On Sept. 18, San Luis Obispo City Councilman Dan Carpenter shared his concerns about (among other ballot measures) the Cuesta College bond proposal, Measure L, in a Viewpoint titled Residents of SLO Facing Tax Fatigue. As community members and county taxpayers, we understand and share Mr. Carpenter’s watchfulness about excess taxation, and as supporters of education, we appreciate his support over the years for Cuesta College. With regard to his views on Measure L, however, we respectfully and strongly suggest his view is off the mark.
The Viewpoint asserted that the facts don’t support the timing of the Cuesta bond request. We absolutely disagree. Though enrollment has indeed dropped during the past four years, it fails to acknowledge this was in response to an $8 million budget reduction from the state of California, eliminating funding for deferred maintenance and capital improvements that had to come from general fund monies originally intended for educational programs, student support services and personnel costs. But events like these are cyclical — recently, class offerings have increased in order to meet the needs of students and are forecast to continue increasing.
And any discussion of timing cannot ignore the fact that it has been 40 years since Cuesta College passed a facilities bond. In fact, Cuesta is one of only seven districts out of 72 in the state that is not being supported by a local general obligation bond! The college is, in truth, long overdue in making this bond request.
Like many other community colleges before and since, Cuesta entered into a period of accreditation warnings in 2008, but the college resolved all of the issues and its accreditation was reaffirmed this year. Now, other California community colleges reach out to Cuesta as a model of compliance and best practices. And though quality instruction was never an issue of concern in the accreditation sanctions, fiscal stability was. Passing a bond measure now will support crucial long-term fiscal stability.
Regarding Cuesta’s summer schedule, the types of courses, delivery and location are determined based on what the students are demanding and is planned well in advance. And frankly, we find it hard to believe that anyone takes issue with the compensation scale of the experienced, acclaimed full-time faculty members at Cuesta who have worked hard to qualify to teach at the collegiate level and do so yearround.
The $120,000 that Cuesta spent on a bond feasibility study was a prudent act of due diligence by the elected trustees to ensure that asking our community to help support the college’s capital needs was a wise decision. And the Cuesta College Foundation, which has raised millions in private funds to help students, committed $65,000 to the bond campaign because its independent directors — local leaders, volunteers and taxpayers — understand that the passage of Measure L will do more to ensure student access and success than any fundraising could ever do.
The Viewpoint opines that the college’s facilities are underutilized, but they are not underutilized — they are simply underfunded. The North County Campus is being nearly fully utilized by those who demanded it; today, more than 90 percent of the students who attend the North County campus live north of the Grade. Consolidating the campuses would be a disservice to the demands and needs of our community.
Cuesta’s mission is to preserve the public’s investment and continue to provide stateof-the-art education for our students, but the college cannot fulfill the mission of providing energy-efficient facilities and access to technology without major modernization of facilities.
Like all California community colleges, Cuesta College is an open access institution, open both to local resident students and those moving here. The Promise Scholarship, launched this year as a result of private philanthropy, allows local high school students to attend their first semester free. In fact, that has amounted to 646 students this inaugural year, helping to boost Cuesta’s total first year high-school population by about 100 students.
Cuesta College is an invaluable asset to our community. Measure L supports vital educational programs at Cuesta College by repairing and upgrading classrooms and educational facilities. Measure L maintains and improves Cuesta College job training programs in automotive technology, nursing, paramedic/ 911 emergency medical training, agriculture trades, early childhood education, law enforcement, welding, construction, engineering, technology and architecture, among others. It is the right time and the right proposal, so if people ask you if this Cuesta bond is a good investment for our community, we hope you’ll join us in saying “L, Yes!”