Comment: "Measure K Was Horribly Written"

The failed Measure K parcel tax for schools has been hotly debated on El Cerrito Patch. Our "Comment of the Week" finds fault with the measure not in principle but in its lack of specifics on how the money would be spent.

The funding and quality of local public schools continued to generate a large number of reader comments this past week, particularly in response to two stories, "" and "." And a new topic – enforcement of the law against "wrong way" parking – also sparked extensive and sharp exchanges of reader views on two articles, "" and "" 

Selected as Comment of the Week was one posted on the parcel tax article by Carl Lumma, who addressed the relatively less examined question of how well Measure K, the recently defeated parcel tax for the West Contra Costa Unified School District, was crafted.

Carl Lumma:

Sorry I missed the meeting. Is there no official forum for public comment on the web somewhere?

I live in Kensington and thought Measure K was horribly written. I will never vote for a parcel tax that exempts seniors (or any other special group), and never for a parcel tax so vague about how funds would be used.

I see a lot of who-said-what above, but very little talk about how money might actually be used to *improve education* for our kids. In fact, throughout the whole row, the only thing I've heard that can reasonably be correlated to education quality is class size, and even there I saw no specific information on expected class sizes with and without Measure K.

One question I would like to have asked the board is: Given unlimited funds for hiring teachers, what class sizes (defined as full-time teachers per child per grade in the district) could be supported by our current infrastructure? In other words, how low could we go if money weren't an object?

After Measure K failed, Ramsey made comments about kicking Pinole and Hercules out of the district. I found this deplorable.

  • Editor's note: We welcome reader comments on our articles. The Comment of the Week doesn't necessarily reflect the view of El Cerrito Patch. It's chosen according to what we believe will be of general reader interest. For other examples from our Comment of the Week series, please click .
Kim July 09, 2012 at 05:10 AM
I very much agree with the comment. I feel many people voted it down due to the ambiguous language. Even now with the previous measure class sizes seem so large. Does greatschools list class size? I'd love to see what it is in neighboring districts. Under this last year of the current tax, sizes go to 28 as opposed to 31. 3 kids under the state max is not reduced in my book. Kindergarten teachers must work alone with 28 kids in the morning and then teach grades 4-6 in the afternoon? Who would want to sign up for that? If they could have at least kept first at 20, I would have respected that. Thurmond is the only one I see consistently concerned with students.
Giorgio C. July 09, 2012 at 12:55 PM
A friend of mine in Hercules worked very hard making phone calls for Measure K. They were very hurt by Mr. Ramsey's words. I agree, Kim. 31.3 to 28, does not qualify as true CSR. Past class sizes are found on the School Accountability Report Cards. Albany (Cornell) http://ausdk12.org/ourpages/auto/2010/6/21/56940599/2010-11%20SARC_Albany%20USD_Cornell%20ES.pdf WCCUSD (Fairmont) http://www.wccusd.net/cms/lib03/CA01001466/Centricity/Domain/95/SARC/SARC%202010%20-%202011/English%20SARC/2011_School_Accountability_Report_Card_K-6_Fairmont_Elementary_School_20120117.pdf MDUSD (El Monte) http://www.mdusd.org/Departments/rande/Documents/2010%20-%202011%20SARC/ELEMENTARY/El%20Monte.html From a report on class size reduction http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2011/05/11-class-size-whitehurst-chingos "It appears that very large class-size reductions, on the order of magnitude of 7-10 fewer students per class, can have meaningful long-term effects on student achievement and perhaps on non-cognitive outcomes. The academic effects seem to be largest when introduced in the earliest grades, and for students from less advantaged family backgrounds. They may also be largest in classrooms of teachers who are less well prepared and effective in the classroom." This is why I ask (but have not received an answer) as to how many of our teachers are non-credentialed, thus possibly less prepared.
Giorgio C. July 09, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Mr. Thurmond also holds his ground when confronted by the larger egos around him.
Kim July 09, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Giorgio, I'm not really aware of many non-credentialed teachers. The district used to have an intern partnership and they had a large number of interns in the late 90's but in recent years I'm not aware if many - maybe in math/science/special Ed?
Giorgio C. July 09, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Kim, Then the district should report the number of non fully credentialed teachers, even if the number is zero. The law says i should not have to guess. All other districts are complying with the law. The wccusd chose to omit this information. I used to perform audits. Incomplete reports make me look harder.
Kim July 10, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Oh I see. I didn't realize they weren't reporting it. Is it not on greatschools? When you click on "students and teachers" tab?
Giorgio C. July 10, 2012 at 11:54 AM
The Great Schools information is outdated, Kim. I am guessing that if the WCCUSD does not release this information, that no one has access to it. The Exec Director of the WASC accreditation agency said they would address my concerns at their next meeting. They said they normally have the school district correct such deficient documents during the survey process. I informed the director that according to state law, these documents should always be complete and accurate, not just for survey purposes. I cannot advocate for the district if I do not know the extent of the problem. In fact, if the district withholds (intentionally or otherwise) information, I might change my mind about supporting such a measure. I have a right to know how many fully credentialed teachers my taxes are paying for. Do you see why I can't run for school board, Kim? Many probably find my expectations unreasonable. Is there a job position of district Quality Assessment and Compliance Officer? If so, I want that job.
Marty July 10, 2012 at 06:46 PM
This district reminds me of solicitors who come to the door asking for money for some charity I know little about. When I refuse, they sometimes get indignant and say "Don't you want to save the whales (cure cancer, etc.)?" To which I reply, "I support the cause in principle, but while you seem sincere I don't have enough information to feel comfortable writing a check to your organization."
Kim July 11, 2012 at 06:22 AM
GC, have you contacted the superintendent or board directly for an answer? I still think you should run. My research looking up other districts since your comments has been interesting. In Martinez they have a place to report bullies anonymously online. I think wccusd should do the same as well as allow crime tips. I wonder if WCCUSD ever asks employees in depts for suggestions on how to cut costs?
Giorgio C. July 13, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Kim, It is my experience-understanding that the Superintendent and School Board do not respond to emails. I believe they expect you to address them at the meetings or complete a complaint form. I did email Mr. Wasilchin, Director of HR, but no reply. I need to think about this.
Giorgio C. July 17, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Kim, Front page news about how the district has been relying on non-credentialed teachers! http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_21088712/west-contra-costa-teachers-union-school-board-president The next story should be an investigation to determine if the Superintendent and School Board intentionally kept this information off of the SARC reports. I hope this is not the case, but I do not know how else to view it.
Carl Lumma July 22, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Thanks for the thoughtful comments and links. I will study the school accountability report cards. I like the 'vague charity' analogy (@Marty) and I agree that classroom dynamics probably don't change linearly with class size (@Kim @G.C.)... for example, shrinking a class from 40 to 30 probably doesn't make as much difference as shrinking one from 20 to 10. This is an important observation, because it means if we can spend X to cut the size by 3 students, and 2X to cut it by 6 students, we're actually getting more value per dollar with the 2X. Something to keep in mind. I'm skeptical that the California credential program makes much difference in teacher quality. My comment was based on my Halfway to Concord op-ed http://www.halfwaytoconcord.com/charles-ramsey-blames-voters-for-failure-of-knightsen-measure-k/ (warning: I use a fairly aggressive tone... hey, it's an op-ed) -Carl
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