Public Comment

Commentary: Measure A Directly Supports Berkeley Students

By Jodi Levin
Friday November 03, 2006

I’m a Measure A supporter and co-president of the PTA at Emerson Elementary. I’ve been out campaigning for Measure A on weekends and following the letters to the editor here in the Daily Planet. I’d like to address this letter to those Berkeley residents who may be on the fence about whether to support Measure A. 

You may not like the choices school administrators have made regarding pools or other matters, but that is not what Measure A is about. Measure A provides funds that directly support our children by providing them with more qualified teachers, libraries, arts education, music education, and more. 

You may think that Berkeley schools are failing in their mission, and that the achievement gap is too large. Everyone is concerned about the achievement gap, but supporting Measure A does not mean blanket acceptance of the status quo. The school district can do better, and it will, but only with the resources that Measure A provides. How can we ask for committed and visionary administrators, teachers, and parents, but then not provide them with the tools necessary to implement that vision? Does anyone really believe that having 40-45 children instead of 26 in an elementary school classroom will help close the achievement gap? 

In addition to providing education, the Berkeley School District has chosen to meet certain basic unmet needs of children so that they have the foundation from which to perform better, including a healthy breakfast and lunch and access to special services for children who need extra help. Active parent groups meet to address the achievement gap. If schools were struggling financially simply to provide education, there simply would not be the resources to adequately address the achievement gap. 

You may think 10 years is too long to support schools. Children are in Berkeley public schools for 13 years. And similar measures have been on the books continuously for the past 20 years in Berkeley. In fact, the whole point of Measure A is not to raise our taxes, or even to ask for a new tax …. all this measure does is replace the current parcel taxes for BSEP and Measure B that expire at the end of this school year. 

You may think that it would be better to present a slightly different measure on the March ballot. As a PTA parent who works days and nights to ensure that Emerson Elementary has the funds it needs to provide basic services to our students, and then volunteers on weekends to help pass Measure A, and who has donated money to Measure A that would otherwise have been donated directly to the school, I ask you, if you value efficiency and good administration, is rejecting this Measure and asking the community to rally the same forces six months later efficient? Are there really enough problems with the simple concept of extending a parcel tax to support our schools that it would merit such waste? 


Jodi Levin is a Berkeley resident.