Move over, Jerry Brown. After holding community outreach programs on technology assessment and planning, the Tustin Unified School District voted unanimously to place a Technology Bond Measure on the November Ballot.
I had heard about the outreach meetings being held to discuss the possibility of putting another bond issue to the voters. My immediate reaction was to say, “no.” And, that is what I wrote in a recent article, saying the school district -like other government entities- needed to learn to live within their means. But, when you get a headstrong bunch of teachers together, they tend to get an idea into their head and stick with it. So, it was no surprise that, after the article came out, I was contacted by school board members and even the school district’s IT guy, Alex Rojas.
I reiterated the case I stated in the article and told Rojas that I thought the taxpaying public was getting tired of the school district, water district, cities and what have you, all coming to them as if they were an ATM machine. Even though the amount of the bonds is relatively low at $135 million dollars, the taxpayer would eventually revolt and this may be that time.
My concern also stemmed from the fact that Measures G and L were supposed to put technology into the classrooms. The infrastructure was supposed to be there. If that was the case, why did the school district need to come back to the trough with their hand out once again? Would this pay for iPads and apps? Would every student have an iPad issued to them?
Now, Alex is a good salesman. He explained the difference in what Measures G and L did and what the new bond measure would do. In essence, this was the finishing touch that would open the technology doors to the students and faculty, bringing our schools up to state standards in regard to technology. He explained that online testing would become the norm, mandated by the state. Yet, the state had no funding for such programs (this sounds familiar). He also said, ” In addition, our parents expect us to provide their children access to the technology needed for career or college readiness and we need an infrastructure/network that can support new technology. A bond is the only vehicle we have to make investments in our students needs especially given Sacramento’s decision to cut our funding.”
Really? What about cutting back in other areas to provide funding on a lower scale? That did not elicit an answer, other than what I had already received.
So, I went back to the ATM issue. The state can’t fund technology. The school district doesn’t have any hidden funds that they want us to know about, anyway. What made him think the taxpayer was going to be conducive to another tax? Lower costs, for one thing. the cost of the bonds would be less than 2% at issue rate. That makes the bonds nearly even in borrowing. But the bonds would be issued over an incredible 35 years. That doesn’t make this more palatable, it makes it less as the bond debt service will be an extended period. Raise your hand if you think this is the school district’s last bond issue for the next 30 years or so. I didn’t think so.
The presentation and the arguments for the bond measure are compelling. As a parent, I even agree with much of it. But, I have to wonder if the school district has really exhausted their resources to help provide for at least some of this. And, at what point will the taxpayers just say no? It seems that, every time the school needs something, the first thing they look toward is bonds. If we did not already have two unpaid for bonds out, this would be a little easier to stomach.
One thing the school district has going for it is the fact that it is not just taxpayers, homeowners, who will be voting. Everyone, homeowner, renter and freeloader gets a say in spending homeowner cash when it comes to bond measures, even though they may not have a stake in the game. Perhaps that’s why it is easier to get school bonds passed. No one thinks about who is paying or what the cost truly is.
The school district has a podcast up on the technology presentation. It is a good one. If you are going to spend your money on a bond issue, then take the time to watch so you know what they plan to do with your money. And, it is your money.
In a comment on a previous post I mentioned that this is not just about TUSD. In 2011, there were 10 school bond measures floated in California with 7 of them passing. On the June 5th ballot this year, there were 34 school bond measures with 23 of them passing muster. Total bond money brought in? $1.8 billion dollars. Cost to taxpayers? Priceless!
I haven’t checked to see how many bond issues are on the ballot for California in November. San Diego has placed a whopping $2.8 billion school bond on the ballot, however, making ours look like chump change. So, this could be a very expensive year for property owners.