Thanks to new state laws, voters are seeing more information on their ballots about what school bonds will actually cost in the long run. One thing that hasn’t changed: School construction contractors are still funding campaigns promoting the bond measures.
Proposition 51, a statewide ballot measure, is being billed as a $9 billion school bond project that will fix leaky roofs and remove asbestos from classrooms. Those priorities were also front and center in the ballot language for Prop. Z, a local bond passed in 2012. Tens of millions in Prop. Z money has also been spent on stadiums. Prop. 51 funds could also be used to fund stadiums, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office told us.
San Diego Unified has more than $3 billion in school bond funds it has yet to spend on neighborhood schools. Charter schools’ share, on the other hand, is about tapped out.
San Diego Unified is pushing Innovations Academy out of its space in Scripps Ranch and dropping $20 million in bond money on a new facility for the school. It plans to lease the Scripps Ranch space to a developer who will build apartments. The move that makes good on the school board’s commitment to generate revenue off district property. But to Scripps Ranch residents, the decision is illogical: Why push out a charter school just to spend $20 million building a new one?
Halfway through a five-year deal that was supposed to be capped at $625,000, Dolinka Group has already made $1.27 million on a contract with Poway Unified. District staff now says the cap referred to a yearly amount — though it doesn’t appear to have applied that standard to other multiyear contracts.
Former district officials misspent school bond funds, double paid vendors, spent $45 million on an ill-advised land purchase and fulfilled few promises made to voters who approved a $250 million bond measure in 1997, according to the report released Tuesday.
San Diego Unified officials made big promises to hire local workers when they adopted a project labor agreement for the district’s bond program. But so far just 38 percent of the workers who built bond projects have been residents of the school district. Two members of the independent group that oversees the bond program work for the unions contracted with the district to supply the work force in the labor deal.
A school board member must focus solely on education. The public position should not be used to serve the member’s day job or any other political purpose.
The district’s facilities chief and Scott Barnett, the former school bond trustee and a big backer of Proposition Z, defend the district’s use of bond money for items like technology and new stadiums over repairs to school buildings. “There are never press conferences or ribbon-cuttings for new roofs or parking-lot repaving,” Barnett said.
After a tax hike, two ballot propositions and $1 billion in spending, San Diego’s city schools are in worse condition today than they were eight years ago, according to new data.