Here they come again! Yup, most school districts in California are mulling the prospect of putting MORE local school bonds on the 2020 ballot. Lots more.
Are you thinking that you need not worry because your school district recently passed a school bond that’s already costing you hundreds of dollars a year? Doesn’t work that way. The new push will be to have two, three or more bond measures in place for a school district — each one dinging your property tax bill annually so that you pay your “fair share.” In short, if voters will pass such bonds, they WILL be on the ballot.
Moreover, “need” is not a factor. The only important consideration is whether or not the electorate will PASS the bond. With school bonds now requiring only a 55% majority (thanks, California voters), almost all such bonds will pass — regardless of “need.” The only bonds that will have some difficulty are in the rural areas where a significant number of sane people reside.
In this day and age, EVERY CA school bond is for pensions. EVERY one. Pension obligations (and pay increases) are gobbling up more and more of school budgets. Employee costs in the San Diego Unified School district recently have EXCEEDED the entire district school budget. But not one bond measure will tell you that. Seldom will the press reveal this fact.
Instead the bond proponents will list capital improvements and even MAINTENANCE costs as the reasons the bonds must be passed. School budgets are to be spent for the benefit of the district employees. Everything else is being fobbed off on local taxpayers.
There are many reason to oppose such bonds. MOST important — we already pay high taxes in CA — there’s PLENTY of money to provide a quality education in the Golden State — if the money is prudently spent.
In addition, almost all school districts’ student populations have been essentially flat since 2000. Indeed, a number of districts have FEWER students today than they did at the turn of the century. This fact is never mentioned.
NOW ABOUT THE MEDIA BIAS: Below is a TYPICAL media write-up of a proposed bond measure. It was in my U-T paper today.
Not one U-T editor would consider such a story to be biased. Yet every such “news” story is really a one-sided sales pitch for the bonds.
Let me summarize the bias of the story. There are 20 paragraphs in the article. Six are straight facts. The other 14 paragraphs are presenting favorable aspects of the district’s past and proposed school bonds. All the sources quoted are involved in passing a new school bond. It’s not blatant bias to most folks, but it’s pervasive in all such articles. Much of it relates to the unspoken press policy of “deference to authority.” After all, the bureaucrats and politicians are the “experts” who tell us what we need to know.
ZERO reasons are presented in this article as to why one might oppose the bond. No opposition sources are cited, let alone quoted.
To be fair, some such stories DO include a token paragraph or two quoting the opposition, or presenting a negative fact. My general experience over time is that such stories run from 22 to 28 paragraphs. The number of paragraphs with anything remotely negative to say about the bonds vary from 0 two 3 paragraphs. This is considered objective reporting by MOST media — MSM or local — print or electronic.
Occasionally the media will do a story on what organized opposition to such bonds have to say. But even then, at least 40% of such an article quotes the bonds’ proponents as well.
BTW, that’s what responsible journalists WOULD do — seek out countering viewpoints. But in the real world, that happens when opponents to bonds generate a story.
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE
If passed, measure would secure funds for campus upgrades
Escondido school officials are debating whether to float a bond measure that would continue a series of upgrades to the district’s aging campuses.
The district engaged the consulting firm True North to survey likely voters about support for a school bond measure that could be placed on the ballot next year, either during the March primary election or the November general election.
About 58 percent of likely voters favored a potential school bond measure, while 30 percent opposed it, and 11 percent were unsure. That suggests a reasonable possibility of passing the bond, said Timothy McLarney, president of True North.
“For a bond measure to be successful, you need 55 percent,” he said.
The new measure would build upon work that began with Proposition E, the the $182 million bond program that voters passed in 2014 to improve safety, technology and infrastructure at the district’s 23 campuses. That measure addressed the most urgent problems in the district, which runs public elementary and middle schools in Escondido.
Since Escondido voters approved Proposition E, the district has installed security fences, added wireless technology, and fixed campus flooding at Orange Glen Elementary School. Last year, it renovated one of its oldest schools, Central Elementary School, in downtown Escondido, adding new kindergarten and preschool classrooms, a parent center, and perimeter fencing.
Mission Middle School got a new, two-story math and science building. Quantum Academy, an intermediate school, received three new classrooms and other amenities. And Del Dios Academy of Arts and Sciences is undergoing modernization.
The district still hopes to build another two-story building at Mission Middle, launch a second phase of improvements at Del Dios Academy, and finalize upgrades at Orange Glen Elementary and Central Elementary Schools.
To continue that work, the district considered placing a bond measure on the midterm ballot last year, but concluded there was not enough voter support to pass it at that time. This year, they decided to revisit a possible ballot item for the 2020 elections, and commissioned the survey as a barometer of voter interest.
Public education was cited as the highest spending priority among survey respondents, though they ranked repairing and upgrading aging school facilities as a lower priority, McLarney said.
“The number one issue with your voters was improving the quality of education,” he said. “At the end of the day, voters care less about buildings and facilities than what happens in those buildings and facilities.”
To connect school infrastructure to educational quality, he said, school officials would have to communicate how new and upgraded structures would improve learning outcomes. Items that resonated most with voters included the issue of equity between older and newer schools, the opportunity to advance science and technical education, and the need to keep up with basic maintenance, McLarney said.
“STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is wildly popular with voters,” he said. “They like the idea of investing in that.”
Voters also favored basic facilities repairs to keep existing schools in working order, he said.
“This isn’t the sexiest thing, but it’s something voters understand,” he said. “If you have older buildings, you have to take care of your roofs.”
Passing multiple bond measures on short order is not typical, but it isn’t without precedent. For instance, Grossmont Union High School District passed three bond measures totaling $819 million in 2004, 2008 and 2016. And San Diego Unified School District passed a $2.1 billion bond measure in 2008, followed by a $2.8 billion bond measure in 2012.