For 12 years — using a combination of up-to-date technology and old-fashioned attention from smart teachers — the San Diego Unified School District has been preparing my daughter for a productive life in the 21st century.
All kids need and deserve an education like this, not just for their own good but for all of us. We need them to become our accountants, nurses, lab techs, engineers, teachers, lawmakers, electricians, artists and business owners.
What seems harder to accept is that good, effective schools cost money. Through numerous decisions over the years, we have cut back repeatedly on what we’re willing to spend for public education. You can’t keep cutting without hitting bone.
San Diego now has schools built when Harry Truman was president that must have their roofs fixed, electrical wiring replaced and fire alarms updated. New classrooms and science labs are needed in overcrowded schools. Toxic asbestos must be removed.
These are not optional expenses. The district is proposing a school bond, the traditional way to pay for such projects, called Proposition Z, on your ballot next Tuesday. It not only makes sense — it averts a catastrophe.
If Prop. Z doesn’t receive 55 percent of the vote, San Diego Unified will have to lay off hundreds of talented, dedicated teachers to afford the school repairs. Class sizes will bulge to beyond manageable. And the district will lose its highly successful program of classroom technology that has helped raise test scores for four years straight.
That would be a giant step backward for a district that has now achieved the highest literacy and science scores of all large urban districts in California.
And yet what do we read about in local media coverage of Prop Z? An argument, prompted by the business group called San Diego County Taxpayers Association, over whether to count interest payments in the cost of in-classroom iPads purchased through the district’s 2008 school bond as part of the effective technology program.
The complaint is contrived and four years late, an intentional distraction by people who know they’d get less political traction by openly opposing public schools or computer literacy programs for under-privileged kids.
Don’t let the distractions obscure these facts about Prop Z:
• Every dime raised is guaranteed to go to local schools, with complete transparency and annual audits.
• It specifically prohibits “Poway-style” long-term, high-interest bonds.
• It funds neighborhood schools and charter schools, and all the projects are listed online by school.
You don’t have to be a parent to know how much we need schools — including safe physical structures, modern technology and great teachers. Turn off the noise and bluster of election season for an hour. Sit in any San Diego Unified classroom and think about what matters for those kids, your future fellow citizens.
We’re working on college applications at my house, and I’m voting for Prop. Z to make sure everybody’s kids have the chances mine did.
Susan Duerksen is a mom and communications director at the Center on Policy Initiatives.
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