Editorial: The need to keep building schools

We don’t enjoy leaving it for the state’s children to make payments tomorrow on today’s construction spending. But public facilities eventually wear out and the population of California is continuing to grow.

The Examiner endorses Proposition 1D, the $10.4 billion school bond measure. It is true that in the last four years, California voters already approved two state school bonds totaling more than $25 billion, not to mention billions more in local measures. Yetthere is still no shortage of work that should be done on crumbling schools built shortly after World War II.

The state Office of Public School Construction forecasts that 22,500 new classrooms should be built within the next five years to stay abreast with rising enrollment statewide. Another 59,000 classrooms are badly in need of modernization, many in the Bay Area.

The gap in meeting school construction needs is also fueled by recent years of deferred maintenance, as the state’s economic downturn and budgetary crisis created a strong tendency to cut back on district facility upkeep to delay taking money away from classroom teaching.

Prop. 1D contains a number of innovative ideas, which deal with needs that have not received sufficient attention yet. The measure puts half of its $3.1 million post-secondary allocation into community colleges; the state’s frontline in training future generations of technical workers that will be vital to keeping California competitive in the 21st century world economy.

The 1D bonds would invest $500 million in charter schools, some of which have proven highly successful in supplementing the choices offered by standard K-12 schooling. Another $500 million goes to jump-start the state’s high school vocational training programs, which have been wrongly neglected for too long.

There is $29 million allotted to constructing projects for joint use by local schools and the general community, such as gymnasiums, child care facilities, recreation centers or libraries. This is an important approach for cutting down on unnecessary duplication of local facilities.

To be funded by Prop. 1D, local school districts will mostly need to raise matching funds, although the legislation does allow the poorest districts to apply for hardship funding to offset the local obligations.

Maintaining a prosperous economy and an attractive quality of life into the futurerequires keeping up the state’s infrastructure — schools, roads, housing, flood control and the like. This all costs money, and unfortunately it is impossible simply to pay for building or upgrading a school and not expect future expenses for maintenance, replacement, modernization or expansion.

Part of The San Francisco Examiner's 2006 election coverage.editorialsOpinion

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