Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 6:12 pm | Mostly Cloudy 56º


Commentary: School Parcel Tax Measures Ensure a Competitive Edge

In addition to critical funding priorities, the measures protect local control and thwart state budget raids.

Last week was Back to School Night and it felt like a pep rally. Teachers were invigorated, parents reveled in a sense of community, and everyone felt pride in their campus. Schools are the measure of residents’ belief in their future. Santa Barbara’s remarkable schools are the result of our community’s long-standing commitment to building a flourishing community. Today, we have the opportunity and obligation to provide our children with the educational tools that are critical for success in the 21st century.

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Laura Malakoff
We have a lot of reasons to be proud of our schools and the accomplishments of our students. About 90 percent of our students pass the California High School Exit Exam — well above the state average. Newsweek has ranked two of our high schools among the 1,000 best schools in the United States. We have a dropout rate about half the state average. Thanks to our many fine teachers, administrators, parents, students and community supporters, test scores are on the rise and the schools in Santa Barbara continue to move in a positive direction. All these people have worked hard to make it happen and they have earned our thanks.

Over the past several years, the Santa Barbara School DistrictsBoard of Education has taken a number of concrete steps to increase the efficient use of the school districts’ budget dollars. Our newly hired deputy superintendent of business has left no stone unturned in finding savings throughout our operational activities. As the districts’ student population evolves, we have taken a strategic approach to maximizing the use of our available facilities. Following two years of public meetings, we adopted a Facilities Master Plan that meets the needs of today’s students and will serve our students far into the future. Mindful of our economic climate, the districts have maintained their financial stability by making targeted budget cuts that will ensure an adequate reserve. These cuts, combined with the state budget crisis, have left our school district budget teetering on the edge of shortchanging our children and the future of our community.

That is why I am asking residents of both the Santa Barbara Elementary and High School Districts to vote for Measures H2008 and I2008 on the November ballot. In the elementary district, the Measure I2008 funds will provide critical supplements in math and science education, allow for the hiring of music teachers and the purchase and repair of musical instruments, and enhance existing computer and educational technology. In the high school district, 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 and offer positive opportunities for our at-risk youth. Measures H2008 and I2008 create a source of funding that will be controlled locally and which the state can not take away. Most important, these funds are an investment in the future, enriching our children’s lives and our community.

Laura Malakoff is president of the Santa Barbara School Board.

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