Proponents of a $265 million bond measure say it will help address overcrowding and enrollment growth in the Sequoia Union High School District, while opposition says this is the wrong way to approach spending.
A facilities task force recommended the bond that will generate an approximate $16 per $100,000 tax rate based on current interest bonds to allow for two small schools of 300 to 400 students and for six additional classrooms to Menlo-Atherton High School. Godbe Research completed a voter survey regarding a potential measure to support the district’s four comprehensive high schools and alternative high school programs. The results showed strong support for a measure, reaching 68.4 percent for a simulated June election. Support was generally consistent in the school district regions that feed into the high school district. Measure A requires a 55 percent yes vote on this June 3 ballot item.
The argument in favor states “to ensure that our local schools continue offering a challenging, varied and top-quality curriculum as student enrollment grows, Measure A is critical now.” It’s signed by bond co-chair Julia Horak, Redwood City Councilwoman Alicia Aguirre, Belmont City Treasurer John Violet, San Carlos resident Linda Teutschel, Deborah Stipek, dean of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, and district alumnus Steve Westly, former California controller.
A demographic study indicates the district is projected to grow starting in the 2014-15 school year, reaching more than 10,000 students by 2020-21. Projections indicate that the district will reach 10,056 students by 2020-21. These projections are based in part on partner elementary district growth. Enrollment in the partner districts started to grow in 2006-07 from 22,893 students and reached 24,653 students in 2012-13.
“Our high performing high schools have drawn families to our communities, causing a surge in student enrollment,” the argument goes on to state. “Measure A will avoid school overcrowding, help protect our high schools’ diverse curriculum and ensure students can enroll in the classes they require.”
“For me it’s really important to support public education,” said Horak, who lives in San Carlos and has a seventh- and eighth-grader. “The most important part is that our school district is growing rapidly. We all know it’s a great place to live, and we have great schools. We know that the kids are coming and we need to continue to support our fantastic science and technology programs.”
She noted it’s important to teach kids in state-of-the-art classrooms.
In contrast, the rebuttal, written by Mark Hinkle, president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, states the district is spending irresponsibly.
“When school boards put bond measures like Measure A before the voters, they are admitting that everything they are spending your tax dollars on now is more important than the projects for which this tax increase is being sought,” he wrote. “Budgets show us priorities. The Sequoia Union High School District says they want ‘to avoid overcrowding, provide updated classroom technology, labs,’ etc., but are those priorities in their current budget? … No.”
It goes on to state the district already had a $165 million bond measure in 2008 that was supposed to take care of technology funds for 10 years. Additionally, it notes most people would not pay for a computer class or laptop with a 25-year loan. It states buildings shouldn’t be updated every 10 years with a 25-year bond and that the district’s spending is 141 percent more per student than the statewide average. Teachers in the district make an average of $81,674 per year versus the statewide average of $72,962 per year, it states.
“That a school district would pay off a computer or router that’s going to be obsolete in five years with a mortgage seems like an insane type of thing that individuals would never do,” Hinkle said. “It’s $265 million plus 25 years of interest. Money should be spent on maintenance and upkeep.”
In rebuttal to Hinkle’s statements, the pro side wrote “this rigid ideologue — who doesn’t even live in our community — has filed an argument against every school measure on the ballot in every recent major election.” It goes on to state that currently each of the comprehensive high schools is at or near capacity.
“Science and 21st century technological skills are essential for success in today’s competitive economy,” it states. “Measure A provides additional science labs and updated technology to prepare students for the modern workplace. … By making our local high schools a priority, our entire community benefits. Good schools improve neighborhood safety and strengthen property values.”
The argument in favor also addresses fiscal accountability, noting the funds can’t be taken by the state; no funds can be used for administrators’ salaries; and the measure would qualify the district’s schools for future state matching funds and citizen oversight and annual audits are required to ensure all funds are used for voter-approved purposes.
For more on the measure visit shapethefuture.org.
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