Keeping Our Eye on the Ball
In my inaugural Message from the Chair, I thanked Don Ulrich for his leadership as the outgoing CASH Chair and formally introduced myself to you. I spoke of having ‘high hopes’ for faster implementation of State bond funds for California schools, but ‘hope’ is not a strategy. My primary focus as Chair of the CASH Board: Full implementation of Proposition 51 to fund previously approved School Facility Program (SFP) projects and support for a 2020 bond as a bridge to a sustainable capital funding system to address current and future needs. In this Message, I will provide updates to our membership on these foundational issues for the organization.
Proposition 51 Implementation
CASH advocates pushed vigorously through the state budget process to increase the $1.5 billion proposed in the Governor’s proposed State Budget to fund the more than $5 billion in approved by unfunded SFP New Construction and Modernization projects. The final version of the State Budget only included the $1.5 billion proposed in January. CASH advocates will continue to push for full funding of all approved projects.
AB 48 (O’Donnell)
AB 48 has steadily moved through the legislative process with a high level of support. Specifically, the Assembly Education Committee approved the bill 5-0; approved 69-1 on the Assembly Floor; the Senate Education Committee 7-0 (committee analysis indicated 90 letters of support), and most recently, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved the bill 6-1. I would like to thank CASH Board Members Jeff Becker (Fresno COE) and Cathy Allen (Sacramento USD) for testifying in strong support of AB 48 on behalf of CASH. Their expertise, commitment and willingness to withstand the inconvenience and uncertainty of the legislative process are much appreciated.
As far as the substance of the bill, the author’s office has convened a series of diverse stakeholder meetings, which is intended to improve the School Facility Program to ensure that all types of districts can access the program to meet their particular needs. Funding amounts for each SFP existing and new SFP program is currently being discussed. In addition to the existing New Construction, Modernization, Career Technical Education and Charter School Facilities programs, the following is a brief summary of the proposed new programs in AB 48, though details are subject to change:
Replacement of 75-Year-Old Facilities
Would allow buildings at least 75-years-old to receive the higher new construction grant amount to enable a district to demolish and replace the building, rather than rehabilitate, which may require extensive repairs while still not meeting 21st Century educational needs.
Testing and Remediation of Lead Levels of Water at School Sites
Would provide an unspecified amount of funding for testing and replacement of water fountains and faucets. Would require a school district that receives funds to test all sources of water for drinking and cooking at a school site and replace any fountain or faucet with lead levels in excess of the recommended amount by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Also, it would require retesting following the replacement of drinking fountains or faucets to ensure lead levels are below 15 parts per billion. The State Allocation Board (SAB) is authorized to develop regulations to allocate funds to replace pipes or fixtures if funds remain after the established funding cycles have been completed. This program builds on AB 746 (Gonzalez), Chapter 746, Statutes of 2017.
Small School District Assistance
Would assist small school districts by providing advance funding for design and providing small school districts with an opportunity to reserve eligible funds and extra time (up to five years) to develop the project, including receiving necessary approvals from various agencies. The bill also expresses the Legislature’s intent to establish a technical assistance office to provide guidance to small school districts.
Would authorize the SAB to provide interim housing in the form of portables in districts affected by a disaster, upon a declaration of emergency by the Governor. This includes a district where a disaster occurred and a district receiving students from a neighboring disaster area.
Would provide an unspecified amount of funding for the Joint-Use program. School districts can partner with another governmental agency, such as a city; a public higher education institution, such as a community college or state university; or a nonprofit organization approved by the SAB. Authorized projects include multipurpose room, gymnasium, childcare, library, or teacher education facility. Joint-use partners are expected to provide at least 25 percent of project costs. It would authorize the SAB to develop regulations to count costs for operation and staffing toward the 25 percent match.
~Julie Arthur, CASH Chair