Despite widespread bipartisan support from state legislators and school districts, Gov. Jerry Brown is remaining mum on whether he supports putting a multi-billion-dollar school construction bond on the ballot in November. The governor had no comment, his press office said in an email.

AB 2235 passed the Assembly unanimously and is now before the Senate Education Committee. Co-sponsor Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, said she hopes it will emerge within the next two weeks with a dollar amount filled in and a deal with Brown to put the measure before voters. But if the Senate passes the bill and  Brown hasn’t signed on, Buchanan said she feels a responsibility to school districts facing deteriorating buildings and a backlog of construction needs to send it to the governor’s desk anyway. The co-sponsor of AB 2235 is Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills.

When it was first proposed, the bill called for $9 billion in construction bonds, with $6 billion for K-12 schools, $2 billion for community colleges and $1 billion for the California State University system and the University of California. Buchanan said she anticipates a lower total, between $4 billion and $5 billion. The Department of Finance has indicated Brown may not support including higher ed, she said.

Since 1998, voters have passed $35 billion in 30-year general obligation bonds for school construction in partnership with local funding: Districts pay half for new construction and the state pays 60 cents out of every dollar for school renovations. The last bond, for $10.4 billion, was approved eight years ago, and the agency that administers the allocations needs replenishing, Buchanan said.

Including the backlog of projects already approved by the state, a $5 billion bond would meet building needs for about three to four years, she said. This figure does not include the $2 billion worth of local construction bonds that three dozen districts passed in June, since it’s not clear how much of that would qualify for a state match, Buchanan said.

Joe Dixon, assistant superintendent of Santa Ana Unified and chair of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, lays out the case for a state construction bond for beleaguered districts.

Credit: Coalition for Adequate School Housing online video

Joe Dixon, assistant superintendent of Santa Ana Unified and chair of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, lays out the case for a state construction bond for beleaguered districts.

Brown, who has made reducing the state’s long-term debt a priority, is also negotiating a water conservation and water storage bond. Buchanan said she hasn’t gotten any indication that Brown’s approval of a school bond is dependent on the size of the water bond.

Brown has indicated that he is re-evaluating whether the state should contribute money to school district facilities. In his January budget, he also called for simplifying the process for awarding state construction bonds and for giving districts more flexibility over prioritizing construction needs. Buchanan said she’s open to incorporating further reforms.

The organization representing school districts and architects and construction companies also has stepped up a campaign to press for a state construction bond. In a video interview, the president of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing said that cuts in funding for building maintenance following the last recession have brought many school facilities to the brink of  failure.

“After not having a bond for eight years, and not having other funding sources to maintain our schools, we’re getting to the point where it’s critical,” said Joe Dixon, assistant superintendent of Santa Ana Unified and chair of the coalition. “If we delay any longer, we are jut putting ourselves in jeopardy and it’s going to cost more.”

 

 

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  1. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    The fact that it's first come first served ought to be enough to vote no. Each district has it own particular needs. In the case if San Francisco Unified, the grand jury has extensively reviewed SFUSD's surplus properties and recommended a reasonable pairing back of unneeded and poorly administered sites within that surplus portfolio which I understand to be the largest in the state. It raises the question of why the State of California … Read More

    The fact that it’s first come first served ought to be enough to vote no.

    Each district has it own particular needs. In the case if San Francisco Unified, the grand jury has extensively reviewed SFUSD’s surplus properties and recommended a reasonable pairing back of unneeded and poorly administered sites within that surplus portfolio which I understand to be the largest in the state. It raises the question of why the State of California should take on more infrastructure bond debt when districts are mismanaging the infrastructure they currently have. Local opponents of surplus property reform, including the district itself, falsely claim that selling off properties would jeopardize future growth capabilities. But this has been shown to be a red-herring given the size of the surplus relative to even overly optimistic projections of an increase public school participation. And that remains true even if SFUSD were to end some of the practices that drive family flight from of public schools.

    Necessary infrastructure improvements will likely cost 3 to 4 times after the waste fraud and abuse and the debt obligation, something California certainly doesn’t need more of. I’ve seen first hand how the district pissed away ADA bond upgrades on facilities that were dysfunctional and overpriced. At one school they spent about $200,000 on greening. This involved removing about 1,000 sq.ft. of pavement , “building” a 3 foot high dirt mound and planting two trees.

    While necessary repairs go unheeded, we’ll likely have a $3-4B bond/ jobs program that will enrich some construction companies, provide a certain number of union jobs and employ a lot more low paid undocumented workers.

    In the meantime who needs water fountains when you can drink Smartwater?

  2. navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

    further reforms? this is our chance to have complete transparency on the bond game, i mean money flows. yeah right.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 2 years ago2 years ago

      Not sure that was what he had in mind, navigio, but a good idea.

    • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

      Reform? What reform? What are you talking about? What is Buchanan talking about? I don't see the word "reform" in the article prior to the "quasi" quote of Buchanan's statement. So what are these reforms about? Could it be the simplification of contract awarding? As far as I am concerned, it doesn't matter to me because I'll vote no. Why this seemingly troglodyte response? Because after seeing the debacle with LAUSD and the iPads, I am totally … Read More

      Reform? What reform? What are you talking about?

      What is Buchanan talking about?

      I don’t see the word “reform” in the article prior to the “quasi” quote of Buchanan’s statement. So what are these reforms about? Could it be the simplification of contract awarding?

      As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t matter to me because I’ll vote no. Why this seemingly troglodyte response? Because after seeing the debacle with LAUSD and the iPads, I am totally convinced that there is too much waste, fraud and abuse. Unless some real constraints and safeguards are put into the approval process as well as the actual carrying out of the contracts, I won’t vote for any more bonds. What Deasy did with the iPads was to poison the well for me.

      I mean, why in the world would authorization be given to construct a network capable of delivering streaming HD video at every kid’s desktop? This is what LAUSD approved to be paid for by construction bonds. Meanwhile, for example, schools do not even have access to drinking fountains because the plumbing has rotted. Does that make sense to you, dear reader?

      • John Fensterwald 2 years ago2 years ago

        Manuel:
        Go to pages 7-8 to see what the governor means by reforming the system.

        • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

          Thank you, John. I've looked at these pages (and p. 9, too) and I see four complaints and two "solutions." The solutions are (1) to move what has not been spent on the four mentioned programs to "core new construction and modernization" and (2) a one-shot deal to pay for "repairing or replacing ... buildings that pose a health and safety threat." These are not reforms, but merely shifting funds around. And they do not do … Read More

          Thank you, John.

          I’ve looked at these pages (and p. 9, too) and I see four complaints and two “solutions.”

          The solutions are (1) to move what has not been spent on the four mentioned programs to “core new construction and modernization” and (2) a one-shot deal to pay for “repairing or replacing … buildings that pose a health and safety threat.”

          These are not reforms, but merely shifting funds around. And they do not do anything to address the four complaints.

          My complaint is that nobody is really minding the store. Again, based on the iPad bungle, excuse me, the “Common Core Technology Project,” nobody is telling districts that any of their proposals are an undue burden on taxpayers and completely unnecessary to conduct the business of educating students. Until educrats like Deasy and his assistants are stopped by appropriate statues, not by the action of one or two volunteers on a board, from attempting to carry out impractical and expensive solutions, I don’t see a solution in sight.

          I just heard Gov. Brown on public radio say that the public won’t be voting for high construction bonds so he wants to keep the cost of some of the proposal under $4 billion because, he feels, if the bond is for $11 billion, the public will vote no and the state will get a big fat zero. I did not catch it but I think he was referring to the water redistribution system, although that applies equally well to this one. I mean, if $163 million are still sitting on the Seismic Mitigation fund when LAUSD is supposed to be needing $500 million, then who is paying attention?

          • John Fensterwald 2 years ago2 years ago

            Yes, Brown was referring to the water bond, but he would apply the same yardstick to school construction. The state has been AWOL on the issue of using long-term financing to buy laptops and devices good for two or three years, as LAUSD is doing. But, as you and others have often cautioned, don't judge 1,000 districts based on one the experience and mistakes of one district (or a district based on the experience of … Read More

            Yes, Brown was referring to the water bond, but he would apply the same yardstick to school construction. The state has been AWOL on the issue of using long-term financing to buy laptops and devices good for two or three years, as LAUSD is doing.

            But, as you and others have often cautioned, don’t judge 1,000 districts based on one the experience and mistakes of one district (or a district based on the experience of one teacher), even if it is the nation’s second biggest. The unmet building demands of districts are well documented. Brown has cited a need to change the lengthy process of approval and the funding priority given to large districts with big facilities staffs.