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Morgan Hill
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August 13, 2020

Editorial: MH district, trustees and charters fumbled chance

The Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Trustees’ decision to withdraw a parcel tax proposal for the November ballot rather than share a piece of the pie with two local charter schools revealed much about the long-seething relationship between the district and the charter schools.

Cutting through the political gamesmanship, where cordial public greetings and interactions mask true sentiments, it is safe to say the school district and charter school officials genuinely distrust one another. It doesn’t take any inside information to draw that conclusion.

At a June 19 meeting, where a 5-1 vote reversed an earlier decision and prevented a $1.5 million-per-year parcel  tax from going before voters, Board President Tom Arnett said “irreconcilable differences” keep the district and charter brass from agreeing on just about anything.

Unfortunately, Arnett, who sits on the board until the end of the month but whose children were in the charter school pipeline until recently, was correct in his assessment. Using a parcel tax proposal to repair years of bad blood was a pipe dream of some well-intended trustees.

All sides—the school district, Charter School of Morgan Hill and Voices College-bound Language Academy—are to blame in this one, and they all miss out on valuable funds that could have helped better educate students, improve facilities and limit looming budget cuts to staff and programs.

The MHUSD trustees also should be included in the blame since the decision was ultimately theirs to make. Board Vice President Mary Patterson, one of three trustees to change her vote from one meeting to the next, spoke to this, admirably falling on the sword by blaming herself and the entire school board for failing to procure a final parcel tax resolution for the Nov. 6 ballot.

But from the district’s “I’m taking my ball and going home” approach to both charter schools’ laissez-faire, noncommittal maneuvering in the days that followed the initial May 15 vote (later overturned), the $75 five-year parcel tax measure never stood a chance. Whether it would have passed, with or without charter inclusion, will never be known.

Board members and officials left the door open for developing a future shared parcel tax measure, but it remains a longshot at best considering the parties involved. A memorandum of understanding is necessary, as Assistant Superintendent Kirsten Perez said, before any tax revenues can be adequately shared and allocated. That seems unlikely considering that the district and Charter School of Morgan Hill (the district is the local charter’s authorizer) have yet to come to terms on an MOU based on their five-year pact.

This, along with the mutually distrustful relationship between MHUSD and Voices, shows that because of “irreconcilable differences” between the district and charter schools, they should develop their own separate parcel tax proposals. That is where the district was headed in May, and represents a good “new” starting point.

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