It sounds like a financial blessing. Run down K-12 schools shaky about their safety in earthquake land, and UC administrators anxious about ways to accommodate rapid expansion would get the money they need for modernization projects and new classrooms.
Proposition 1D, if favorably voted for at the Nov. 7 election, will allot $10.4 billion dollars for K-12 and higher education construction projects. Of that hefty amount, $890 million is going to land in the hands of the University of California, with $143 million going directly to UC Santa Cruz.
At the K-12 level, the plentiful proposition would additionally allot $1 billion to schools deemed to have serious overcrowding problems, $500 million to the construction of new charter schools, and $100 million for "green" buildings.
Governor Swartzenegger has definitely stepped up to the plate to improve education at all levels in California, and we commend him for it. The proposition could very well do what it aims toward: to improve educational quality through new facilities and smaller class sizes (and protect us from seismic activity). But do we need to dig California-which already owes $45 billion in infrastructure related bonds-even deeper into debt for a general fund?
If we use pay-as-you-go financing for K-12 and higher education projects, we will allot money for construction projects once they are actually finalized, rather than taking out thirty years worth of credit while the government decides what specifically to do with the money.
In the past decade, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), Californian voters have already approved a total of $28.1 billion in state bonds for K-12 facilities alone, $3.7 billion that has yet to be spent as of June 2006.
So instead of looking into ways of spending that money, do we set aside another $7.3 million for K-12 education? If you had $3,000 of rent money sitting in the bank, would you pay your landlord in credit, further pushing yourself into unnecessary debt? If you had an eon of common sense, the answer to both would most likely be no.
Californians would be repaying $680 million annually for about thirty years–or long after you and probably even your kids have graduated.
That’s a lot of money to coerce taxpayers into fronting forward, especially when many school districts in California have already spent hoards of money on new school improvements, both at state and local levels. Residents of Los Angeles, for example, recently invested $14 billion into K-12 construction projects.
Districts in dire need of modernization can elect to set aside funds themselves for new construction endeavors, rather than forcing Californians to pay a larger-than-average lump sum for new projects. Projects that they are already paying for locally. Projects where the exact costs have yet to be determined.
With pay-as-you-go financing, we will be alloting just what we need for the time being, instead of putting more money into a fund for construction projects that could result. Instead of gathering taxpayer money and then figuring out what we can construct with it, we can first-and more responsibly-figure out what needs to be built or modernized, and specifically how much money each individual project would cost. Then we can decide if that new classroom or building is worth our tax dollars.