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Editorial: Yes on community college measures G, H

Investment in Foothill and De Anza colleges is essential to maintaining affordable educational opportunities

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Over the last decade California’s community college system has become more important than ever in offering an affordable college education and vocational training option.

As tuition costs of attending one of the state’s two university systems has steadily risen, out of reach of lower and many middle income families, community colleges offer both an educational safety net and an automatic path after two years to a UC or CSU campus. Specialty job training programs in fields such as nursing, science, technology and emergency medical services allow those unable to afford universities to obtain the job skills and certifications necessary to compete for well-paying jobs.

We are fortunate to have two outstanding community college districts on the Peninsula, and much of their success stems from the investment taxpayers have made through past bond measures and parcel taxes. These have allowed colleges to maintain, improve and build needed facilities, attract outstanding faculty and staff and maintain affordability for students.

Through six campuses, the Foothill-De Anza Community College District and the San Mateo County Community College District together serve about 100,000 students, many who hold full or part time jobs while attending school.

Measures G and H on the March 3 ballot ask for voter approval of a nearly $900 million bond measure (G) and a $48 per year parcel tax (H) for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, which includes Palo Alto, Stanford, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino and parts of Saratoga.

Measure G, which would be the largest school bond in county history, is estimated to cost property owners approximately $16 per $100,000 of assessed valuation for the next 34 years, or $400 per year on a parcel with an assessed valuation (not market value) of $2.5 million. It requires 55% of the vote to pass and funds can only be used for new facilities or major upgrades to the existing infrastructure. No money can be spent on personnel or operations. The Foothill-De Anza trustees have developed a list of potential projects that range from important maintenance of existing facilities, such as new roofs and upgrades to ventilation and heating systems, to the possibility of developing badly needed student and faculty housing.

Measure H is a flat-rate parcel tax that would generate about $5.5 million annually to be used for operations, including the expansion of programs serving students, compensation of faculty and staff in order to retain and attract them in the Peninsula’s challenging housing and employment market and to fund mental health and other services for struggling students. Measure H needs a two-thirds vote to pass and will last for five years.

Critics of these measures argue that because enrollment in community colleges has steadily declined as the economy has recovered from the Great Recession the focus should be on cutting programs and closing facilities, not improving them. They ignore the fact that the number of students moving on to the UC or CSU system to obtain university degrees has steadily increased, as has the number of certificates and degrees awarded by the community colleges. The reasons for this disparity may be that housing costs have driven some to leave the area and that the need to support themselves or family has led some part time students to set aside education plans in order to work two jobs.

The size of the bond measure is ambitious and asking a lot of voters given the number of other tax measures that will be appearing on local ballots in elections this year. But local voters have a strong history of supporting bond measures and parcel taxes for education and polls indicate both of these measures should be able to gain the needed support.

In 1999, Foothill-De Anza district voters approved a $248 bond measure by a 72% margin and in 2006 they approved a $491 million bond with 66% vote.

The high cost of living, income inequality and the high cost of a university education have created huge obstacles to young people launching successful lives, especially in a Bay Area economy so driven by high tech and dominated by a highly educated workforce. A vibrant community college system is an essential safety net and path to opportunity for those whose options are limited, and voters should ensure it continues to thrive.

Endorsements are the opinion of the Voice and Embarcardero Media editorial boards and are separate from news stories or reporting.

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

17 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 21, 2020 at 9:39 pm

Measure G asks permission to borrow $898 million to be repaid with interest over 3 decades - with the accompanying authority to collect the amount for repayment from higher property taxes. If the money were borrowed (by selling bonds) now, interest might total $600 million. But under the provisions of Measure G, the money may be borrowed at no more than $48 million per year. At that rate, bonds would be sold over the next 18 years - each time at whatever interest rate must be paid. If interest rates double, total interest (on that year's borrowing) doubles. Borrowing $898 million in this fashion could COST BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN INTEREST. Might voters someday elect Community College Board Members that would protect the community from such irresponsible borrowing? Dream on.


7 people like this
Posted by Herb Masterson
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2020 at 8:56 am

Unfortunately, these two tax measures will only exacerbate the difficulties that the Foothill and De Anza College students face.

It is true that community colleges are both a good investment and a good value. They enable local students to attend college at very low cost while living at home. Students are able to save money and then transfer to a four-year institution.

Community colleges were never intended to become regional institutions where students travel long distances to attend. There are 115 community colleges in California, but many have multiple campuses in order to be accessible to even more local residents.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a community college becoming so desirable that it becomes a regional institution, attracting mainly students from out of the area. But Measures G & H send a terrible message to the State, one that encourages the State to continue to provide inadequate funding to destination community colleges while expecting local residents to pick up the slack.

The State should be providing increased funding to community colleges. The funding should be coming from statewide income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes. Extra efforts should be made to bring other community colleges up to the same standard of educational excellence as Foothill and De Anza. This would eliminate the need for students to travel long distances to Foothill and De Anza, and enable them to live at home without the problems of food insecurity and homelessness.

It is not sustainable for Foothill and De Anza to have so many out-of-the-area students with so little affordable housing available. There is sufficient land at Foothill and De Anza for student housing by getting rid of the surface parking lots and building parking garages for commuting students. The State should fund housing for more community colleges, including De Anza, if the mission of the Community Colleges is changing.

Student housing can be financed with loans that are paid back with the revenue from rent. That’s how CSUs and UCs finance new housing. But no one should ever think that on-campus housing is necessarily low cost housing, as anyone that’s sent their children to a CSU or UC is well aware, it’s often more costly than sharing an apartment.

We live in a state which is one of the leading economic and cultural capitals of the world. We can certainly afford to have the State fund a world-class educational system.

Say yes to a more equitable and robust community college system on March 3, by voting No on G and H.


10 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 9:42 am

While I have not gotten proponents to comment on one reading of the bond measures (i.e., that they limit how quickly bonds could be sold), I do want to acknowledge another possible interpretation: the yearly amounts recited in the measures may refer to the total annual tax anticipated to repay bonds sold at the current low rate of about 2%. If so, there is still the risk that bonds will not be sold fast enough to avoid a rise in the interest rate.


7 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:01 am

In response to Herb Masterson you said:

“Unfortunately, these two tax measures will only exacerbate the difficulties that the Foothill and De Anza College students face.”

Please explain the cause and effect on this statement, you made a conclusion, but your writing doesn’t actually support it. Your statement saying:

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with a community college becoming so desirable that it becomes a regional institution, attracting mainly students from out of the area. But Measures G & H send a terrible message to the State, one that encourages the State to continue to provide inadequate funding to destination community colleges while expecting local residents to pick up the slack.”

Measure G and H are to address the following issues and only these issues:

Measure G provide funding to fund critical repairs and maintenance of the Community Colleges in this area that serve Mountain View, namely De Anza/Foothill. It is not a desirability bond, but to provide the funds to operate, itf the maintenance is not done, the facilities will have to close due to lake of safety

Measure H is your real target because it could be used to provide seed money for public housing projects. That is a direct threat to the private housing sector that by your own admission built the wrong housing balance.

On top of this, an educated public is always a threat to those who want the public to assume that they are an authority to be trusted. In effect it is the minority controlling the majority via control of what information the majority can have access to. Also providing the minority a power over the majority by withholding information that is contrary to the interests of that minority. What does this sound like, oh yes 1984 by George Orwell.

Thus, you have not proven your point at all, you’re deductive or inductive reasoning has no real connection to the thesis you stated in your first sentences. Please try again? I am not trying to prevent you from contributing, but you really need to improve the content of your writing.


7 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:49 am

I will vote Yes on the special tax (Measure H) which is small and limited in years, and NO on the large Bond G. The Large Bond spending is the typical list of legally unprioritized spending (maybe spending).

Is student/faculty housing on the spending list (for now?) It need not remain there, any future Board Majority ( 3 people) may legally change that priority. It IS NOT IN THE BOND MEASURE ballot language. There cannot be any 'oversight' ensuring that that project is actually started.

Measure H needs 2/3 approval. At less than $250 total per parcel, over a total of 5 years, I think this community college list has made the case - for General Fund revenue increases.

[55% Bond 'catch-all laundry lists' - Foothill-DeAnza was the district that first successfully defended that idea. Unfortunately, IMO, for good transparent government spending - they won the right to NEVER PRIORITIZE BOND spending, and always 'just present a "laundry list", that can have it's check list completely changed later. That is the Case Law - as for Good Government / I think it sucks. ]


7 people like this
Posted by Richard Michael 909-378-5401
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2020 at 2:43 pm

Proposition 39 was an offer by the people. Follow the rules and you can win with 55% of voter support instead of 2/3rds.

The list of specific projects to be funded was "To ensure that before they vote, voters will be given a list of specific projects their bond money will be used for." Notice that's BEFORE they vote.

If the district wants flexibility, it can go for the 2/3rds vote bond (Proposition 46). The district wants to cheat by taking the benefit without having the requirement. Cheaters, what a great role for so-called educators.

When the rules are ignored and a district can change anything, oversight is a joke. Without a specific list, it's just a blank check where anything will be allowed by a fake oversight committee.

The district is also cheating on the ballot.

Like every other school and college district in the state, the district is cheating on the ballot to win an election.

The districts are electioneering on the ballot using public moneys (Penal Code 424(a)(2)) with a ballot statement that is a not-so-thinly disguised sales pitch.

Elections Code 13119 (AB-195, effective Jan 2018) requires a statement that is in a very specific form (to prevent front-loading the statement with goodies and prohibit a self-serving title), not be an argument or reason for passage, impartial, and not likely to cause prejudice in its favor.

The districts are cheating to win an election. What a poor example to the students. Do you endorse cheaters?

This statement was written to test in the voter survey before the measure was ever written. No matter what the measure finally said, the statement did not change. This is the statement that the surveyed voters liked. All of the 120 school bond measures on the March 2020 ballot read eerily alike. It's like the same person wrote them. In fact, there are a handful of C.A.S.H. (Coalition for Adequate School Housing) vendors that write and sell all the $80 billion or so local bond measures around the state every two years. So, yes, they are written by the same people, because they've discovered how to spin paper and ink into gold. They can literally print money. About 95% of the measures pass. This is their formula.

"FOOTHILL-DE ANZA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT AFFORDABLE CAREER, COLLEGE TRANSFER, CLASSROOM REPAIR MEASURE. To upgrade facilities preparing students/veterans for university transfer/careers like healthcare, nursing, technology, engineering/sciences; upgrade/repair aging classrooms, labs for science, technology, engineering/math-related fields of instruction; acquire, construct, repair facilities, equipment/sites; shall Foothill-De Anza Community College District's measure authorizing $898,000,000 in bonds at legal rates, levying 1.6 cents/$100 assessed valuation ($48,000,000 annually) while bonds are outstanding, with audits/no money for administrators' salaries, be adopted?"

"FOOTHILL-DE ANZA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT EDUCATIONAL AND TEACHER EXCELLENCE MEASURE. To provide funding for local colleges that cannot be taken by the State; keep college education affordable; attract and retain quality teachers; support homeless, hungry students; maintain science, technology, health-science programs; and prepare students for university transfer, career and job training, shall Foothill-De Anza Community College District's measure levying $48 per parcel for 5 years ($5,500,000 annually), be adopted, with citizens' oversight, and with no funds for administrator salaries?"

These are sales pitches to vote yes.

13119 also requires disclosure of a duration. "while bonds are outstanding" is like saying nothing. The districts know exactly how long they expect to collect the tax. It's printed in the tax rate statement in the voter information guide. It's dishonest to prejudice voters who get past the sales pitch to avoid the disclosure requirement with meaningless tripe (lies).

For school and college districts, Education Code 15122 requires the maximum interest rate for bonds be printed on the ballot. Where is it? The district cheats with "at legal rates." That tells the voter nothing. The maximum interest rate is 12%. Districts don't want to let the voters know how expensive these bonds could be. Cheating, once again.

For Proposition 39 bonds, Education Code 15272 requires the following statement be printed on the ballot: "the board will appoint a citizens' oversight committee and conduct annual independent audits to assure that funds are spent only on school and classroom improvements and for no other purposes." Districts cheat by omitting this language. If they put it in, it would actually be false, because the measure goes way beyond "school and classroom improvements" and includes many "other purposes." Cheating.

Nothing in the election code allows a title on the ballot for local measures. Grandiose, self-serving titles like this are out-right false. Cheating.

Once you start cheating, you may as well pull out all the stops.

If you believe cheaters shouldn't prosper, then vote your values.

What's the solution to cheaters who win an election and steal millions of dollars? Think Houston Astros. It's called an election contest, which is available under the new law (AB-195). Call me for details.


3 people like this
Posted by Community Minded
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2020 at 5:19 pm

I agree! Please vote YES on Measure G and YES on Measure H to support young people and our community!


5 people like this
Posted by Bad Business
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2020 at 6:38 pm

Clearly some of the comments here are from people who do not understand the measures. Measure H is only $22 Million over 5 years. It's easy to say no to this. The state funds colleges according to instructional hours. Even if more of the hours are resulting in the student transferring on to UC, there is still the major issue that there are far fewer hours being delivered than once was the case. It has nothing to do with the previous recession. The fact is that there are far fewer students aged 18-25 now and also in the pipeline than once was the case. It's not that they moved away. The population demographics have simply shifted. And many of these instructional hours now being delivered are used by FOREIGN students coming from other countries who find FHDA to be an easy way to get a student visa, whether they are from Bulgaria or Saudi Arabia. The entrance requirements are much lower than any other college. So, clearly no on H. It's not needed. The state has steadily INCREASED funding per instructional hour. No local supplements are needed. That's a good argument against H. (And this income has NO CHANCE of being used for housing of any sort. It's just for salaries basically.)

Then there is measure G. It too is a bad idea, but rather than just $22 Million, it will cost the taxpayers nearly 2 BILLION dollars by the time the bonds are paid back with interest over the next 30 years. This isn't merely maintenance money. It's WAY TOO MUCH capital funding for these two dinky institutions. We have so many other things on which 2 Billion dollars could be well spent. With the state already having constructed such large facilities for a much larger enrollment, capital is not needed at FHDA.

So No on G too.

And all these comments from people saying how wonderful JC's are, well, fine. They're already spending nearly $800 Million per year at FHDA, and this will go on, without either of these two measures. Isn't that enough?


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