I’ve never voted against an education funding measure before even when I had to put a clothespin on my nose as I did for the the last bond measure just 2 years ago. I’m tired of being a sucker, so this time I’m actually voting no on measure E, the newest bond measure. (For an overview of the overall bond program, check out this posting.)

There Has to Be a Good Reason for It

Why? I think there should actually be a reason to pass what is ultimately another tax. The only reason for this bond measure is the extra likelihood that a 55% bond will pass in a presidential election with Obama on the ballot. That’s it. No need, just an electoral opportunity.

No Public Discussion of Need for Bond

I’m on the bond oversight committee, and I’ve attended many school board meetings. I’ve never been aware of any discussion about some compelling need for a new bond. This came out of the blue…at least for the public. After all, we just passed bond #5 for $380 million in 2010.

Need for Operational Funds

What has been endlessly discussed is the need for more funding of school operations, like reducing class sizes. Although we have a parcel tax for this, I don’t think it’s enough.

Classroom Funding versus Construction Funding

That’s why in July people at a school board public hearing at Harding pleaded for not going for another bond measure till an enhanced parcel tax could be passed this year or the next. This plea seemed to work as the school board voted for a parcel-tax-only survey, but then Charles Ramsey bought his own hurried survey (from the same company) and later dragooned the board into supporting his plan for a new bond and just an extension of the parcel tax beyond 2014. (This bond is almost a complete copy of the previous bond ballot language. After all, it worked the last time!) Anyway, an additional reason to vote against the bond measure is that it significantly decreases the chances of passing a parcel tax increase later if needed.

Time to Stop and Look Comprehensively at the WCCUSD Construction Program

Before passing another bond measure, people in the district need to step back and take a close look at our school construction plan outside of the electoral context considering these questions:

  1. Why isn’t there a real master plan? There is a nominal plan published in 2007, but nothing nominal or otherwise since. How can we spend all these millions without such a plan.
  2. Why are the project lists so disorganized and hard to follow? Part of the legitimacy of these bonds is the idea that voters know what they’re voting for and oversight committees and auditors have something concrete to use to evaluate bond expenditures. This hasn’t been the case for the last bond and the proposed new bond.
  3. Why do we pay so much more in school bond taxes than other communities including districts like Berkeley and Piedmont? Months ago, I did an analysis of the tax rates for Contra Costa and Northern Alameda. Although this was based on the tax rates available then, I don’t think the relative positions have changed that much.
  4. Schools that were to be closed have received a reprieve. Part of the marketing of the bond has been to redo these schools. The public needs a chance to look at all the extra net costs, both operational and construction, for keeping these schools open and then judge whether it’s worth it, given the complete cost picture from both sides.
  5. This is tied to the master plan, but it can be a separate question. When is this going to end? I don’t mean forever, but at least a respite of 10 or more years.