In March, state voters will choose whether to boost funding for California schools | TheUnion.com

In March, state voters will choose whether to boost funding for California schools

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation putting a $15 billion bond on the March ballot, according to the Associated Press.

The initiative, if passed, will provide money for school construction and modernization projects across the state. $9 billion will serve pre-school through 12th grade facilities, and $2 billion will be allocated for California universities and community colleges. A disproportionate amount of the funding will be distributed to school districts with more low-income students, English language learners and foster care youth.

“This is a good thing for the school districts in our county,” said Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Brett McFadden.

“It’s a good thing for California and California schools,” said Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay.

Forty percent of students in the district are of low socioeconomic status, McFadden said. However, he’s worked in other districts with higher percentages — the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District and Pajaro Valley Unified School District have 72% and 82%, respectively, of its students qualifying as low income.

Low-income students are determined by a number of factors, including if they are on free or reduced lunch, McFadden said.

If passed, the bond will prioritize small school districts, allowing them better access to state dollars rather than being sidelined by larger districts in Los Angeles and Sacramento, according to the education publication EdSource.

McFadden said the bond will provide state matching opportunities, allowing “local dollars to go even further.”

But Torie England, superintendent of Penn Valley Union Elementary School District, wasn’t as excited about the bond.

“We’re so small, we’re so rural,” she said, the money may never reach her district. The district is considering a local bond program, which England hopes Penn Valley residents would give priority to if they decide to only support one.

IMPROVING INFRASTRUCTURE

The issue of financing education in California, said McFadden, has been ongoing for decades.

“We invest less on public education now than we did on a per capita basis in the 1950s,” he said.

As such, public infrastructure of schools are sometimes 50 or 60 years old, said McFadden, adding that the oldest facility in the district was built in the 1930s.

Lay agreed with this general problem.

If passed, the bond will allow schools to upgrade and modernize.

“It will help address safety issues as well,” he said.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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