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.

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.

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.

Repairing deteriorating roofs and parking lots isn’t nearly as fun as building flashy new sports facilities and buying computers and iPads. But as VOSD’s Scott Lewis writes, Proposition Z was sold by San Diego Unified School District as a way to fix those aforementioned un-flashy things. The bond was pitched, and passed by voters in 2012, as a […]

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.

There are still billions of dollars to go around when San Diego Unified finishes issuing all $4.9 billion in voter-approved Proposition S and Z debt. Though the bonds were sold to voters as crucial measures to fund urgently needed repairs, the latest spending plan estimates about 22 percent will go toward such projects.