Gilroy school parcel tax has to change the game


It’s certainly understandable that the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Trustees is talking seriously about placing a parcel tax before voters. Join the crowd.

Gilroyans are, generally speaking, generous when it comes to public education. The community is supportive, but another tax in a sea swarming with government entities fighting to get into taxpayer’s wallets will likely face tough sledding.

GUSD could (emphasis on could) lose, if Gov. Brown’s tax initiative is rejected by voters, in the neighborhood of $4.5 million. That is approximately what a local $300 per year flat parcel tax would raise.

It’s a lot to ask of voters, especially when the money would simply be designated for “general operations.” While it’s true that Gilroy’s schools are improving, it’s also true that voters are not likely to support a tax without structural changes to the system.

Given that, trustees should really think about stretching their creative limits when it comes to thinking about what voters will support. What if, for example, 80 percent of all funds raised by a parcel tax went to teachers who earned a designation of excellence. In other words, merit-pay bonuses.

A recent New York Times piece by Nicholas D. Kristof followed a story titled “Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain” which was based on a landmark study. It’s about what a difference an “excellent” fourth grade teacher makes and concludes among other positives: “Each of the students will go on as an adult to earn, on average, $25,000 more over a lifetime – or about $700,000 in gains for an average size class – all attributable to that ace teacher back in the fourth grade. That’s right: A great teacher is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to each year’s students, just in the extra income they will earn.”

The piece is worth reading.

It takes courage, energy and will to change the system, but the current fiscal crisis in school funding presents an opportunity to do just that. Nobody wants the same system, only reduced by cutting three weeks from the school year due to budget cuts.

Gilroy’s trustees have a chance to present something to voters that’s worth paying for. Hopefully, this group of trustees, who have provided the best leadership for GUSD in the last 25 years, will think beyond the mundane and present voters with an opportunity to respond with their wallets to a real change in the direction of public education.

Anything less than that is doomed and, honestly, not worth putting on the ballot.

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