Letters to the Editor

Some alternative funding

Editor:

During the course of the past year, we witnessed and shared with fellow parents in experiencing the growth of our child as he attended kindergarten at Edison Elementary School. We credit his school success for having participating and involved parents, donors, a strong parent-teacher association and Alameda Education Foundation's enrichment programs, fellow buddy student learning, concerned administrators and good teachers.

Now, the financial crisis of our state's budget has increased the shortfall in funding for our school district with much desperation. Since the parcel tax has not passed, we urge fellow Alamedans to consider other funding alternatives. We should consider a program that emphasizes in volunteer donations and time commitment. Although the originators of Measure E have framed the options as Plan A vs. Plan B, the reality is that the education of the children of Alameda is neither limited nor defined strictly by these two alternatives. If there is one thing I'm certain after living here for the past seven years it's that this city's residents are diverse, vocal, resilient, committed and caring.

Regrettably, some programs may need to change, as many of our lives have changed during this challenging economic period. Increase in class sizes and reorganization of some schools may be inevitable. I remember attending classes as large as 30 to 32 students in a class while growing up.

Our family looks forward to the continued success of Alameda Unified School District (AUSD), and we hope that fellow residents will donate time and/or money to support our schools. We urge fellow supporters to affect one student at a time, one class at a time, one program at a time, and one school at a time. Then, maybe AUSD will continue to reflect the vested equity of its supporters by overcoming this budget challenge.

— Eddie Tai

Don't blame the poor

Editor:

Denise Reilly wants to know "why do we even have a free lunch program when we are always making cuts in other school programs?" ("I Want My Free Lunch," June 24). For the record, the free school lunch program is funded by our federal (and sometimes also the state) government, specifically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture. No books, pencils, pupils or teachers are harmed in the serving of a free lunch to a hungry student. The AUSD school budget is not harmed, either.

In case your kids or neighbors are hungry this summer, the USDA is glad to feed them for free at Paden and Encinal schools, daily through July 16, except weekends and July 5. If Ms. Reilly or others have complaints about feeding Alameda children, they can complain to the USDA, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC, 20250 or call (202) 720-5964.

However, it seems unfair to take a slap at local hungry children when the core problem about school budgets lies in Sacramento, and here at home, where enough Alamedans voted against Measure E to torpedo our district. Don't blame the poor for our bad political choices.

— Julia Park Tracey

Time to revise priorities

Editor:

With the failure of Measure E, the Alameda Unified School District now has an opportunity to revise its educational priorities before asking Alameda residents for money again. It is time to revisit the rushed Master Plan (with millions of dollars on new spending on high school vocational programs, while cutting basic academics in elementary schools). It is time to repair the breakdown of trust and respect between the district and parents caused by the decision to interfere with the sexual and gender development of elementary school children.

The district refused to listen to the research about sexual orientation and gender. As my experience as someone who lived as a lesbian for ten years and now has been married to my husband for ten years shows, homosexuality is not something people are born with. Teaching that homosexuality is natural and unchangeable is simply recruitment. Valuable tax dollars would have been spent on writing lesson plans with damaging messages such as; fourth graders, you can change your gender if you want to.

Many Alameda parents have moved to other school districts, started paying private school fees, or started home schooling (a major expense or upheaval for the whole family) since the decision to teach homosexual and gender confusion to young children. Hundreds of parents are no longer willing to trust the district or the Board to use millions of unaccountable dollars in an educationally appropriate manner. Hundreds of caring parents and other well-informed residents would have supported the tax if money was being spent wisely.

The parcel tax would not have lost by one percent of the vote had the District and the Board not bullied and bruised the parents the way they did. Some of us stood up to the Plan B threats. It is time to be reasonable and intellectual, not destroy the well-researched academic foundations and great schools. Cut the social experimentation that is not research-based and put the parcel tax on the November ballot.

— Kerry Cook, Alameda Concerned Parents

Appalling letter

Editor:

I am appalled at Ken Hensley's letter ('Didn't happen overnight' June 24). To quote him:

"You want to support schools, fine. People who feel differently should not be forced to support something they object to. That's just wrong."

He objects to schools? I wonder where he got his education. He probably didn't get a civics class because of budget cutbacks. In paying our taxes we all support things we object to or may not need. That's what we do in a democracy. To do otherwise is unpatriotic and just wrong.

— Katherine Button

Let's clear things up

Editor:

I just had to respond to two letters in the June 24 edition of the Alameda Sun, which must have been written before the Measure E results were known. First, Denise Reilly ('I want my free lunch') should know that the Summer Food Service Program is a federally funded program. The Alameda Unified School District is a local sponsor of that program, providing our food service infrastructure to provide a vital service for children who would otherwise go without food once the free and reduced price lunch programs end when school is out.

The federal government funds these programs because it has long been recognized that hunger impedes growth and learning. I do not know why the sign over Webster Street advertising the free lunch program was taken down, but I do know that many communities throughout California have reduced the Summer Lunch program because they have had to eliminate summer school or parks and recreation programs that were traditionally tied to summer lunches.

This is a double loss, because free or low-cost summer learning and enrichment programs provide vital services to children's education. The "summer slide" or learning loss that results, especially for our most vulnerable populations, makes the burden on our schools during the academic year that much greater.

To Ken Hensly ('Didn't happen overnight'), I would like to point out that, according to the PTA council, approximately 120,000 volunteer hours were reported in supporting Alameda schools this year. Based on the independent sectors valuation of volunteer time, ($23.29/hour), this translates to $2,794,800 in services just in volunteer time. What's more, Alameda PTA units budgeted $760,413 in self-raised funds to support Alameda schools.

This is hard cash used to supplement the annual budgets of most of Alameda public schools. That's a total of $3,555,213 in goods, services, and programs provided for the benefit of students. This is a significant amount, and probably grossly under-reported, but cannot replace the $14 million in State cuts to Alameda Schools. Yes, Mr. Hensly, those cuts did happen overnight and have brought us to the education-funding crisis we currently face.

To both Ms. Reilly and Mr. Hensly, perhaps you have read some of the headlines about the recession, or maybe about the dire state of the State budget? Perhaps some of the programs and services you value have been cut as well. Now that we know that Measure E failed, the reduction in services of our schools and other programs will increase exponentially, up to the closure of many of the neighborhood schools, including my children's beloved Franklin Elementary.

The out-of-pocket costs to families will increase as well, as we struggle to maintain the quality of education for our children that they deserve. At a minimum, the likely reduction of the school year will mean that many of us will need to find and pay for summer programs to cover the in school time lost.

The education of our youth is a long established right for all and an obligation of our government. The government is failing us in that right, and there is a lawsuit against the state to force that issue, which will be a long battle. In the meantime, it is in our collective interest that we have a well-educated citizenry. I gladly pay my taxes, and firmly believe that overall we underpay for the privileges, services, and community benefits we receive in exchange.

But my deepest question is, why does a minority of 35 percent of those who voted get to wipe away the quality of the schools for which I moved to Alameda? Why is a 2/3 super majority required to levy taxes, yet a simple majority can eliminate the rights of an entire group to marry? It says to me that our system places a higher collective value on personal wealth than on these collective rights, a sentiment echoed in Ms. Reilly and Mr. Hensly's letters.

— Kathryn Boyle

Deadline approaches

Editor:

Eighty-five percent of the voters said "No" to SunCal, but the developer is back saying, "trust us." SunCal is claming 100 changes in their "new" plan; but there are four more houses up to 4,845 square feet and eight million square feet more commercial up from 4.6 million square feet from their failed Measure B plan.

SunCal is calling everyone in town asking what they can add to get their buy in, claiming the don't understand what went wrong; proving they still think Alameda is stupid. SunCal and hedge fund D.E. Shaw, with their sense of entitlement, believe they deserve to make millions while ruining our community, is an example of their Wall Street mentality and arrogance.

Everyone knows SunCal doesn't build anything. The company obtains development rights, then sits on the rights for as long as it wishes; in the meantime collecting our millions of dollars of rent money from the base.

Tuesday, July 20 is drop-dead time, City Council votes to keep Sun Cal or reject them. That Council vote will influence how 85 percent of Alameda elects its next mayor.

— Diane Coler-Dark

It's an Island

Yo dude it's an island Every dog for hisself If some clod gets washed out to sea Ain't nothin' to me So don't send to know Why the school bell don't toll The school bell don't toll 'Cause of thee

— Jan Sutter

Bagged meter? Beware

Editor:

I was out on Saturday, June 26, just about noon and was finding it hard to find a parking place on Lincoln Avenue near the library. I finally saw one in front of the 7-11 and it had a bag over the meter. Now in my experience this means the meter isn't working but people will park there as it just saves feeding a broken meter. So I parked there.The bag was tied around the meter post so it wasn't just lying on top.

When I came back to my car at just about 12:30 p.m., I saw a ticket under my wiper blade. I looked at the meter and the bag had been torn open but was still tied to the meter. I went across the street to talk to someone at the police department. After making the required call by phone to some one some place I was told the meter officer would be there in a few minutes. They had to call her in.

I waited and eventually a woman showed up. I explained that the bag was over the meter and on the ticket it even says there was a bag over the meter. It says she opened bag and "money in working fine." I said well I didn't put the bag there and how was I to know it was working and she said I was supposed to open the bag and put in some money to see if it was working or not. Now I have never in my life heard of such a thing. But watch out, this is something new. Never have I seen that before. I am going to contest the ticket. It seems the city needs money worse than I though when they do this sort of thing. What is next?

— Gail Albin

Unbunching my undies

Editor:

Last week I spoke with the Barbara Price, chairperson of the Mayor's Fourth of July Parade, who relayed to me the news that campaigning would not be allowed in the parade per a memo issued by City Attorney Teresa L. Highsmith. Begun in the 1970s, the city of Alameda's Fourth of July parade is a much beloved city and Bay Area event, where ordinary citizens and organizations walk through town celebrating the birth of our nation.

Per Highsmith's memo Price reluctantly indicated that my entry would have to be changed, from "Tony Daysog for Mayor of Alameda" to something else.

I expressed to her that I would prefer to use my entry because, unabashedly, I am a candidate for public office and, frankly, this would have been a good venue to further publicize this fact, as I had done before in the past.

But since the timing of the recent memo from the city attorney precludes substantive discussion on the matter, I concluded that I shouldn't get "my undies in a bunch over the matter" and that it's more important to celebrate our nation's birth by taking part in the parade as a citizen who in the recent part contributed to the betterment of Alameda.

So, I altered my entry to remove any reference to campaigning and, instead, to reflect my "community service" contributions to the City of Alameda, which is consistent with the theme of this year's parade, by saying: Tony Daysog, city councilman (1996-2006), vice mayor (2002-2004), vice mayor (1998-2000), and West End resident since 1974.

— Tony Daysog

The ship is not sinking

Editor:

Some of my associates who supported Measure E now threaten to boycott local businesses that opposed E. I hope they won't follow through on that! I feel that a boycott will do much more harm than good.

Too many Alamedans are unemployed or driving off-island to work or to purchase goods that can't be found affordably here. To survive, we must support one another and create a better environment for both business and individual.

Those who voted no on Measure E thought short-term. Fear of immediate out-of-pocket expense drove them. It's easy to accuse others of greed when we aren't privy to their financial burdens. For them, it was all about the bottom line.

I think that we who campaigned for E failed to educate enough voters because to us, the benefit of education is obvious. In some cases, opponents may not have received extensive education, and may feel insulted by a perceived "elitist" attitude.

If Alameda were more prosperous, many of these business owners would probably offset parcel-tax losses through increased revenue.

Alameda must unify as a community. This is not a sinking ship. Alameda is struggling but we can do better by identifying our vision for our city and ourselves. Successful businesses and industry, better parks, stronger infrastructure and fabulous schools should be among the facets of this vision. This requires flexible, creative problem solving, respectful communication and kind intentions.

— Alana Dill

Alamedans protest

Editor:

Very early, Sunday morning, I gathered with hundreds of others, just across the estuary at the Port of Oakland, to picket the Zim lines ship that was due to arrive from Israel for unloading. More people came in the afternoon; I counted seven from Alameda. Together, we were successful in preventing the ship from being unloaded by the dock workers for 24 hours. This was a historic achievement, and echoed earlier times when Oakland dock workers refused to unload South African ships. This action was spurred by a the recent Israeli attack on the flotilla that was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, and attacked by Israeli commandos while in international waters. We were outraged by the attacks.

The blockade of the Palestinian people in Gaza continues. In the past days, there have been stories of Israel changing policy, and permitting more goods into Gaza. Along with people from around the world, we call for an end to the siege of Gaza.

For more information about the attack on the international flotilla, I refer you to www.freegaza.org. Here you can read the stories of "ordinary" Americans from our Bay Area community who were on board the flotilla ships, and did what the UN, EU, US and numerous other bodies could not do in all these years.

We thank them and are grateful for their safe return. And we thank the Port of Oakland dockworkers for their many years of conscience towards the oppressed people of the world.

— Paula Rainey

 

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