A Further Response to Brian Carver by EUSD Board Member John Affeldt
Brian, I offer a few thoughts here in response to your recent piece responding to my letter to the Tattler responding to your original opinion piece of February 13th. Again, my thoughts here are my own and not an official district or board statement.
Future Bonding Capacity Will Be Available
Your primary concern—that the district has maxed out its ability to issue any new bonds and upgrade any new facilities for the next 30 years—is well-stated and, at first blush, understandable. However, your assessment assumes all things remain static for the next thirty years. At least three likely developments will occur—any one of which makes a freeze on the district’s bonding capacity highly unlikely.
First, if Emeryville’s overall assessed property values (AV) rise for any meaningful period of time during the next 30 years above the district’s conservative 4% annual estimate, then there will be new bonding capacity available. As discussed in my previous letter, the last 30 years, even with at least three different economic downturns and the Great Recession, saw the City’s AV rise at a 7.49% annual rate. And, as also previously stated, I think the investment in improving our school quality with the Measure J bonds will also ultimately drive our property values up.
While you are correct that the redevelopment agency is gone, that fact doesn’t alter the desirability of Emeryville as a well-situated city for commercial and multi-family development. Both common sense and Emeryville’s General Plan indicate that, based on Emeryville’s central location in the Bay Area, our population growth and new development will continue their upward trends. The improvements and amenities that were made with Redevelopment funding over the past 30 years have continued to attract businesses and residential developers who want to fulfill the in-fill development opportunities that are outlined in the General Plan. The fact that construction of new buildings has continued during the recession is evidence of the pent-up demand as are the School District’s projections of anticipated developer’s fees for school construction which indicate that this trend in continuing. In short, with or without Redevelopment, the overall assessed value of Emeryville’s tax base will continue to increase over the next 3 decades.
Second, the State is sure to issue school construction bonds and probably more than once over the next thirty years as it has done repeatedly over the last fifty. According to the Center for Cities and Schools at UC Berkeley, there is a current $117 billion unmet need among California’s public schools for bonds to build new schools or repair or modernize existing ones. The district will be able to take advantage of these state bonds to address new facility needs that arise.
Third, if property values throughout the state don’t rise sufficiently in the coming years, there will be a public policy response that also increases the ability of local districts to respond to California’s $117 billion need. It’s important to remember that approximately 200 of California’s roughly1,000 districts have issued capital appreciation bonds (CABs). Thus, a significant number of districts have resorted to CABs to respond to the fact that their bonding capacity in the near term has been limited by economic conditions. If all those districts are squeezed out of building or modernizing for the coming decades, new legislative or proposition initiatives will emerge to increase local bonding capacity.
Building a Full Service Community School Program Throughout the District
Next, I disagree with the characterization that the district is over-focused on buildings over program. My prior piece already addressed the fact that the district is building a full service K-12 community school in which the primary purpose of the ECCL campus is to enable us to improve program quality over existing facilities (while simultaneously increasing efficiencies). It is important to realize as well that, even in advance of the new facilities, we have already begun to move toward a community schools model with more robust wrap-around services for our youth. The District has heavily invested in a number of programs that move us in this direction over the past few years, including, among others, our:
After school program coordination with the City;
Newly opened pilot Family Resource Center;
Collaboration with Life Long Medical and other health care providers to address the issues of family health that otherwise distract from education;
Internship programs with graduate students in nursing, psychology and social work to provide additional resources for our children and families;
Partnership with Head Start to ensure that families who cannot afford the Emeryville Child Development Center still have access to affordable childcare;
Numerous efforts to develop mentoring and internship programs for high school students with outside businesses;
Partnership with Peralta Community Colleges and CSU-EastBay for adding to the community’s opportunities for higher ed and adult ed/job training; and
Open school yards that are available for access by neighbors for recreation after hours.
These are just a few examples of the full service community schools programming the district has been developing over the last few years.
Moreover, in addition to building the ECCL site with the City, the board has also been thoughtfully planning how to utilize all of its available sites consistent with a full service community schools model. The board has, for example, designated the Ralph Hawley site as a locus for pre-natal to K programming and this year successfully moved the Head Start program into improved facilities there.
As well, the district’s and the City’s new pre-natal through grade 16 master plan task force will review how Emeryville can best utilize the Anna Yates and Recreation Center sites in the coming years and how these two sites fit with the anticipated uses of the ECCL and the Ralph Hawley sites going forward. The need to accommodate potential future enrollment growth, an issue you identify, can be part of these discussions. I urge you and any other interested residents and stakeholders to apply to serve on this task force. Applications can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org and are due by Monday, March 10th.
In sum, I feel the district is thoughtfully planning how to utilize all of its available spaces to improve program quality and that it will have sufficient financial resources down the line, when needed, to address its facility needs.
John Affeldt has a son in Kindergarten at Anna Yates and was appointed to the School Board in July 2012. For over twenty years he has worked on educational equity issues at Public Advocates in San Francisco where he has twice been recognized as an Attorney of the Year in California for his education work.