Daily Breeze Editorial
10/15/2008 -- Most everyone has taken a turn bad-mouthing some action or another taken by the Los Angeles Unified School District, including us. But the district has made some notable progress over the past decade in its efforts to modernize and rebuild campuses.
Since 1997, the district has built 72 new schools, with 58 more to go using funding from previous school bond measures. In a bid to reduce overcrowding, the number of schools on year-round schedules has dropped from 227 to 117. And the need to bus students out of their neighborhoods to less crowded campuses has been dramatically reduced.
Meantime, the district has nearly closed the gap between its elementary schools' performance on the Academic Performance Index and API performance of all California elementary schools. The record for LAUSD middle and high schools, however, has not been as strong.
District officials now say the next step in improving the public school environment for LAUSD students is Measure Q on the Nov. 4 ballot. Measure Q would provide an additional $7 billion for the district to renovate older campuses, such as San Pedro High School, whose facilities have not been brought up to the level of the new campuses in the district. Under Measure Q, the overcrowded San Pedro High campus would see its temporary portable classrooms replaced and science labs upgraded.
The main idea behind the new bond measure is one of equity - to give all students an environment conducive to learning in the 21st century. In addition to repairing and replacing classrooms and other facilities, the funds would replace the district's outdated police emergency radio system and provide security cameras to improve student safety. Ventilation systems would be replaced to protect students with asthma.
Some criticize the measure by arguing that it is not specific enough. Measure Q earmarks $1.3 billion for "future repairs and safety priorities." District officials, however, say such the funds will allow schools to address inevitable complications that arise during the renovation process.
Although $7 billion is a sizable sum and property owners in the district have been generous in approving past bond money, we feel Measure Q merits approval for a number of reasons:
It promotes more personalized learning and small high school communities.
It earmarks $450 million to provide independent charter schools with facilities equivalent to those of regular schools.
It doesn't increase taxes but extends the current bonds another six years, to 2044. The tax rate would not exceed the combined maximum cap on the current bonds.
It will provide continuity by keeping the district's current building team together for the next phase of construction - rather than have to re-create it at some future date.
It will stimulate the economy in the years to come, providing 85,000 new jobs.
It will address an upturn in enrollment forecast to begin in 2015.
For those reasons, we recommend a "Yes" vote on Measure Q on Election Day.