Opinion/Letter to the Editor: Prop CC: Real questions and honest answers

Elections are about choices. When Del Mar and Carmel Valley residents cast votes on Prop CC on Nov. 6, we will be making a choice that will have a profound impact on our schools, our students and our community for many years to come. A “Yes” vote provides our local schools with a protected source of locally-controlled funding that can only be used for our local schools. A “No” vote leaves our local schools depending on Sacramento to get its act together and adequately fund education. Since Sacramento has been unreliable, virtually all of our neighboring school districts have passed bond measures in support of their local schools.

A column by Marsha Sutton published in this newspaper and online last week blatantly mischaracterized Prop CC and made egregiously false accusations that indicate a limited understanding of this measure and the rules that govern GO bonds. Prop CC is just too important for the 4,353 students who attend the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) to let Sutton’s piece stand. Here are the facts.

May Prop CC funds be used to create relief for the District’s General Fund budget? Is this legal?

Yes. The expenditures laid out in the wording of Proposition CC are specifically authorized by Proposition 39, passed by California voters in 2000. Prop 39 is intended to “implement class size reduction, (and) to ensure that our children learn in a secure and safe environment.” While Proposition 39 bond funds cannot be applied to teacher or staff salaries or benefits, they can cover any building and facility needs that might otherwise need to be paid for out of the District’s General Fund. As such, a legal and legitimate use of Proposition 39 bond measure funds — like Proposition CC — is to relieve financial pressure on a school district’s general fund. This is why it has become common practice for school districts to use bond funds to maximize the efficient use of scarce instructional funding.

Does Prop CC address immediate and critical needs? Aren’t our schools in good shape?

Our local schools are in relatively good shape. Should we wait until they are falling apart to plan for their upkeep and repair? Can we expect our schools to remain among the best in California if we let them degrade and allow mounting facilities costs to errode funds for educational expenditures?

Of course not.

Prop CC represents forward-thinking planning to accomplish two important objectives: (1) address safety and infrastructure needs without taking money from instructional programs that already suffer from budget cuts, and (2) secure a stable source of locally controlled funding to maintain our classrooms, implement modern technology and maintain quality schools in the years to come. Bear in mind that this bond will carry us decades into the future, when all of our schools will be in need of upgrades and maintenance. This is why many school districts build a general obligation bond funding program to extend over a number of years.

Will Prop CC pay for technology with a short lifespan?

Less than 7 percent of Prop CC funds will be used for such technology. Many of the bond expenditures will be for network infrastructure and systems that have a much longer lifespan than technology devices. Provisions relating to Proposition 39 state that “We need to make sure our children have access to the learning tools of the 21st century like computers and the Internet.” Without Prop CC, expenditures on networks and technology will take away from funding for teaching and instruction, which are already impacted by ongoing state budget reductions.

Is Prop CC the result of a thorough planning process?

For many years, DMUSD has been grappling with the writing on the wall: school funding that we have counted on before is now declining. The district formed a Financial Task Force three years ago that made two major recommendations: spend down the reserves and seek alternate sources of funding for a long-term fix. The district then spent nearly two years developing a strategic plan to provide a vision for the future of our schools and a clear set of priorities. During this process, it became clear that DMUSD could not maintain its renowned status as one of the highest-achieving school districts in California while absorbing deep funding cuts if it did not secure a protected source of funds to address facility, technology and equipment needs. Prop CC emerged from this thorough planning process. An independent survey of local residents indicated strong community support for this type of local funding measure. As a result, the DMUSD Trustees opted to give local voters the chance to vote in Prop CC on Nov. 6.

Space allotted by the newspaper does not permit a full discussion of the falsehoods perpetrated by Sutton about Prop CC. Here is the bottom line: state budget cuts have very real impacts on our local classrooms. Without Prop CC, a drastically reduced budget will have to cover both instructional needs and facility, technology and equipment costs. Local kids currently attending our schools will be the first to suffer. Then the well-known quality of our local schools will diminish. And the value of our homes will be next.

Our community has a lot riding on the outcome of Prop CC. We hope that you will study the facts and recognize that without an alternate source of funding, the Del Mar Union School District will be forced to alter the classroom environment that has educated generations of our most important legacy: our children. As parents and taxpayers in the community, we urge our fellow citizens not to let that happen.

Suzanne Hall, Torrey Hills parent

Janet Handzel, Sage Canyon parent

Jen Charat, Ashley Falls parent

Branden Belford, Sycamore Ridge parent

Kelly Bruhn, Carmel Del Mar parent

Allison Healy-Poe, Carmel Del Mar parent

Danielle Moniz, Del Mar Heights parent

Quality Del Mar Schools, Yes on CC