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The Whiteboard Jungle: Burbank Unified could use more support from community

Thanksgiving came early in Burbank and Glendale last week, courtesy of the majority of voters who said “yes” to increasing the sales tax from 9.5% to 10.25% in both communities, the maximum amount allowable in California.

In the midterm election, 60.71% of Burbank voters passed Measure P; 53.45% of Glendale voters passed Measure S. Both initiatives deal with spending on infrastructure and city services.

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However, the most curious election result was Burbank Unified School District’s Measure QS, which did not pass despite garnering more votes than Measure P, 61.68%. So why did the measure with the most votes fail?

Because Measures S and P were sales tax increases needing a simple majority to pass, whereas Measure QS was a parcel tax requiring a two-thirds majority to go into effect.

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The average annual property tax hike for homeowners would have been $170, or $14 a month or less than 50 cents a day.

It failed by 1,928 votes. And so has the city in supporting its schools and students.

Pasadena solved the dilemma of raising revenue for schools by foregoing the parcel tax route, asking voters to support a similar sales tax boost but with a supporting advisory vote that one-third of the money go to schools.

The result? Measure I, the sales tax increase, passed (67.685%), and Measure J, the advisory vote, passed even higher (70.43%).

Mayor Terry Tornek told Pasadena Star-News reporter Chris Lindahl that he interprets the advisory vote “as a mandate by voters and would spearhead the transfer.”

Evidently Pasadena’s city council and school board believe in working together, unlike those bodies in Burbank.

While the city of Burbank likes to boast about the quality of its schools, it isn’t willing to back them up when it counts.

Burbank Leader reporter Andrew J. Campa reported that in L.A. County, Burbank Unified ranks “46th, or dead last, in spending, the smallest total gross dollars for raises for credentialed teachers over the past three years.”

How much longer will Burbank teachers leave the district for literally greener pastures?

Take a look at the starting salaries of Burbank Unified compared to Long Beach Unified.

In Long Beach, a new teacher can automatically earn 16% more than a teacher in Burbank doing the same job: $58,271 compared to $50,647. No wonder some teachers have departed.

News flash: If excellent teachers leave Burbank, then the quality of its schools leaves as well.

Since the “yes” votes for both Measures P and QS were close in number, one could assume the same group of people who desire improved city services also desire improved city schools.

Why not ask the nearly 62% of Burbank citizens who voted for QS to donate $170 to Burbank Unified? It would serve as a tax deduction as well.

I shared this idea with Amy Kamm, vice president of communications for the Burbank Educational Foundation, and that’s exactly the social media campaign already under way. The public would be ensured that their donation would “impact as many programs as possible which will reach as many students as possible.”

If all 16,354 citizens who voted for QS donated $170, that would generate $2.78 million. While not the $9 million they were counting on, a significant amount nonetheless.

Earlier this year a handful of potholes in Burbank were repaired by Domino’s Pizza via its “Paving for Pizza” national campaign. Where is the corporation who can shore up the financial potholes in BUSD’s budget? Nickelodeon, Warner Bros., Disney — any takers?

Brian Crosby is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of “Smart Kids, Bad Schools” and “The $100,000 Teacher.” He can be reached at www.brian-crosby.com.

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