Strong schools help everyone. That’s because good schools are a yardstick by which you can measure the health of a community. They bring value to our neighborhoods, attract businesses and families, and provide widespread public benefit.
This election, voters are being asked to support Measures A2012 and B2012 to save locally funded music, arts, math, science and technology programs that our community put in place in 2008. Those earlier tax measures will expire in June.
If you live from Goleta to Montecito, you may vote on Measure A for secondary schools; if you live in the City of Santa Barbara, you will also vote on Measure B for elementary schools. The money raised by these measures will once again stay in our community, will directly support our schools and will be locally controlled.
Schools are especially hard hit in California because of gridlock in Sacramento. You’ve probably read that California ranks 47th in per pupil spending, compared with say, high-scoring Massachusetts, which spends twice as much on each student.
I am a native Californian, but my family roots are in the farmlands of the Midwest. Back there, it is understood that eating your seed corn is a very bad idea. It may feed you in the short term, but leaves nothing to plant for harvests in the future. Not funding education is shortsighted and will hurt each and every one of us in the years to come.
In June, two similar local school parcel tax measures to replace the expiring ones just barely lost. Over 65 percent of voters approved them, but a 66.7 percent majority is needed to pass revenue measures. It is a very high threshold, yet the outcome affects everyone.
The annual amount is a modest $45 per parcel for Measure A and $48 a parcel for Measure B. As before, the levies come with strict restrictions: None of the money can be used for administrator salaries; local citizen oversight committees must monitor spending; senior citizens may claim an exemption for their home; and the measures will once again expire in four years.
With Measure A, the school board deliberately included new funding for career skills courses that provide for job readiness. These include courses such as computer science, automotive technology, construction classes and culinary arts — classes that prepare our students for the world of work. Measure A would also continue to fund supplemental high school math programs and foreign language, music, art and theater classes. Measure B would continue support for our comprehensive kindergarten through sixth-grade music program and provide supplemental science and math programs and computer technology.
We know that in order for students to succeed in their core subjects, they need to be engaged in school. Often, it is looking into a microscope for the first time that captures the imagination of a child. Offering enrichment plays a vital role in keeping kids in school. These opportunities should include learning how to tune up a car, design a robot, play in an orchestra or sing in a choir.
Despite what you may hear about the ability of schools to deliver on student success, our local schools far exceed state standards on important measures. On the national college admissions SAT tests, our district average is 50 points higher in all three subject areas than the state average.
The number of our students who will need remedial classes upon entering college is dropping sharply. A full year before they graduate from high school, over a third of our high school juniors are already testing as “college ready” in English. By the time they are seniors, the majority of our students will have reached this level. What we’ve been able to offer to students thanks to our expiring parcel taxes plays a very important role in our success.
I also urge voters to support the passage of Proposition 30, which would be critical for all schools in the state as well as the University of California, California State University system and community colleges. Our local district has cut five days of school this year and instituted seven furlough days for all employees.
If Prop. 30 doesn’t pass, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Local funding measures such as A and B would help lessen the impact of impending disastrous statewide cuts.
Even if you don’t have children in the system, everyone has a stake in a well-educated public. Please stand up for students on Nov. 6.
— Susan Deacon is president of the Board of Education of the Santa Barbara Unified School District.