November 1, 2002

Commentary

Proposition 47: Putting California’s Students First

By Marivic Tolentino
Vice President, Associated Students at
San Diego State University

It’s elementary: Proposition 47, a school bond measure on the ballot this November 5, is one of the most critically important school construction initiatives in our state’s history. California must act now to improve the basic infrastructure of our educational system. At stake: our futures.

The bond measure will help build some of the 46,000 new classrooms needed to meet the demands of increased student enrollment in California. Our state has some of the most overcrowded classrooms in the nation and half our schools are over 30 years old and in serious disrepair. Many of San Diego’s children go to school in trailers or buildings often lacking modern heat and air-conditioning, crowded into classrooms with dozens of other students, competing for teacher attention. The bond measure will fix broken bathrooms, leaky roofs and outdated fire and electrical systems, as well as wire classrooms for computer and Internet access.

For students, it is hard to improve test scores and achievement when the schools are falling apart. Research conducted by the Institute for Urban and Minority Education confirms students in overcrowded schools score significantly lower on mathematics and reading exams than other students. San Diego must restore campuses and make safety improvements at almost 100 schools as well as build additional classrooms for thousands of now-displaced students in 14 districts — from Carlsbad to Vista Unified. Matching Prop. 47 funds from the state will allow our local school districts to move forward with $455 million in already approved projects – projects in limbo until Prop. 47 passes.

Proposition 47 also helps improve school grounds at community colleges and universities. More than half of CSU’s existing facilities are over 28 years old and have not been renovated for decades. San Diego State will benefit from $25 million to revitalize its campus, updating and modernizing 20 percent of its classrooms and faculty space.

Prop. 47 is a fiscally smart initiative supported by the California Taxpayers’ Association and the San Diego County Taxpayers’ Association because of its strict accountability clauses, annual audits and checks and balances. Funds cannot be used for bureaucracy or wasteful overhead. All overcrowded school districts – especially those in San Diego – will be entitled to their fair share.

As well, our state treasurer has reported that Prop. 47 is a measure California can afford. California’s bonded indebtedness has been dropping since the mid-1990s and is expected to continue to do so. Prop. 47 will allow state taxpayers to take advantage of the lowest interest rates in years and it will require the state legislature to make school renovation and construction its number one priority without raising taxes.

The California Chamber of Commerce, California State PTA, California Business Roundtable, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, California Labor Federation and the League of Women Voters of California, support Proposition 47. We, the students of California, deserve smaller classes and better schools.

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