Board Agenda Item Cover Memo
FROM: Donald Evans, Ed.D., Superintendent, and Natasha Beery, Director of BSEP and Community Relations
DATE: May 18, 2016
SUBJECT: Public Hearing on the Superintendent’s Final Recommendation for the BSEP Measure Renewal of 2016, and the Issue of Calling an Election for Approval of a Qualified Special Tax
On November 6, 2006, Berkeley voters authorized Measure A in support of Berkeley Public Schools, renewing the local commitment to funding for a high quality public education. Measure A, also known as the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP), expires on June 30, 2017. The funds provided by BSEP are integral to our schools; students benefit from small class sizes, school libraries, music programs, instructional technology, before and after-school classes, and many other essentials that could not be provided through state funding alone.
For the past two years, we have been engaged in an intensive process of preparation for the measure renewal, including public workshops, stakeholder and focus groups, voter polls, budget workgroups and educational priority papers. The Board is now required to hold a Public Hearing to ensure that the community has an additional opportunity to review and comment upon the Measure before the Board considers a resolution calling for an election for approval of the replacement parcel tax on November 8, 2016.
The Board has been provided with detailed process reports and updates on March 12, 2014; November 14, 2014; January 28, 2015; June 3, 2015; September 30, 2015; November 18, 2015; January 23, 2016; April 6, 2016 and April 20, 2016. This document provides a brief summary of the planning process, the measure components, and the changes in the measure from 2006 to 2016.
Planning Process Overview
Workshops and Educational Priorities: Over the past year, we have held dozens of meetings, workshops, and community meetings to discuss BSEP. There have been wide-ranging conversations, and general agreement that the programs funded by BSEP are central to excellence in our schools. There were many discussions about strengthening, expanding and adapting BSEP programs to further improve opportunities for our students.
Three papers examining the key elements and issues related to BSEP educational programs were presented in prior board documents, posted on: https://www.berkeleyschools.net/departments/bsep/forums-presentations
Voter Poll: As reported in prior board updates, extensive polling found that Berkeley voters strongly agree that the local funding for schools has made a difference in the quality of education, are proud of providing this support, and are likely to renew the measure, recognizing the value of the programs funded by the current measure as well as the devastation that would be caused by the loss of the BSEP resource. However, voter support cannot be taken for granted; the BSEP measure renewal must be both responsive to educational needs and an effective, equitable and sustainable investment of public funds.
Budget Models: Over the past year, the Superintendent has convened a workgroup to examine the implications of various program modifications and fiscal scenarios in order to create multi-year projections for a balanced budget. The workgroup also provided advice as to the language of the measure. The final draft of the measure has also been reviewed by legal consultation in order to assure that it is in keeping with the Education Code, Elections Code, Government Code, and California Constitution.
Framework for 2016 Measure Renewal
The BSEP Measure of 2016 is organized into three key sections, to better clarify the major purposes of the measure. These elements and allocations are:
- High Quality Instruction: Small Class Sizes, Professional Development, Classroom Support, Program Evaluation, and Expanded Course Offerings
- Essentials for Excellence: School Libraries; Music, Visual and Performing Arts; School Site Programs; and Instructional Technology
- Effective Student Support: Counseling and Behavioral Health; Family Engagement and Access; and Student Achievement StrategiesThe primary investment is in High Quality Instruction, through reduced class sizes and additional supports for strengthening curriculum and teaching practices. The second component, “Essentials for Excellence,” provides equitable access to an enriched, challenging and engaging curriculum by funding music, libraries, technology and site funds to expand opportunities for student learning. The third component, “Effective Student Support,” provides funding to help students reach their highest academic potential while addressing the needs of the whole child with social-emotional, behavioral and academic supports. Together, these three components underpin the critical mission of the Berkeley Public Schools: to enable and inspire our diverse student body to achieve academic excellence and make positive contributions to our world.Additional details on each of the BSEP components and the rationale for the structure of the measure were provided on April 20, and are appended to this document.Changes in Education Funding Since 2006Ever since the passage of Proposition 13, California has fallen from one of the top-ranked states for per pupil funding for public education, to one of the lowest. In 2010, California was ranked #45 (or #50 depending on whether ranking depends on absolute dollars or. adjusted for cost-of-living dollars).
In 2012, with the passage of Proposition 30, state funding for education has finally began to move California from the lowest of states. However, the new Local Control Funding Formula is only restoring funds that were cut during the great recession, and are not moving California’s support for public schools much beyond the basement level of funding.In addition to the low level of State funding for education, there have been a number of changes in the funding parameters for education which affect the revenues available to support the Berkeley Public Schools, including:
- School districts may no longer structure special taxes with different rates for commercial and residential properties;
- California has mandated significantly increased employee benefit contributions for both certificated and classified personnel;
- California has changed the class-size reduction fund parameters, raising the class-size target for K-3 from 20:1 district-wide to 24:1 school-wide, and reducing the allocated amount specified for that purpose.
These factors, coupled with the low cost-of-living increases to the BSEP tax rate over the past few years, have already lead to budget reductions in many BSEP-funded programs. Budget projections for the new Measure are all headed further into negative territory without additional adjustments to expenses and/or increases to revenues.
The budget workgroup constructed numerous models which took into account the most significant expenses, including the class size reduction component, as well as options for reallocation of costs, and for adjustment in the tax rate to make the programs whole.
Given the necessity of increasing the tax rate simply to meet such exigencies as the new “uniform” tax rate rules and the state-mandated increased employee benefit contributions, it did not seem possible to commit to adding further major purposes to the measure beyond the restructuring already proposed.
Summary of Changes from the BSEP Measure of 2006 to 2016
In addition to the clarification of the measure allocation framework, as described previously, the major changes since 2006 are therefore:
- Term has been shortened from 10 years to 8 years;
- Rate has been adjusted to compensate for a new legal ruling which prohibits having different rates for commercial and residential properties,
- The Cost of Living Adjustment will use a local CPI rather than a State COLA. This index is used widely locally and was used in measures prior to 2006.
- Class sizes for elementary will be gradually adjusted towards a balance across K-5 of a school-wide average of 23:1, rather than the current 20:1 K-3 and 26:1 at 4th/5th.
- There is some added Flexibility to direct a percentage of funding of district-wide programs to where it is most needed and effective, based on yearly recommendations, as well as the option to set aside a reasonable reserve to sustain programs through the term of the measure, as long as funds are planned to be used during the term of the measure for the specified purposes.
With careful consideration of the public input, educational priorities, and budgetary models, we are recommending that the School Board ask that Berkeley voters reaffirm the community commitment to providing a high quality education in the Berkeley Public Schools by renewing the BSEP Special Tax in 2016.
The overall allocation framework and the proposed text of the measure has been reviewed by the BSEP Planning and Oversight (P&O) Committee, who have also reviewed the budgetary models, voter polls, public input, and program proposals. The draft of the proposed full text of the measure and the resolution calling for an election is attached for additional review and comment in order to more completely inform the discussions of the Measure renewal.
By the California Constitution, Article XIIIA, section 4 and Government Code section 50075 et seq., school districts are authorized, upon approval of 2/3rds of the electorate, to levy qualified special taxes on property in the District for the purposes of providing quality educational programs in the District and other lawful purposes of the District.
If a tax is approved by the voters, revenue of approximately $28 million per year would be available to support the identified programs, beginning in the 2017-18 fiscal year, and adjusting with an annual cost-of-living increase as calculated by the Bay Area Consumer Price Index (CPI) for each of the remaining years of the eight-year measure.
Hold a Public Hearing and then review and discuss the recommendations for renewal of the BSEP Special Tax Measure before adopting a resolution calling for an election.