Nov. 2022 Election: San Diego’s Measure U would continue progress toward safer, healthier schools | #schoolshooting

Barrera is a board trustee with the San Diego Unified School District, and lives in South Park.

The true measure of any community is always what it does for its children. Over the last two decades, this generation of San Diegans has shown itself to be a wise and caring community by investing in great public schools by approving several school bonds in local elections. We all should be proud when we see the results of this investment in schools in every neighborhood. Formerly aging and even dangerous school buildings have been replaced by safe, beautiful, state-of-the-art learning facilities that have led to our students graduating from high school prepared for college and careers in record numbers.

This year, voters have a chance to continue to investment in our children by saying “yes” on Measure U on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Measure U will provide the funding necessary over the next two decades to replace and modernize school buildings that are over 50 years old. Measure U will fix leaky roofs, remove asbestos from classroom walls and lead in the plumbing underneath drinking fountains, improve air quality in our children’s classrooms, and replace old portable buildings with clean, modern facilities. Facing up to our current reality, Measure U will upgrade security in our schools by improving fencing, door locks and communications systems to deter the threat of school shootings. San Diego Unified School District Police Chief Alfonso Contreras points to examples in other communities where these types of security upgrades made the difference in preventing tragedies, such as a situation in a Northern California school district where an active shooter was unable to access school classrooms after entering the grounds and left before he was able to inflict further harm.

Measure U will also continue to provide our students with the technology and innovative 21st-century learning facilities that will prepare them to succeed in careers in science and technology. New performing arts centers, film and dance studios as well as rehearsal spaces for band and orchestra will help make arts education a reality for our kids in every neighborhood. Critically, Measure U will also expand early learning facilities for our youngest students as they prepare for kindergarten, providing free, high-quality options for parents stressed at the cost and lack of availability of child care. And for the first time, Measure U will allow us to build affordable housing on district property for teachers and school employees, helping make it possible for brilliant, passionate young people to choose education as a career in San Diego.

Although San Diego’s voters have overwhelmingly approved every school bond measure put before us over the last two decades, some now argue that we should stop making progress, because not all the money from past bond measures has yet been spent. That argument ignores the fact that every dollar from past bond measures has been either spent or committed to future projects, and that the need to continue to upgrade our schools will not go away. With over 200 schools in our community, nearly every campus combines the safe, modern facilities our students deserve with the old, unhealthy buildings that have been in place for over 50 years. Ignoring the need to continue our progress will just make the problem worse in the future. Old school buildings depreciate at an annual cost to taxpayers of $200 million, and without the upgrades provided by Measure U, that cost will come at the expense of fewer general operating funds for our schools — meaning larger class sizes, fewer nurses and counselors, educator layoffs, and cuts to arts and music, career pathway programs and high quality early childhood programs.

Measure U will not increase the tax rate property owners currently pay, because it replaces existing bond measures that will expire over the next decade. Measure U protects taxpayers by requiring annual independent audits as well as an Independent Citizens Oversight Committee. That’s why Measure U has been endorsed by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, as well as parent leaders from neighborhood and charter schools throughout San Diego, Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, and the over 6,000 classroom teachers, nurses and counselors of the San Diego Education Association.

The coalition of parents, teachers, students and business, labor and community leaders pulling together in support of Measure U represents the best of us as San Diegans, a community that continues to invest in our children.

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