Los Angeles Schools Wants Some of New Voter-Approved Bond Money

Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

Currently, the Los Angeles schools have $20 billion in construction and renovation projects for Los Angeles schools’ facilities underway or planned. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles schools’ officials expect a funding shortfall from known resources and are looking to the state legislature for a solution.
 
According to Los Angeles schools’ chief facilities executive, Guy Mehula, the Los Angeles schools have identified all but approximately $1.6 billion in funding sources for the building projects. There is enough money to complete construction already in progress, but not for the planned future construction of projected needs for the Los Angeles schools in 2009 and 2010.
 
The Los Angeles schools have hit a brick wall with the state funding guidelines, which use exaggerated long-term enrollment trends for eligibility requirements. Since the Los Angeles schools’ enrollment is projected to continue to decline in future years, they are ineligible for hundreds of millions of dollars in school construction funding from the state.
 
Though the Los Angeles schools believe the formula is unfair, state officials contend that the Los Angeles schools should have built needed facilities while they were in a growth cycle and that formulas used in other state funding programs have benefited the Los Angeles schools. Kathy Hicks, chief of program services for the state Office of Public School Construction, stated that if the Los Angeles schools had their construction projects ready back when they were in a growth cycle, they would have had the funding at that time.
 
In November 2006, however, the voters approved $43 billion in bonds. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger plans another $29 billion in general obligation bonds to be submitted to voters in 2008 and 2010, along with $14 billion in other bonds that do not require voter approval.
 
Under the governor’s Strategic Growth Plan, there will be a $211 billion investment in the state’s infrastructure over the next ten years. In 2008 and 2010, he plans to submit almost $12 billion in bonds for kindergarten through 12th grade education. The Los Angeles schools are aggressively campaigning to secure part of these funds.
 
The State Allocation Board, which distributes funds to the various school districts across the state, is reviewing a backlog of $318 million in construction and renovation projects. These are school district projects that already had been approved before the state ran out of previous funding. After the portion for schools of this new bond money is received, these previous projects have been reviewed, and disbursement to eligible projects within the backlog has been completed, the board then will approve new projects on a first-come, first-served basis for eligible districts. They generally approve about $102 million in new construction and $83 million in renovation projects each month, according to Hicks.
 
Unfortunately for the Los Angeles schools, they are ineligible for any further funding from the State Allocation Board, under the current funding guidelines. The Los Angeles schools are looking to the legislature to change the status quo on school construction funding to cover their needs in 2009 and 2010.

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