Election Section

Yes on Measure B for Berkeley Schools: By NANCY RIDDLE and DAN LINDHEIM

Friday October 29, 2004

Why is Measure B so important? 

Schools are not receiving adequate funding. Despite No Child Left Behind rhetoric, both Washington and Sacramento are leaving our children behind. 

The state budget crisis, coupled with rapidly escalating costs, forced the Berkeley school district (BUSD), and other districts throughout the state, to make devastating cuts to their school budgets.  

The BUSD has responded in a fiscally prudent way. Substantial cuts have been made and the budget is balanced. However, fiscal prudence came at substantial cost: class sizes increased dramatically, school libraries are grossly understaffed, and the music program is barely hanging on. 

To help reverse the worst budget cuts, the School Board put Measure B on the November ballot. Measure B would raise $8.3 million for each of the next two years. Funds can only be used for: reducing class sizes (68 percent); staffing school libraries (16 percent) and school music programs (7 percent); and for supplementing teacher training, program evaluation, and parent outreach (9 percent).  


Why a two-year measure?  

Measure B is a short-term, stop-gap to minimize the damage to Berkeley school kids until Berkeley’s BSEP is up for reauthorization in 2006. Measure B provides supplemental funding to many key BSEP programs, while leaving BSEP completely intact. Allegations in letters to the Daily Planet that Measure B would eliminate the elected school site committees and the Planning and Oversight Committee are erroneous and misinformed. Like BSEP, Measure B funds would be subject to citizen-based oversight by the BSEP Planning and Oversight Committee.  


Why a property-based tax?  

The short answer is that virtually every sensible and equitable way to raise revenues is prohibited by the state. Essentially, the only tools available to school districts are parcel taxes either as in Oakland (where every parcel, regardless of size, pays the same fixed amount) or the per square footage taxes (where larger houses are taxed more than smaller ones) as in Berkeley. Proposition 13 prohibits additional taxes based on the value of the property. 


Why should Berkeley residents pay? 

Under the current system for financing public education, almost all dollars available to a school district come from the state. When the state doesn’t provide adequate funding, only two options are available: (1) accept inadequate education for our kids; or (2) raise funds locally. Option 1 is unacceptable. For that reason Measure B is necessary and why our community must act to support Berkeley’s schools.  


Rare unanimity of support by all Berkeley factions 

Rarely has a local ballot measure received such broad-based support. Measure B is endorsed by all sides in Berkeley: Mayor Bates and former Mayor Dean; the Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC) and Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA); the entire City Council, the entire School Board, and all serious candidates for both Council and School Board.  

In addition, Measure B is supported by Barbara Lee, Don Perata, Loni Hancock, Keith Carson, all Democratic Party clubs and organizations, the League of Women Voters, the Chamber of Commerce, the Green Party, organized labor, and hundreds of individuals and groups throughout the Berkeley community. 

Despite this unanimity of strong support, Measure B needs two-thirds of the vote to pass. It is crucial that Berkeley voters support Berkeley’s kids. 

For further information, please check our website at www.YesOnB.net. Vote Yes on Measure B. 


Nancy Riddle and Dan Lindheimare are co-chairs of Berkeley Citizens for Quality Schools, a committee for Measure B.