Radio Free Richmond invites guest editorials and allows community members a forum to present issues to the community.
Penned by: Consuelo Lara West Contra Costa Trustee, Leslie Reckler President Bayside Council PTA’s, Jose De Leon Principal Richmond High School, Demetrio Gonzalez President United Teachers of Richmond
When you go to the polls in March, you’ll find Measure R, a $575 million bond measure placed on the ballot by the West Contra Costa Unified School District to repair and upgrade schools. Measure R is supported by students, teachers, and parents in West County. Despite the deceptive and disproven arguments being made by a few, Measure R is appropriate, necessary, and equitable. Providing a full educational experience to students also includes facilities that support all of our students and their learning.
We are fortunate to live in a community with vibrant, diverse award-winning schools. Over the last 20-plus years, our community has been generous and has made incredible investments in WCCUSD. The District has used previous bonds to rebuild and modernize many of the schools in our neighborhoods – 44 of 53 schools in the District have been rebuilt or had some renovation -, but the work is unfinished. If you recall, the District first rebuilt schools in Richmond and San Pablo:. DeJean, Bayview, Verde and Peres were among the first to benefit from the facilities program. Students at Pinole Valley High School, El Cerrito High School, De Anza High School, Greenwood Academy, Helms, DeJean, Coronado, Nystrom, King, Lincoln, Chavez, Downer, Dover and Ford, among others, all have safe, new campuses. Construction to provide the same for students at Wilson is well underway and will soon start at Lake Elementary.
However, substantial work remains. Independent experts have indicated that over $1 billion in improvements are required at District schools. And, many of these schools are located in very underserved areas - especially Richmond. In our diverse district, this is a major equity issue. Now, it is time for schools like Stege, Fairmont, Valley View, Kennedy High and Richmond High (which are on the priority list) to be rebuilt. Campuses in other communities are also waiting to be rehabilitated.
The effects of climate change can be seen on a regular basis with more hot days causing the need for air conditioning in places where it wasn’t previously needed. Measure R could provide air conditioning to our hottest schools where the need is serious. Every year, we see a growing number of students, teachers, and staff hurt by the dangerously hot temperatures in their classrooms to the level where this year alone three teachers had to go to the hospital over heat exhaustion. Technology has advanced, so school buildings need robust wireless infrastructure to support the devices students and teachers need for instruction. These things are expensive and cannot be paid for out of the normal school district budget.
The maximum estimated property tax is $.06 per $100 assessed value (which comes out to $240 annually for a house with a $400,000 assessed value). The bond is subject to strict fiscal accountability: an independent citizens’ oversight committee and annual third party audits to confirm funds are spent properly. The District Board continues to implement responsible management practices to ensure projects are completed on time and under budget. Investment priorities are established by our Facilities Master Plan drafted as a result of over 84 community meetings.
Even the opponents of Measure R acknowledge the need to repair our schools and the progress the District has made over the past 5 years in implementing best management practices and cost controls. However, deferring needed improvements to the future would increase taxpayer costs in the tens of millions of dollars as construction costs continue to rise in the Bay Area. We need to get started now.
This year we are also asked to support a complementary bond (Prop 13) for statewide facilities funds. The passage of Prop 13 will increase available matching funds from the state for school construction. Over the years, because of voter support of our building program, West Contra Costa taxpayers have received over $166 Million Dollars in matching state funds -- the passage of both Prop 13 and Measure R will ensure that our partnership with the state for school building funds will continue. If Measure R fails, we will be leaving potential matching funds on the table - forfeiting our share.
We implore our West County community to vote “Yes on R” to allow more West County students to have safe, secure, modern schools. It is unfortunate that the school district has to come to local property owners to fund building schools, but that’s the system our state has set up. No one else is going to support our students; it is up to ALL OF US to do so.
Quality schools are an excellent investment: they prepare our community’s children to be successful members of society, improve quality of life, and increase property values. This community has faithfully supported public education. Every child in our District - regardless of neighborhood or zip code - deserves a safe and modern facility in which to learn. Join us in supporting and voting YES on Measure R this March!
MEASURE R IS BEING SUPPORTED BY:
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond
State Senator Nancy Skinner
Assemblymember Buffy Wicks
WCCUSD Trustee Stephanie Hernandez-Jarvis
WCCUSD Trustee Mister Phillips
WCCUSD Trustee Consuelo Lara
WCCUSD Trustee Val Cuevas
Bayside Council of PTA’s
United Teachers of Richmond CTA/NEA
West Contra Costa Administrators Association
Adult School Educators United
IFPTE Local 21
Richmond Progressive Alliance
Contra Costa County Building and Construction Trades Council
Contra Costa County Central Labor Council AFL-CIO
West County Democratic Club
San Pablo City Council
Public Core West County
Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 342
Concilio Latino West County
Iron Workers Local 378
Operating Engineers Local 3
Sprinkler Fitters Local 483
Glazier and Glassworkers Local 169
UA Local 355
Operative Plasters and Cement Mason Local 300
Carpenters Local 2236
Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 159
Boilermakers Local 549
Sheetmetal Workers Local 104
Elevator Constructors Local 8
Carpenters Local 152
BAC Local 3
IBEW Local 302
Laborers Local 342