Measure Z Aims to Boost School District Funding for Teachers and Programs

(Kristina Plackter, Photographer)
Measure Z, on a special ballot in March, is projected to provide $2 million dollars a year for salaries in district schools that will help attract and retain teachers. Pictured is Laurel Chee teaching her second/third grade combination class at Wagner Elementary School.

    Orinda Union School District (OUSD) seeks to supplement funding for its schools through a new parcel tax. Measure Z is on the March ballot which, if approved, will cost property owners $295 a year per parcel, for seven years. No opposition measure was filed, according to campaign chair and former OUSD Board of Trustees member Liz Daoust.
    This is the only item on the ballot.
    According to former OUSD Board member, Jason Kaune, “We were looking at a community vote an entire cycle ago, but the pandemic put us behind our timeline. Emergency funding from the state took pressure from our budget short-term, but we felt we should act as a board before the turnover of three new board members, given we had promised to act.
    “The focus on the November ballot was on our three new members.”
    Measure Z is projected to provide $2 million dollars a year for district schools and will help attract and retain teachers and staff, support academic programs and keep class sizes small. None of the measure’s revenue could go to administrative salaries and would instead be focused on students and teachers, said Daoust.
    Daoust described classroom teachers as “the most powerful force in terms of shaping [students’] academic experience.”
    Most of the district’s budget supports its teachers and school employees, yet they remain among the lowest paid in the surrounding area.
    Why Orinda Schools Get So Little State Funding
    School districts and charter schools within California are subject to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), enacted in 2013-14. It replaced the previous 40-year-old K-12 finance system, as explained by the California Department of Education.
    The new formula is designed to offer greater flexibility for usage of funding.
    “To ensure transparency and accountability, LCFF requires school districts to engage with families, teachers, students and community members to develop goals and actions for using state funds to improve student outcomes,” said Janet Weeks, director of communications for the California State Board of Education.
    The LCFF system consists of uniform base grants to schools, which are calculated on grade spans of students, such as kindergarten through grade three and grades nine through 12. These are then multiplied by units of average daily attendance.
    Included in LCFF are grade-span adjustments in funding. They are based on class enrollment, supplemental grants offered to targeted disadvantaged students and concentration grants for school districts or charters with more than 55% of pupils qualifying as the targeted population.
    Targeted disadvantaged students are defined as unduplicated English learners, students who meet income requirements to receive free or reduced-price meals, foster youth or any combination of these.
    Allowances for small schools which are geographically isolated and which replace base grants and add-on funding concerning home-to-school transportation and targeted instructional improvement block grants, are also included in the LCFF entitlement.
    Funding is also available for local educational agencies that would have, based on what the department of education calls certain assumptions, received more under the previous finance system. Additional state aid, based on amounts received by schools in 2012-13, is another part of the LCFF formula.
    Most of OUSD’s school funding comes from the state LCFF formula. Given its low percentage of unduplicated targeted students, this translates to a per-student funding rate which puts OUSD in the bottom 10 out of 1,021 school districts in California.
    “We’re actually one of the lowest funded districts in the state,” said Daoust. “Measure Z is really designed for our teachers and to keep great teachers in Orinda.”
    Orinda Parents, Community Raise Funds to Support Local Schools
    Orinda Network for Education (ONE), which aims to unite Orinda’s stakeholders for the sake of quality educational programs and staff, raises approximately $5 million each year from parent and community donations, according to OUSD.
    ONE’s board of directors voted unanimously in support of Measure Z, said President Brian Rogers, and believes the new tax is necessary to help attract the very best teachers to the district, as well as retain the outstanding teachers OUSD currently has.
    “ONE realizes this puts an extra financial burden on property owners in Orinda,” said Rogers. “But we believe everyone should look at Measure Z as an investment in the Orinda community that has numerous benefits for our students, teachers and community.”
    Aside from teachers and school programs, “Great schools make Orinda attractive to young families,” said Charles Heath, an OUSD parent and Orinda homeowner. “This creates demand for our homes, which keeps property values strong,” said Heath.
    Measure Z cannot be renewed without voter-approval and offers exemptions to homeowners 65 and over, as well as to low-income homeowners with disabilities who qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Forms for Measure Z exemptions can be found on the OUSD website, on the Parcel Tax Measure Z webpage.
    While there are grumblings on local social media outlets about the timing and cost of the special ballot and accountability for monies spent, no posters who were contacted by The Orinda News responded with opinions opposing or questioning the measure.
    The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association also did not respond to requests for a comment about the measure.

Andrea Madison can be reached at

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