Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Anyone that has been following the news, is aware that in California is in a major fiscal crisis. As one of the largest recipients of public funds, education is going to be hit hard. School districts are tightening their purses and teachers and staff may be getting laid off. Many of the funds for school districts operating budgets come from state's general fund. In fact 40% of the state's general fund is earmarked for K-12 education. In the midst of all of this, there are school campuses all throughout the state that need improvements and new facilities.
2008 Many Opportunities, but Bad Electoral Climate
The school districts are planning on financing many of these improvements by floating school bonds. Since there are three statewide elections in California this year (February, June, November), the districts have three opportunities to put the choice before the voters. What is unknown is how voters will respond to increasing their tax bill when they are faced with rising fuel and food prices. A recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California noted that many people were willing to tax the rich but not themselves to save schools.
In February school districts put bonds on voting ballots up and down the state and many were successful. Many education bonds require 55% of the vote for passage. One of the largest measures was a $440 million program for the Long Beach Community College District, which was successful. Voters approved of bonds all over Southern California. These school districts were located in conservative and liberal parts of the region. They included Palm Springs, San Bernardino, San Diego County and Los Angeles. One bond that failed to secure more than 55% of the vote in was in Napa, California.
There are school districts that are going to see if they can pass bonds in June. There are more bonds for hundreds of millions of dollars, then there were in February. Since turnout is expected to be low for this election, it is unknown if many supporters of education will make it to the polls. It will be interesting to see if voters will vote to increase their taxes for a very worthy cause or will they not see value in improving the schools.
Another question is: If the bonds are passed will we we faced with new shiny classrooms with no teachers for the pupils?
A full list of the bonds that were on the February 2008 ballot can be found here.