Measure A, the $75-million school bond measure, is backed by hundreds of students, parents, teachers and other volunteers. The downtown headquarters of Citizens for Quality Education has phone banks, computerized voting lists, direct mail, precinct walkers and even late-night pizza for dedicated volunteers.
"It's grueling, but it's what you have to do these days to win one of these," said Supt. Lee Eastwood, who has spent the past several months on the campaign stump, begging Whittier clubs and community leaders for votes and money.
Measure A must have a two-thirds vote in a school district where less than half of the voters have children, according to campaign director Gayl Jaaskelainen, who was hired to run the campaign. She is a consultant with Price Research, a San Ramon political group specializing in bond elections.
The electoral dynamics in Whittier reflect, to some extent, what is happening statewide. Jaaskelainen and other organizers are worried that the city's sizable elderly population, and a number of professionals without children, could oppose the bond measure.
On the other hand, there is no guarantee that the voters with children will turn out. Jaaskelainen said that only 20% to 28% of the district's voters turned out for last year's Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Many of the voters with children are Latino, a group that has traditionally failed to turn out on election day. A PTA registration drive enlisted 1,000 new voters last fall, Jaaskelainen said, but several hundred parents sent in forms saying that they were ineligible to vote because they are not U.S. citizens.
Mail and phone calls are targeting young supporters with children. The campaign does not put signs on lawns or around town. There have been no advertisements in papers. Even the door of the campaign headquarters at The Penn Center in downtown Whittier is unmarked. "Obviously we don't want to splash signs all over town and turn out people we can't get our message to," Eastwood said.
School bond measures have faced an uphill battle in California. Local districts have attempted to pass 117 school bond measures since 1983, according to David Walruth of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, a state lobbying organization. About half of them have succeeded.
Making matters worse this year, Walruth said, is the wobbly economy and the war in the Persian Gulf: Voters may want to hang on to their wallets.
Money for campaigning has been scarce. So far, the district has raised only half of the $70,000 it needs for the campaign. Volunteer Claudia Kennedy said that she has been unable even to get donations of soft drinks from the local food store.
Supporters of Measure A are crossing their fingers in hopes that voters will be more generous. "It's going to be real close," school board President Joe Duardo said.
REPAIRS NEEDED FOR WHITTIER HIGH SCHOOLS
California High School
9800 S. Mills Ave., Whittier
Campus: 59.3 acres
La Serna High School
15301 Youngwood Drive, Whittier
Campus: 40 acres
Pioneer High School
10800 E. Benavon St., Whittier
Campus: 40 acres
Santa Fe High School
10400 Orr & Day Road,
Santa Fe Springs
Campus: 38.8 acres
Whittier High School
12417 E. Philadelphia St., Whittier
Opened: Various *
Campus; 29.5 acres
*Campus buildings constructed between 1922 and 1940
Note: Complete information was unavailable for Frontier High School, a contination school , so it has been omitted. Proposed Major Repairs Cost (Millions)
Plumbing, heating and electrical improvements: $21.1
Classroom repairs, expansion: $16.6
Sports facilities (gyms, stadiums, fields): $7.0
Fire and safety repairs and improvements: $6.6
Computer and science labs: $3.7
Handicap access: $3.3
Asbestos removal: $1.6
Source: Whittier Union High School District
Los Angeles Times