Just months before they told the public they need billions of dollars in new tax revenue for school repairs, school district officials across California were telling the state Department of Education a very different story: their facilities are in “good” condition — even “exemplary.”
The glowing self-assessments are contained in School Accountability Report Cards reviewed by California Policy Center.
In exchange for state funding, all public schools in California must publish annual SARCs to “provide the public with important information about each public school and to communicate a school’s progress in achieving its goals.”
School districts – under the leadership of the superintendent or deputy superintendent – are responsible for completing the SARCs and accurately representing the state of each school. They rank the condition of each facility – “good,” “fair,” or “poor” – and give an overall rating. After being published by the district and submitted to the California Department of Education, the report cards are made available to the general public.
A letter from Brea-Olinda Unified School District (BOUSD) superintendent Brad Mason announces a $288 million bond will enable that north Orange County district to repair “old and deteriorating schools.” The result will be “safe, healthy and modern learning environments.”
But in December, BOUSD schools reported that all features of each of its facilities were in at least “good” condition, and that every facility was generally “exemplary.” A few months after that SARC report, Mason told voters that only a tax hike could address the district’s “serious school facility issues.”
South of BOUSD, in Huntington Beach, Ocean View School District officials claim they need a $319 million tax increase for “essential repairs and improvements.” But district officials had just reported that six out of the 11 elementary schools were in overall “exemplary” condition. The other five were in “good” condition. All four middle schools were also rated “good” overall.
Catrin Thorman is a California Policy Center fall Journalism Fellow. She is a graduate of Azusa Pacific University, and a former Teach for America corps member in Phoenix, Arizona.