The San Mateo City Council voted last night 3-2 to stay neutral on the $130 million bond Measure P for facility upgrades in the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District after being urged not to endorse it by the city’s mayor and deputy mayor.
The council listened to a packed house of residents from both cities, most urging it not to endorse the measure, before Councilwoman Maureen Freschet offered a motion that the council stay neutral on the ballot measure despite arguments that the bond was not equitable to San Mateo’s poorer, mostly Hispanic students.
Funds from Measure P will also go toward reopening Knolls Elementary School in San Mateo and for technology for all students in the district and a solar initiative.
About $62 million, or 48 percent, of the bond will go toward a rebuild of Bowditch Middle School in Foster City if voters in both cities approve the measure in November.
Both San Mateo Mayor David Lim and Deputy Mayor Robert Ross, however, posed lengthy arguments before the vote was made as to why it was not fair for students in San Mateo.
Lim and Ross oppose the measure, in part, because all seven members of the Superintendent’s Committee on Overcrowding Relief had Foster City’s interests in mind since no one from San Mateo sat on the committee.
The two also argued that the bond does not address equal access to a quality education since San Mateo has an average population of 31 percent low-income students compared to only 4 percent low-income students in Foster City.
Lim said it is a social justice issue and that a spotlight needs to be shined on the “grave inequities between the haves and have nots.”
The district is seeking to expand capacity at Bowditch Middle School in Foster City to accommodate all of the city’s fifth graders since its three elementary schools are at capacity.
Other facility improvements include $18 million to upgrade and reopen Knolls Elementary School in San Mateo; $18 million to install solar panels on school district property; $30 million to provide for core standards improvements, including the upgrade of technology for students throughout the district; and $2 million for undetermined needs.
Lim said he initially had support for the bond until he started asking questions that neither the district nor the bond’s supporters could sufficiently answer.
The district’s Superintendent Cynthia Simms told the council last night that an opportunity would be lost to address equity issues between students in both cities without first adding capacity to Bowditch.
Even Supervisor Dave Pine, who does not live in the district, showed up late to the meeting to urge the council not to vote against endorsing Measure P.
Freschet said the matter should be left up to the voters to decide and was supported by councilmen Jack Matthews and Brandt Grotte.
Matthews told bond supporters that perhaps asking for the council’s endorsement “was not the best idea.”
If passed, property owners will pay $19 per $100,000 of assessed property value annually to pay off the bond.
The district still has $70 million remaining in Measure L funds that was approved by district voters in 2008.
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