Trustee would do well to reconsider

Gilroy Unified School District Trustee David McRae has laid down
the gauntlet in a letter to the editor and a news story. He
challenged the community to pass a $350 per year parcel tax to be
used for education and teacher salaries. He bases this challenge on
the fact that Palo Alto recently passed a $493 parcel tax for that
purpose.
Gilroy Unified School District Trustee David McRae has laid down the gauntlet in a letter to the editor and a news story. He challenged the community to pass a $350 per year parcel tax to be used for education and teacher salaries. He bases this challenge on the fact that Palo Alto recently passed a $493 parcel tax for that purpose.

McRae’s dare ignores several key differences between Palo Alto and Gilroy.

First, Palo Alto is considerably richer than Gilroy, so rich that it is not entitled to the full measure of Average Daily Attendance money that GUSD receives from the state. The median household income in Palo Alto is $90,377; in Gilroy, only $62,135. In effect, each Palo Alto household has $18,000 more to draw on for little things like a $500 parcel tax.

Secondly, Palo Alto’s school district performed well, even before the voters passed the parcel tax. Their high school’s API, for example, was 872, compared to GHS’s 618. In Palo Alto’s elementary schools, API scores range from 855 to 946, whereas Gilroy’s schools report scores from 565 to 701. Perhaps the parcel tax was a reward for good behavior: the result of the fine performance.

Thirdly, contrary to McRae’s assertion, funding education beyond state-mandated levels does not improve performance. If it did, Sausalito would be the highest performing district in the state: its $16,555 per pupil funding is more than twice the state average. Instead, it performs in the bottom third. Or, as University of Rochester professor Eric Hanushek, one of the nation’s leading educational economist states: “There is little systemic relationship between school resources and student performance.”

Lastly, we deeply resent this accusation of McRae’s that Gilroyans do not care about public education. We just passed a $69 million facilities bond. We organize teacher appreciation days, nominate and name a Teacher of the Year, highlight students and teachers of the week in the newspaper, bake brownies, donate time and money for various school functions, tutor below-grade-level readers and cheer even the most incremental of improvements.

The bottom line is that, much as we yearn to see improvement in GUSD’s lackluster performance, we cannot agree that throwing money is the solution. More money is just another defensive excuse. Let’s work on realistic solutions.

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