In a Noozhawk commentary dated Sept. 18, Santa Barbara school board member Laura Malakoff wrote: “Measure H2008 funds will also provide for critical supplements in math and science education, along with additional classes in technology and foreign languages. Ninth-grade math classes can again have a maximum of 20 students. And our junior high schools will receive much needed support for their music, arts and theater programs. These enhancements will provide the competitive edge our students need to succeed beyond high school.“

Why should we vote for Measure H when this article makes it clear that the school district holds academic education in such low esteem, that “critical supplements” are funded last? Why do we not have a parcel tax for administrative pay raises or to fund new administrative positions? Why not a parcel tax to pay for the utility bills generated by increasing nighttime activities, or to pay for the increased cost of operating 35 and 50 meter pools? Why not have a parcel tax to pay for gang liaisons?

But no! All of these items are funded before funding programs that “will provide the competitive edge our students need to succeed beyond high school.”

In the past few months, I have seen thousands of dollars approved to pay for portable classroom leases that were to be replaced by Measure V.

There was a $30,000 increase for security and ambulance services at sporting events.

Now, $90,000 has been approved for gang liaisons, but budget priority isn’t given to “much needed support to the music, arts and theater programs.”

The public must ask themselves, given the lack of priority for education, how can we reasonably expect to see the money used as promised? After all, when the school board had to decide whether to replace aging classroom portables as promised or build new swimming pools, which it can’t afford to operate without slashing academic programs, it voted against educational facilities.

Now it tells the public to give it more money and it will use it wisely. However, at the June 24 board meeting, Superintendent Brian Sarvis warned the board that though the public would pick the areas of emphasis it would not decide how the parcel tax money would be spent. So, in fact, the public has no way of knowing.

Put education first and then ask the public for money. Don’t make critical programs your last and lowest priorities. Keep your word to the community when you make promises. Then we might be able to trust that you will deliver what was promised. Show better prudence in how you spend our money. When the superintendent’s salary has risen 7 percent per year for the past eight years, it is hard for the public to hear you cry poor to the teachers and the students.

The public should vote no on Measure H and all parcel taxes until we see fundamental changes integrated into how this district does business the business of education. You are not the public rec department. You are not the police department. You are not the social welfare department. You are a board of education. Put education first, and then we may consider a parcel tax.

Richard Foster
Santa Barbara