Claremont Insider: Weekend Mailbag

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekend Mailbag

The mail's been piling up here the last couple weeks, so we thought we'd pass some of our readers' thoughts along.

One soccer parent wrote us because, in addition to copper theft problems, the city of Claremont still has some kinks to work out at Padua Park:

DATE: Sat, October 9, 2010 6:44:50 PM
SUBJECT: [No Subject ]
TO: Claremont Insider

Re: Padua park

FYI - AYSO soccer games today at Padua park were interupted several times because the sprinklers kept coming on. They first came on at about 11:30am and continued in different sections for more than an hour. Why was the city watering in the middle of the day?

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Another reader wrote in to say that, rather than floating it's $95 million Measure CL bond on the November 2 ballot, what the Claremont Unified School District should be doing is cutting back on interdistrict transfers--students from outside CUSD's enrollment area, that is.

DATE: Tue, October 12, 2010 4:41:57 PM
SUBJECT: Does Claremont need to tax itself for the benefit of students who have transferred from adjoining districts?

TO: Claremont Insider

I have read someplace, either in these pages or in the Daily Bulletin, that as many as one out of six students in Claremont schools comes from an adjoining district. The "benefit" to our district supposedly is that Claremont schools get the normal state funding for each student. That brings in a little money to the district. (Cui bono?) However, as we have found out repeatedly, state funding is not sufficient to run the Claremont District. Each student in Claremont costs more than what the state provides. Hence, we have been persuaded to pass bond issues from time to time in addition to a parcel tax.

Now, we have been asked to supplement the state funding with a whopping $95 million bond issue. The question is, how much of this money will be used to benefit students other than Claremont students? One would think that if one out of six students is from outside the district than almost $16 million dollars out of the $95 million would be for the direct benefit of other than Claremont students.

Do Claremont citizens really want to take over a tax burden that properly should be borne by adjoining towns? Should the School District not be encouraged cut back on its expenses, for example, by limiting the number of transfers to a more reasonable number so that the bond issues paid by Claremonters actually benefit Claremont students? Maybe the whole District could be downsized to a size adequate for Claremont students. In that case, we might not be confronted by such an outrageous funding request.

The matter of CUSD's interdistrict transfers hasn't really been discussed too much by the local papers. We saw this with the Daily Bulletin editorial endorsing the bond. The editorial simply parroted back the Yes on CL campaign's mailer language without digging into them to see if they were true statements, and they ignored several of the arguments against the Measure CL, including the fact that 17% of CUSD's students have transferred in from outside the district.

Claremont is able to absorb that 17% because they have too much capacity and too many teachers. Yet the school district refuses to consider cutting back on the transfers and won't trim staff or downsize its facilities. CUSD's school board stubbornly clings to the idea that they must keep their enrollment numbers artificially inflated.
[CORRECTION: After we wrote the above-section of this post, we opened up today's Claremont Courier and saw that the interdistrict transfer issue did come up at Thursday night's Active Claremont Measure CL debate. So at least the Courier is trying to delve into all the nuances of the bond campaign. According to Landus Rigsby's article, Yes on CL representative Bill Fox claimed that CUSD would have to shutter its elementary schools, El Roble Intermediate School, and Claremont High. Highly unlikely. Mr. Fox was just being true to his nature.]
Another related issue is the fact that, because all those interdistrict transfers don't live in CUSD's area, their families don't have to pay for any taxes or bonds the district levies. They aren't paying off the $30 million we still owe for the Measure Y bond, and they don't have to pay for CUSD's annual Recreation Assessment District. They won't have to pay a penny of the Measure CL costs either, costs that amount to a total of around $250 million over 40 years.

In essence, the school district has asked property owners within the district's boundaries to subsidize those children from outside the enrollment area.

The involvement of people from outside the district extends to the Measure CL campaign. Besides a Bay Area consultant running the Yes campaign from behind the scenes, there are a good many people listed as Measure CL endorsers don't even live in Claremont. For instance, many of the CUSD teachers and administrators who were listed in the first Measure CL ad in the Claremont Courier reside out of town, including CUSD Superintendent Terry Nichols, who lives in Glendora.
[BTW, IS SUPERINTENDENT NICHOLS A LIAR? Maybe not, but he comes perilously close.

In the Courier article today, Superintendent Nichols was quoted as having said the district trimmed Measure CL from its original $160 million to $95 million before submitting it to the voters. Superintendent Nichols casts the district as being frugal, saving property owners tens of millions. The truth is, $95 million is just about at the state's limit of bonded indebtedness for CUSD: 2.5% of the total assessed value of all the properties in Claremont. The district wasn't pinching pennies; CUSD was making a money grab, maxing out their credit card.

Nichols is well aware of the limit to the amount of debt CUSD can take on, and he is behaving no better than a scamming telemarketer. If he could grab $160 million, he and the school board would.]
The faculty members who support the bond and who are working on the Yes on CL campaign don't really care about the long-term consequences of the measure. The teachers, like CUSD's contractors and vendors, will benefit financially if Measure CL passes, and the teachers union agreed to its latest contract in exchange for endorsing and working to pass the bond measure. It's pocketbook issue to some of them -- moving as much as possible from your pocketbook to theirs.

Because so many, including the Daily Bulletin's editorial board, think that we have to pass just about any school bond that comes up, these things will continue to pass, and the cumulative debt in Claremont and all around the state will continue to pile up. These bonds are simply financing schemes that are incredibly wasteful because of all the extra dollars that have to be diverted from actual projects to service debt and to line the pockets of the contractors who underwrite the bond campaigns. One way or another, it's going to have to stop.