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Prop. BB: Crucial to L.A. Schools : Bond measure is desperately needed for repairs and other uses

L.A CITY ELECTIONS. Proposition BB: LAUSD School Bonds

March 23, 1997

During last month's North Hollywood bank shootout, principals at several nearby elementary schools sprinted from classroom to classroom to alert teachers to the potential danger. Intercom systems would have been far more effective, but there were none. This need is one of many in the Los Angeles Unified School District that can be rectified with passage of Proposition BB, the $2.4-billion school bond issue on the April 8 ballot.

The bond proceeds would help erase a $600-million backlog in deferred repairs and provide $900 million for new school construction, a figure that would be matched by the state. The rest of the bond money would go to wire every LAUSD classroom for computers, improve security and school safety, reduce class size and bring school buildings into compliance with the new, post-Northridge earthquake safety codes. The last local school bond issue approved by Los Angeles voters was devoted to repairs necessitated by the 1971 Sylmar quake.

Proposition BB is strongly supported by Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and his electoral opponent, Tom Hayden; the teachers union, PTAs, the business community and other sectors. L.A. students clearly deserve a better environment. Elementary, middle, senior high--each of the district's 900 schools and educational centers will receive critical repairs and improvements if Proposition BB gets the two-thirds majority required for passage.

Any voters skeptical of the ability of district administrators to wisely manage the funds should be comforted by an unprecedented regime of fiscal oversight set up to ensure that the bond proceeds are properly and expeditiously handled. The Board of Education has established a special citizens audit and oversight committee to see that projects would be completed within budget, on time and effectively. The committee would have access to financial records and may make recommendations to the board. All this is fitting for expenditures of this magnitude.

Property owners would be asked to pay initially about $15 more in annual taxes for every $100,000 in assessed property valuation. That figure would rise to about $60 a year as the bonds were paid off. Sixty dollars a year. Think of it; that's $5 a month to make this tremendously important investment in our schools. And consider too the resultant creation of jobs as the work is done.

Beyond compliance with earthquake standards, proceeds from Proposition BB would fund repair of leaky roofs, replace aged boilers and plumbing systems, repair electrical systems, repave playgrounds and paint classrooms.

In the San Fernando Valley, air-conditioning would be a top priority, for children and teachers cannot be expected to perform well in broiling classrooms. One hundred campuses in the hottest locales would be equipped first, and air-conditioning units would be installed at other schools according to priority of need. And that, voters, would bring L.A.'s students into air-conditioning parity with the inmates of the county's new Twin Towers jail. Seems to be some justice there.

Proposition BB is in effect a referendum on the future of Los Angeles schools and their students--our future. Vote yes on BB.

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