Editorial: School bond isn’t perfect, but deserves support

Measure G isn’t perfect. It does deserve support on the June ballot, though, because this community’s high school students deserve a decent learning environment.
San Benito High School District officials and other initiative supporters are asking voters to approve the $42.5 million bond for upgrades to the current campus along Nash Road. If approved with 55 percent of the vote, the bond would result in a property tax of about $30 per $100,000 of assessed value on district homes.
Supporters argue in favor of the 25-year bond to pay for such items as leaky roofs, inadequate air-conditioning systems, new classrooms and a replacement vocational building. Those line items are included in a lengthy list of potential projects previously debated and approved by the district.
Clearly, all of those are necessary upgrades. Where the ballot measure falls short, however, is its lacking specificity about the intended projects. The “Bond Project List” in the actual measure includes overly vague descriptions of five planned project areas such as one addressing safety issues. In a subcategory for “safety” improvements listed deep within the measure, the plan mentions the possibility of spending money on new or repaired athletic facilities.  That leaves open the door to spend more than $20 million on sports-related items included in the broader master list.
If this county wants to dig itself from a long-standing academic rut – which is dragging down prospects for economic growth – then voters would have to rely on school leaders to act responsibly and spend all of Measure G funds on essential needs. Certainly, those essential needs do not include improved sports fields or other athletic facilities, as it is long past the appropriate time to stop feeding that monster, the sports-obsessed culture allowing this community to accept academic and intellectual mediocrity.
Measure G’s authors left the project list as vague as possible – and included the mention of athletic facilities – for a reason. There are people with influence who continue pushing the idea that sports facilities are a top priority because they enrich the overall school experience, or that they’re needed in order to motivate students in the classroom. They do provide benefits, but there are only so many dollars to go around in a district with a much greater need for academic performance improvements than trophies and medals. Last we checked, winning a Central Coast Section title didn’t get the winning team’s athletes into college, and it didn’t get any of them good jobs upon graduation. If the district spends any significant portion of the money on sports, then athletes and the rest of the school community would get left behind academically. The bottom line is that all of the funds should go toward basic, essential repairs and upgrades. This community is too poor and too academically challenged to use a penny of the funds with a sense of luxury.
For this measure to succeed long term, leaders and local residents must view it as a bridge toward a second, satellite campus – another option for families and students looking for something outside of the traditional model at San Benito High School.
For now, voters will have to maintain faith in elected leaders’ priorities and common sense. Despite a striking lack of specificity, the measure deserves the community’s support to provide a more acceptable learning environment for district students.

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