Say yes to Measure A, for kids’ health

By April 18, 2011

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

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