Friday, January 3, 2020
Bond - Part 2
OPINION: Upcoming school-bond measure is good for students and the state’s economy
San Francisco Chronicle, Editorial by Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine,** 12-31-19
California is projected to be about 1.1 million college graduates short of what state employers will need over the next decade, which means our economy could face another major downturn if we don’t address the workforce skills gap now.
State funds for capital investment in California dropped sharply during the Great Recession, especially at the state’s four-year universities and colleges. As a result, many students in California’s public higher-education system find themselves inside seismically deficient classrooms and laboratories and shut out of certain courses because of the limited class space
Across the state, millions of younger students attend classes in rundown, obsolete, unsafe and unhealthy facilities that pose obstacles to their learning and their well-being. On March 3, California voters will have an opportunity to invest in their state’s economy and our young people’s health and safety by approving Prop. 13, the California Public Preschool, Kindergarten-12 and College Health and Safety Bond.
While the secretary of state assigned this measure the same number as one of California’s best-known tax initiatives, the 2020 version of Prop. 13 is an investment in our future. It is the strongest statewide school bond measure in California history, providing $15 billion to make educational facilities safe for students by placing a priority on fixing fire, earthquake and other life safety issues.
This important bond measure won nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the state Legislature and has continued to draw bipartisan support, including from our organization of California public higher education system alumni. The proposition also has the support of a broad-based coalition of teachers, doctors, nurses, firefighters and military veterans.
Prop.13 would provide $6 billion to California’s public higher education system, divided equally among community colleges, University of California and California State University systems.
Another $9 billion would be made available to repair dilapidated classrooms, remove mold and asbestos, replace unsafe drinking water systems, repair broken toilets and make the many other repairs needed to ensure the state’s pre-K-12 schools are safe. An additional $100 million would be used to update and improve California’s charter and technical schools, including ones that train veterans returning from duty.
The ballot measure contains robust taxpayer accountability measures, strictly limiting administrative costs and mandating independent performance audits of any project it funds. Public hearings would be conducted to ensure public input.
Because rundown buildings are most often found in low-wealth districts, the initiative includes key reforms to ensure school facilities spending is more equitable so funding is invested in districts that need it most.
For the state’s colleges and universities, Prop. 13 would address an aging system. Nearly 60% of the UC’s public buildings are more than 30 years old, with 42% of that space built between 1950 and 1980. In CSU, half the space is 40 years or older, and a third is more than 50 years old. Prop. 13 would be the first bond measure since 2006 to provide significant money for higher education infrastructure.
The initiative includes safeguards for higher education expenditures to be used to make these buildings safer. Campuses also would be required to develop five-year plans to expand affordable housing for their students.
California’s world-class public universities and colleges provide an educated workforce, fueling an economy that is among the most vibrant and largest in the world. To ensure the continued health of the state’s economy, we must act now to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for our students. Prop.13 holds the promise for a better tomorrow by continuing to invest in our young people and California’s public higher education system.
**Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine co-chair the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. Ackerman is a Republican and former California state senator and assemblymember from Orange County, and Levine is Democrat and a former U.S. Congressmember and state assemblymember from Los Angeles.