Wilk: The time is now for building our state's education facilities

By Senator Scott Wilk

$9 billion. That’s how much California voters authorized in new bonds to fix our outdated, crumbling and inadequate school facilities.  That’s how much money the state is sitting on rather than spending to build and repair our schools.

Since Proposition 51 – The California Public School Facility Bonds Initiative – passed back in 2016 the state has failed to heed the call it represented; a call to return to prioritizing our state’s facilities of education, a call to build new, state of the art schools for our children and young adults, a call for change.

Instead, Governor Jerry Brown has chosen to sit on his hands – hands holding billions – and preserve the status quo. They have not moved quickly, as voters hoped they would, to sell bonds and start doling out cash to school districts throughout the state who at last count had submitted over $3 billion in funding requests for shovel-ready projects throughout the state.

In Santa Clarita, College of the Canyons submitted their request. They submitted it years ago. Total contribution from the state: zero. But they refused to be deterred. They wanted to build a new science building to serve our community. And build they did.

The school realized that that the thousands of students sitting on waitlists each semester for science courses could not be accommodated without a new building, and they weren’t prepared to wait. In 2016, just as voters took to the polls for the statewide bond, COC initiated their own, Measure E, to fund $250 million in construction on campus. Voters passed the local bond too and in the amount of time our state leaders have spent lollygagging they’ve moved quickly to begin construction on a new building to serve our community with the kind of cutting edge science labs and classrooms we should expect everywhere.

But they shouldn’t have had too. They should’ve gotten help from the state. They submitted their application for funding; it was approved for $13 million, and then nothing. And they’re not alone. Unfortunately many other applicants, which range from K-12 schools to community colleges, don’t have the option of self-funding their projects so they wait, and wait.

They’re still waiting. And this year Governor Brown must prioritize funding these projects the way the voters intended him to. Education is the key to our future. It’s the key to our children’s future, to our state’s future, to our planet’s future. It’s the key to the castle and that’s exactly what our schools should be; castles, grand palaces with all the accoutrements of today’s new, technologically advanced and ever changing world. Governor Brown can make that a reality. But it won’t happen with his current proposal to spend just over $600,000 of the $9 billion.

I urge Governor Brown to instead authorize the sale of $3 billion in bonds this year so that all projects currently approved for money can get the financing they’re waiting for and counting on from the state so that they can bring real change to the lives of our K-12 and community college students now.

Don’t kick the can down the road Governor Brown. This is an opportunity, in your last year in office, to make a lasting and immeasurable impact on the lives of a generation. Do not let that opportunity slip through your fingers. Do not look to the delta or to the railroads for your legacy. Look to the nearly 7 million children currently enrolled in our K-12 education system. Look to the 1.5 million enrolled in our state’s community colleges. And look to the billions of Californians to come who will utilize these facilities long after you and I have gone.

[Also published at KHTS Radio Website]