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Proposition S — S for schools, S for students, S for scholarship, S for safety — will be on the ballot this November, buried somewhere near the bottom, after almost everything else. A $2.1 billion initiative that will fight urban decay in San Diego City Schools for the next ten years, propel our community into the 21st century and make our students workforce ready, it will be stuck all the way at the end. Actually, you might have to look for it to know it’s there. However, you can learn more about it today and see how it will impact your local schools, impact your community, by visiting www.EdforChildren.com. Borrowing a little bit from Portland, Oregon and a little bit from Plano, Texas, there is a map of every project that is under consideration in the bond, plus the budget for each school broken down by category. We believe it is the first of its kind in California and offers a new level of understanding about how this bond impacts not only the City of San Diego, but your school and your community. You can even volunteer to help or make a donation. Being at the end of the ballot, Prop. S will need radio and television to build community support, but it will require the bond’s passage to do everything that needs doing.

Prop. S can change the course of our schools; indeed change the course of San Diego’s history. Over one thousand people like you prepared this bond. Regular folks who live around our schools, principals, teachers, parents and students who work, volunteer and learn in our schools have vetted this bond for the past two years and more. The Board of Education firmly supports it, voting unanimously to place it on the ballot. Mayor Sanders knows this and is lending his broad shoulders for support. The San Diego County Taxpayers Association recognizes this and thus voted overwhelmingly to approve. They know that accountability is built into the bond with the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, that these jobs will not be shipped off-shore to China, that these jobs will stay here, and that the multiplier effect of its economic impact will help stabilize this region for the next ten years, at least. If the economic impact of hosting seven days of golf during the U.S. Open was $142 million to the region, the impact of Proposition S must be exponentially higher, longer term, and will ultimately benefit communities in every sector of our economy.

I wish you could visit Knox Elementary School and talk with teachers whose classrooms are in disrepair after 50 years of school-aged children taking education to its limits over 6 hours a day. Or walk into the kitchen where lunch ladies prepare nutritious meals for students, while working in sweltering conditions. I wish you could walk the halls of Mann Middle School to see where the foundation is separating from the wall or the locker rooms that look like “Welcome Back Kotter.” If you could talk with students throughout our high schools and know that their top two concerns are that they wouldn’t use their school bathroom if someone paid them and how they are going to compete in a global economy when some of our occupational training programs only feature outdated equipment. We are going fix this and much more with Proposition S.

But I also wish you could see what was accomplished under the previous bond, Prop. MM. Mr. La Rue at the new Cherokee Point Elementary would tell you how his kindergarten students now actively explore the world around them using state-of-the-art technology in their classroom. You should also visit the new science labs at Lewis Middle School and watch kids learn about solar energy, referencing the solar panels up on the roof overhead. You should visit Madison High School to find the NIASE-certified (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) auto shop. There, kids are preparing for well-paying jobs right out of high school, thanks also to some guidance from automotive maven, Steve Cushman. And the new Lincoln High School where one of our oldest communities is renewing itself and kids are demanding Advanced Placement Courses, inspired by the new identity of their school and what new directions are now open to them. Really.

With over 200 schools and overcrowded conditions in some parts of our community, we knew we couldn’t do everything needed at every school under the last bond, even though it passed with 78 percent of the vote. We did complete work on 189 schools, including eleven completely new schools and also:

17 new permanent classroom buildings

35 new science classroom/lab buildings

49 re-roofed schools

75 new instruction support spaces

104 new libraries

122 new lunch court shelters

133 repainted schools

153 new playground units

It was a $1.51 billion bond that did a world of good, but even ten years ago when we passed Prop. MM, we knew for certain that we couldn’t do everything. A bond for $1.51 billion could not possibly address $4 billion worth of need. Then as now, we know we had to prioritize projects and carefully steward taxpayer dollars. As a result, Prop. MM was awarded two Golden Watchdog Awards by the San Diego County Taxpayer Association.

Prop. S will be another step in keeping our schools moving forward and will require only a 55 percent approval by voters.

It will have the same taxpayer safeguards, such as the Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee that was so successful when it was first tried under Prop. MM that it is now a requirement for any school bond in the State of California. Equally important, Prop. S is an extension of Prop. MM that will not raise taxes, but will raise standards. The bottom line? Proposition S is an opportunity that our students, our teachers, our schools, our city and our region cannot afford to miss.

—KATHERINE NAKAMURA

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