New Bond Act of 2020 Will Change School Facility Funding

By Eric Hall, President of EH&A

A comprehensive facility bond recently passed the state Legislature and has been forwarded to the Governor for his signature. If signed, this proposition will place a $15B state school facilities bond on the March 3, 2020 primary ballot for voter approval.

Assembly Bill 48 (O’Donnell), Public Preschool, K-12, and College Health and Safety Bond Act of 2020, is the first bond bill initiated by the legislature since 2006. The current Prop 51 was a voter initiative passed in November 2016. AB48 allocates 60% of the funds ($9B) for K-12 schools, and 40% ($6B) for Community Colleges, California State Universities, and University of California campuses. This is the first statewide bond measure to allocate nearly twice the amount of funds for modernization ($5.2B) than for new construction ($2.8B).

The bill makes significant changes to provide equity for districts unable to raise local funds necessary to improve their facilities. EH&A applauds the Legislature and the Governor for making school facilities a legislative priority to enhance the teaching and learning environment. Most of all, I would like to thank our colleagues at CASH for their never ending support of AB 48 and for their valuable contributions toward making some of the less friendly portions of the proposal be eliminated.

The method of funding facilities at the state level is changing as a result of many factors affecting school districts in CA including enrollment stabilization and declines as well as aging school facilities and infrastructure. This migration from an “enrollment-based” to an “equity-based” model will provide funding for modernization as well as rebuilding older school facilities.

As proposed, AB 48 is the subject of plenty of controversy and room for debate and discourse prior to the drafting of the bond language for the March election and as well as the ensuing administrative regulations.

We at EH&A are hopeful that the Legislature takes the time to solicit what is certain to be valuable input and dialogue from the educational community regarding the implementation of this measure.  The following are regulatory provisions included in AB 48:

  • Funding priority for projects with a Project Labor Agreement (PLA).
  • Funding priority based upon Health and Safety, Financial Hardship and Lead Testing.
  • Low-wealth districts receiving increased funding over current grant funding, up from 50% to 55% for new construction, and from 60% to 65% for modernization projects.
  • Increase in local bonding authority from 1.25% to 2.5% for elementary and high school districts, and 2% to 4% for unified districts.
  • New Small School District Assistance program that would reserve 10% of total from new construction and modernization funding.
  • Developer Fee exemption for multi-family units close to a transit station.
  • Developer Fee reduction of 20% for multi-family units.
  • A requirement that the Facility Master Plan aligns with the goals of the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).
  • Requirements that Facility Master Plans contain critical components including classroom counts, capacity and projected enrollment.
  • Transparency and audits.

The Coalition for Adequate School Housing (CASH) has been actively engaged in negotiation with the legislature. The CASH summary of AB 48 can be found here.

Click here for more information about funding, priorities, and allocation of AB 48 funds from the EdSource article by John Fensterwald.

EH&A will be monitoring progress, discussing implementation, and assisting our friends and clients to better understand AB 48 and its application.

It’s important to note that AB 48 needs to be signed by the Governor and passed by a simple majority vote of the electorate on March 3, 2020 to take effect. It is also important to understand that this Legislation does not repeal the current School Facility Program (SFP), but instead provides an overlay on the existing Program, keeping in place many of the features of the SFP.

In the meantime, EH&A encourages school leaders and school boards to support this important statewide school measure to ensure its passage in March 2020.