Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Latest School Official to Use Public Resources to Campaign for $414 Million Bond Measures Q and R

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The Fair and Open Competition – Sacramento committee – the primary organized opposition to Measures Q and R in Sacramento – submitted a complaint this afternoon (October 22, 2012) to the board of trustees of the Sacramento City Unified School District objecting to the latest example of using school district resources to campaign for Measures Q and R on the November 6, 2012 ballot. The letter demands that the school district cease and desist from use of school district resources to campaign for these bond measures.

According to the email, “Superintendent [Jonathan P.] Raymond is illegally using school district resources to campaign in favor of Measures Q and R.” The letter refers to and includes an email received at 11:23 a.m. on Friday, October 19, 2012 from Superintendent Raymond to “All SCUSD Users” entitled “Letter to Staff – October 19, 2012.”

Superintendent Raymond writes that schools need updating, and Measures Q and R would provide the funding to upgrade and renovate the facilities. He claims that “The cost of failing to make a move in the direction of the future is huge.” He then urges recipients to “learn more about Measures Q and R” and “remember to vote on November 6.” Just in case staff cannot figure out the subtle message, the superintendent happens to mention that the Sacramento City Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) endorsed Measures Q and R. (Do the will of your union!)

I’m sure the school district will defend the email with the same argument it uses on the Sacramento City Unified School District web site page for Measures Q and R: “SCUSD cannot tell people how to vote, and SCUSD employees are precluded by law from using tax-supported resources, time or equipment to lobby either for or against any ballot measure. SCUSD can, however, share factual information about a ballot measure’s impact.”

The FACTUAL INFORMATION is that the measurable cost for the future will be huge if voters approve Measures Q and R, while the measurable cost if the voters reject Measures Q and R will be nothing beyond how much the district has already spent to develop the bond measures and place them on the November 6, 2012 ballot.

These two measures authorize the school board to borrow $414 million by selling bonds. To its credit, the Sacramento News & Review, in its pro-bond measure article Homework Improvement, actually informed its readers how a bond works and provided an estimate of the interest that taxpayers will pay on these bonds:

Each requires 55 percent approval by voters. And each would be paid back over time by additional taxes on area homes and commercial property. The district says the measure will cost the average homeowner about about $7 a month on their property taxes.

As with any financing, there’s interest, and the amount of money that has to be paid back is much higher than the amount borrowed. The district estimates that the bonds will ultimately cost taxpayers $734 million over 25 years, in exchange for $414 million borrowed today.

This is not the first time the school district has been accused of using public resources to promote Measures Q and R. I’m hearing reports from Sacramento voters that officials of the Sacramento City Unified School District are testing the limits and exceeding the limits of the use of public resources to promote a Yes vote on Measures Q and R. In addition, the California Taxpayers Association reported the following campaign antics at the Sacramento City Unified School District in its article “Public Education Officials Using School Resources to Campaign for Tax and Bond Measures”:

In the Sacramento City Unified School District, School Board Member Patrick Kennedy addressed a mandatory meeting for parents at Leonardo da Vinci K-8 School on September 12, and used his entire presentation to urge support for Proposition 30 and two local school bonds. He did not mention Molly Munger’s tax initiative, Proposition 38, which is focused on directing more money to schools, nor did he discuss how the local bond proposals (Measure Q and Measure R) would increase taxes for property owners in the district. The school’s September 4 newsletter, distributed by the school to all parents, also included a message urging support for the two bond measures, with no details to educate parents about the proposals.

I suspect the school district’s use of public resources to promote Measures Q and R are an indication that supporters of the bond measures (and their political consultants) are concerned that voters might reject them on November 6, 2012. For the official, comprehensive arguments against the bond measure, see the web site Vote NO on Sacramento’s MEASURES Q and R: Borrowing $414 Million from Investors, Paying It Back with Interest.

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