Measure KO’s the public

By Peter Jacklin

I must begin by saying that a good education is one of the most valuable possessions one can have. That said, I am not a fan of public education for many reasons, some of which I will express here.

The government continues to gouge taxpayers over education. Large promises of noble advances are made. Few changes in the public education system benefit our children. OUSD’s Measure K is no exception. It promises high and delivers low.

The alleged $296 million for renovating our four existing high schools is a massive underestimation of the project’s costs. It’s likely to cost three to four times more.

Assuming the $296 million estimate is correct, that funding is equivalent to one year’s operating expenses for the school system. Would any business do this?

Good teachers make good education. School bonds do not. More funding needs to go to teachers’ tools, not to developers, lawyers and contractors. Enough is enough.

School bonds raise property values? If this were so abundantly clear, the sky should be the limit on school bonds. OUSD management should have floated the bonds some time ago and every year thereafter. Why didn’t they? Because the premise is false, and they know it. Despite the cockamamie sales pitch that every dollar of bond debt creates a huge increase in property values, the truth is elsewhere.  Good education raises property values. Taj Mahals do not.

As for the proclaimed oversight committee, its better name would be the “overlooked committee.” Its only function is to REVIEW spending and report negligence. To whom it will report negligence? The school board. The fox will be watching the hen house. 

For the better part of 10 years, OUSD management has been setting aside two percent of its operating budget for building maintenance. That’s the minimal amount prescribed by law. Had management been resourceful in its obligation to its students and community, the current situation of ramshackle buildings would be far less. Leopards don’t change their spots. I can expect more of the same when a $296 million windfall hits the bank account.

Technology is revamping all facets of our lives and the way we lead them. I can’t predict how home schooling, online teaching and other educational advances are going to affect how education is delivered. I can predict that technology will change things. Just look at what’s changed in the last decade. In 10 more years it’s reasonable to believe that school facilities, as we know them now, will no longer be needed in the volume that OUSD has them today.  It’s not too farfetched to believe that in 30 years we’ll be paying off the debt for school facilities that were long ago torn down by developers.

There is no doubt that our children need education. There is no doubt that OUSD schools need repair. There is plenty of doubt among plenty of people that a $296 million capital expenditure is the right thing to do at this time. Our situation needs a 21st century vision of education. Within that vision, tell me how school facilities will fit. I stand on that side and I urge a “no” vote on Measure K. 

Peter Jacklin lives in Orange Park Acres.