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OPINION: To honor its 115th anniversary, PTA needs to tackle school funding

Last week, the Pleasanton PTA Council celebrated PTA Founder's Day, marking the 115th anniversary of the national organization and also honoring its three founders that included Phoebe Apperson Hearst, whose Castlewood estate still overlooks Pleasanton and Hearst Elementary School which was named for her.

The celebration also served as a reminder of the substantial role that the PTA has played locally, regionally and nationally in supporting parent involvement and working on behalf of children and families

For Jodie Vashistha, Pleasanton PTA Council president, Founders Day was a perfect time to renew her organization's dedication to the purposes of the PTA that was defined by its founders more than a century ago. As she said at the celebration, it is a time to reflect and take pride in the PTA's many accomplishments and to renew PTA members' commitment to be a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for parents, and a strong advocate for public education.

Locally, celebrating the PTA and renewing the commitment of its supporters comes at a time of urgent financial needs by the Pleasanton school district. Just last Tuesday, the school board painfully acknowledged the growing crisis by voting to cut 75 full-time positions from the district's payroll as it faces a $5.4 million shortfall in the 2012-13 school year budget.

With the PTA's mission to represent its members and to empower and support them with skills in advocacy, leadership and communication to positively impact the lives of all children and families, the organization's work here and throughout California must include finding the financial resources needed to keep our schools and education programs strong and effective.

The Pleasanton PTA Council began in 2003 as an umbrella group for all PTAs in Pleasanton. Besides the local and regional chapters, the state PTA plays a major role in lobbying legislators for funding increases and statewide improvements in education programs.

PTA members have long been in the forefront of working to resolve those challenges. The organization has been instrumental in the passage of important laws and guidelines that we sometimes take for granted today, such as creating a separate criminal justice system for juvenile offenders, enforcing child labor laws, building kindergarten into the public school system, and supplying federally funded hot lunches that now feed more than 26 million children a day across the country.

PTA has never been shy to tackle tough issues, from talking about sex education as early as 1916 to supporting HIV/AIDS education programs in the 1980s. The organization has been there to help parents and teachers be partners in children's education.

Now, with state funding for education woefully inadequate and the Legislature's inability to come together on ways to fix that, the PTA, the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in California, needs to tackle an even tougher issue. Phoebe Apperson Hearst was a recognized national advocate for a financially sound public school system. Following in her steps, the Pleasanton PTA Council, with other advocacy groups at its side, can continue the PTA's 115-year history of ensuring a quality education in financially beleaguered school districts like Pleasanton's with a strong voice in Sacramento and among voters on Nov. 6.

If Phoebe Hearst were with us today, she'd be leading the campaign.

Pleasanton Weekly staff.

Comments

Posted by Deb McCurdy, a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm

The Molly Munger/PTA initiative, "Our Children, Our Future", is the ONLY one that funnels money directly to school sites and mandates parent and community input re how the money should be spent. Local control is the only way to go. Any initiative that gets money to the schools directly and avoids the black hole that is Sacramento gets my vote. PTA lobbying for our kids - for free -- for 115 years.

Today, our state ranks 47th nationally in what we invest to educate each student. We have the largest class sizes in America. Over the last three years, more than $20 billion has been cut from California schools and over 40,000 educators have been laid off. We are shortchanging our early childhood development programs, which are some of the best educational investments we can make. Our underfunded public preschool programs serve only 40 percent of eligible 3 and 4 year olds, and only five percent of very low-income infants and toddlers have access to early childhood programs.

"Our Children, Our Future" asks Californians to join together to invest in our children and our schools because we all share in the benefits of better schools and a better-educated workforce. Our Children, Our Future will also reduce the cost of education bonds to help end the state deficit and protect our children and schools from further budget cuts.

The measure will raise $10 to $11 billion annually in new revenue through a sliding scale income tax increase that varies with taxpayers' ability to pay. For couples, the increases range from 4/10ths of 1% on incomes after all deductions under $35,000 to 2.2% for couples with income after all deductions over $5 million. Couples would pay nothing on the first $15,000 of their income after all deductions, and existing tax credits will offset increases for most couples with income after all deductions of $40,000 or less. A couple earning $75,000 in income after all deductions would pay an additional $428 each year, while a couple earning $1.5 million after all deductions would pay $27,266 more.

The money will be placed in a separate trust fund that can only be spent as authorized by the provisions of the Act. The Governor and Legislature are prohibited from using the money. It cannot be used to increase current teacher salaries, but can be used to hire additional teachers, i.e., P.E. and staff, i.e., school nurses and to support programs that have been lost, i.e., the arts.

No more than 1% of money raised by the The Molly Munger PTA "Our Children, Our Future" initiative will go towards administrative costs -- mandated. The initiative will raise $10 billion for schools per year for twelve years. Every child in the state will benefit. The money goes into a trust and does not pass through Sacramento. Parent, teacher, community input re how money will be spent at each school site is mandated as well. At this point in time, CA would need to spend an additional $60,000 a year, per classroom, just to catch up to the national average -- that is a fact. CA has the highest ratios of students to teachers, students to counselors, students to administrator in the country -- that is a fact. We are shortchanging all of our kids and have been for many years.

PTA, the largest volunteer organization lobbying for children, supports "Our Children, Our Future". PTA has been in the trenches advocating for kids -- for free -- for 115 years -- my vote goes with them. Web Link


Posted by Proud Republican, a resident of Birdland
on Mar 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Not another penny from this proud Republican stalwart. I've given in the past - you can check the records - until it hurts. You'll only get another penny if you can pry it from my stiff, cold, white fingers.


Posted by curious, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm

A few questions.

I would be VERY happy to support anything that will protect and enhance programs as long as it can't be misused or used to increase benefits while we are in such a dire state.

Does this go straight to school sites or to the school district? Can it be used for facilities studies, administrative car allowances, increased benefits that can be negotiated away from the classroom or will it be used to protect programs?

I've noticed some of our bond payments can be collected from the general fund if we can't pay - would this tax revenue be given to the general fund or would it be protected?


Posted by Been There, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm

I'm sorry. I looked at the Munger proposal and found the tax increases on my struggling 20-somethings to be absurd.

Here we have our newly graduated-hired young kids who can barely afford an apartment and food and clothes, gas,etc. who are being asked for a few hundred more dollars that *they don't have*. While Molly Munger, aka daughter of Warren Buffet's partner (Charlie Munger) live in amazingly comfortable circumstances.

Well, you can't draw blood from a stone. Let Molly Munger eat cake for goodness sake!


Posted by mom O2, a resident of Foothill High School
on Mar 12, 2012 at 9:13 am

Not sure how Deb can stand behind that statement that PTA lobbies for free given the national organization is funded in part by PTA fees paid by parent/members.


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