OPINION: Proposition J: Money Sacramento cannot take away

Editor's note: Due to an editing error, the print edition of the La Jolla Light incorrectly included a sentence indicating that Dr. Evans opposes Proposition J. We apologize.

John Lee Evans, Ph.D.

Vice President, San Diego Unified Board of Education

Among a long list of ballot propositions, Proposition J is the one that could have the greatest long-term impact on La Jolla and across the San Diego Unified School District. Prop. J would take local taxes and give the money directly to every school in San Diego. Every school will get its fair share and this is money that Sacramento cannot take away.

The good news in San Diego schools is that our test scores have steadily gone up the last few years. We have had many individual schools with state and national recognition. And even with all of the cuts that we have had to make the last few years, we expect to continue our improvements this school year.

We now have stable, local leadership under Superintendent Bill Kowba. We are paying more attention to local communities under our community-based reform plans. As a result, La Jolla has formed its own La Jolla Cluster Association to advocate for the continuing improvement of La Jolla schools. The Board of Education is looking at moving more decision-making to the local community level.

The future, however, is not so bright. We have a broken educational funding system on the state level. We have been told we have to cut an additional $141 million from our budget for next school year. We have to submit a detailed plan for those cuts for next year by Dec. 15. Last year we listened to the community about priorities and funded accordingly. This year we are not given choices. Virtually every cut that is legally and contractually allowed is on the list: more than 1,000 teachers, counselors, nurses, vice principals, police officers and librarians; athletics and music; increased class sizes; two kindergarten classes per teacher and many more essential things that we absolutely need.

Prop. J is a temporary emergency tax ($98 per parcel) to avoid catastrophic consequences to our public schools over the next few years. The Board of Education did not put this on the ballot until we had reformed our own budget. First we reduced administration and streamlined services ranging from transportation to school lunches. We have reluctantly increased class size and shortened the school year with five furlough days. Further massive reductions would reverse the trend of improvement in our schools.

Everyone in our community has a stake in our public schools, not just those who currently have children in public school. As a community we will rise or fall depending on the quality of our neighborhood schools.

   
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