Wake of $400 Million Measure J:
Why Couldn't Alternatives To Building A New School Have Been Investigated?
If you talk with educators from anywhere outside Emeryville about the steps needed to effectively improve student academic performance, topping the list will always be the same two items: smaller class size and attracting better teachers. Way down the list will appear new school facilities. This wisdom is universal, yet here in Emeryville were going to do the thing that's way down the list, not the things on the top of the list.
We're going to build a new school, and ironically that will stop us from improving academic acheivement by killing any chance of hiring more and better teachers.
The two most effective ways to improve schools can only be achieved by spending money on teachers and that can only be done by the citizens electing to tax themselves more. A new parcel tax could provide the money needed to help hire more and better teachers but in the wake of the recently passed $400 million Measure J Emeryville bond initiative, it's highly unlikely that Emeryville citizens will be up for another tax for the schools anytime soon. After the existing parcel tax voters approved a few years ago and then the Measure J mandated new school building, the public's good will has probably reached its limit.
Unfortunately, the Emeryville power elite didn't allow differing ideas that might have averted this absurdity. All the high minded talk from the city council and the school board about improving education and doing right by the children didn't leave room for this critical dissenting view: How about if we try the two ways at the top of the list that have been shown to most effectively improve student achievement? Instead, the forces that wanted to build a shiny new edifice stopped any such debate and the city marched headlong into committing to build a new facility. Those with dissenting views were literally not permitted to gain any position of decision making power, and groupthink replaced debate.
Educators Guide On How To Improve Academic Achievement:
- Smaller class size
- Hire quality teachers
- Something else
- Another thing
- Build a new school facility
It's easy to see how this happened. The city council, with its ossified 25 year, ready for retirement majority, wanted a "legacy project", a grand edifice on which they can hang a prominent bronze plaque extolling their virtues. Let's face it; building a beautiful new civic building is sexier than the quiet and humble work of hiring more and better teachers and let's face it; there's no way to hang a bronze plaque on the hiring of teachers.
All this is now water over the dam. We've set our course and building a new school is what it's going to be. The incessant Measure J campaign noted that the new school will help attract qualified teachers and there's no doubt some truth in that. Many teachers will likely appreciate working in the new facility. But it's not as effective an attractant as better pay is. Not nearly so. We may get some improved ability to attract better teachers but at a cost of $400 million to the Emeryville taxpayers, it's inefficient in the extreme. It's a bad deal all around.
Be it in national politics or local, the public can always benefit by applying a healthy dose of scepticism whenever moneyed interests or the power hungry propose grand schemes, ostensibly set up for public benefit. A sceptic might question if there are hidden agendas at play whenever large amounts of public money are flashing around. With the entire power elite in the tank for Measure J, Emeryville could have benefited by a little scepticism from the residents.
This unfortunately is all academic, so to speak, for there's no turning back now. All we can do at this point is to hope against hope there will be a strong uptick in academic achievement for our sub par little school district. Since we've torpedoed our best options, hope is all we now have.