It is heartening to know that since the inception of our local school system in 1866, the Santa Barbara community has always shown admirable foresight in supporting our schools. Now, as it was back then, the operating principle remains the same: Local investment in public education is the key to our community’s future.
In the last five years, California has fallen from 28th place to a shocking 47th place in terms of per-pupil spending. Locally, our community’s children have felt that pain, with $20 million in cuts to the Santa Barbara Unified School District budget during that same period.
Recognizing the devastating effects of these massive budget cuts to our schools, many Santa Barbara residents went to the polls to vote “yes” on Measures H and I. The Santa Barbara Education Foundation led that campaign to help provide local control for our local schools.
I know that many local residents approve of our efforts. Our children deserve art, music and foreign language instruction, math enrichment and career education — almost all of which were funded by Measures H and I. Without your continued help, more than 5,000 students in our elementary schools, for example, will have musical instruments but no music program. Other examples abound, and that is why we don’t want to see valuable classes shut down.
These programs fire up imaginations and stretch students’ minds. Picking up a musical instrument or a potter’s wheel creates a sense of wonder that inspires and enables students to be the best that they can be.
Here is another concrete example. My oldest son, who is now a doctoral candidate in soil science at Cornell, fell in love with ceramics classes while attending Dos Pueblos High School. Now working with small farmers in Kenya trying to increase crop yields, he used the ceramics skills he learned at DP to prototype a new, efficient, clay-based cook stove that can be a boon to health and also help reduce deforestation.
The clock is ticking, and funding will run out for many essential programs funded in 2008 by Measures H and I, which expire in June 2013. The school board listened to voters and recently voted in favor of going back to the voters to try again to pass two new measures that will fund critical programs that our schools desperately need.
The Santa Barbara Education Foundation is again leading the campaign for the new measures, which will appear on Nov. 6 ballots as A2012 and B2012.
But the bar is set high for these measures to pass. As always, a super-majority of 67 percent is required for approval. It will take parents, educators, community groups and the business community working together to take a stand for our community’s children and make it happen.
There should be no concerns that these funds could be misappropriated once they are passed. Each measure requires a Citizens’ Oversight Committee to guarantee that funds are spent exactly as the voters intended.
I am committed to working the phones and knocking on doors because we cannot assume that our schools will find a way to ride out every budget cut. If we don’t do this now, valuable programs will literally disappear. We cannot afford NOT to pass Measures A2012 and B2012!
I hope you will join me in supporting Measures A2012 and B2012 on Nov. 6. One of the most important responsibilities that we, as a community, have is to provide the next generation with a quality education. An investment in our schools is an investment in our neighborhoods and makes for a stronger community as a whole. Our community’s children deserve that investment.