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(Update: On Thursday, the full Assembly passed AB 2235 by a vote of 75-0, sending it to the Senate for consideration.)

The Assembly Appropriations Committee has finally put a dollar figure to a school construction bond measure that it wants to place on the November ballot: $9 billion.

Voter approval to issue new 30-year construction bonds would be the first state financing for facilities for K-12 schools and higher education since voters passed a $10.4 billion school construction in 2006. Of the proposed $9 billion, $6 billion would go for K-12 facilities modernization (split $3.25 billion for modernization, $2.25 billion for new construction and $500 million for charter school facilities); $2 billion for community college facilities and $500 million each for the University of California and California State University. According to an analysis by the Appropriations Committee, the bond would meet a small piece of the tens of billions in new or renovated building needs that K-12 districts and higher education systems say they need.

Last Friday, with a 16-0 vote (with Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly, R-Hisperia abstaining), the committee passed Assembly Bill 2235, co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, and Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills. Since 1998, state voters have approved $35 billion for school construction that has cost the state $2.4 billion in annual debt service, according to the Department of Finance. However, funds in the School Facility Program, which regulates how funds are distributed, are now depleted.

As with past bond measures, school districts would have to pony up their own money to get state funding. For upgrading buildings, districts must contribute 40 percent of the cost. For new construction, it’s a 50-50 split with the state.

There is no statewide inventory of school districts’ facilities, but Buchanan estimates that the proposed bond measure would take care of districts’ needs for about five years. Some of the money would help clear out the backlog of districts that have passed local bonds with the expectation of matching money. “I get calls constantly from districts that say they would have to cut back on projects they need” without state funding, she said. “There are 50-year-old schools in need of repair and schools without technology. The job is not done yet.”

With bipartisan support in the Assembly and a coalition of the building trades unions, the construction industry and business and education groups behind a new school bond, Buchanan is confident of getting a two-thirds majority approval in the Legislature to put the measure on the ballot.

Winning Gov. Jerry Brown’s backing, however, could prove harder. In the state budget he proposed in January,  Brown dedicated $188 million of one-time money to reimburse districts for emergency repairs. At the same time, he criticized the current system of funding K-12 construction and indicated he was re-evaluating schools facilities funding, “including consideration of what role, if any, the state should play in the future of school facilities funding” (see page 7 of K-12 budget summary). He said the current system of facilities approval is too complex and does not allow districts enough flexibility for non-standard building and classroom designs. He questioned the first-come, first-served system of funding, saying it favors large districts. And he said the current system may encourage districts to overstate their space needs.

Buchanan said that she has met with Department of Finance officials and is open to clarifying the bill to address issues that Brown raised. The governor hasn’t indicated whether he would support a bond of any size this year, she said.

Buchanan said her bill does deal with several issues the governor raised. Districts would have to re-establish their eligibility by recalculating their building needs, using updated attendance projections and accounting for all new construction and renovations since the last state bond measure. And she said the bill would require that the Office of School Construction recommend regulations providing school districts with flexibility in designing facilities.

AB 2235 does not propose giving funding priority to school districts with large numbers of high-needs students. However, it does allow for full state funding of facilities in financially stressed districts that lack the capacity to take on additional debt.


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  1. Smokey 2 years ago2 years ago

    I've seen it from the inside. My wife is a middle school Principal. She gets NO support from the school district. Her pay is exactly the same as the highest paid teacher in her school, and unlike teachers, she has to pay for her own medical insurance. The government education industry wastes its money on inflated salaries — then they come to the taxpaying public with their hands out, begging for more money for … Read More

    I’ve seen it from the inside. My wife is a middle school Principal. She gets NO support from the school district. Her pay is exactly the same as the highest paid teacher in her school, and unlike teachers, she has to pay for her own medical insurance.

    The government education industry wastes its money on inflated salaries — then they come to the taxpaying public with their hands out, begging for more money for ‘construction bonds’.

    They should have put their priorities right side up: first, build the schools. THEN pay the salaries.

    Taxpayers are fed up with the dismal performance of the .edu lobby. Get test scores rising, THEN ask for more money. As usual, they have everything upside down and backward.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      Mr. Smokey sir: If you look at a RAND Corp study of a few years ago, as I recall it was "How CA Compares," you will find that in cost-of-living weighted dollars, CA's teachers are the lowest paid of any major industrial state. But maybe you were just talking about "middle school principals" and "salary inflation?" CA has spent less than the national average per student since 1985. Today that ranking, again in dollars adjusted for regional cost-of-living, … Read More

      Mr. Smokey sir:

      If you look at a RAND Corp study of a few years ago, as I recall it was “How CA Compares,” you will find that in cost-of-living weighted dollars, CA’s teachers are the lowest paid of any major industrial state.

      But maybe you were just talking about “middle school principals” and “salary inflation?”

      CA has spent less than the national average per student since 1985. Today that ranking, again in dollars adjusted for regional cost-of-living, is last in the nation (or next to last if you want to quibble).

      Over time that starvation of the education system, in facilities as well as capacity to meet the needs of students, has suffered an inevitable decline.. We should not have to pass bonds to fund upkeep continually, instead should have a revenue (tax) stream that provides for keeping facilities up to date and maintains a healthy working environment for students and school employees. However, we don’t have that revenue stream, with Prop 13 and various tax breaks for business being the primary reasons. So, bond issues it is. Bond issues are the standard method throughout the nation, as i understand it, to fund significant new school building projects.

      I share Manuel’s concerns; however, the needs of the children and the system are too real to ignore and I cannot vote “No” on the bonds just to satisfy a personal pique.

  2. Consultant 2 years ago2 years ago

    The voters are going to be had again. More bond money because the people in charge can’t do their jobs so the tax payers are going to bail them out. Look who is behind this ballot and that will tell you who is going to benefit from this. The kids are just the pawns.

    Replies

    • el 2 years ago2 years ago

      Some of these schools are 40, 50 years old now. Is your suggestion that money to completely redo the electrical to support computers and air conditioning should have been saved out of the operating budget – the operating budget that was cut to shreds in the past few years?

      We have data showing that inadequate ventilation and poor HVAC systems lower student achievement.

      Maintenance only gets you so far.

  3. navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

    Two questions:
    1.Does this allow backfilling of previous matching funds that were retracted by the state in the past couple if years causing districts to have to reneg on some of it’s promised projects?
    2. Does the matching also appy to buying iPads?

    Replies

    • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

      navigio, given that AB 1754 died in committee because all Democratic members (Gonzalez, 80, National City; Nazarian, 46, Sherman Oaks; Weber, 79, San Diego; Williams, 37, Santa Barbara), with the exception of the Chair (Buchanan, 16, Alameda), were not in chambers to vote, I'd say that iPads are included. Therefore, for the first time in my many years as a voter, I will not be approving a school bond. Sorry, but I know too much about how … Read More

      navigio, given that AB 1754 died in committee because all Democratic members (Gonzalez, 80, National City; Nazarian, 46, Sherman Oaks; Weber, 79, San Diego; Williams, 37, Santa Barbara), with the exception of the Chair (Buchanan, 16, Alameda), were not in chambers to vote, I’d say that iPads are included.

      Therefore, for the first time in my many years as a voter, I will not be approving a school bond.

      Sorry, but I know too much about how LAUSD mucks about with the taxpayer’s money to continue to enable “these people.”

    • John Fensterwald 2 years ago2 years ago

      Manuel is right, navigio. AB 1754, authored by Assemblyman Curt Hagman, which would have banned using bond money to buy laptops and iPads, died in the Education Committee. But the staffer doing the analysis of the bill recommended that it be rewritten to clarify its intent, so maybe the issue will resurface next year. Meanwhile, districts can include personal computers in the bond, as some districts have done. There is no provision in the … Read More

      Manuel is right, navigio. AB 1754, authored by Assemblyman Curt Hagman, which would have banned using bond money to buy laptops and iPads, died in the Education Committee. But the staffer doing the analysis of the bill recommended that it be rewritten to clarify its intent, so maybe the issue will resurface next year. Meanwhile, districts can include personal computers in the bond, as some districts have done. There is no provision in the bill giving priority to those districts that had sought state matching money before it ran out under the previous bond issues.

      • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

        John, I would not be holding my breath for a re-write. My guess is that Democrats boycotted the vote not because all the sponsors are Republicans but because the Usual Suspects "asked" them not to vote on it. A re-write might happen, of course, if the LAUSD iPad debacle evolves into something bigger: the "true" cost of providing HD video-streaming capability at every student desk. Two-thirds of the bond costs for this over-the-top bandwidth have already … Read More

        John, I would not be holding my breath for a re-write. My guess is that Democrats boycotted the vote not because all the sponsors are Republicans but because the Usual Suspects “asked” them not to vote on it.

        A re-write might happen, of course, if the LAUSD iPad debacle evolves into something bigger: the “true” cost of providing HD video-streaming capability at every student desk. Two-thirds of the bond costs for this over-the-top bandwidth have already been approved (IIRC, at about $750k/school). That’s where the big bucks are being spent. The iPads-for-everyone meme is just there to keep people distracted as “only” $32,231,755 have been spent on iPads for the 1-on-1 program so far ($26,373,965 was spent on iPads just for testing). That means they still have to purchase more than 450,000 iPads, but never mind that.

        The bottom line is that these expenditures are way out of line and that is not what I voted for. I voted for renovating buildings and putting up new ones. If the state wanted to impose computerized tests, then the state should have figured out how to pay for the related costs out of the general fund instead of expecting taxpayers to sell bonds. If it can’t be afforded, then keep the tests on paper-and-pencil.

        And now we got the scandal of a member of the Bond Oversight Committee refused confirmation because he had the temerity to question this “program?” So much for an independent overseeing body watching out for taxpayers.

        Until the bond initiatives are written in such a way that this will never happen again, I won’t vote for them. And shame on the Legislature for not doing their part in holding districts accountable. If not then, who? The courts?
            

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