Employees of the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District have been actively campaigning for Proposition 30 and against Proposition 32 on school grounds, which violates state law, the president of the Riverside-based Inland Empire Taxpayers Association alleged Monday.
"On October 24th, district employees, on school time, distributed campaign materials on school grounds promoting positions on Statewide Propositions and in support of current school board members up for re-election," Chris Mann, IETA president, said in a letter dated Oct. 29 to Sherry Kendrick, superintendent of the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District.
"Furthermore, the YCJUSD website, associated school websites, and large banners on school sites are being used for political advocacy," Mann said in the letter, which was distributed after 4 p.m. Monday to news media outlets including Redlands-Loma Linda Patch.
Kendrick could not be reached to comment for this report.
According to Mann, parents also reported that district administrators advocated political positions during a recent "back to school" event on school property.
School districts are strictly prohibited from engaging in political advocacy using public resources under California law, including Education Code 7054, Mann said in a statement.
"No use may be made of school property, funds, personnel, supplies or equipment 'for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure.' Violation of this provision can either be a misdemeanor or felony and is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment," Mann said.
As of Monday evening, the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District website http://ycjusd.schoolfusion.us had a link to a site devoted to "2012 Go Bond Information" at www.yucaipacalimesaschoolsbond.org.
"Updating classrooms, labs and technology is essential to providing a strong foundation in math, reading, English and science, and for preparing local students with skills needed for high school, college and today’s competitive job market," the 2012 Go Bond Information page states.
"Many schools in the District are 40-50 years old and in need of repair and upgrades to meet current safety codes and educational standards.
"To repair our schools, and better prepare our students, the Yucaipa-Calimesa JUSD Board of Education is considering placing a local school bond measure on an upcoming ballot.
"The bond measure would also allow our schools to be eligible for State matching funds that would otherwise go to other school districts.
The 2012 Go Bond Information page states a local bond measure would:
- Improve the quality of academic instruction in core subjects like math, science, reading and writing
- Add vocational training labs and technology to support college and career readiness
- Fix or replace leaking or deteriorating roofs
- Provide 21st century science and computer labs
- Repair or replace aging and deteriorating classrooms
- Modernize and upgrade instructional technology
The Yucaipa-Calimesa JUSD has been serving students in Yucaipa and portions of Calimesa since 1911, according to the school district. The Inland Empire Taxpayers Association was founded in 2006.
The IETA has not offered alternative ways for the Yucaipa-Calimesa school district to improve instruction, add labs, fix or replace leaking roofs, or deal with aging and deteriorating classrooms.
Advocacy for a local bond measure by the school district is what Mann and the IETA object to.
"It is a serious breach of the public trust when government officials spend public funds to create an advantage for one side of a political campaign," Mann said.
Mann called on the Superintendent and Board of the YCJUSD to "immediately cease all political activism on taxpayer owned property and/or with taxpayer funded materials."
The Inland Empire Taxpayers Association is based in Riverside and it's billed as an organization devoted to "Fighting for Freedom, Less Government & Lower Taxes." For more info about the IETA visit http://ietaxpayers.com/.
Stay with Redlands-Loma Linda Patch for more on this developing story.