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Largest School Bond In California History Will Be On March 2020 Ballot

California’s March 2020 primary ballot will ask voters whether to approve the largest school bond in the state’s history.

If approved, the $15 billion bond Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Monday would fund construction and modernization projects at all levels: preschools, K-12, community colleges and the UC and CSU systems.

“You go into some of these parking lots, where kids are there, and these sheds without air conditioning or heating, and they’ve got lead and asbestos in those facilities — that’s not who we are,” Newsom said in a signing ceremony at a Sacramento elementary school. “We’re capable of so much more.” 

The governor touted two of the measure’s priorities: equity across income levels and geographic areas and modernization over new construction.

“Sometimes, we get a little too captured by the shiny object of ‘new,’ and don’t do enough to address the need of those temporary shacks in the back, or those facilities where roofs or HVAC systems like the one you see above us — hardly a modern system — are in desperate need of upgrades,” Newsom said.

It’s the largest school construction bond in the state’s history. And it’s a sharp shift from former Gov. Jerry Brown, who sought to pay down bond debt and oppose or reduce new bonds for school, housing and water projects.

Brown declined to address this specific bond when asked about it in a recent CapRadio interview. But he did point out that bond and pension debts must be paid before regular state spending — “come hell or high water.”

“As the recession takes hold, and tens of billions of dollars fail to materialize, other state programs — like the university, like health care, like child care — will be squeezed,” Brown said. “So, it is absolutely imperative to scrutinize every long-term obligation with the clear awareness that the amount of money piling in today will not pile in at the same rate two years from now.”

Brown infamously labeled the previous school bond, on the November 2016 ballot, “a blunderbuss effort.”

Voters passed it, anyway.

Copyright 2019 Capital Public Radio