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By Gregg Swenson, Capistrano Beach
As a longtime Capistrano Unified School District resident and a retired teacher, I urge my CUSD neighbors to vote “yes” on Measure M. I worked in a neighboring district for nearly four decades and witnessed firsthand many of the benefits that a well-planned and fortuitously timed bond issue can contribute to a school district. The students not only benefit from the obvious improvements to aging structures and classrooms, but there is a sense of pride when they know their school is as good as or better than it ever was. Conversely, students suffer lapses in concentration and attention when air conditioning fails in hot weather, they’re distressed when bathrooms are regularly closed for repairs, and they learn less when they’re crammed into structures designed for the class sizes enjoyed decades ago rather than the reality of today’s class sizes.
My own children (now adults) attended CUSD schools and enjoyed some of the modest improvements brought about by the last bond issue more than a decade ago, but those “upgrades” were primarily much-needed repairs necessitated by long neglected maintenance. The benefits of Measure M would not only serve today’s students but will continue to serve generations to come.
Some of the misinformation regarding Measure M prompted me to write this letter. The district has done an excellent job of polling community members, parents, students and teachers about what is needed and which schools will receive what type of improvements. Administrators and school board members conducted meetings and produced an informative website to involve and inform the community. The website and the recently received voter information booklet are quite clear on costs, expenses, specific improvements for each site, the fact that every school in the district will benefit, and a sound argument for the urgency of passing Measure M at this time.
To summarize some of the main points: The cost is $43 per $100,000 of assessed value (about $13.75 per month for the average CUSD resident).
Money can only be spent for school improvements, not salaries or benefits.
There is an opportunity presented by Prop 55 (which is likely to pass, according to current polling), which offers matching funds to any school districts in California that have passed a bond this year. If Measure M passes on Nov. 8, the district will be able to gain $229 million in state matching funds. If Measure M is not passed, voters in CUSD will still pay for an increase, but see that $229 million go to other districts.
With interest rates at all-time lows, more money can be used to pay for improvements rather than debt service.
Also important: attractive, well-maintained schools have a positive effect on property values within the district.
Parting with hard-earned cash is always difficult, but there is a difference between spending and investing. Money for schools is, and always has been, an investment.