California’s School Bond Initiative Proposition 51 Passes


With the passage of California’s Proposition 51, the $9 billion school bond there is a renewed interest in school repair and construction. It’s been 10 years since the last statewide school bond measure and many of California’s roughly 10,000 public schools are outdated and crumbling (see: Going it Alone). Analysis of spending on K-12 public school facilities in California finds that, compared to industry standards, there is an ongoing, structural pattern of inadequate and inequitable spending in many school districts. This trend signals costly long-term consequences as accumulated facility needs risk becoming health and safety crises.  Almost 80% of students attend districts failing to meet minimum industry standard benchmarks for facilities maintenance and operations spending, capital renewal spending, or both. The breakdown is as follows:


K-12 Public School Facilities

New Construction                                          $             3b

Modernization                                                              3b

Career technical education facilities                        5b

Charter school facilities                                               5b

Community college facilities                                      2b


The majority of school districts in California have not been meeting minimum annual facility expenditure benchmarks, even—in many cases—with state funding. Between 2008 and 2012, substantially more than half of districts (at least 57%) did not meet industry benchmarks for spending on capital renewals and more than 60% failed to meet the benchmark for basic maintenance and operations. In many cases, the same school districts are falling behind on both measures.

California has 8.3 Million Students Enrolled in Public K-14 Education. 

The public school system from kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) currently has about 6.2 million students, 10,000 schools (including 1,100 charter schools), 950 school districts, and 58 county offices of education. The California Community Colleges currently have 2.1 million students at 113 campuses operated by 72 community college districts. The community colleges offer courses in English, other basic skills, and citizenship, as well as provide workforce training, associate degrees, and preparation for transfer to universities.

K-12 Public School Facility Projects Approved Through State Review Process. 

Under the state’s existing School Facilities Program, schools submit project proposals to the state’s Office of Public School Construction. The project proposals may be for buying land, constructing new buildings, and modernizing (that is, renovating) existing buildings. Schools are eligible for new construction funding if they do not have enough space for all current and projected students. Schools are eligible for modernization funding for buildings that are at least 25 years old.

 Program Based Upon State and Local Partnership.

 In most cases, schools that receive state grant funding for approved projects must contribute local funding for those projects. For buying land and new construction projects, the state and local shares are each 50 percent of project costs. For modernization projects, the state share is 60 percent and the local share is 40 percent of project costs. If schools lack sufficient local funding, they may apply for additional state grant funding, up to 100 percent of the project cost, thereby reducing or eliminating their required local contributions.