In 2024, Californians will vote on Assembly Bill (AB) 247, a statewide general obligation bond act that would provide $14 billion for construction and modernization of education facilities. Officially referred to as the Transitional Kindergarten Through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2024, the measure passed the Assembly Education and Higher Education Committees in April and the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance earlier this month. It will go next to the Senate Committee on Appropriations, which will vote on it in late August. We assume that AB 247 will make it to the ballot next year, although the state legislature has not yet determined whether it would be presented to voters in March or November 2024.
Improving California’s educational facilities is at the heart of the VPCS mission, so we strongly support AB 247. We encourage all voters to review the full text of the bill to make their own decisions. And we invite our industry partners and other interested parties to join us at a campaign fundraiser on Thursday, September 28th at 4:00 p.m. at juju kitchen & cocktails in Sacramento. (Email us to RSVP or request more information.)
Here are six reasons why we believe AB 247 is good for our state:
1. We agree with its authors.
AB 247 was jointly authored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City) and Mike Fong (D-Alhambra). Mr. Muratsuchi summarized the need for the measure by saying, “Thirty percent of the state’s K-12 classrooms are over 50 years old and 10 percent are over 70 years old. Californians face critical school facility needs including transitional kindergarten and early childhood education, natural disaster response, universal high-speed internet access, lead abatement, and extreme heat and other climate change adaption.”
2. The timing is right.
If it passes, AB 247 will be the first statewide education bond to be approved in California since 2016, when voters passed Proposition 51. (Prop 13, which would have authorized $15 billion in bonds, failed in 2020.) That means that by 2024, eight years will have passed since new funds have been added to the state’s “pot” to which districts have access. And school facilities experience a lot of wear and tear in eight years. Districts throughout California have been doing their best to maintain aging buildings in their portfolios, but deferred maintenance and modernization costs add up. The funds that would be available via AB 247 would go a long way toward enabling much-needed facilities upgrades in districts all around the state.
3. State and local funding would work together to support communities.
AB 247 would deliver matching funds to school districts that apply for them, which would allow a combination of local and general obligation bond dollars to pay for new construction and modernization projects, as well as several other important programs mentioned in the language of the bill – including but not limited to career technical education, charter facility programs, minimum essential facilities and facility hardship. These efforts would improve local education facilities while potentially boosting local economies.
4. It reflects updated realities.
The measure was carefully written to accommodate the particular types of funding needs that school districts now face. One example is interim housing that might be required following a wildfire or earthquake. Another is a revamped methodology for calculating construction costs based on actual rather than theoretical scenarios.
5. It would allow districts to deliver what they’ve promised.
School districts working with funds from local bonds that were passed several years ago might be finding it difficult to complete projects, given the increasing cost of goods and services. In other words, districts that committed to new facilities or improvements to existing facilities that were estimated in 2020 dollars might now find themselves having to modify scope or value-engineer original plans in order to stretch their now-outdated budgets. AB 247 would help districts see such efforts through to completion and satisfy their commitments to voters.
6. It’s all in service to the kids.
At VPCS, nearly everything we do comes down to serving California’s students. We support AB 247 because it is designed to support the public schools where our state’s children learn, grow and thrive. Research proves it – just take a look at the California School Facilities Research Institute report on The Impact of School Facilities on Student Learning and Engagement. The bottom line is this: The better our kids’ educational environments, the stronger our communities. Flourishing school districts benefit everyone, which is why we believe so firmly in the value of state and local school bonds.
July 27, 2023