Op Ed on Redding School District Measure B

Not long after my daughter started kindergarten at Cypress Elementary School a couple of years ago, the school marked its 75thanniversary.   Cypress opened to its first class of students in 1940, serving the children of a little city whose population was booming in the dam-building era.

The barbecue to mark the occasion brought together several generations of students who first learned to read and write at Cypress — a proud group that includes Redding’s current Mayor, Kristen Schreder.  The decades have seen a lot of learning and created a lot of warm memories.

But those nearly eight decades – that’s also plenty of time for buildings to break down.

The Redding School District’s buildings are old.  While Cypress, approaching 80 years, is the oldest, most of our campuses were built to accommodate the baby boomers in the 1950s and ‘60s.  The plumbing, the wiring, the windows — they’re well out of date in many buildings.  Water gets into the strangest places and causes rot.  Old pipes decay in the ground.  Anyone who has the joy of owning an older home knows that sometimes you have no choice but to make a major investment.

Measure B, on the June ballot, is a chance for voters on the west side of Redding to do just that.  Measure B would raise $28 million to modernize the district’s aging buildings for the next generation of students. And, critically, because a larger bond that voters supported in the early 1990s, primarily to build Turtle Bay School, will soon be paid off, no property owner in the district will see a tax increase because of Measure B.  Instead, current tax bills will drop slightly.

I have friends who reflexively oppose bonds, even for schools.  The government has plenty of tax money and should keep up its buildings without always coming around for more.  I’m a taxpayer too.  I get it.

And in the Redding School District, we’ve done just that the past several years.  We’ve spent millions on better security, roof repairs, energy-efficiency upgrades, technology upgrades, and more.  We’ve not been neglecting the schools.  But time takes a toll on even well-maintained buildings.  Keeping them usable requires constant investment.

Could we cut other spending to go toward building needs?  Well, yes, but just what should we stop doing?  Should we drop the band teachers, who inspire our children’s creativity?  Lay off the counselors, who help troubled students through challenging times?  Sack the librarians, who help connect young readers with books that will spark their love of knowledge? Cut the sports, which teach teamwork and self-discipline?  Shoehorn more kids into ever-larger classes, where those who need extra attention just never get it?

A modernization bond like Measure B provides extra money to invest in safe, up-to-date facilities without forcing these kinds of painful tradeoffs.  And, because the money is raised locally, it is not subject to the whims of the state Legislature.  Every dollar raised will be controlled and spent right in the Redding School District.

My daughters have received a wonderful education in their neighborhood school, but I didn’t do anything to build it. The people who built Cypress and most of our other schools are long gone at this point, yet I am indebted to them for their investment in education.  We can repay that debt by doing the same for today’s kids — and those of the future generations — and supporting our great community’s schools.

Bruce Ross is a parent and the President of the Redding School District Board of Trustees.

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