Public education is of fundamental interest to the state of California and is a Constitutional guarantee. A quality public education is also fundamental to fulfilling the League’s mission of encouraging informed and active participation in government and increased understanding of major public policy issues.
A safe, secure, and modern learning environment can be a powerful foundation for a child’s education. But California’s schools are aging and need critical upgrades to meet current health and safety standards. Chronic underfunding from the state leaves most public school communities unable to adequately address their needs, increasing the danger of greater disparities among them. Many have passed local bonds, but due to insufficient state matching funds that money remains unspent.
The LWVC has a consistent history of supporting public education facilities bond measures. It has long been understood that no single facilities bond measure could meet the needs of public school facilities infrastructure and that a series of bond measures, with requirements for local matching funds and provisions to assist poorer districts, would be needed. It has been ten years since the last statewide facilities bond was passed by the voters.
Since the creation of the School Facilities Program in 1998, voters have approved $35 billion in state general obligation bonds for K-12 school facilities. All new construction and modernization bond authority from previous bond measures has been exhausted. There is an approximately $2 billion backlog of eligible K-12 school district project applications waiting for state matching funds. These applications were submitted to the state under the current program to make safety repairs, complete seismic renovations, build new schools, and make technology improvements.
Prop 51 includes funds for Career Technical Education that will enable local high schools and community colleges to upgrade vocational education program facilities so students and veterans can learn the skills they need to get a career in a competitive global economy and contribute to California’s economy.
Local Education Agencies (such as school districts and county offices of education) are eligible for modernization funding based upon the age of buildings. Permanent buildings become eligible after 25 years, with special priority given to buildings after 50 years. Portable buildings become eligible after 20 years.
Estimates also project future school construction funding needs of more than $20 billion over the next decade. Additionally, there are nearly $500 million in high priority community college projects awaiting state funding support.
Local stories can be a powerful tool in conveying the importance of Prop 51 and its link with local schools, larger communities AND the individual voter. They can convey a key message: “Why is passage of Prop 51 important to you?”