Repair Our Schools Now and School Safety
In the last Message from the Chair, I discussed the need to sell Proposition 51 bonds and school facility legislation that was signed in 2017. In this Message, I will highlight what CASH is doing to get Proposition 51 dollars on the street, as well as the issue of school safety.
Repair Our Schools Now – Know Your Number
Proposition 51, a $9 billion school bond, was approved by the majority of California’s voters in 2016, yet only a small amount of the authorized funds have been made available for needed new school facility construction and modernization projects. Proposition 51 would provide $7 billion in general obligation bonds for K-12 school construction, but to date only about $600 million has been sold to fund critical school construction and renovation projects across the state. Further, the Governor included only $640 million in school bond sales in the January 2018-19 Budget Proposal, but this amount is absolutely inadequate for a program that has a greater than $3.5 billion backlog in completed applications that are ready for final processing and funding. At this rate, students will have to wait five years after a complete funding application is submitted before they can attend new or renovated classrooms their parents and community members voted for.
To get the approved bond funding to school districts, CASH has created the “Repair Our Schools Now” Coalition, which is requesting that the State direct $3 billion in Proposition 51 school bonds be sold in the 2018-19 fiscal year, and $3 billion in state matching funds be apportioned for projects in 2018-19. This effort includes a public information campaign; advocacy in the State Budget deliberation process; engagement with other education advocacy organizations, and urging our members to contact their legislators and let them know what funding their new construction and renovation projects will mean to their students and local communities – know and tell your “number.” Delaying much-needed state funding and bond sales will increase cost for both taxpayers and school districts, with construction cost escalation at greater than 6 to 8 percent annually and federal interest rates also anticipated to increase. We must come together as a facility community and ensure that our local legislators know and understand the negative effects this delay in funding is having on their communities so they can push through the changes needed in current and future state budget decisions. Delaying this funding also impedes schools from adequately addressing school safety issues.
CASH and School Safety
For reasons that are clear in light of recent school shootings and natural disasters, school safety has become an issue of primary concern to the education community. Making sure schools are safe and secure is the first responsibility of all educational professionals, including both campus security and disaster preparedness, and the school facilities community has an important role to play. Specifically, school safety plans; security systems; points of access and gates; school grounds management; fire safety and structural issues; primary building systems (electricity/gas/water/sewer); access to emergency shelter, and campus security and design are all examples of where school facilities and maintenance contribute to a safe and secure school.
The Federal Omnibus Bill includes the STOP School Violence Act, which funds training and other initiatives intended to enhance school safety for $75 million annually that can be used for improvements such as metal detectors, stronger locks, and emergency notification technologies. $47 million is provided to programs in the Education Department and the Health and Human Services Department that addresses youth mental health, as well as social and emotional learning in schools.
Many school safety bills have been introduced in the California Legislature this year, including proposals that require all schools to conduct active shooter training; create more rigorous school safety plan oversight; school facilities safety assessment by local law enforcement; tax on ammunition for school safety officers and mental health counselors, and funding for armed security guards. CASH will be fully engaged in the legislative discussion on how best to make schools safer and more secure, with a focus on how the school facilities community can help. CASH and the CASH Maintenance Network will also focus on providing training and education on school safety and school facilities, as well as key informational resources.
I wanted to conclude by thanking those who attended the CASH Annual Conference in February, and thank CASH Annual Conference Chair and CASH Vice Chair, Julie Arthur, and the Annual Conference Planning Committee, and staff for organizing such a successful Conference. For more information on the Annual Conference, please read the following article: CASH 39th Annual Conference on School Facilities – It’s A Wrap
~ Don Ulrich, Ed.D., CASH Chair