Bond aims to fund projects

By Lorenzo Morotti, Associate Editor

California voters will have to decide if K-12, universities and community colleges need $9 billion in state funding to be used for construction projects on campuses.

Proposition 51 is the first education bond to make it to the ballot through a petition signed by registered voters.

According to the proposition, a yes vote would create the College Capital Outlay Bond Fund from which $2 billion would be allocated to construction and renovation of community college facilities, $3 billion to the construction of campus facilities statewide, $500 million to charter school projects, $3 billion to the modernization of campus facilities and $500 million to build career technical education program facilities.

According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, a yes vote would also create $8.6 billion in interest, and cost taxpayers about $17.6 billion by 2051 — or $500 million per year for 35 years.

Proposition 64 is supported by the Contra Costa Community College District, a dozen construction companies, and scores of high schools and community college districts statewide.

But district Facilities Planner Ray Pyle said the ballot measure is more beneficial for K-12, which would get most of the funding, and larger districts with more funding to match the state’s allocation metric.

Pyle said that a public institution would have to match some of the costs that the state will provide and he is not sure that the district would be able to get priority.

Gov. Jerry Brown is the leading opponent of the infrastructure bond for that very reason.

“It’s a blunderbuss effort that promotes sprawl and squanders money that would be far better spent in low-income communities,” Brown said to the LA Times earlier this year.

He said the state cannot pay the debt the proposition would create. Large districts would overshadow smaller districts’ construction bids and local bond measures would lose power.

Despite Brown’s opposition, proponents of the $9 billion state initiative have raised about $12 million through super PAC contributions, according to Ballotpedia.

The most powerful supporters, the Coalition for Adequate School Housing Issues Committee and the California Building Industry Association Issues Committee spent about $11.5 million in ad campaigns.

Supporters of Proposition 51 argue that California’s high school and community college campuses do not facilitate an environment of success that students deserve.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California survey from Oct. 14 to Oct. 23, 46 percent of voters support the initiative while 41 percent are in opposition and 12 percent are undecided.

Three news organizations have written editorials in support of Proposition 51 while 15 fear that the language in the initiative will allow corporations to be selective of which schools receive priority.