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Monday, November 2, 2009

Parents Get Out And Vote "YES" On Measure T

If you are a parent with children in the Long Beach Unified School District, if you are a parent with children that will be entering the Long Beach Unified School District, if you are a grandparent, aunt, cousin, or neighbor to children in the Long Beach Unified School District get out of the house tomorrow, Tuesday November 3rd, and vote YES on Measure T. Please.

The average voter is to lazy too check facts or understand and issue or candidate before voting, as evidenced by our election results. Our state's voters have passed billions of dollars in bonds, and that means debt and mandatory interest payments that eat into our general funds, for stem cell research, Delta watershed restructuring with no funds spent, high speed rail binding us to more spending later; locally voters have passed higher sales taxes for 30 years to support failing Metrorail and other projects that have proven to be filled with waste of taxpayer funds. In the meantime our electorate has routinely voted the same people into offices, either the same office or rotating between offices due to term limits, that have pushed our state further and further into financial ruin.

And then they wonder why our state is in such a mess. Why their tax refund is not in the mail. Why they can't renew their license at the DMV on Friday. Why their kid no longer gets to go to science camp. One year from now they will dutifully look for the (D) (locally in Long Beach and Los Angeles County) and punch the ballot to re-elect the same people again and we will fall further into financial ruin. Before doing that I am hopeful two-thirds will vote yes on Measure T on Tuesday.

In the meantime, as legislators in Sacramento have wasting our tax dollars our local award winning school district has lost $100 million in funds from the State of California in the past 5 years. Schools have lost librarians, nurses, phys ed instructors, computer lab instructors, art and music teachers.

Here are some of the arguments I have heard agaisnt Measure T:

Expense: It costs $96 per year, not per month, per year. This is a couple of dinners out for the year for a family of four. It is less than 20% of one month's payment on your huge SUV you drop your kids off in. It is $8 per month, less than you spend per week at Starbuck or It's A Grind for your mocha-latte after dropping the kids off. Cars and coffee's can't teach your kids to read or prepare them for the AP English test.

Length: This is one of times that short is good. Measure T is only in effect for 5 years. Five Years. Not 30 years like the MTA tax passed by LA County voters last years. Not until repealed by the District or legislators. Five Years. Total parcel tax payments by the voters: $480 over 5 years. (I did that math in my head because I had good math teachers, does your child?)

Been There: Measure T is only for operations. In the early 1990's voters passed a bond measure to build, rebuild and remodel schools in Long Beach. We benefited from new campuses like Powell Academy and Dooley Elementary. A few years ago voters passed another bond measure, Measure K, for capital construction, remodeling and fixing the schools' infrastructures. These funds were well thought out and will result in new campuses and upgrades on many existing campuses. Those measures added 0.0008% to tax bills ($80 per year per $100,000 assessed value), further Measure K was a matching funds measure, in passing the bond voters allowed the District to receiving matching funds from the State for previously passed measures. For every $80 paid by property owners another $80 is recieved by the state. Those funds are in use, are improving our schools and have nothing to do with Measure T as no funds from Measure K can be used for operations.

Timing: The local paper's editorial board has said, "now is not the time." When is? When is a good time for local voters to send a message to elected officials that they are tired of their stealing money from their kids school and will pay for it themselves, and oh by the way we will remember this next November (just kidding, our voters really have no memory hence the re-election of the same candidates that created our problems). Now is not the time because of the economy. How about now is the time because many property owners have seen their property taxes go down with property values? How about now is the time because the next time our school system will have imposed cuts to education that diminishes our schools and therefore prpoerty values. Now is not the time to add $8 per month to property owners' tax bills? The editors who wrote this opinion spend that on lunch every day.

Quality: People love to point out anything bad that happens at their kid's school or stories of what has happened to other kids and campuses. LBUSD educates about 90,000 students every day. It employs thousands of teachers, janitors, coaches, principals, accountants, health care specialists, nutrition specialists and administrators. Someone is always willing to say, "not enough spent on students" "too much this" "too much that." I personally know Superintendent Chris Steinhauser, three of the four current members of the school board, many principals and administrators. To a person I know them to be honest, caring and commited, framing their decisions with one question: what is best for our students. There are plenty of naysayers and those who cast stones. I will close on these points that need continued support by our community so they can continue and grow:

* Broad Finalist Year After Year our District has been nationally recognized as one of the top five, and top, urban school district in the country

* Millions of dollars are received by LBUSD high school graduates every year in scholarships to colleges and universities across the country

* Millions of dollars are saved by parents every year in college and university tuition fees because their children have taken and passed Advance Placement classes in many disciplines, thereby earning college credits and not needing those classes in college.

* Continued recognition by the Obama Administration as the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan repeatedly uses LBUSD as an example for other districts in California and across the state.

Long Beach Unified School District is unique in the State of California. It has commited leadership that has attended our schools, who live in our neighborhoods and care about your children. It is being torn apart by decisions made by Sacramento that strip needed funding year after year.

Parents, grandparents, uncles, neighbors need to step up to support our great school district, vote YES on Measure T on Tuesday.

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