Parcel tax needed to put schools back on track

May 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
School districts across California are struggling with deep budget cuts. Many of them are turning to the community for help, specifically, asking property owners to pitch in. Voters went to the polls in eight local communities on Tuesday and most were willing to pay the extra price.

At Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, the theatre program is popular, but not crucial. That's why when financial times are tough it's usually on the chopping block. This is one of those times.

"We're really down to the point where there would be no choice, but cutting programs and cutting programs means cutting classes, it means cutting teachers," says Fremont Union High School Superintendant Polly Bove.

Fremont Union and seven other districts in the Bay Area asked voters to bail them out through a parcel tax. All but one district in Santa Cruz passed the tax even though a two-thirds majority is needed.

"I'm thrilled!" says Bove.

Measure B will raise $5 million a year for Fremont Union.

Passing a parcel tax isn't necessarily easy. The district tried to pass a similar one in November, but it failed mostly because it didn't have a term limit. Measure B expires in six years.

"It's got a limit on it, so we can think about it again in six years. I think the money is needed," says parent Birdie Gardiner.

"I voted for it," says parent Bill Chapin.

Parent Rocio Perez says the $98 annual tax shouldn't be on tax payers' backs.

"I don't think it's right because I thought the big issue that we voted on in California was the lotto that was supposed to help the schools, so where's the money?" says Perez.

State funding cuts and property tax losses are the problem. Teachers and students say they can already feel the stress it's causing.

"The classroom sizes are getting a lot bigger and I just have lots of friends who are teachers who keep getting laid off," says teacher Elise Nahum.

"Certain classes are impacted, certain AP classes, people can't get into because everyone is trying to take them," says student Emily Longpatterson.

Without the parcel tax, district leaders are sure the situation will only get worse.


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