If Proposition 51 passes, the state would issue nine billion dollars in bonds for school construction — most of it going to K-12 schools and community colleges. The rest will be spent on charter schools and technical programs. The money could be used for anything, from building new schools to rooting out asbestos.
This is the first time in 10 years that Californians will vote on a bond like this. State money for school facilities has dried up, and researchers at UC Berkeley have found that California as a whole under-invests in keeping schools modern and safe.
No one is arguing about the state’s need. But they are arguing about whether Prop 51 is the best way to address it. For one, there’s the cost. The legislative analyst’s office predicts the bonds will cost the state 17.6 billion dollars, if you include interest. Also, opponents like Governor Brown aren’t sure whether this money is going to be distributed equitably.
Schools have to get in line to apply for these funds, and they have to match, or nearly match, whatever the state gives them. They think that could create bias against poorer schools and districts. Brown also doesn’t like the fact that construction companies are funding a large portion of Prop 51. But, so far, there hasn’t been any money raised for the "No" campaign.
Advocates, including construction companies and the California PTA, say Prop 51 would make higher education more accessible, create more jobs, and keep kids safe. Some argue that leaving funding for these projects just up to the local level exacerbates inequalities. Altogether, the "Yes" campaign has spent over 11 million dollars.
If you think the state should issue nine billion dollars in bonds to pay for public school construction, vote yes on Prop 51. If you think this measure is not the right way to pay for those improvements, vote no.
Citizen respondents to KALW's elections call-out contributed to this post. Our call-outs are part of our community reporting project.