School Construction Investments Important for CA’s Economic Recovery
As California looks towards a post-pandemic economic recovery, the state urgently needs a “stimulus to the California economy that invigorates job creation while rectifying the significant racial and geographic inequities that existed before the crisis,” says non-profit bipartisan organization California Forward. Noting that the coronavirus pandemic has “magnified inequities by displacing those primarily in lower paying sectors,” California Forward says now is the time to make “major investments that will create tens of thousands of good jobs while creating infrastructure and housing that will improve our quality of life…for everyone.”
Among the key investment strategies for economic recovery that the organization proposes is putting “voter approved but unsold infrastructure bonds to work” — especially school bonds. “There are approximately $34 billion in voter approved unsold bonds that should be expedited for shovel ready projects that are in the approval pipeline. Of that, $24 billion sits in school, higher education and water resource related facilities. For example, K-14 school bonds already approved by voters can be used for school construction projects that are already in the queue,” say California Forward’s Director of Public Policy Fred Silva and CEO Micah Weinberg.
By leveraging these bond funds to create good paying union jobs, school construction could become an important driver of recovery for the construction industry, as well as for California’s economy and quality of life.
As the second largest district in the nation, serving over 600,000 students at over 1,000 schools, the Los Angeles Unified School District oversees a sizeable school construction bond program that is funding vital projects and creating jobs. Its Facilities Services Division (FSD) is currently managing a $25.6 billion program that builds new schools to reduce overcrowding and modernizes existing campuses to make schools safer throughout the District.
As the District nears achievement of this primary goal of reducing overcrowding, the bond program is now shifting towards further investments in the School Upgrade Program to fix aging and deteriorating school facilities. According to the District’s website, “over 575 Board approved projects valued at $4.0 billion are in the pre-construction phase and another 300+ projects valued $475 million are under construction.”
Looking ahead, the FSD plans on putting over 120 new bond program projects out to bid between June 2020 and June 2021. Projects will improve school sites so “they are safe, healthy, and functional places to learn.” These include comprehensive modernization projects at four schools and seismic modernization projects at five schools, as well as numerous projects that will take care of access compliance, campus improvements, gym renovations, fire alarm installations, and much-needed upgrades to out-dated roofing, flooring, electrical, and HVAC infrastructure.