Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
As a retired person, I have to think differently about funding bond measures. I find Manteca Unified School District’s Measure G to be seriously flawed because it is too broad in definition, does not prioritize projects, or guarantee which projects will be funded.
Lead paint was banned in 1978, anything built before this is likely to have lead paint. Anything built after that does not have lead paint. Asbestos removal was defined in federal law in 1986 and reauthorized in 1990. Both times money was set aside for schools to remove asbestos. In 1998, the California Department of Health Services tested 200 elementary schools: 95.8 percent had detectable lead and 77.7 percent had federal Environmental Protection Agency “action levels.” MUSD has known about these laws for a long time and have monitoring and parents and employee reporting requirements. My question is why do any of our schools still have asbestos and lead paint in 2014? It should have been taken care of long before now!
MUSD said it was using $30 million of one-time state money on the Going Digital Project which included fiber optic wiring, wireless ports in every classroom, Surface Pro 2 computers and Panasonic 3E tablets. Measure G lists infrastructure such as wiring, switches, routers, and wireless access, computers, devices, and other modern instructional equipment. The Bulletin article on Sept. 11 states: “The first phase of going digital was to get all elementary and high schools as well as the district office ready for wireless services. That involved upgrading all computer infrastructures. . .” The headline for this article was $14.8M purchase: MUSD buys computers for Going Digital project.” So why are the same items listed in the Measure G bond under improving technology?
An independent oversight committee sounds impressive but the reality is committee members are board approved and the information given to the committee comes from the district. With such broad definitions of how Measure G money can be spent, if one computer is purchased that can be interpreted as fulfilling Measure G technology requirements.
Measure G lists security fencing, security cameras, and site lighting. All sounds good but MUSD’s energy policies have darkened all of the schools at night nullifying the effectiveness of existing cameras.
MUSD does deficit spending, relying on the next year’s state funding to cover the overspending. One audit I saw summarized that MUSD needed to address $14 million of deficits. I used to attend school board meetings. They approved projects and the action items always listed the funding source. Then I saw some of the already approved projects listed on Measure M. I see again with Measure G; “deferred maintenance” projects are listed. However, Measure M listed specific projects and not as broadly as Measure G.
We are being asked to trust the judgment of the same people who let our schools get into disrepair, not even removing asbestos and lead paint, and deferring routine maintenance so they could wisely spend $159 million of bond money. Yet, they refuse to guarantee or even prioritize where the money will be spent. Three of the school board members were on the school board when I moved ito Manteca. In fairness, two of them voted no on authorizing this bond election. Yet, year after year the school board decided not to use available funds for repairs. Measure G is not as good bond measure. Having worked at what the Bulletin described as the “all portables” school and knowing the needs, if MUSD has asked for repairs and modernization money exclusively, I would wholeheartedly support that but I cannot support Measure G.
Kathleen S. Griffin