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View Diary: A political issue -- teacher pay (255 comments)

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  •  my letter to my elementary school district (4.00)
    Maurice Ghysels
    Superintendent of Schools
    Mountain View-Whisman School District

    Dear Superintendent Ghysels:

    Thank you for your interest in making the student/teacher ratio
    in the Mountain View-Whisman School District more competitive
    with that of neighboring districts, in order to prevent further
    student flight leading to continuing declines in enrollment.
    Our district has suffered significant declines recently.  And
    at least as troubling as the prospect of further student flight
    is the prospect of teacher flight.

    As I hope you know by now, the Mountain View-Whisman School
    District has only been able to afford a 1% cost of living salary
    adjustment during a time when the state predicts 4.25% increases
    in the cost of living.  I am certain that many of your staff
    will be unhappy about that.  I am also very unhappy with the
    fact that our district hasn't been able to keep teacher salaries
    up with the cost of living.  That means that as a society, we
    value teachers below average.  Nothing could be further from the
    truth, as surveys prove every year.

    I demand, and I will continue to demand, that my city and
    school officials act to make our district's salaries more
    competitive than in neighboring districts by increasing them
    above, not below, the increase in the cost of living, and
    that the student/teacher ratio decline instead of remaining
    stagnant, and that the district manage its finances in such
    a way that the board will not have to consider school closure.

    Even if the new $400,000/year in technology funding available
    through the new Joint Powers Agreement with the City's ultra-
    rich Shoreline Community were able to offset existing budget
    items to be support teacher salary increases entirely, which
    I am informed is not likely, then teacher salaries could only
    be increased 3%, leading to a 1.25% cost of living shortfall
    for this year.  That would be very unacceptable performance.

    It is heartening, though, to see that the Mountain View City
    Council is willing to provide additional school funding.  I
    had, until the recent passage of the Joint Powers Agreement,
    lost some faith in them.  They have restored part of my
    confidence with the passage of the agreement.

    It has come to my attention that my ballot proposal below could
    be enacted as a City Council ordinance, such as the following,
    that I hope you will ask them all to enact:

     Mountain View City Code, Chapter 29, Article II, SEC 29.7a.
     For the privilege of conducting a large business, a tax on
     the gross sales of all businesses with more than ___
     employees is hereby imposed at the rate of one tenth of one
     percent, to be paid to the Mountain View-Whisman School District.

    As I am sure you know, taxes in California have become more and
    more regressive over the past 30 years, so this tax, which is
    as progressive as I believe is possible, is the appropriate way
    to return to a time when the people cared more about elementary
    education.  That ordinance is authorized by California Revenue
    and Taxation Code sections 6006(a), 6010, 7251.1, 7285.9 (note
    there that 0.25 times 0.4 equals 0.1), and 7285.92.

    The proposed ordinance would require two-thirds support from
    the City Council, so you need only determine what number of
    employees, and thus what tax rate, would be approved by two-
    thirds of the Council.

    If you plug the number 500 into the blank above, then you will
    be able to raise enough money to completely match the second-best
    student/teacher ratio in all of Palo Alto's Elementary schools;
    about $14 million/year.  Larger numbers of employees at the
    cut-off mean less funding.  There is complete information about
    expected levels of funding here:

    I recommend that you do the following:

    1.  Please ask each and every member of the Mountain View City
    Council to agree to enact an ordinance to provide you the money
    to get our student/teacher ratio down to that of Palo Alto, and
    to provide a full cost-of-living adjustment for teacher salaries
    for the next three years.  The proposed ordinance would raise
    that kind of money, and it would raise it in a progressive way,
    unlike regressive parcel or retail sales taxes.  And please ask
    them, if they are unwilling to go that far, exactly how far
    they are willing to go to keep our teachers' salaries competitive
    with the cost of living in Mountain View, and to make our
    student/teacher ratios more competitive with the Palo Alto
    Unified School District.  Please ask them to put their answer
    about how far they would go in the form of a number of employees.

    2.  Please let the people of Mountain View know exactly which of
    the City Council members will and will not support the
    elementary schools, and to what extent they each do.  Write
    letters to editors, ask editors for columns, just please make
    sure that the voters of Mountain View know where their council
    members stand on supporting their elementary schools.

    3.  Please Ask the Board of Trustees to give you the authority
    to place a measure on the next available Mountain View citywide
    ballot, in accordance with California Elections Code Section 9500,
    upon the agreement of your CFO.  This will allow you more freedom
    in your bargaining position with the City council, knowing that
    if they turn you down, you can go directly to the voters without
    having to wait for the Board's notice requirements.  Sadly, the
    88 day requirement in Cal. Education Code Section 5322 means
    that unless you can convince the Board of Trustees to meet next
    Friday, by Tuesday (72-hour notice requirements), then you will
    not be able to get anything on this year's special election.
    However, as I note above, you can get extra funding with a city
    council ordinance.

    I look forward to your views on these issues.  Without the benefit
    of your thoughts and ideas, there is no way for me to improve my
    suggestions to you.

    James Salsman

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