According to the LAUSD’s Director of Maintenance and Operations, “it’s inevitable” that the district will have to place a request to sell more bonds on a future ballot. He says that “we want our students and staff to be in buildings and on grounds that are in good condition, where the roofs don’t leak and the air conditioning works.” I agree, but wonder why the last construction funds that the voters approved were not used for this purpose. They were supposed to be for repair and construction but then they diverted $1.3 billion dollars to purchase iPads.
I have always used a basic set of rules to decide if I will vote for a bond measure. First I determine if the item being funded is important. Next, I ask if there is an alternative funding mechanism. Finally, I make sure that whatever is being funded will have benefits over the entire life of the bond.
iPads do not meet the criteria that I have established to vote for a bond measure. While they may have the potential to be a useful tool in education, the iPads purchased did not even have a full and final version of the needed software. With proven methods available, such as decreased teacher to student ratios, this new technology certainly was not the most important thing needed by our students. If the district really felt that these iPads were important, they could have prioritized them in the operating budget. From a fiscal point of view, the most important thing is that they only have a shelf life of three years. The taxpayers will be paying for them long after they have been sent to the dump.
Unfortunately, the LAUSD Board stole my ability to make this decision. Instead they took money from a bond measure that I had voted for based on it meeting the criteria that I described. First, safe and uncrowded schools are important to me. A bond was necessary because the operating budget could not cover the costs of construction and major repairs. Lastly, the buildings will benefit our students for many years into the future.
The improper use of construction funds for consumer items was also short-sighted because of its effect on future bond funding votes. As long as the current administration is in power, I cannot trust that bond funds will be used for the reasons described in the voter pamphlet. Therefore, I will be forced to vote “no,” even if it meets the criteria that I have always used in the past.