California voters will be faced with no less than 17 initiatives this November, many of which are hot-button and controversial issues for us to discuss and even lament over for years to come—however, one remains an issue that we can all agree on: Proposition 51.
The Kindergarten through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2016, or more commonly referred to as “Prop 51” is a $9 billion state school facilities bond to adequately fund school construction and modernization projects for K-14 school districts throughout the state. Prop 51 enjoys bipartisan support from elected officials across the state and has garnered unlikely support among business and labor groups, rural and urban community leaders and support from taxpayer advocates.
You might be thinking that it has been sometime since we passed a school bond and you are right. The last statewide school facilities bond was passed by California voters in 2006 (Prop 1D). Over the past decade, the state’s fund to provide matching dollars to school districts that have already raised local funds for school construction projects has been all but been depleted, leaving a backlog of $2 billion in K-12 project applications and almost $500 million in approved community college projects, with billions more in identified need.
Desperate for funding, districts have been using higher developer fees and preparing to invoke a law allowing them to double those charges if the state runs out of construction funds. Already strapped for cash, Elk Grove Unified, Folsom Cordova Unified, Rancho Cordova, Natomas Unified, Twin Rivers Unified, Sacramento City Unified, and San Juan Unified have been forced to increase developer fees. With estimates placing K-14 school construction funding needs for the next decade at more than $20 billion, the $9 billion bond will be a significant step forward to address the state’s school construction needs.
Put simply, there is a pressing need to act now.
Many schools and community colleges are outdated and need repairs to meet basic health and safety standards — including retrofitting for earthquake safety, fire safety, and removing asbestos and lead paint and pipes. Prop 51 will provide a much-needed $3 billion infusion of capital for the construction of new school facilities and another $2 billion for constructing and renovating community college facilities. Prop 51 will also provide an additional $3 billion for the modernization of school facilities to ensure that our local schools are updated and safe for students. Also, in order to ensure that we have a robust investment for vocational training and career technical education programs, Prop 51 dedicates $500 million to provide facilities for students to properly train them for good paying jobs now.
Studies from past bonds show that 13,000 middle class jobs are created for every $1 billion of state infrastructure investment, so Prop 51 will directly benefit students, school districts and communities, while creating jobs that are desperate needed. These jobs include building and construction trades jobs that offer apprenticeship opportunities to young men and women throughout not only the Sacramento Valley, but across the whole state. As such, Prop 51 is the only initiative on the ballot that creates jobs that prepares students for jobs.
SRBX and its members remain committed to investing in our neighborhoods and strengthening our communities. We want to prepare the innovators of tomorrow and Prop 51 will help to do that by creating good paying construction jobs that help to further grow our economy.