Measures J and K will keep vital classes and construction projects alive

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Measures J and K will keep vital classes and construction projects alive

Pranav Parthasarathy

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On Nov. 4, we — at least those of us over the age of 18 and our parents — will go to the polls to vote on a variety of issues. At the top of the ballot will be the candidates for governor. Following that will be choices for offices like congressman, local judge, city councilman and school board representative. But another pair of issues will be up for a vote and are of particular relevance to our community: Measures J and K.

Measure J renews a $98 parcel tax — an annual fee levied on homeowners — through 2022. According to FUHSD, this tax will allow the number of academic classes to remain constant, ensure high quality preparation for college and careers and retain staff. Due to the wording of Proposition 13, which instituted the parcel tax, Measure J would require a two-thirds majority in order to pass, which, while not an impossible feat, is far from guaranteed.

Measure K requisitions a new bond measure of $295 million, authorizing the district to borrow money in order to build 51 new classrooms with the goal of accommodating an additional 1,850 students, modernizing older classrooms and facilities and upgrading computer networks and computer labs. Unlike Measure J, the money raised will not be used to pay teacher salaries; instead it will be applied solely to construction projects. However, similar to Measure J, it also requires a supermajority to pass, albeit a lower margin of 55 percent.

While seemingly distant at first glance, these measures are crucial for the health of our school district. Our parcel tax remains among the lowest in the state, with districts such as the Palo Alto Unified School District charging each homeowner $625. FUHSD is also a basic aid district, meaning that all of its general-purpose funding comes from local property tax, with the state and federal government contributing only 15 percent  of the total budget. Consequently, FUHSD does not receive additional funding based on enrollment, meaning the projected growth of 1,850 students will put the district in a tight financial situation should the measures fail to pass.

As residents of an affluent community with a nationally recognized high school — one of the three public Calif. Blue Ribbon schools — it is easy to downplay the financial health of the district as a whole, which could be jeopardized by the addition of 1,850 students. We need to understand that paying our teachers and constructing state-of-the-art facilities comes at a cost and we need to be prepared to foot the bill. That’s why we — at least those of us over, the age of 18 and our parents — need to go to the polls on election day. We need to vote for governor. We need to vote for our congressman. But we also need to vote for our school and our district.