Dear Editor – Getting the School Bond Right

Dear Editor, 

Elections in Culver City are hard to predict. As of 2020, our local elections are all consolidated with statewide balloting. Conventional political wisdom based on prior stand-alone April elections is of limited value. CCUSD retained a polling firm to test whether a $300 million bond measure could pass in a March or November 2024 election. Even by shading the questions to try to get a favorable result, the pollsters barely managed to get above the minimum 55% threshold required for school bonds in California. In prior elections, by contrast, Culver City voted 70%+ for bond and tax measures for schools.

Some CCUSD School Board members apparently want to run with this and put a bond measure before the voters on the March 2024 election rather than the November 2024 election. I believe this is reckless. There is almost no time to try to sell a bond measure to parents and the public before ballots are mailed out in just 60 days. The electorate is also likely to be smaller, older, and more conservative in March 2024 than in November 2024. Putting a bond on the March 2024 ballot now is a crapshoot. The School District’s lack of preparedness will not constitute an emergency for voters.

Losing elections is not fun. I know. I have the dubious distinction of having received the highest vote count (7,846) of any candidate never to have been seated on the Culver City Council. I know that number like I know my own birthday.

By contrast, putting a bond on the November 2024 ballot is probably an absolute lock. With more than six months to campaign in favor of the measure and sell it to the public, a bond measure should sail through.

The fear of having a potential Culver City parks bond measure “competing” with a CCUSD bond measure on the same ballot is old thinking. The consolidated ballot is now a half-inch-thick booklet with all kinds of offices and measures many voters will know nothing about. Having more than one Culver City-related item is no longer a relevant consideration. At the first of the two Bond Feasibility Committee meetings, the District’s bond consultants noted that they had recently worked on three bond measures that passed simultaneously in hyper-conservative Shasta County.

Furthermore, the supposed costs of waiting a few months are largely speculative. Interest rates can go up or down. The idea that we “get to the head of the line” for matching funding or state architect review presumes that other school districts (who are also getting the same advice from consultants wanting to work on school bond measures) are not also crowding onto the March 2024 ballot. We simply do not know.

Let’s be real. Our schools are in poor physical condition, but government contracting is not a speedy process. It will take 8-10 years to build the new buildings our students deserve, and the District has already said it will need another bond in 10 years to finish the job it envisions. Having failed to address these issues for several years, the District cannot reasonably argue that a few extra months now is crucial.

I cannot predict the future. Perhaps the school bond measure will pass in March 2024. But if that measure is placed on the March 2024 ballot and garners only a majority of 52% or 53% and therefore fails (55% is required) the losers will not be the district politicians, but our kids. We have a chance to do this right, put it on the November 2024 ballot, and get a clear win. I hope that wiser heads prevail at the special School Board meeting called to decide the matter on December 5, 2023.

Darrel Menthe

The Actors' Gang