Bonds away

Get ready: It’s investment time.

California needs more and better schools. With burgeoning enrollments (15 percent projected growth in the next decade) and famously failing school buildings (and test scores), our state needs to do now what it did in the 1950s and 1960s: Prioritize education. Invest in the future.

We realize, given the budget deficit and the downward dive of the economy, now may seem a strange time to ask California voters to pony up money for school bonds. But, with interest rates at an all-time low, it’s actually an excellent time to invest in kids and schools.

It’s no exaggeration to say the bond funds are needed desperately, locally and statewide. One in three kids in our public schools sits in overcrowded classrooms. Visitors and reporters who venture into public schools, especially in urban areas, often are stunned by the decrepit surroundings, the falling-in roofs, the peeling paint and the disrepair. The November 5 ballot holds multiple ways for us to help.

Proposition 47, the largest bond measure ever to go up for a statewide vote, would provide $13 billion for building new schools and repairing old ones. Locally, passage of this bond would mean $150 million to improve about 60 schools in Sacramento County alone. Prop. 47 also would send about $19 million to CSUS for needed improvements. Opponents of Prop. 47 argue that passage of this bond would affect the state’s already sorry standing in the bond markets negatively, but plenty of experts contest this. Even California Taxpayers’ Association officials have said that passage of this school bond would not affect the state’s indebtedness negatively. The measure would create an estimated 250,000 jobs in the construction industry and related fields.

Measure I, the Sacramento City Unified School District’s bond effort, would raise $225 million to build new schools and refurbish old ones. This and other local school bonds were designed to work in concert with the state bond. About half of the money from Measure I would go toward building two new elementary schools, a middle school and five small high schools. Despite gains made in the Sacramento district these last few years, the need for improved facilities remains clear.

Measure J, the San Juan Unified High School District’s bond attempt, would provide $350 million so this huge district could replace its moldy old portable classrooms and fix up basics, like roofs and bathrooms. Measure K would provide $65.3 million to the Roseville Joint Union High School District, where enrollment has nearly doubled since 1991. About 900 students from Antelope are bused to jampacked schools in Roseville now, and this measure would help build these kids a school of their own. Measure M, a $46 million bond measure would build a second high school at Del Paso Road and Natomas Boulevard.

We know the going has gotten tough, but that just means it’s time for Californians and Sacramentans to get going by investing in the education of kids. It’s elemental. All of history tells us so.