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.

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comments (2)

  • The district has a money management problem, or more accurately a spending problem. Has had it for years. Taxpayers are still paying for the measure A bond from 1999 where funds were diverted away from schools to build the new district office (aka Taj Mahal.) One of the most key purposes of this measure was to pay for immediate asbestos removal and other critical repairs which we are still paying for 17 years later. Just two weeks before school started this summer many people spotted Asbestos removal work underway at San Clemente High School. Again, work that was to have been done well over a decade ago.

    The district cannot even assure San Clemente residents that their taxpayer dollars are spent on San Clemente schools. Ask our neighbors that pay Mello Roos who bad the district has been with their added tax dollars.

    Before pursuing money needed from the state or grants the superintendent spends money illegally that is meant for the student’s education on political campaigns so they can continue slapping more taxes on the backs of the taxpayers.

    The state is also looking to pass a 9 Billion bond (aka tax) onto taxpayers for education this November. Now with the district trying to put a 1 Billion tax on the taxpayers as well. That will mean a TRIPPLE STACKED TAX to taxpayers.

    I am sorry. You don’t fix money management problems by throwing more money at it.

    Here’s what city leaders in Laguna Niguel had to say about it – https://youtu.be/6DkQypEeCAw?t=2h25m34s

  • While I agree with some criticism of the district and parts of its fiscal policy over the years, the real issue here is in Sacramento. They way taxpayer money is divided up (cryptic “need-based” formula) means that some school districts receive a disproportionate amount of funding and some (like CUSD) receive far less. This is certainly not right, as newer buildings do not directly translate to better education. At the same time, some of the facilities within CUSD — SCHS is a prime example — are literally falling apart with no money to make urgently required repairs, much less needed building upgrades and expansion.

    I agree with the letter on the desperate need and what the benefits would be. However, collecting new taxes is certainly NOT the answer, only a temporary and expensive band-aid. I would much rather see core change up in Sacramento that took some of the massive funds already being collected and changing the formula to benefit the students far better than is currently being done.

    Yes, that will take some time and great effort, but bond issues just kick the can down the road and simply cost too much. Most states work with considerably less funding per student and have far superior facilities. More taxes will not fix the problem — only enable the tax-addicted elected bureaucrats.

    I’m voting NO and suggest others look seriously into what this means for the future before making their decision. If M passes, look for the next one on the ballot just a few years down the road, as history tends to repeat itself until the lesson is learned.

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