Sunday, August 19 , 2018, 8:56 pm | Fair 69º


Voter-Approved State Education Propositions Will Bring Funding to Santa Barbara County Schools

Recently-passed Propositions 51, 55 and 58 will provide more funding for repairs and facilities, and loosen restrictions on bilingual instruction

Funding from recently-passed state propositions could help Santa Barbara County schools pay for repairs and new facilities. Click to view larger
Funding from recently-passed state propositions could help Santa Barbara County schools pay for repairs and new facilities.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

In addition to the passage of several Santa Barbara County school bonds, Californians voters passed three ballot propositions that will boost schools funding for repairs and facilities work, and loosen restrictions on bilingual education.

Proposition 51, which passed Nov. 8 with 54 percent approval, allows the state to issue $9 billion in bonds for school construction projects across the state.

For K-12 schools, $3 billion will go toward new construction and another $3 billion toward modernizations. Another $1 billion will go to charter school and vocational school facilities, with the remaining $2 billion for community college facilities.

According to the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office, state money for these needs has been drying up. Funds of the same magnitude as the newly approved bonds are needed every year for school repair, construction and modernization needs, the office found.

The state typically splits funding for such projects with school districts.

The primary criticism of the initiative was that its first-come, first-serve approach to disbursement would privilege more affluent schools.

Santa Barbara County school districts are a “mixed bag” when it comes to this purported advantage, Santa Barbara County Education Office assistant superintendent Bill Ridgeway told Noozhawk.

Some, he estimated, likely jumped in line before the proposition passed, while others with greater financial struggles will likely qualify for a “hardship” designation that wouldn’t require the same funds-matching required for most districts.

Local voters also approved a slew of school-bond measures throughout the county, which provide schools some wiggle room and another choice when it comes to tackling infrastructure backlogs, Ridgeway said.

Measures I and J, for instance, will provide Santa Barbara Unified School District schools a combined $192 million for infrastructure projects.

“Local bonds are not easy to pass, but they show what we’ve always indicated: that local communities and Santa Barbara County are very supportive of their local schools,” said Bill Cirone, the county superintendent of schools.

One of the biggest projects underway is the renovation of Santa Barbara High School’s nearly century-old Peabody Stadium, with an estimated cost of $18 million to $20 million. 

The aging grandstand does not meet modern building and accessibility codes, and few sports — not even physical education classes and track — can use the facility.

Local voters passed a long list of school bond measures on Nov. 8. Measures I and J will fund projects at Santa Barbara Unified School District campuses including Santa Barbara High School. Click to view larger
Local voters passed a long list of school bond measures on Nov. 8. Measures I and J will fund projects at Santa Barbara Unified School District campuses including Santa Barbara High School.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

The renovation project was first conceived in 2010, and fundraising only recently has been completed after kicking off in 2015, according to the Foundation for Santa Barbara High School, which is spearheading the project.

Proposition 55 will bolster education funding by extending personal income tax increases for another 12 years.

Originally enacted in 2012 through Proposition 30, the tax increases were slated to expire in 2019, and apply to single filers making $250,000 and joint filers making $500,000.

The new initiative passed with 62.2 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results from the Secretary of State's Office. 

Eighty-nine percent of the funds will go to K-12 schools, and 11 percent to community colleges.

Though the money cannot go toward administrative costs, school boards can decide how they want to spend it.

Cirone said that Proposition 55 money could be put toward a wide array of uses locally, including school programming, the arts, new technology and deferred maintenance projects.

The proposition also allocates up to $2 billion a year in certain years for low-income healthcare programs.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, education spending makes up more than half of the state’s $122-billion budget.

Critics said Prop 55 only prolongs the state’s considerable reliance on high earners to fund education.

Proposition 58, which deals with English learning policies, passed by the widest margin at 72.6 percent, according to the Secretary of State's Office. 

The measure, placed on the ballot by the state legislature, repeals most of 1998’s Prop 217, and no longer requires English-only education for English learners.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates about one-fifth of California students are learning English in addition to other standard subjects.

Under Proposition 58, these students are no longer mandated to have their subjects taught only in English, though the requirement that public-school students become proficient in the language remains intact.

“From my perspective, 58 was good legislation because what it’s allowing for is flexibility,” Cirone said.

“The emphasis will always be literacy, but it allows for different pathways to literacy” based on a district’s situation and needs, he said.

Some local districts are moving toward dual-language immersion programs that allow English learners to be taught in both English and their native language, Cirone said.

The increasingly popular approach, which previously required parents to obtain a waiver, also allows native English speakers the chance to learn another language.

The initiative additionally requires districts to gather annual feedback from parents and the community as they develop bilingual programs.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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