February 19, 2015
On Wednesday, February 18th the Senate Education and Senate Budget Subcommittee #1 on Education held a joint informational hearing on school facilities.
The hearing began with Bruce Hancock, former Assistant Executive Officer of the State Allocation Board, and Bill Savidge, the current Assistant Executive Officer of the State Allocation Board, providing a history of the School Facility Program (SFP) and discussion of current needs to establish a context for discussion.
The next panel included Jeff Bell and Juan Mireles from the Department of Finance, who provided an overview of the Governor’s school facility proposal in his 2015-16 State Budget which includes expanding local funding capacity, restructuring developer fees, expanding allowable uses of Routine Restricted Maintenance funding to new construction and modernization, targeting funding to districts in most need, and augmenting the Charter School Facility Grant Program.
Also part of this panel were Paul Golaszewski and Jameel Naqvi from the Legislative Analysts’ Office (LAO), who outlined their recently released report on school facilities titled “The 2015-16 Budget: Rethinking How the State Funds School Facilities,” which proposes to create a new school facilities program. Specifically, the study recommends establishing an annual per-student facility grant based on the replacement value of existing school buildings and an estimate of their average useful life, adjusting the grant to reflect local resources with larger grants for districts with lower property wealth, adjusting the grant during the transition to account for existing state debt service incurred on the district’s behalf, provide one-time funds to address the existing backlog of facility projects, and requires school districts that received grant funds to adopt five-year facility accountability plans.
During the next panel which focused on facilities and funding options for the future, Jeff Vincent, Center for Cities+Schools, outlined his recently released policy paper entitled “Guided by Principals: Shaping the State of California’s Role in K-12 Public School Facility Funding.” Mr. Vincent stated that the report was intended to inform the current discussion about the future of school facilities, and identified the following as principals to guide the deliberations: Equity, Local District Effort and Accountability, Fiscal Stability and Predictability, Facilities Adequacy, and Program Simplicity.
The second to last panel focused on local capacity for meeting facility construction needs, and included Paul Golaszewski and Jameel Naqvi from the Legislative Analysts’ Office, Jeff Vaca from the California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO), and Richard Lyon from the California Building Industry Association (CBIA). The representatives from the LAO emphasized school districts’ enhanced capacity to raise local funding after passage of Proposition 39; Mr. Vaca discussed local financing methods available to school districts, and Mr. Lyon discussed the success of the SFP and the development community’s contribution to funding schools.
The last panel was intended to provide a practitioners’ perspective, and included Eric Bakke, Los Angeles USD, Robert Pierce, Elk Grove USD, and Dr. Robert Hudson, Superintendent of the Alpaugh USD, who provided their district perspective on how the existing program could be improved or replaced.
The hearing concluded with public testimony from stakeholders, including Ian Padilla representing C.A.S.H., who testified that C.A.S.H. supports a robust and continuing state role in school facilities, opposes funding school facilities within Proposition 98 through an annual budget appropriation, and urged the committee to include adequate funding for school maintenance.
With the Assembly holding its informational hearing on school facilities last week, and the Senate holding its hearing this week, the long discussion about the future of school facilities has now officially begun. Much more to come.