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Group plans $9 billion school construction bond for 2016 ballot

Craig Clough | January 13, 2015

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school-constructionWith Gov. Jerry Brown‘s new budget offering little in the way of funding for new school construction projects, a group has announced a plan to gather signatures for placing a $9 billion school construction bond on the November 2016 ballot.

The Coalition for Adequate School Housing (C.A.S.H.), an alliance of school districts and construction groups that was formed in 1978 and has supported or sponsored a number of statewide school construction bonds, announced yesterday that its new Californians for Quality Schools committee has filed ballot initiative language with the state.

The last statewide bond initiative was in 2006, and funds raised through statewide bonds are used as matching dollars for money raised by local cities and districts. But a press release from the group pointed out that the state’s matching funds have been exhausted, and school construction needs over the next decade are estimated to be $20 billion.

“Every child deserves access to safe, secure, modern learning environments,” Joe Dixon, C.A.S.H. Chair and Assistant Superintendent, Facilities and Governmental Relations at Santa Ana Unified School District, said in a statement. “A statewide school bond will continue the existing and highly successful public private partnership to fund badly needed upgrades to classroom technology, career education programs, and ensure new, well-resourced schools are built as needed. This is an investment in the development of our state’s future workforce, and will help ensure our children are prepared to compete in a 21st Century global economy.”

Supporters of the ballot face an uphill battle in getting it passed, including likely opposition from Brown, a popular governor recently elected to a fourth term in a landslide victory.

As the Fresno Bee pointed out, Brown’s new budget calls for overhauling the state’s 17-year-old facilities funding program, and he is generally unsupportive of the state taking on debt to pay for school construction, saying that “the locals can do it more efficiently.” Brown’s budget calls for the state to provide funds only to districts with the most need while possibly raising developer fees and making it easier for local districts to pass construction bonds.

According to the Bee, voters have approved about $45 billion in school and higher education bonds since 1998, but all of them were put on the ballot by the legislature. Organizers will need to gather 365,880 signatures, which will cost an estimated $1 million, then spend additional sums for advertising and promoting the ballot to voters.

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