Torlakson says schools need to be updated

July 25, 2012 6:17:46 PM PDT
The Department of Education says 10 percent of California schools are over 70 years old and 30 percent are over 50. But State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is outlining a plan to create 21st century learning environments.

"So there is a lot of need here for the retrofit, the energy efficiency, the greening and keeping the investment going," Torlakson said.

Torlakson says it's time to invest in brick and mortar even in these continuing hard times. The key is to find creative ways to fund projects. For that, Torlakson asked UC Berkeley's Center for Cities and Schools to come up with recommendations.

The center looked at how other states are using multiple sources of funding.

"Sometimes they used some bond funds, they might also use a statewide tax, they may also use something like lottery funds or some sort of special business tax," center spokesperson Jeffrey Vincent said.

The Oakland Unified School District has also used grants from private institutions such as Kaiser Permanente. The health care provider has helped fund school-based health centers like one at Oakland High School, where students get medical and mental services. A new one is being built called La Escuelita Education Center.

"When this project is done we will have in Oakland 15 school-based health clinics in our high schools and middle schools," Oakland Board of Education spokesperson Jody London said. "I think that's more than any other district in the state."

Part of the money to build it came from a 2006 voter approved bond. Now the district will ask voters again in November for another $475 million.

"I think this community understands we are investing in quality schools in every neighborhood," Oakland Unified spokesperson Tony Smith said. "The community is rallying to support the bond and it is a really hard time in California, but I think we're demonstrating leadership for that positive work."

That bond does not include charter schools, even though 20 percent of Oakland public school students attend charter schools.


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