Last fall, months before San Diego Unified School District began testing all schools’ drinking water for lead, it did a special round of tests a Sunset View Elementary in Point Loma. The district found lead but didn’t tell parents. Rather, it told one parent – the one who’d requested a lead test.
Voters who approved three separate school bonds were promised new plumbing at Emerson-Bandini Elementary School in Mountain View. The school got a new sports field, but not new plumbing. Then toxic chemicals were found in the water.
Three schools in the San Diego region reported problems with lead in the water. A legislator has a sharp warning. Plumbing is the problem, not city pipes.
On this week’s San Diego Explained, NBC7’s Monica Dean and Voice of San Diego’s Ashly McGlone look at how local school districts are spending bond funds on employees.
In 2000, California voters made it easier to pass school bonds, but they included a caveat: The money can’t be spent on employee salaries. So it may come as a surprise to learn school districts statewide have been freely — and legally — spending bond money on employee salaries and benefits for more than a decade.
San Diego Unified officials expect the average condition of school buildings to improve from poor to fair by July 2024, but it’ll take millions from the state and the district’s own general fund – on top of two existing multibillion-dollar school bonds – to make it happen.
Principals and parents are bracing for cuts as San Diego Unified School District staff prepare a budget for trustees that could include layoffs to close a $124 million shortfall. The superintendent wrote that she would seek creative solutions to make sure class sizes remain unchanged.
Under a project labor agreement the San Diego Unified School District signed in 2009, local workers would build all bond-funded projects over $1 million. But the targets set in the deal still aren’t being met, and new numbers show some targets are slipping slightly further away as more large projects are built.
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.