Proposition 51 extends a highly successful program that allows local schools to partner with the state of California to receive matching state grant funds to update and repair older school buildings, and to build new classrooms where needed. For our Valley school districts – Sanger Unified, Central Unified, and Dinuba Unified – the need for Proposition 51 could not be more urgent.
California voters last approved a statewide school bond in 2006 and the fund is effectively depleted, leaving a nearly $2 billion backlog in school facility project applications.
State lawmakers have had four years to put another measure on the ballot since, and they have not acted. As a result, the needs of our schools’ facilities have become more pressing and we cannot afford to address all our projects like aging roofs, nonworking restrooms, old and potentially hazardous electrical systems, and outdated fire and safety systems.
Specifically, the passage of 51 stands to potentially generate an estimated $9 million for Sanger Unified School District and is critically important to helping the district bridge the funding gap to enhance and repair school facilities. This is vital for a district like Sanger, which has a growing population of students who are in need of new facilities, and Proposition 51 funds will help build the next high school to keep up with enrollment growth.
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For Valley districts such as Dinuba Unified, many of which have no source of local facility money, Proposition 51 is crucial to renovate and construct classrooms to meet student educational needs. In Dinuba, local voters passed a general obligation bond in 2006, but low assessed property valuation prevents the district from accessing these funds.
The state’s more metropolitan areas have the ability to pass and utilize large local bonds due to higher populations and property values. Proposition 51 helps level the playing field for districts like Dinuba Unified, which is growing and is in dire need of new, renovated and expanded facilities. The one high school in the district is the oldest facility and currently houses 2,000 students on just 27 acres – optimal acreage for a high school of this size is 50 acres. The district has taken advantage of all state modernization funds available but still struggles with inadequate locker room space, insufficient bathrooms, inadequate indoor eating facilities, and lack of proper heating and air conditioning.
In Central Unified, low assessed valuation also is a challenge to properly fund school facilities. The passage of Proposition 51 would supplement local funds from passage of local Bond Measure C to complete these school projects: building a new high school and elementary school, constructing permanent facilities at Tilley Elementary School, renovating classrooms and electrical systems at four elementary schools, repairing leaking pipes, deteriorating roofs and heating and air-conditioning systems, and upgrading fire alarm safety systems.
A broad coalition stands with our districts in support of Proposition 51, including more than 160 other school districts, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California State PTA, the California State Firefighters Association, and both the Democratic and Republican state parties.
Please join us in supporting Proposition 51 with your “yes” vote.
Mark Sutton is superintendent of Central Unified School District and Joe Hernandez is superintendent of Dinuba Unified. Matthew Navo, superintendent of Sanger Unified, contributed to the writing of this commentary.