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Editorial: Funding for public schools paints a brighter future for California students

By Editorial Board

Feb. 12, 2020 11:09 p.m.

Modern problems require modern solutions.

And, for California, that means modern buildings.

Proposition 13, on the California ballot for the 2020 primary election, would provide $15 billion for public schools, community colleges and universities – including $2 billion for the University of California. The money would help pay for facilities and would prioritize schools with lead-contaminated drinking water or buildings with mold and asbestos.

The proposition’s funding also allocates $4 billion toward community colleges and California State University schools, as well as $9 billion toward helping California’s preschool and K-12 schools to build new facilities, modernize existing infrastructure and pay for career technical education programs.

And while it’s more funding than the UC is offered, it lays the foundation for a healthy, functioning public education pipeline – the implications of which the UC will directly benefit from in the years to come. For those who care about the UC and the public education system it works so closely with, supporting this proposition is a no-brainer. From mold-infested K-12 classrooms to failing seismic infrastructure at UCLA, these funds could offer much-needed relief for California’s public education system.

Proposition 13 won’t solve all the issues public schools face – but ensuring children aren’t breathing in mold or drinking lead-laden water shouldn’t be about cost.

Ensuring buildings are up-to-date in keeping with seismic regulations should also be a major concern in earthquake-prone California, especially with the ever-increasing likelihood of a major earthquake occurring along the San Andreas Fault within the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

It’s also worth noting that Proposition 13 would eliminate the first-come, first-served system that California currently uses to decide which schools get new construction projects, which tends to favor wealthier districts over lower-income ones. Instead, it would explicitly prioritize schools with festering infrastructural hazards that have been overlooked for years – prioritizing students over their parents’ ZIP codes and paving the way for educational attainment in low-income communities.

The $4 billion investment in community colleges and the CSU system will only further these efforts. California has already made clear its prioritization of education at the community college level by offering two years of free tuition, but effective infrastructure is more necessary than ever to ensure these colleges can provide for students.

And the demand is there.

Nearly 2,000 more transfer students applied to UCLA in 2019, despite a drop in freshman applications. Many transfers hoping for a more affordable path toward higher education come from community colleges, and investment in these smaller colleges would only help more Californians achieve the goal of higher education.

Not everyone is as invested, of course – the proposition has faced some opposition as of late, namely over concerns that local homeowners would unfairly foot the bill to secure the funding. While these issues are understandable, delays in funding would mean cramming more children into dilapidated school facilities. And considering there is no guarantee that this sort of proposition will be on the next ballot, it’s crucial that taxpayers consider the necessity of public education before this window passes.

Investing in education is essential, and it’s important to start at the foundation – both literally and figuratively.

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