Claremont Insider: Cui Bondo?*

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cui Bondo?*

More than a half-dozen readers have pointed out that the advertisement for Measure CL that appeared in the Claremont Courier last Wednesday contains the names of numerous CUSD employees and names of many persons who are not residents of the school district.

This was uniformly jarring to our correspondents, because the heading over the "social register" list of names is: "Please Join Us and Vote Yes on Measure CL".

Uniformly our correspondents interpreted this injunction to mean that people in the list were going to vote for Measure CL and wanted the reader to join them in doing so.

Problem is: many, many of the names are of people who are not residents of the district. We were given various counts: eighteen, twenty-five, forty-one, and sixty-nine of the 168 names.

We do know that there are a couple of prominent administrators listed who don't vote in the Claremont district: Dr. Terry Nichols, the Superintendent, for one--and Mike Bateman, Executive Director of Student Services. Joe Tonan, a teacher and head of the teachers union in the district also signed on but lives outside the district. It is indisputable that another dozen or two--at minimum--don't vote in the district.

So why are their names on the list? Because they would benefit directly from the bond. As the opponents of measure CL state in their ballot argument,

Then there’s the legal requirement that bond money “not be used for teacher and administrator salaries”. The District emphasizes that. But “ANY MONEY FROM A BOND NEEDS TO GO TO SALARIES,” the Claremont Courier quoted a senior District administrator. “Before the District can spend money on other things, a certain percentage will go back to salary restoration for all the employee groups,” he added.
Forget all of the nebulous atmospherics about "high-quality education in our neighborhood schools" and "education is highly valued in our community". This measure is about money in the pockets of teachers and--make no mistake--administrators.
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The recent advertising for Measure CL (there have already been at least three four-color glossy mail pieces--who's paying for those?) is subtly de-emphasizing the legal requirement that no bond money be spent on teacher salaries. This is because it's hard to make that statement and at the same time make the statement that Measure CL will "help attract and retain great teachers". Even the flexible minds of the proponents and their consultant can't square that circle.

We have been told that district teachers were told to sign the ad whether or not they lived in the district. There can be no doubt that pressure is great to conform to the Measure CL party line. The pressure is being exerted by the District staff their cohort who have the power, literally, of professional life and death over all serving under them.

Perhaps the community would like to give a little bit more to the teachers, but isn't a capital bond--money that is intended to build, "furnish and equip" school facilities, with tens of millions of dollars in interest costs to muni-bond investors, the wrong way to go about it? Because of the nature of the bond, and even with the loose accounting of CUSD, only a fraction of this bond money will reach the intended beneficiaries. Even less will improve the lot of the students.

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*Our title is in Latin. Translated, it means, "Who benefits from the Bond?"