Thursday, April 17, 2014

Say yes to Measure A, for kids’ health

By Kathy Glatter

As the parent of two schoolchildren, I support Measure A. Coming here 10 years ago as newlyweds, we had bought our first house here and then had two little boys. We’ve come to love the easy bike paths and family-friendly atmosphere of Davis.

My kids’ school, North Davis Elementary, is a fantastic school, like all of the public schools here. NDE does mega fundraising year-round. Several years of severe budget cuts have forced the school into a bare-bones, survival mode.

Led by the NDE PTA, we do box tops (where you cut coupons), E-Scrips, recycle the leftover garbage from lunchtime, and sell gift-wrapping paper, all to make a buck for the school. NDE does a fun run, a golf tournament, a pancake breakfast, and of course, the yearly auction, all to raise money.

These “little” fundraising activities have come to be relied upon to replace critical funds. Our auction involved 100 parents collecting more than 300 items. Importantly, all of the Davis public schools are forced to do just this type of aggressive fundraising.

“Aren’t there wasteful programs NDE can cut and save money?” you probably ask. No, there aren’t. There have been too many lean budget years to allow any fiscal excess.

My second-grader has a weekly, 30-minute art class. The “art teacher” is a retired, elderly art teacher/artist who volunteers her time. She comes with a trundlebox of supplies that she donates. Sometimes the PTA kicks in donated money.

That is my son’s art class. If it were not for her kindness, he would have no art class at all. The school eliminated the physical education program due to budget cuts. However, a parent rose up, and others followed. She created our excellent NDE P.E. program, which won an award at the state level.

Our PTA funds the P.E. program from donations. My son has two, 30-minute P.E. periods weekly; the “P.E. teachers” are usually parent helpers or UC Davis/Davis High School students who volunteer.

As a cardiologist concerned about childhood obesity, this lack of P.E. programming really bothers me. Obese children become obese adults, and future cardiac patients in my cardiology clinic. Although I welcome job security, having so many overweight children creates enormous, long-term health problems for our society.

I volunteer each week in my son’s second-grade math class. The kids are so enthusiastic; they call me “Miss Kathy.” It’s the highlight of my work week. I’m shocked at how well-behaved they are (even my son); they sit quietly on the carpet, all 25 of them.

The teacher is a dream, like an educated, magical version of Mary Poppins. Still, they are little kids. They wiggle and jiggle and giggle. They pick their noses and untie their neighbors’ shoes.

Without the renewal of Measure A, the current K-3 class size will rise from 25 to 30 kids. A year ago, the size was at 20 kids (so a 50 percent rise). In the end, the teacher is largely doing crowd control. At some point, you have jammed too many little people into a room to teach effectively.

If Measure A fails, the junior highs will lose their final class period, thereby curtailing electives (like music, art and foreign languages) and probably releasing the kids an hour earlier from school each day.

Measure A funnels $3.2 million directly into our Davis schools. There is no way that our PTA can replace that much lost money. Please join me in supporting our Davis community through Measure A.

— Kathy Glatter, M.D., is a cardiologist and Davis resident

Special to The Enterprise


Discussion | 3 comments

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  • Bob FryApril 19, 2011 - 2:58 pm

    Gosh. Here we go again with more dire predictions should Measure A not fail. Now, if you vote against Measure A you're voting for heart disease, obesity, and early death. I'm fairly certain that a cardiologist in North Davis can easily afford the $200 extra. Unfortunately, other home owners less well off might not be able to. A flat parcel tax is about as regressive a tax as one can dream up...but the proponents of these fixed-amount taxes don't seem concerned about that. It's fine to be progressive but don't let that get in the way of me getting what I want. And what about the out-of-town kids who come here? No extra tax for their parents...let the Davis suckers pay for it. We already have two "temporary" parcel taxes just for schools...and other parcel taxes to pay for other things we like. The DJUSD hasn't shown this third regressive and unfair tax is needed...but they sure do want it. Meanwhile they've carelessly used funds to pay for two superintendent salaries, let former farmland lie fallow (Harper JH land), and handle important personnel matters in a cavalier manner, and shut down schools while building new ones. Vote NO on Measure A. It's not needed. Its failure will send a signal to the Board and others in the community that they don't seem to receive any other way: that not everybody in Davis is rich, and not everybody is willing to accept unfair taxes without end.

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  • wdf1April 19, 2011 - 5:23 pm

    Out of town kids attend on a "standby" basis. If there's room, they'll be seated. They are given any space once the classrooms are staffed. The teachers are already paid for in this case, and any extra students happen to bring in extra revenue from the state. As with airlines, the standby option allows the business to operate more efficiently. I'm sure you'd want the district to operate more efficiently. Of course the district won't fall apart catastrophically. Your comments in this regard are usually far more exaggerated than the comments you criticize. But not all kids will be adequately served without this, and sometimes it's surprising who that ends up being -- your kid, your neighbors kid, someone else you know in town. You'd think you can do away with this for a couple of years to save money, but we all end up paying more going forward in repairing those deficiencies of service. A good education is cheaper than the alternatives.

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  • Mark JonssonApril 19, 2011 - 4:25 pm

    There is no need to send any message to the School Board with a negative vote. They get plenty of feedback already, and are just trying to solve a major problem the best way they can. There are many reasons why Davis kids have higher test scores and higher admission rates to college then most other California school districts, but an important part of this success is the support this unique community provides by providing additional revenue. Of all the things this community spends money on (toad tunnels etc.) this is probably one of the few things that actually makes sense. I know this is not an easy or fair financial burden for everyone, but it's one worth trying to bear. Strong schools increase the value of our neighborhoods, and the value of living iin Davis, and that makes us all better off.

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