Last week’s edition of your newspaper carried two letters addressing the anticipated shortfall in Proposition X funds for the promised new Malibu High School gym and theater. One letter, from Mark Benjamin, is informational and thus does a service to the community. The other letter, from a group of parent leaders active in Malibu education, is a flawed emotional response to “editorial letter writers” like myself who have asked for a public explanation of why promises made to the voting public may not be kept. To these well-meaning letter writers and neighbors, I offer these thoughts.
To demand accountability of public educational institutions is not to attack them or the children they serve. To suggest otherwise, as these letter writers do, is to create the divisiveness and animosity they bemoan.
If our schools are “punished by a withdrawal of public support,” it will be because promises have been broken, not because some have publicly asked why.
A public process is vital to our public institutions, but “duly noticed public meetings” after an election do not absolve an institution from its promises to voters, provide the general public with information or disenfranchise those who, for whatever reason, do not attend.
Do not let the privilege of public participation infuse you with intolerance for those who do not. Your reward for public participation is having your voice heard; not the right to scold your absent neighbors.
Since writing my letter to the editor several weeks ago, I have been contacted by several people active in the Prop. X process who have been eager to answer my questions. I am grateful to them for their offers, which I intend to accept. Still, I would like to see public answers to some of the obvious questions. When did it become apparent there would not be enough money to go around? Are the projects currently underway over budget? How much of the shortfall in Prop. X funding is attributable to current estimates for the gym and theater, and how much to earlier projects costing more than originally anticipated? Were choices made among the projects competing for funds, and if so when and by whom? I think we can all agree the voting public has a right to know.
Jeffrey W. Karma