A lot of lip service is paid to education these days. Most Joes on the street will tell you that education must be our top priority. Our children are our future, they say. That's where we should be spending our hard-earned cash.
On June 4 Coastsiders will have the opportunity to do more than talk. Voters will be asked to weigh in on Measure K, a $35 million school facilities bond measure put forth by the Cabrillo Unified School District. The money would pay for repairs, deferred maintenance or improvements at every one of the district's six campuses. We recommend a yes vote. Although the bond will cost the average homeowner $114 a year _ more than pocket change _ we think it would be money well-spent.
It is a bit of cruel irony that despite possessing one of the country's most diverse and largest economies, California ranks a lowly 42nd among other states in per student spending at $4,724. There is no single explanation for this sad state of affairs, although much of the blame certainly sits with Gov. Wilson and the state Legislature.
What is more pitiful, the Cabrillo district spends $4,242 per student, about $500 less than the state average. That falls just between students in Alabama and Oklahoma, the 45th and 46th ranked states.
Measure K would not completely turn that around. But it would allow district officials to pull themselves out of the hole in which they now find themselves after putting off maintenance and repairs to district buildings for years while trying to shuttle state-provided money toward actual programs.
The repair list at local schools is extensive. During the largest of the winter storms that buffeted the Coastside this winter, Cabrillo officials counted 32 separate roof leaks at local schools and there is extensive dry rot in the roofs at Half Moon Bay High School.
There are sewer problems, non-existent intercom systems, warped gym floors and broken showers. The list goes on.
But the most persuasive argument in support of Measure K is not facility repairs, but space, or more precisely, the lack of it in district buildings.
Cabrillo currently has an enrollment of 3,629 students. As a growing number of pre-school and elementary school students work their way through the district, that number is projected to balloon to 5,521 by the year 2010. District facilities have a capacity of only 4,170 students. Something must give.
Trustees have proposed the bond with this in mind. In addition to the repairs, the bond would fund the conversion of Cunha to an elementary school, the construction of a new middle school, and the expansion of Half Moon Bay High School.
Both Half Moon Bay Mayor Debbie Ruddock and Councilwoman Naomi Patridge, usually at different ends of the political spectrum, have signed on as Measure K supporters, which luckily spares Coastside residents the political circus that could have erupted around the issue.
There are, however, arguments against Measure K, perhaps the most valid being that the district should direct its efforts toward educational programs rather than "sparkling new buildings." That argument, however, would be more valid if that is indeed what was being proposed, but it isn't. We think the district is right in moving ahead with its facilities problem, a problem that only promises to worsen if ignored.
Another frequently heard argument against the bond is that past district administrations have mismanaged local schools. Never mind that every member of the current Cabrillo Board of Trustees post-dates those days. These voters seem to think they can somehow punish former board members by turning down a chance to improve district schools. That would be misdirected.
Voting no on the bond will do little more than keep local schools in the same sorry condition, shortchanging students for old grudges. And the bond is not a blank check. By law, it may only be used for district facilities. A citizen review board will be created to oversee expenditures.
These days it seems like everyone is having trouble making ends meet, governments and citizens alike, and we are concerned what effect the bond would have on local seniors and those with fixed incomes. But if we value education it will mean doing what our leaders can't or won't do. Residents should realize that there's no white knight riding into town from Sacramento in the foreseeable future as a savior for local schools. If you want to see improvement for local kids _ namely better facilities _ then it will take a commitment. That will involve reaching into your own pocket.
In November let those politicians who choose to fund prisons instead of schools know how you feel. In the meantime, vote yes on K.
-Half Moon Bay Review