Overview & FAQ
What is Measure E – the Berkeley Educators Recruitment and Retention Act?
Measure E, on the March 3, 2020 Ballot is a special local tax measure, also known as the Berkeley Educators Recruitment and Retention Act (BERRA). It was created to increase compensation for Berkeley Public School educators and support pathways that will improve the ability of Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) to attract, develop and retain top quality educators for our public schools. The funding is designated to strengthen salaries and professional pathways so that Berkeley students benefit from a dedicated team of highly qualified and appropriately compensated professionals.
What is the Rationale for the Measure E, in a Nutshell?
- An educator recruitment and retention crisis is affecting our students:
- The 19-20 school year opened with many Classroom teacher and Special Education positions unfilled;
- Many paraprofessional positions such as bus drivers, Early Childhood, Special Education and Afterschool assistants are also unfilled.
- BUSD salaries are not competitive with area districts:
- BUSD is ranked #16 out of 18 on experienced teacher salary scales.
- Other districts use funding from the State in “concentration” dollars targeted to low income students (not applicable to BUSD) or have adopted special taxes that can be used for salary increases;
- Berkeley’s tax funds provide libraries, small class sizes, counselors, music programs, facility repairs and other essentials but cannot be “swept” to address district-wide salary needs.
- Berkeley voters support local funding for Berkeley educators:
- State funding is inadequate: California ranked #37 in nation in per-pupil funding;
- Berkeley voters agree that school taxes are investments in our community values.
These slides from presentations to the Board in fall 2019 provide data for the rationale and further details on the Measure components
What is the Teacher Compensation Crisis in BUSD?
The current school year opened with many teaching and paraprofessional positions unfilled, with highly qualified educators choosing to take jobs in other school districts where compensation is higher. This trend has been increasing over the past few years, as compensation for teachers in the Berkeley Public Schools has fallen to 16th out of 18 comparable districts, with differentials between pay and benefits in Berkeley and pay in other Districts reaching as much as an $8,000/year difference.
What will the BERRA Measure of 2020 provide?
Additional funding is needed to provide competitive compensation, and build more pathways for both classified and certificated staff toward increased professional development, so that our students are supported by a stable team of highly qualified professionals.
The full text of the BERRA Measure is found here. Modeled on successful measures in other local districts, the Berkeley measure has two components:
Educator Compensation: Ninety-five percent (95%) of the Available Revenues shall be dedicated to supplementing the salaries of District Educators in order to attract and retain high quality personnel* to support student achievement.
Educator Recruitment, Retention and Development Programs: Five percent (5%) of the Available Revenues shall be dedicated to providing programs designed to strengthen recruitment, retention and development strategies for certificated and classified District personnel, especially in hard-to-fill positions.
How Do Other School Districts Solve this Problem?
Looking at the school districts with higher compensation, they have freed up funds through some combination of much higher class sizes, and/or “concentration funding” from the state (which BUSD does not qualify for based on our demographics), and/or local special taxes that specifically address educator compensation.
Why doesn’t BUSD get enough funding from the State to address this?
BUSD qualifies for “supplemental funding” due to our demographics, but not for “concentration” funding. Even with that higher state funding, school districts are still nowhere near the level of funding that California public schools enjoyed prior to the passage of Proposition 13.
Most of the funding for our schools comes from the state of California, which, despite some increases in funding in recent years, has only lifted our state from being ranked from #43 out of 50 states to #37 (when adjusted for cost of living).
Aren’t Budget Cuts the Solution?
The Berkeley School Board looked for a solution other than taxes to address educator recruitment and retention. The School Board has been advocating for full and fair funding from the state, and has also enacted significant budget cuts for the District.
Over the past two years, budget cuts to the General Fund have totaled nearly $4 Million, and it is likely that further budget cuts will be needed just to be able to maintain essential programs.
Cost cutting has been kept as far away as possible from the classroom experience of our students, but additional cuts to the General Fund would be not possible at a level sufficient to address the compensation issue without a severe impact on the quality of educational programs. The approach taken by other districts to solve the problem locally, appears at this time to be the only recourse.
What Is The Amount Needed to Achieve the Goal of Better Compensation?
The funding necessary to bring educator compensation toward the average of local districts is on the order of $9.5 Million. While that is a large sum for the District budget, when spread across the commercial and residential taxpayers of Berkeley, that amount can be raised through a 12.4 cents/square foot tax, or about $186 for a 1500/sf home. Voter polls conducted in May and September of 2019 indicated very strong support for this measure among taxpayers.
How is this tax different from BSEP? Can’t BUSD just use the BSEP money to pay everyone more?
The Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) was first passed by Berkeley voters in 1986 as a response to school funding shortages in the wake of Proposition 13. It currently provides almost 20% of the funding for the Berkeley Public Schools.
The BSEP funds must be spent only on the purposes of the BSEP Measure of 2016, which includes providing many of the programs that Berkeley schools are renowned for, including lower class sizes, school libraries, support for struggling students such as literacy coaches, counselors, and before and afterschool programs, music programs, instructional technology, and more. The funds cannot be repurposed
Does this Measure Include Exemptions for Taxpayers?
Under the law, parcel taxes levied by school districts are not required to include exemptions, but have the option of offering rebates to certain taxpayers. The BSEP and Maintenance tax measures have always offered an exemption to non-profit organizations and to very low-income seniors. Due to the way the legislation is written for school districts, it is not possible to expand the exemption to all very-low income taxpayers, only to seniors who are very low income. However, it is possible to provide the exemption to taxpayers, regardless of age, who rely on income from SSDI or SSI. With this new tax, the exemptions have been expanded to a greater number of taxpayers, so that non-profit organizations, very low income seniors, and taxpayers who rely on income from SSDI or SSI sources are all exempt.
How will Expenditures be Monitored?
The funds are kept in a separate fund/resource account and monitored through audits and through reports to an oversight committee. If the measure passes in March, discussions will begin with the BSEP Planning and Oversight committee, with representatives from every school site, regularly reviews and discusses all BSEP plans, budgets and reports. This committee has a long history of careful oversight, and is open to the public. There are also independent external auditors who review the expenditures to ensure that funds are spent and accounted for in accordance with the terms of the measure.
How Much Money will be Provided by BERRA, and How Will it be Used?
The current projections are that the funds would provide about $10 million beginning in 2020-21. After fees paid to the city and county for tax collection, and a reserve for rebates and audit expenses, about $9.49 million will be available to the District.
95% of the available funds will be put into a special fund in the District reserved for providing salary increases for certificated and classified educators. These revenues may not be used for compensation of a Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Co-Superintendent, Associate Superintendent(s), or Assistant Superintendent. The remaining 5%, or approximately $470,000 per year, will be used for programs to improve pathways to educator recruitment and development in hard to fill areas.
Why is the BERRA Measure on the Ballot for March 2020? Why are there two taxes and a bond on the Ballot at the Same time?
The District is placing two parcel taxes on the ballot at the same time because the need for revenue to address recruitment and retention is urgent (Measure E), and the alternative would be to place the second measure, the renewal of the maintenance tax (Measure H) on a later ballot, together with the school Bond measure. Placing measures on separate ballots comes at an increased cost to the District, which means a further reduction to the General Fund, which provides most of the funding for personnel and programs.
In addition to the increased cost of placing items on separate ballots, having one tax on the ballot in March and then another one eight months later could be confusing, and a poor use of voter and district focus. The thought is that it is fairer to let the taxpayers know at the same time what high quality public schools need – strong and modernized facilities, attention to maintaining schools in good condition, and a strong and stable workforce to educate and serve our students.
Where can I learn more about BERRA?
If BERRA is approved by the voters, public oversight meetings will be posted on the BUSD website. You can also sign up for the A+ News, which sends out regular reminders of BUSD public meetings.