As more families with children flock to the affluent areas of Silicon Valley, six school districts in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties are seeking voter approval in June for bonds to reopen shuttered campuses, expand and upgrade schools.
At the same time, four other local school districts are asking for renewed parcel taxes to supplement what they receive from California, which is still digging out of the fiscal hole of the Great Recession.
In all, 10 local school tax measures will appear on June 3 ballots, six in Santa Clara County and four in San Mateo County. The four parcel tax measures must win a supermajority of two-thirds in order to pass. The bond measures require 55 percent of the vote.
"I have no empty classrooms," said Deborah Blow, superintendent of the Cambrian School District, which is seeking a $39 million bond measure. The district in southwest San Jose would like to keep primary-grade class sizes at 24, but has nowhere to put additional or overflow students. It's grown 10 percent in five years and is projected to grow 10 percent more by 2022.
With Measure I funds, Cambrian would be able to reclaim a leased campus to create a K-8 school focusing on science, technology and the arts.
Next door, the Union School District is asking voters to approve Measure J so it can add rooms at Carlton elementary and Union Middle schools. The district has gained 1,000 students, a 23 percent increase, in less than a decade and expects more students.
No state money
Amid the growth, "there's just no state measure for modernization," Union Superintendent Jacqueline Horejs said. "You have to do basic maintenance or else your roofs fall in."
Nearby, Los Gatos High will add classrooms to accommodate growth -- an additional 200 students within four years.
Where are the students coming from? "There's been a lot of development," said Robin Mano, co-chair of the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District's bond campaign. "These houses are being built by families."
Likewise, in southern San Mateo County, the Sequoia Union High School District expects almost 20 percent more students in six years. "The students are coming and we really do begin to see some pressure on our capacity in 2016-2017," said board President Allen Weiner. The district is seeking a $256 million bond measure.
Bond moneys also will go toward rerouting traffic around schools in the Union district, solar technology in Cambrian, music classrooms in Los Gatos-Saratoga, and heating and ventilation upgrades at several districts.
The bonds also fund technology. In some districts, labs with rows of PCs are being replaced, or supplemented with rooms with movable tables for groups of students on laptops and tablet computers.
All the school tax measures are opposed by the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, which submitted similar ballot arguments against several measures and has historically opposed taxes for schools.
"They already have enough money to do what they need to do, and are doing a poor job of it as it is," said Mark Hinkle, association president.
The association argues that because floating school bonds require paying interest, "your educational dollars will be going to big banks, investment brokers and other wealthy people to be used as a tax shelter."
Four local districts are seeking to renew parcel tax measures.
"This will keep libraries open five days a week and maintain low class sizes and provide support for STEM" -- science, technology, engineering and math, said Kathy Gomez, superintendent of the Evergreen School District. The district is seeking to renew for five years a $100 parcel tax, which expires this year. The tax provides $2.4 million, or 2 percent of the district's budget.
Likewise, a parcel tax helps the small Mount Pleasant School district keep first-grade classes at 22 students, and second-grade classes at 23 students, Superintendent Mariann Engle said. Her district, which serves low-income East San Jose neighborhoods, is asking for a seven-year extension of a $95 parcel tax.
Like other districts seeking parcel-tax renewals, Cabrillo Unified on the Coastside is not asking for an increase in its local tax. "We are going to ask for what we are receiving," said Superintendent Tony Roehrick. Its $150 per parcel tax provides nearly 7 percent of the operating budget.
But how do you sell a tax, even if it's an extension, when state voters already agreed to support schools by hiking sales taxes, and when the revved-up economy is funneling additional funds to schools?
"In terms of funding for public education, California ranks 49th or 50th in the nation," said Cary Matsuoka, superintendent of Milpitas Unified, which is seeking an eight-year, $84 parcel-tax extension. "Money matters when it comes to educating kids."
Other supporters point out that Gov. Jerry Brown's plan won't restore districts to 2007-08 levels of funding -- with no add-ons for inflation -- for seven years. Campaigners face the challenge of drumming up support among voters who don't have children in their districts. Typically parents constitute about one-fifth of registered voters in districts.
"If you drive around Evergreen, you will see signs for new homes that say 'Walk to top-rated schools,'" said Gomez. "Good quality schools benefit everyone in a community."
Staff writer Bonnie Eslinger contributed to this report. Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.
Santa Clara County
Measure C -- Milpitas Unified School District, $84 per parcel tax
Measure E -- Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District, $99 million in bonds, $18 per $100,000 assessed valuation
Measure*-- Evergreen School District (San Jose), $100 per parcel tax
Measure I -- Cambrian School District (San Jose, Campbell), $39 million in bonds, $30 per $100,000 assessed valuation
Measure J -- Union School District (San Jose, Los Gatos), $125 million in bonds, $30 per $100,000 assessed valuation
Measure K -- Mount Pleasant School District (San Jose), $95 per parcel tax
San Mateo County
Measure A -- Sequoia Union High School District (Southern San Mateo County), $256 million in bonds, $15.90 per $100,000 assessed valuation
Measure B -- Cabrillo Unified School District (Coastside), $150 per parcel tax
Measure C -- Bayshore Elementary School District (Daly City), $6 million in bonds, $30 per $100,000 assessed valuation
Measure D -- Woodside Elementary School District, $13.5 million in bonds, $24.05 per $100,000 assessed valuation