2008-05-29 / Front Page

Case made for school tax extension

If Measure C doesn't pass, mediocrity feared
By Sophia Fischer sfischer@theacorn.com

Jay Kapitz is worried about the long-term effects of California's budget crisis on education. The Oak Park resident and member of the community's Municipal Advisory Council believes that the level of education his own two high school age children have enjoyed will not remain for future students. He's concerned that the under-funded schools will negatively affect the community's property values.

"The last thing you want is rundown schools," Kapitz said. "Oak Park has open space, beautiful neighborhoods and good schools. They're all tied together and once you let one of them go things unravel a bit around the edges."

To help retain school programs and teachers, Kapitz is encouraging residents to support the Measure C parcel tax on the June 3 ballot. As chair of the Oak Park Citizens for Excellent Schools, a grassroots group of volunteers that support the tax, Kapitz wants residents to understand that the measure is a renewal of an existing tax, not an increase.

A two-thirds majority vote is required to pass the measure. Senior citizens 65 and older are exempt from paying the tax but may still vote on the measure.

Measure C renews a 2004 parcel tax of $197 per home for eight more years. The tax generates about $1 million annually for Oak Park's six public schools. The funding has helped retain qualified teachers, avoid class size increases, provid upto-date instructional materials, and preserve academic programs.

Administration of the tax revenue must adhere to strict citizen oversight.

There's been no organized opposition to the tax.

To cope with the loss of state funding, school districts statewide are cutting teachers and programs. Kapitz said Measure C will help keep jobs and programs in place.

"You get rid of these great teachers and then someday when the money is restored you can't get them back," Kapitz said. "Parents across the state are clamoring for a parcel tax. We already have one. All we have to do is renew it."

The Measure C group has campaigned doortodoor, created lawn signs, held fundraising events and mailed literature to residents in an effort to encourage support for the measure. Funding for the $13,000 campaign has come from donations.

"It has become abundantly clear that the state is not going to adequately fund our public schools and so more and more school districts are turning to their local communities to provide additional funding," said Tony Knight, Oak Park superintendent.

"The choice is between having mediocre schools or world class schools. Measure C is essential to maintaining our fine schools in Oak Park."

Knight expressed concern about voter turnout, which he said has been low in Ventura County for the past several elections. He hopes residents will go to the polls and pass the measure.

"I always tell students that people in other countries are dying for the right to vote. I've never missed an election since I started voting at age 18," Knight said.

Oak Park resident Mae Greenwald supports the measure even though her two sons graduated from Oak Park High School three years ago.

"This measure is so important to maintaining the quality of our schools," said Greenwald, former college and career counselor at Oak Park High. "I'm behind it 100 percent."

The measure has been endorsed by the Ventura County Sheriff 's Association, the Agoura/Oak Park/Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, the school parent/faculty groups, and teacher associations, among others.

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