As a former school board member, I know exactly how a school communicates priorities to the families they serve: a strong PTA, high functioning classrooms and high expectations for students.
As a former state assemblywoman, I also know how legislators communicate their priorities to constituents: Policymakers either take action together or sit on their hands.
Sacramento hasn’t done its job to make sure school districts have the vital funds needed to create safe, effective teaching and learning environments. That’s why passing Proposition 51 is so critical this November.
Since 1998, school districts have built and repaired schools with money from local bonds, developer fees and state-matching grants. This successful partnership has funded major renovations to aging schools and new schools to accommodate enrollment growth and reduce overcrowding. It has been a safety net for districts in poor communities, providing the sole source of construction funding.
The facts speak for themselves. One third of California’s school buildings are more than 50 years old. Buildings need routine maintenance and also need significant upgrades. Proposition 51, a $9 billion bond for public schools and community colleges, will provide funds to help expand career technical educational programs and to ensure high school classrooms have the fundamental tools to teach critical science and technology classes.
Critics say schools can wait until Sacramento can improve the construction program. I can assure you: There is no real plan B.
Should Proposition 51 fail, school districts and local communities will be forced to find other sources of revenue through increased parcel and property taxes and higher home prices. Even more alarming, we will revert to the pre-1998 system where communities that can absorb tax increases will have higher quality schools than those that can’t.
This is not an acceptable alternative. The responsibility to educate our children – all our children – is written into the state constitution, not in local ordinances. The state can and should be a partner with local districts in ensuring every school is safe and adequate.
The last statewide school bond was passed a decade ago. The program is out of state-matching grants that districts are relying on to complete critical projects. Total statewide needs are projected at $20 billion over the next decade.
The time for waiting is over. Proposition 51 is supported by the state Democratic and Republican parties, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Taxpayers Association, the League of Women Voters and many others. They all recognize the importance of school facilities in delivering a quality education and preparing our children to be the workers, leaders and innovators of the next generation.
Proposition 51 will receive my vote, and it deserves yours, as well.
Joan Buchanan is a former state Assembly member who was chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee and who wrote this viewpoint on behalf of the Yes on Proposition 51 campaign. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.