Some time before the election in November 2008, the district’s administration, the school board and many of Beaumont’s community leaders came together and decided they wanted to build a new stadium. They worked together to write the Measure Z proposition. They listed many worthwhile goals and projects but never revealed to the voters their true intentions. During one of the most troubled economic times to hit our nation, state and county, and facing record budget cuts to our schools for years to come, they asked the voters to finance a $125,000,000 bond measure. Many voters were watching their homes lose value and their mortgage payments increase but they still voted to increase their property taxes to help support our schools.
Immediately following the election, the district came to the community with a list of programs, services and teachers that would be cut from the budget to supplement the money no longer coming from the state. It was about this time we learned about the plans for the $15 million dollar stadium. I asked the board at the time to reconsider how much they would spend on the stadium and if they would consider building it in phases to enable more of the other projects. The projects the voters knowingly approved. I was told it would be more economical to build the stadium all at once and that they were going to move forward with their projects as planned.
I also asked them to use an amendment to the education code authored by our assemblyman Russ Bogh to provide more flexibility in our budget. This would allow them to use some of the proceeds from the sale of the district office for onetime expenses. I suggested they reduce the cost of the stadium and use the savings to build the new district office. This would free up the surplus sale proceeds to reinstate services and programs they’ve eliminated. I also told them it wouldn’t be right to ask our families to make more sacrifices to our kids’ education when they weren’t willing to reconsider the cost of their projects. They told me the Measure Z funds couldn’t be used for the administrative offices. This was coming from the same district that used the wording in the proposition “improve physical education facilities” to justify 75% of our kids’ money to be spent on a $15 million dollar stadium.
This last week we learned the design committees for the projects, totaling $20 million, were not provided a budget or a list of features and associated costs. The committees had no way to assign a value to each design feature and therefore were unable to compare features and contain costs. We also learned there was very little community involvement in the design of the new administrative offices.
Now the administration brings to the budget review committee two areas they suggest for future cuts. These were salary reduction and shortening the school year. We spent 80% of our meeting time discussing these areas and then I was asked what I thought? I told the committee our kids have already lost so much and I don’t think it is acceptable to now reduce their instructional time. I presented other areas I felt we should cut the budget and have a smaller impact on our kids’ education. I suggested eliminating all staff development (teacher training) for the next couple years. I also asked that technology, which can be paid for with Measure Z funds, be eliminated from the general budget and paid for with Measure Z funds. Neither of my suggestions received any support from the administration.
At every level of government, we are shifting our debt responsibilities to our kids and, at the same time, handicapping their education. We are headed in the wrong direction and we are not looking out for what’s best for our children. The superintendent, assistant superintendents, board members, community leaders and construction companies who are leading our district in this direction won’t be around to be accountable to our kids. Parents, who stand by and allow this to happen, will have to answer to their kids for the future they’ve left them.