By Marsha Sutton
Although results are not yet finalized, it appears that the San Dieguito Union High School District has surpassed the required 55 percent needed by voters to approve its bond, Proposition AA. With 55.30 percent supporting the measure as of press time, SDUHSD squeaked it out.
On the other hand, it looks like the Del Mar Union School District’s bond, Proposition CC, will not pass, although support for the measure rises each time new postings are provided by the County Registrar of Voters. As of now, Proposition CC has 54.18 percent, just shy of the needed 55 percent.
Not to dampen San Dieguito’s victory, but 55.30 is not exactly an enthusiastic endorsement. And Del Mar’s 54.18 is hardly a resounding defeat.
It’s noteworthy to remember that only a few years ago the threshold to pass these bonds was set at two-thirds. Because it was exceedingly difficult to reach that number, which sends a very clear signal of strong voter approval, the threshold was lowered to 55 percent to make passage easier. But when the vote is so close to that 55 percent, it can hardly be called a mandate either way.
As state funding has dried up, school districts finding themselves on the brink of financial calamity have increasingly turned to General Obligation bonds to close a funding gap.
But it was never intended that 30-year construction bonds, meant for long-term capital improvements, should pay for routine maintenance, unidentified future needs, and technology with a three-year life span, like ChromeBooks and iPads. San Dieguito’s bond does not specify this use of the money, but many other districts statewide did.
The situation has become so dire that districts are grasping at any opportunity they can to stabilize funding, as has the state.
California’s Proposition 30, which passed with 54.9 percent as of this writing, is a tax and not a bond and therefore needed only a simple majority to pass. Had it required 55 percent, it would have failed.
The aggravating lie perpetuated by Prop. 30 supporters is that its failure would have resulted in a shortened school year. That’s absolutely not true. What it would have meant is less money for school districts, which have the option to shorten the school year to save money.
School districts also have another option: asking employees to carry some of the burden and accept minimal reductions in pay and/or benefits, something most non-governmental workers have been forced to do during the past years of a stagnant economy.
Instead, the public is threatened with cuts to educational services and programs, as if there is no alternative.
Even as funding has been reduced, salaries and benefits for employees have continued to rise and encroach more and more on district operating budgets, with some at 90 to 95 percent of the total budget.
Yet union employees, adults in a system that is supposed to serve students first, earn more money regularly, regardless of declining funding – and more importantly, regardless of skill and classroom ability. More years in the system equals more pay, period. All efforts to tie performance to pay raises have gone nowhere fast. Meanwhile, districts cut programs for kids.