Opinion: CUSD board loads, aims at foot, prepares to pull trigger


By on Wed, June 4, 2008

Dedicated opponents of a school district parcel tax must be rubbing their hands in anticipation of Thursday’s school board meeting. On the agenda:


a. Approve Honors Geometry Course at Half Moon Bay High School

b. Approve selection of textbook adoption for honors geometry.

c. Direct the Superintendent, on behalf of the District, to write and submit a letter in support of Assembly Bill 1991.

I needn’t go into the details of AB 1991, Half Moon Bay’s attempt to void the Coastal Act within its city limits. The bill has been well covered in these pages, and has aroused strong opposition on the Coastside and around the state.

As District Superintendent Gaskill writes on the district website,

We are also entering a period of significant economic uncertainty. The Governor’s proposed 2008-2009 budget calls for massive cuts to K-12 education and the potential for mid-year cuts remains a strong possibility. We will need to work harder and more creatively, continue to seek out new partnerships and alliances, and identify new sources of revenue and financial support in the months and years to come if we are to retain our status as a high performing district… and we could use your help along the way.

Indeed they could.

As the state budget goes into the tank, our cash-strapped district will have little alternative but to ask the voters for a parcel tax. This will require that the middle school siting fiasco has faded sufficiently into the distance that the fifth attempt at passage will be the charm. We know from painful experience that parcel taxes are difficult to pass in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. Such a measure would require all the help it can get.

So, why is the board preparing to take this divisive vote on Thursday? I’m frankly at a loss. Superintendent Gaskill can be forgiven for not yet understanding recent district history, especially if we assume that most of his instruction is coming from his board. But the board itself has no such excuse.

If the school board is acting in response to a request from their friends on the Half Moon Bay City Council, then the council will share the responsibility for the school service cuts that will follow the failure of the next parcel tax attempt.

Of course, the district’s endorsement of AB 1991 may simply be an acknowledgment that it has given up on passing a parcel tax in the foreseeable future. If it believes that aggressive development of the Coastside will turn around ten years of falling enrollment and save the district’s finances, it would be would be wrong on at least two counts. First, the changing demographics of the Coastside have produced population growth without enrollment growth. Second, there is no evidence larger enrollment has improved the finances of any school district.

By statute, the district will pass next year’s budget later this month. It won’t be pretty then, and it won’t be any prettier come November.