By Cliff Mathieson
The Cuestonian heartily endorses Measure L, which would give Cuesta $275 million in bond dollars.
Measure L—also known by its unwieldy, over focus-grouped appellation, “The Affordable Education, Job Training, Campus Repair Measure”—will give Cuesta the funds it desperately needs to replace code-violating buildings, update old technology and make repairs.
Watching Cuesta’s administration prepare for this measure, it was easy to see how extremely vital it is to the future of the school. As she went around campus getting early opinions on the bond, Vice Superintendent Toni Sommer had a tinge of desperation in her voice—the school will be in a very rough place if Measure L gets struck down.
This is mainly because a state education code requires all of the school’s portable buildings—on both main campuses—to be retrofitted or replaced by September of next year. The most troubling part about this is that Cuesta has no money to repair or replace the portables, so that’s 60,000 square feet of classes and offices that the school has no way to relocate.
The administration and Board of Trustees have half-jokingly offered up ideas like moving displaced offices to double-wide trailers in the dirt parking lot, or renting out retail space for classrooms, but no truly viable ideas have arisen yet—other than the bond, of course.
On top of this dire problem, there’s the fact that it’s important for San Luis Obispo (and Paso) residents to have an affordable way to get a higher education. Cuesta is a huge boon for the community, so it just makes sense that the community, in turn, supports the school.
Cuesta has been around for over 50 years, so it’s not like the school is going anywhere if the bond fails, but it would be a shame to see more classes getting cut just to keep up with the costs of building repairs. Especially since it’s such a promising time for the school; it just had its accreditation reaffirmed, it’s adding more classes (with a focus on in-demand online courses) and the Cuesta Promise is now indefinitely offering a year of free college for graduating high schoolers.
Voters will decide if these coming years will be a golden age for the school—with expansion on recent course growth, new technology and the ability to focus on offering the community whatever it needs, instead of focusing on what it can cut just to get by—or if it will be another rough period for Cuesta.
It’s easy to see why some may be reticent to vote for Measure L: At $275 it is by far the most expensive local bond on the ballot, and the $19.45 per $100,000 of assessed value in property taxes is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, Sommer has stated that even if the school does win the bond, it will go out for another in a matter of years, which is more than a bit concerning. But, cheesy as it may sound, tax spent on education really is an investment in the county’s (and the country’s) future. Having easy access to cheap higher education is truly invaluable.
Cuesta hasn’t been supported by a bond since 1974. Factor that in with significantly reduced state funding and it’s clear to see that it’s about time for the community to step up to the plate again, for the first time in 40 years, and support their school.