Editorial: Vote ‘yes’ on Measure M to ensure the success of the TUHSD

Editorial Staff

Whether it’s the honors biomed classroom filled with students enthralled by their lab, the gym filled with red-clad fans cheering for the basketball team or the lively atmosphere created by a song performed by Mr. Mattern’s Jazz band, Redwood is defined by moments made in its special programs and events. Those experiences, however, are in jeopardy due to a new threat on the horizon: a future without funding from Measure M. If not passed, the learning experience of every Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) student will be significantly harmed, not just those involved in the aforementioned courses. Our district would face a $16.8 million deficit, accounting for  17 percent of the TUHSD budget. Measure M’s failure or success will decide 115 teachers’ fate out of the current 303 employed by the district, according to the TUHSD parcel tax information webpage.

Measure M proposes renewing the current $469 parcel tax already in place for homeowners 18 to 64 with a three percent cost of living adjustment each year and exemptions available for Seniors and low-income people with disabilities who are eligible. This is a drastic reduction from last March’s Measure B proposal, which would have resulted in an annual tax increase of $190 per resident on top of the $469 tax already in place. Measure B needed a 66.7 percent supermajority vote to pass but, unfortunately, came up four percent short. This forced the district to make $3 million in cuts after already cutting $5.8 million over the past two years. 

Measure B’s defeat was a major loss for both our community and TUHSD as a whole,  compromising various programs vital to the quality of our education and student culture. This was made clear by the March budget cuts that resulted from Measure B’s failure which, among other cuts, restricted students to seven periods and eliminated roughly 13 percent of student newspaper instructional time. Furthermore, the entire Tamiscal High School Team program was cut, destroying an alternative curriculum for juniors that past students often refer to as life-changing.

Following the failure of Measure B, the district reevaluated their proposition to ensure the success of Measure M, according to M Campaign Co-Chair Dana Linker Steele. In addition to no longer asking for a tax increase, Measure M will only have a nine-year term instead of the 10-year term proposed for B. 

Illustration by Kalyn Dawes

This year, Measure M has garnered greater support than Measure B had. The Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers (CO$T) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that represents Marin taxpayers’ interests, according to their mission statement. Last spring, CO$T disapproved of Measure B, arguing that it was unfair and unaffordable because of the tax increase and its flat-rate. This year, the organization has taken a neutral stance on Measure M. CO$T is a constant opponent of additional taxes on the community, but their neutrality on Measure M signifies its reasonable propositions and how important its passage is for our district. 

Further budget cuts would be another potential impact of M’s failure. Students would see a drastic decrease in the availability of Advanced Placement (AP) courses. According to US News Rankings, Redwood’s AP participation rate is 83 percent. Funding provided by M would continue to support these course offerings that have provided an outlet for students to explore interests in greater depth. Consequently, its failure would result in a less rigorous curriculum and decreased chances to earn college credit for students. 

Not only are AP classes valuable to students, but if their availability decreased it would subsequently harm the overall quality of TUHSD schools. Since property values directly correlate to the caliber of the public schools in the area, even residents without children in the district would be financially affected should M fail. We have seen this happen before with Proposition 13, a tax measure that limited property taxes at the expense of school funding after its enactment in 1978. In the case of Prop. 13, homeowners voted with similar incentives as those who voted against B, and the former resulted in a worsened public school system. Should M fail, properties may lose more than just $469 in value, exceeding the annual cost of the parcel tax itself.

Opponents of Measure M, such as Michael Hartnett, Treasurer of the Marin Public Policy Institute, criticize the regressive nature of the tax. He claims it is unfair that people who live in small condos pay the same amount as those who live in larger homes. However, this argument is ill-informed because the legality of square footage-based parcel taxes for school measures is still a contentious issue. In fact, other public school districts, such as Alameda and Los Angeles, have recently passed parcel taxes based on the square footage of property and been challenged in court, resulting in costly lawsuits for the districts that are not yet fully resolved. Others that oppose Measure M are subject to the misconception that the funds will go towards renaming High School 1327 (formerly Drake High School). TUHSD, however, disproved this claim, stating that only donations will support any name change. 

Failure to pass Measure M would be a disservice to teachers, athletes, artists, academic scholars and residents alike. We want to preserve the current opportunities that Redwood students have and ensure that prospective students can relish them as well. It is time to vote “yes” on Measure M to save our school and the future of our district.