Tomorrow’s future is being shaped by the decisions we make today |

Tomorrow’s future is being shaped by the decisions we make today

Diane Scheerhorn, Special to the Tribune

The November 2002 elections can significantly affect California public schools. Voters have two significant ballot decisions to make. First, voters will elect a new state superintendent of public instruction and second, they will vote on Resolution No. 2002/03-6, known as Proposition 47 or the “Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2002”.

The state superintendent of public instruction holds an extremely influential position within the political and public arena. The state superintendent helps to shape the focus of California’s education, thereby supporting the future of our youth.

Currently, state standards for learning drive the quality of public education. Public schools are continually working to align local curriculum to meet these high standards.

A rigorous state testing program is the local district’s measure of accountability to these high standards. Those who support the California testing program are making constructive moves toward aligning the California tests to the state standards.

School districts need to be given time to align their local curriculum and provide the professional development to assist classroom teachers in refining their teaching skills and strategies to support state standards and assessments. To ensure a state superintendent provides these opportunities, voters need to be aware of public education concerns and must make every effort to know the background, political stance, and future vision of each state superintendent candidate.

Proposition 47, a facility bond for public education, needs a majority of California voters’ approval on the November ballot to generate $13.05 billion in general obligation bonds. These bonds would be issued and repaid by the state of California for the construction and modernization of elementary, secondary, and higher education facilitates.

Is there a need for Proposition 47?

California enrollment in elementary schools is holding steady and increasing in some districts. However, California middle and high school populations continue to grow almost everywhere. Enrollment is only one reason for the need to pass Proposition 47.

The second reason is the nearly universal reduction in class size for kindergarten through third grade established in 1996. The reduction in teacher/pupil ratio of 1 to 20 created a need for more classrooms in some districts.

Third, and most important to LTUSD, is three-quarters of the existing 275,000 classrooms in California are more than 25 years old and are badly in need of renovation and modernization.

Proposition 47 would mean approximately $10 million dollars for future district projects. This money is reimbursement for projects that have been or will be completed in the near future. The completed projects to date include: Al Tahoe roof repair, Bijou modernization and structural upgrades, Meyers playground hard court replacement and modernization, Sierra House modernization, STMS Science Wing and modernization, and finally South Tahoe High School Phase I modernization.

This proposal would also provide Lake Tahoe Community College with $6.5 million for future capital improvements — a new library, meeting rooms, classroom space, and an art gallery.

In El Dorado County, the Proposition 47 money would total approximately $38 million to all public schools for construction and improvement projects.

Proposition 47 is an aggressive measure to improve public school facilities. So, how does the state repay the bonds and not affect local taxes? Voter-approved general obligation bonds and their interest are repaid from state general funds, primarily income from sales tax. Fortunately, unlike local obligation bonds, these bonds do not require a tax increase, but they do use state revenue that could be used for other purposes.

On Sept. 10, the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education passed a resolution in support of Proposition 47. It is my hope you will seek information to assist you in making a decision regarding future facilities for your local schools, Lake Tahoe Unified School District and Lake Tahoe Community College.

Diane Scheerhorn is superintendent of Lake Tahoe Unified School District. She may be reached at (530) 541-2850.

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