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Yes on Proposition 47

October 08, 2002

One-third of California schoolchildren sit in classrooms so crowded that students twist like pretzels to squeeze themselves into the wall-to-wall rows of desks. The state legislative analyst says the same number of students spend the school day in buildings where the roofs leak or the toilets and sinks spill onto the floors. California students learn science in classrooms with 1960s lab equipment, and those in a class of 40 may have to take turns at two computers because school wiring will blow if teachers plug in one more terminal.

Parents in Los Angeles know all too well that the problem of worn and inadequate public school facilities is especially acute in their district. New state and local bond money in recent years has begun healing years of neglect and underfunding. But year-round schedules, long bus rides and playground-eating portable classrooms are daily reminders of the critical need for upgrades and new construction.

Proposition 47, on the Nov. 5 ballot, would provide $13.05 billion statewide in general obligation bond funds to build more classrooms, make safety repairs and upgrade schools. The lion's share of this bond, $11.4 billion, would go to elementary, middle and high schools. The remaining $1.65 billion would aid community colleges, state universities and University of California schools.

Four years ago, Californians passed Proposition 1A, authorizing a $6.7-billion school repair and construction bond. That money has been either allocated or spent. The job of upgrading the state's 275,000 worn and outdated classrooms and building the estimated 46,000 new ones needed is far from finished.

L.A. schools historically got the short end of the stick on state bond funds because the application requirements favored suburban districts that could easily identify sites for new schools. A lawsuit on behalf of minority students allowed the L.A. Unified School District to claim more of Proposition 1A than expected, and the process in the future should be fairer to urban districts. Opponents of Proposition 47 say openly that they oppose Los Angeles' ability to get a larger share of the proposed bond under a "crowded districts" clause.

The state legislative analyst calculates that the state's indebtedness as a percentage of the general fund is moderate, even low, compared with many other states. Even if Proposition 47 and every other bond measure on the November ballot passed, the ratio of debt service to revenue would still be no higher than it was in the mid-'90s.

Proposition 47 needs a simple majority of votes to pass. California can afford this school bond and California's schoolchildren need it. Vote yes on Proposition 47.

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