Tuesday, October 21, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 32
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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on July 1st, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 17 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 17

Say 'no' to the SMBSD bond

The school district needs to live within its means and produce positive results

BY WILL SMITH

On June 18, the Santa Maria-Bonita School District Board of Education authorized Resolution 13-34, ordering a school bond election in an attempt to obtain a $39 million bond. I was the lone dissenter on the vote, which passed 4-1.

Here’s why I’m opposed to the bond:

Voters do not need to be taxed $39 million because Santa Maria-Bonita has alternative methods to deal with the issue of explosive student population growth. Year-round schooling is the answer. First, the California Department of Education has a year-round education program guide that explains year-round schooling that was published on March 6 of this year. It states, “[Year round schooling] may have positive effects on student achievement, especially for disadvantaged students.”

We have plenty of disadvantaged students—so many that we get a huge amount of funds to support them, and we still have schools that don’t meet the state’s testing standards. This is a mystery to me concerning how this is happening and the community is not in an uproar.

Let’s look at year-round versus traditional schooling. Both schedules have around 180 days of classroom instruction for students; the difference is the way the instruction is broken down. Traditional schooling uses nine months for instruction, putting in large vacation blocks during the year. For example, kids will be out for around three months during the summer and a long Christmas break. Year-round schools break instruction and vacation blocks down into smaller units, per the California Department of Education guide. Year-round schooling divides the entire student body and staff into tracks for which kids go to school for 60 days and are off for 20 days or to school for 45 days and off for 15. This is how students will rotate in and out of school for the year.

One of the advantages of year-round schooling, as noted by the California Department of Education, is that it expands the seating capacity of school facilities by up to 33 percent in most cases. This program is great for disadvantaged students because they’re out of school less often during the year and can retain more information as a result. It also reduces class sizes and allows more teachers and staff to be hired to deal with the challenged students in our district. Currently, we have 19 schools, and none are meeting state standards. We cannot afford to build more schools that will be failing. New buildings will not solve the educational deficiencies in our district. It is my belief that the year-round track system will afford our students the maximum opportunity to learn while ridding taxpayers of a debt they cannot afford to take on.

Santa Maria-Bonita and some others say that year-round schooling is a failure, and yet no one shows data to support this. The district is a failure on a traditional program right now, so how can the district argue that changing to a year-round program will not help it solve instruction and space problems? The California Department of Education states, “Students with learning disadvantages may receive academic benefits from the year-round schooling.” Student achievement scores can improve when students are attending year-round schools. It goes on to say, “The explanation is simple: The loss of retention of information that occurs during the three-month summer vacation is minimized by the shorter, more frequent vacations that characterize year-round calendars. For those students without intellectual stimulation, enrichment, or reinforcement during the summer, summertime can be intellectually detrimental.”

 For these reasons I support year-round schooling. Traditional schooling is not working right now. Our model for educating our students is not working. Blockman, Orcutt, and many other school districts around us are having success with traditional schooling, but we are failing by state standards. We have to be open to change or bring someone in that can pilot the largest school district in the county to ensure our kids receive a quality education.

We also do not need to tax our community any more than it’s already being taxed. I looked at my current tax statement and was in shock of what I saw: Proposition 13, two Santa Maria Joint Union High School bonds, and an Allan Hancock College bond. I then saw taxes for the flood zone, levee benefit assessment, and Twitchell Dam. The tax and fleece process is just heating up. Santa Maria Joint Union High School is already trying to obtain a bond in 2016. Where does the taxation stop? Taxes hurt the very people whom the districts serve by making it difficult to purchase a home. While taxation can be helpful, some districts need to know when to stop. I like what Hancock has done with its bond, and I can see what the need was. I do not see the same circumstances with Santa Maria-Bonita.

Why give taxpayer money to start new projects when old ones are not completed? The citizens need to take a stand to keep Santa Maria-Bonita from spending and not doing what people want. It appears the district is nice when trying to obtain money, but less than cooperative when it comes to transparency after things don’t turn out. Pubic records requests for information give responses of attorney-client privilege and a host of other blocks that should not be. SMBSD needs to make do like the rest of us who have to balance our checkbooks. 

If the rate of population growth is like the district is saying, we cannot build schools fast enough to accommodate students. What will the district do with students then? The track system will make money for the school, improve instruction, lessen class sizes, and relieve parents and the community of taxation. Santa Maria-Bonita says the track system is bad, but there is no evidence to support this. Just because most teachers and staff don’t want it because it will mess up their desired work schedules is no reason to avoid the system. Teachers in our district get paid well. The needs of the students should come first. I haven’t seen the majority of the board oppose a tax increase since I’ve been in office.

We are using current funding from the state to purchase computers and help with technology. There is money being used to build other structures right now. Santa Maria-Bonita took out Certificates of Participation to build. It recently consolidated $26 million in loans that were used for construction of one school and is adding structures to another school. We don’t need this bond! What the board is asking for is overkill. Trying to convince people that a sinking ship will improve because of new buildings is misleading. Trying to dress the request up with more offerings when the current ones are failing our students is an insult to the intelligence of the people.

Vote “no” on the Santa Maria-Bonita bond. It’s time to tell the district that its performance with students, thrift spending, and taxation have to cease. The district has to live within its means and produce positive results.

 

Will Smith is a board trustee for the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. Send comments through the executive editor at rmiller@santamariasun.com.