Special Section: Education


YUCAIPA - The Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District is turning to taxpayers, asking for financial help after years of the double-whammy of declining state revenue and declining enrollment: The district has placed Measure O, a $98 million general obligation bond, on the Nov. 6 budget.

"Although we have maintenance dollars that come in, it's not enough," Superintendent Sherry Kendrick said. "We repair leaky roofs all the time, but we don't replace roofs. We're quickly approaching the time when it'll be mostly repairs."

The state has cut the amount of money paid to districts per student at the same time as the district has fewer students to be paid for: Yucaipa-Calimesa made the decision to close the 100-year-old Yucaipa Elementary School in December 2010, citing, among other factors, a 27.24 percent decline in enrollment since the 2005-2006 school year.

The bond isn't to pay for existing bills, according to the superintendent.

"We need to repair and improve some of our existing schools."

The district needs to repair existing infrastructure, including portable classrooms older than the 20 years of use they were designed for, non-functional drinking fountains, damaged bathrooms and leaky roofs.

If the bond passes, the district will also improve its high-tech infrastructure, adding wifi Internet access to classrooms.

Much of the new "common core" curriculum all California schools are switching to will be delivered via computer and the Internet.

"Our bandwidth is maxed out," Kendrick said. "People have asked 'why we can't we just teach kids the way we used to,' but the world has changed, and 21st century education requires them to be able to learn online."

The school board supported putting the bond on the ballot by a 5-0 vote. If approved by voters, Measure O will require mean an additional $44.25 in annual property taxes for every $100,000 of assessed value for approximately 20 years.

The bond works out to $10 a month for most residents, according to Kara Decker, president of the Chapman Heights Elementary School Parent Teachers Students Association and the district's point person on the Yes on O campaign. (State law prohibits districts from actively promoting bond issues once officials vote to put it on the ballot, although they can explain the possible impact the vote could have on the district.)

"I have two kids. At $10 a month, there's nothing I can get them on my own" that will have a comparable impact on their future, she said. "My kids deserve the best, and that's what we're trying to do for them. Don't they deserve it?"

They do, says one of Measure O's most prominent opponents. But not at this time.

"It's not a good time with today's economy," said Jason "Jay" Jimenez, principal of Inland Leaders Charter School. He and several fellow candidates for the school board signed a ballot statement opposed to the measure. "With Gov. Brown's (Prop. 30) income tax increase, it's a double-whammy."

Jimenez agrees the district needs financial help, but thinks Measure O is going to the wrong area of the budget.

"The bond is not actually going to higher salaries (for teachers), it's not going to (improve) class sizes."

If the bond was to go to the district's general fund, and thus be available to spend on salaries, "I would be for it. It'd be huge."

And he'd love to address the district's infrastructure needs - just not right now.

"I'm for kids, I'm for the betterment of education," Jimenez said. "It's just not a good time for it."

Contact Beau via email, by phone at 909-483-9376 or on Twitter @InlandEd.