School facilities bond measure gains steam; boards can show support with resolution

23 Jan
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With less than two months until the March 3 primary election, new polling shows that 53 percent of likely voters support a critical state bond measure that would provide $15 billion for facilities at California’s preschools, K-12 schools, community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. The polling from the Public Policy Institute of California also finds that 36 percent of likely voters oppose Proposition 13 and 10 percent are undecided.

The survey results represent a noticeable uptick from November 2019, when 48 percent of likely voters said they would vote yes on the measure, with 36 percent saying no and 16 percent undecided. “Support for the Proposition 13 state school bond is now above 50 percent, with strong support evident among Democratic and younger likely voters,” PPIC President and CEO Mark Baldassare said in a statement.

If approved, The Public Preschool, K-12, and College Health and Safety Act of 2020 would secure key resources for the renovation and upgrading of existing classrooms, construction of new classrooms to accommodate growth and for career technical education facilities to provide job training. The measure’s passage would inject $9 billion into the state’s preK-12 schools, while universities, four-year colleges and community colleges would each receive $2 billion.

The impacts of facilities projects go well beyond doors and windows, as a growing body of research has found that school facilities have a profound impact on both student outcomes and issues such as teacher recruitment and retention.

At CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in in San Diego in December, the association’s delegates voted to endorse the bond measure. “Our members have firsthand experience with the facilities that are home to our students during the weekday and they understand how critical healthy, nurturing environments are to both student well-being and student success,” said CSBA CEO and Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “Parents realize this as well and want their children to attend schools that are safe and equipped to prepare them for the demands of modern society and the 21st-century workplace.”

District and county office of education boards can bolster community support for the facilities bond measure by passing a resolution in favor of Proposition 13. Sample resolutions from CSBA are available in both PDF and Word versions. Governing boards that adopt a resolution are asked to forward a copy of the signed resolution to govrel@csba.org.

The need for more project funding is clear

Traditionally, voters have strongly supported state bond measures to fund public school construction and modernization programs. In 2016, 55 percent of voters approved Proposition 51, which allocated $9 billion to school facilities. However, all of that bond funding has already been allocated, with districts and county offices waiting for the approval of roughly $2 billion in new construction and $2.6 billion in modernization projects.

Forty-six and 61 school districts, respectively, are awaiting Prop 51 funds on the unfunded list for either new construction or modernization, according to Office of Public School Construction numbers from December. CSBA recognizes that the longer these school projects linger on the Workload List, the cost of construction continues to escalate, reducing the local buying power to build necessary school construction projects and fulfill the promises made to local communities.

Other data backs up the widespread need for more school bond funds. During a June 17 EdSource webinar in which CSBA participated, researcher Jeff Vincent estimated that, of the 310,000 classrooms in California, 75 percent are more than 25 years old, 30 percent are more than 50 years old and 10 percent are more than 70 years old. In addition, the state has over 75,000 portable classrooms that require regular maintenance.

As a result of advocacy by CSBA and other organizations amid calls for greater equity and the leveling of the playing field, the allocation process for Proposition 13 would differ from previous school facilities bonds. New evaluation criteria mean that funds would no longer be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Instead, schools grappling with safety concerns such as seismic risks, toxic mold or lead removal would receive first consideration, followed by smaller districts and those with low property values that inhibit their ability to finance larger bonds.

Additional CSBA blog posts on facilities issues:

“CSBA school facilities forum highlights key issues, board member roles”
“California schools facilities needs make case for proposed bond measure”
“Full-day kindergarten facilities applications greatly outpace available funds”

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