting or the long-term financial challenges AUSD faces — they get it and want to help... In fact, I've met a lot of people who seem downright grateful that the volunteers are working so hard to get this measure passed."

To slice $4 million from a district that already runs on such a streamlined budget is untenable. Remember, per student administrative costs are very low in Alameda, about $369 per student per year compared to a county average of $536 dollars. Teacher salaries are already lower in Alameda than in surrounding districts, and PTAs and booster clubs raise hundreds of thousands of private dollars to support all kinds of school programs.

The parcel tax is, of course, not just about education. It's also about economics.

"Good schools build good community, which allows for a robust local economy that can support local businesses," said school board president Bill Schaff. "If you want to support local businesses you need to support good schools. They go hand-in-hand."

The governor's May budget reordered some funding streams for education, but did not significantly alter the bottom line: AUSD still stands to lose about $4 million next year. So do not be fooled: Education is not fully-funded, not even up to California's nearly-last-in-the-nation standards we see in more flush years. Alamedans are more or less in the same place as we were in January when cuts were first announced.

"Alameda is being shorted by the state when it comes to getting our fair share of funding," said Alameda City Council member Frank Matarrese. "We've had to cut routinely with no relief. The schools are too important not to pass Measure H to maintain what we have. In addition, we have to band together with other districts and cities to force reform in school funding at the state level, because we cannot and should not continue on this path."

Today we have the opportunity to pay a small tax for an essential service. And, while the tax is not perfect, it is a reasonable way to raise a substantial amount of money (about the amount the district is slated to lose this year, actually) for Alameda schools.

Don't forget, Measure H does not pass with a simple majority, or even with 55 or 60 percent of the vote. It requires two-thirds of all the voters to say yes. Every single vote counts. That means it's not enough to be generally supportive. You must actually appear at the polling place and make your little mark.

So step out of your house, head home from work a little early. Walk or drive or ride your bike and do something that makes sense for the future of Alameda. It's not rocket science, really. If we fund schools more adequately, we will have more resources to help provide the things that we, as a society, value.

As Measure H volunteer Gregg Cevallos put it, "Our country is not going to move forward without a good educational system and it's a small price to pay for the good of our community."

Editor's Note

Eve Pearlman has two children in Alameda public schools and also serves on the board of the Alameda Education Foundation. She also writes the Alameda Journal blog. Look for more news, impressions and discussion at www.ibabuzz.com/alamedajournal

Editor's Note
Eve Pearlman has two children in Alameda public schools and also serves on the board of the Alameda Education Foundation. She also writes the Alameda Journal blog. Look for more news, impressions and discussion at www.ibabuzz.com/alamedajournal