Santa Paula Times Editorial

October 12, 2012
Yes on Measure M: Time to unify SPESD and SPUHS

Measure M on the Nov. 6 ballot would unify the Santa Paula Elementary and Santa Paula Union High School districts. This common-sense idea has been discussed for decades and is finally before Santa Paula voters.

The Santa Paula Times recommends a yes vote.

Public education in California faces enormous challenges due to chronic state budget shortfalls. The economic situation makes it all the more imperative for our education dollars to be spent efficiently and wisely.

If Santa Paulans pass Measure M, a new, unified school district will be created by July 1, 2013, eliminating the need for two superintendents and two school boards, significantly decreasing administrative costs. That will mean more money spent in the classrooms. A new five-member school board would be elected. Six candidates for that board are on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The new, unified school district would have approximately 5,100 students as there are 3,588 students in the elementary school district and 1,512 in the high school district. Its boundaries would be the same as the current Santa Paula Union High School District.

 In a unified school district, certificated employees would retain the same classifications they currently have. Classified employees would retain their same salary and benefits and, according to state law, classified employees’ jobs would be protected for two years. 

Measure M does not affect the three small, independent elementary school districts in Santa Paula, which chose to opt out of the unification process: Briggs (K-8), Mupu (K-8) and Santa Clara Elementary (K-6).  Students from those schools would continue to be sent to Santa Paula High School.

On the most practical level, Measure M will result in a unified school calendar, allowing students in the elementary and high school grades to have the same holidays. Beyond that, a unified school district will facilitate a coordinated K-12 curriculum, allow for integrated technology, streamline costs and maximize resources, thereby enhancing the educational opportunities for all Santa Paula schoolchildren. It creates no new taxes or fees.

Discussed on and off for decades, unification finally got traction in 2009 when a Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce committee studied the issue and took it to the Santa Paula City Council. In February 2010, the City Council requested that the Ventura County Committee on School District Reorganization consider it. That committee granted the City Council’s request, leading to a series of public meetings on the issue. At a public hearing in Sacramento earlier this year, several Santa Paulans testified on the benefits of unification and the California State Board of Education unanimously approved the proposal go before Santa Paula voters.

The few arguments against unification are extremely weak, advocating for the status quo. Santa Paula can’t afford to stand in place. The improvements Santa Paulans demand for educating the children in our community can best be accomplished by everyone working together on the same page. Continuing on the same path we are on will lead us to the same results. Santa Paula can no longer afford wasteful duplication of spending on education administration. Santa Paula children can only benefit from spending more of our limited education dollars in the classroom. 

 This unification proposal -- in the works for three years -- is well-thought-out and could not come at a more opportune time.

Santa Paula needs a unified school district. A yes vote on Measure M is a vote to improve education in Santa Paula and create more opportunities for all our young people.

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