BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
A pollster has been calling residents in the Foothill-De Anza Community College District to ask them what they think about a $900 million bond issue that could hit the ballot next year.
Neilson Buchanan, a resident of Palo Alto’s Downtown North neighborhood perhaps best known as an advocate for parking regulation, said he received an 18-minute call on Monday (Aug. 19) from the pollster. He was asked whether he would approve a $900 million bond or if he would be more inclined to support a less pricey one. The pollster asked him for his opinion on different improvements the college district could make with the money.
“All the issues you would expect from trying to run a good community college,” he said.
The college district’s five-member board, which is elected, has been talking about a bond issue for the past couple of years. The earliest it could hit the ballot would be next year.
The college district includes Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Sunnyvale and Cupertino.
This isn’t the first poll the district has commissioned on a bond measure.
An October 2017 poll found that 76% of respondents said they would either definitely approve the measure or probably approve it.
The survey asked respondents to prioritize the benefits from a bond measure, and most (78%) said they felt the money should be used to better prepare students for jobs. In second, at 74%, was preparing students to transfer to four-year colleges and universities.
However, the survey didn’t ask respondents to talk about capital projects, such as new buildings, which are the things normally financed with bond measures.
The college district’s last bond measure was in June 2006, when voters authorized $490.8 million in spending.
Board member Patrick Ahrens said the idea of a bond measure is still in its exploratory phase. Ahrens said he hopes some of the money, if approved, will be used for student housing.
Homelessness among students has become an increasing concern throughout the state.
Troy Parker, executive director of Gardner-Lee Workforce & Opportunity Solutions, would also like to see student housing, but said he is skeptical that the board will prioritize student needs. After receiving the 2006 bond measure, the district didn’t do enough to help homeless students, said Parker, who spoke at a recent board meeting about his concerns. He told the Post that he would like to see a concrete plan before the college receives more taxpayer money.
“Now you want to go for more funding, but what’s your plan?” he said. “Have you laid out a plan to assist students with housing needs going forward? They have yet to answer that question.”
I’m a NO vote. I’ll become a yes vote if I see a thoughtful plan for the use of this money, but vague statements about improving the educational experience don’t impress me.
Online enrollment has skyrocketed, and in-person classes have dropped sharply over the last decade. Check the data, it’s all public.
Foothill and De Anza need to plan for the future, not build new buildings that remain half full or nearly empty. I stopped by the brand-new Sunnyvale Center a few months ago and it was almost empty- again, check the data.
No money for new buildings!
Check the enrollment numbers of local students v. international students. Building housing for international students should not be the highest priority if public land is available for housing.
Check the number of local students (not international) who actually receive degrees for better jobs or who transfer to 4 year colleges, the primary mission of the Community College District.
Absolutely insist on a detailed facility master plan that identifies the specific projects that will be funded by any bond measure so this information can be included on the ballot as state law requires.
It is important that both Foothill and De Anza continue to provide strong support for community education for lifelong learning.