The Starting Line –How the Taxpayers Association Enabled the ‘$2500’ iPads Being Used in San Diego Schools

by on October 23, 2012 · 1 comment

in Columns, Education, Government, Politics, The Starting Line, Voter Guide 2012

The email has been everywhere.  It’s at the center of the campaign against San Diego Unified’s School District’s Proposition Z, a measure asking the voters for additional financing for capital improvements and repairs to school properties.

The headline screams “School Board is Buying iPads for $2,500, New San Diego County Taxpayers Association Analysis Shows”.  We’re quickly told that SDUSD “is using 40-year Capital Appreciation Bonds, the same risky, long-term financing notoriously used by the Poway Unified School District.”  Without skipping a beat we’re breathlessly told that every dollar spent by the Board will cost taxpayers seven dollars.

But what the “No on Z” people (who are basically the same as the Taxpayers Association) aren’t telling us about is the role that they played in approving this “risky financing”. Or that the financing deal really isn’t the same as Poway’s. And that there’s a really big “IF” underlying their financial assumptions.

To understand what is going on here, you have to go back to 2007/8.  The Taxpayers Association signed off on and publicly supportedProposition S, a couple of billion dollar bond measure.  Prop S was “no new taxes” bond – i.e. as the tax base “grew” the tax rate already in place would generate the funds to pay off the bonds.  The voters agreed that it was a good idea.

The housing market collapsed. Prices tanked.  The District’s Assessed Valuation (the “tax base”) stopped growing. It had been growing 5%/yr on average.  No rising valuation meant no bonds could be issued. (Which explains why the school district hasn’t ‘spent’ all the monies that were supposed to be generated by Proposition S.)

So, last year, The District was faced with a decision: Stop the Prop S program altogether (until the tax base started growing again) or use “Poway-style” CAB bonds.  Get past the scary quotation marks and you’ll discover that it’s like using a credit card to pay monthly expenses—not necessarily wise, but sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do.  The dangers of this type of decision lie in what kind of credit card you are using and how fast you can pay it off.

SDUSD decided to let the public in on their decision making process.  They had a Big Workshop. Spread sheets. Public testimony. All sorts of discussion and input.  The lawyers even said the District’s ‘No New Taxes’ Pledge that accompanied Prop. S was NOT binding and that they could keep the program going by raising taxes.  But the District said, “No. We made a promise (even though back in 2007/8 there was a different board) and we’re keeping it.”

The same scene was played out again at the Board Hearing when the decision to use CABs was made.  The Taxpayers Assn attended all of these Workshops/Hearing and raised No Objections.

As it turns out the CAB (or credit card, if you will) used by SDUSD didn’t have the same rates and conditions as the infamous “Poway” deal.  And, as is true with most kinds of credit, you can save a lot of money on interest by paying the principle down at faster than the minimum rate.

So now these Taxpayers Association types are screaming from the rooftops about how SDUSD is paying $2500 for $399 iPads.  It is true that San Diego used Proposition S monies to launch its technology program, but that’s about as far as the truth goes in Taxpayer Assn arguments.  Conveniently forgotten is the fact that The Taxpayers Assn. approved the District’s Classroom Technology Program when it was reviewed by the Oversight Committee.

These Taxpayer Assn types are acting as though they just found out that Proposition S explicitly included funding for a comprehensive technology program.  This program, which includes computers for teachers and students, has been an overwhelming success. Test scores are up across the board every year since it was implemented.

San Diego’s program is a national model. Every campus and classroom has been wired for broadband internet. Classrooms have ‘Interactive White Boards’ that pull down data and lessons from the internet in ‘real time’. Teachers can monitor students as they do their work and provide instant assistance. This program has begun a major transformation of classroom learning in San Diego that is being copied around the nation.

FYI—The SDUSD’s Proposition Z on this year’s ballot does not depending on rising market valuation for funding.  It asks for increased property taxes.   Proposition S projects will eventually get funded as property values rise again, unless we have another real estate crash. And who knows, if Romney gets elected and brings back George Bush’s economic policies, that could happen.  Let’s hope the Taxpayer Assn types are looking out for our best interests when they cast their votes for President.

Inside UT-San Diego; a Look at Manchester’s Machinations

Amita Sharma over at KPBS has an excellent story up today delving further into the inner workings at Doug Manchester’s UT-San Diego.  She talks with former subscribers who’ve left the paper, people who are encouraged by its boosterism of all things San Diego, former and current staffers, along with both Manchester and CEO John Lynch. Money Quotes:

But both Manchester and Lynch maintain the firewall between news and opinion remains.

“Our newsroom runs itself through the leadership of Jeff Light,” Lynch said.

U-T editor Light did not respond to requests for comment. But U-T staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Light most often sides with his bosses over his staff.

[snip]

“There’s a sort of adolescent mentality that’s running the newspaper,” one reader said. “It’s petulant and not particularly thoughtful. If you have a really good story, I don’t know if it would get into the paper if Lynch or Manchester didn’t like it or it was too controversial. Morale is terrible. People are distressed.”

They also said Lynch and Manchester are far more hands-on than their predecessors in pitching story ideas, angles and people to profile. The reporters said the two men suggest their friends as subjects for the paper’s front-page “Making a Difference” stories.

In other news from Mission Valley, CEO Lynch told Associated Press’s “The Wrap” column that he and Manchester are not pursuing purchase of the Los Angeles Times. In an email to reporter Alexander Kaufman he said “

“The Times is a great asset, everyone related to the newspaper or media business is rumored to be interested in buying, including William Randolph Hearst and Horace Greely(sic)”

In another interview with the Associated Press this past weekend Lynch let slip that publisher Manchgester was an investor in Manchester San Diego-area resident Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary, “2016: Obama’s America,” which portrays a gloomy future if the president is re-elected.  This essentially confirms my (and others) gut feeling that the full-page color ads that were sprinkled throughout the UT-SD over the past month were in fact donations in kind.

La Jolla Marriott Employees Air Grievances

Workers at the La Jolla location, managed by HEI Hotels & Resorts, told Channel 10 news team reporters that they are being routinely mistreated since that company took over management of the Marriott venue last year.  The complained of not beng allowed bathroom breaks—with one employee going to the hospital for treatment as a result–, excessive work hours, and unhealthy working conditions.  The hotel’s management says it has maintained an open-door policy to hear employee complaints, but a video aired showed frustrated employees storming the hotel general manger’s office demanding to be heard.  He ended the conversation abruptly and refused to talk with them.

Along with increased health risks for employees, HEI has also increased rates for health insurance plans.  Two women interviewed said that, as full-time employees they bring home $980 monthly; the company’s $500 insurance premium means that they have had to leave their families uninsured.

DeMaio Gets Sleazier by the Minute

Kudos to Dave Maass over at SDCityBeat for reading beyond the headline in the Carl DeMaio press release on Friday touting defense contractors (in polispeak they’re “Defense Industry Business Leaders “ ) supporting the GOP hopeful’s mayoral campaign.  Among those leaders was one Gene W. Ray, who undoubtedly will head up the Candidate’s ethics commission.  Ray was CEO of the Titan Corporation (now part of L3 Communications) back in the day when the company was hoisted on its petard for bribing, among others, the President of Benin.

Teachers’ Union Recall Passes Threshold

Members of the San Diego Education Association, unhappy over concessions made with their contracts with San Diego Unified, report that they have gathered enough signatures to force a recall election for at least one member of their governing board.  The Breakfast Club, an activist group within the SDEA membership, reports that they have already gathered more than 1000 signatures on the recall petition and that at least two other board members will likely face elections.  Twenty five percent of the SDEA membership’s signatures are required to force a recall, and activists report more than eight schools with over two thirds of the membership endorsing the measure despite efforts by both the School District and the union leadership to suppress the effort..

 Clinton to Endorse Peters Today

Former President Bill Clinton will attend a “California’s Voice” rally at UC Irvine to endorse Democratic congressional candidates in Southern California today. Clinton will advocate for congressional candidates Julia Brownley (CA-26/Ventura), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47/Long Beach), Scott Peters (CA-52/San Diego), Raul Ruiz (CA-36/Palm Springs) and Mark Takano (CA-41/Riverside).

Tweet of the Day:

Mitt Strangelove warns of our growing 8-track-gap. #Debate

— Joshua Holland (@JoshuaHol) October 23, 2012

On This Day:  In 1929 the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged starting the stock-market crash that began the Great Depression.  In 1996the civil trial of O.J. Simpson opened in Santa Monica. Simpson was later found liable in the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole and her friend, Ronald Goldman.  In 2005 Lou Rawls gave his last performance when he performed the national anthem of the United States to start Game Two of the 2005 World Series in Chicago.

Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Coronado (1st St. & B Ave., Ferry Landing) 2:30 – 6 pm, Escondido  (Grand Ave. btw Juniper & Kalmia St.) 2:30 – 6:00 pm , Mira Mesa  (Mira Mesa High School 10510 Reagan Rd.) 3–7 pm, Morena District   (1240 West Morena Blvd.) 3 – 7 pm, Otay Ranch – Chula Vista (2015 Birch Rd. and Eastlake Blvd.) 4 –8 pm, Pacific Beach  (Bayard & Garnet) 2 – 6:30pm, UCSD/La Jolla (UCSD Campus, Town Square at Gilman/Meyers) 10 am – 2 pm (Sept. 25 through mid-June; closed for winter, spring and summer breaks)

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Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013 and 2014. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
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avatar doug porter October 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Not to start any rumors or anything, but UT-SD Editor Jeff Light’s voicemail says he’s out of the office until after election day. Just sayin’….
Maybe Manchester’s got him in the basement filling in mail in ballots. Those GOP types and voter fraud certainly have been in the news a lot lately.

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