Oakland schools urge approval of Prop 51 to help update facilities

Lyanne Melendez Image
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Oakland schools urge approval of Prop 51 to help update facilities
Parkside Elementary and other Oakland schools are urging voters to approve Proposition 51, in order to help with much needed renovations.

PITTSBURG, Calif. (KGO) -- There are less than 27 days until the election. In California, the ballots are packed with 17 measures, including Proposition 51, a measure asking for $9 billion in bonds for school facilities.

On the outside, Parkside Elementary in Pittsburgh looks like any ordinary California school, but if you take a closer look you'll notice that the windows are made of old plastic when they should have double panes for energy efficiency.

The lighting is old. The roof has leaked in the past and the computer lab lacks high quality equipment.

Like Parkside, there are many more schools throughout the state with similar problems.

"Many of our schools in Oakland Unified are outdated," a school spokesperson said.

If voters approve Proposition 51 the state will issue $9 billion in bonds for schools.

California Governor Jerry Brown has come out against it because it would create more debt for the state.

Rick Marshall is with Stop Proposition 51. He would like to see a smaller bond that caters exclusively to districts in need.

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"There's big districts in California, like Los Angeles Unified that don't need the money," Marshall said. "But there's smaller districts who do."

For decades, matching funds initiatives like Proposition 51 for schools would go on the ballot every three to four years, but the Great Recession changed that.

"And the bonds were put on hold," said Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Schools. " Since 2006, it's the longest gap in funding, the longest drought of funding for schools from the state coffers in the history of the program."

Parkside, which has plans to rebuild, needs state matching funds that would come from Proposition 51.

Some more modern schools were built just a few years ago and was constructed using state matching funds. Without those funds, school officials say they couldn't compete with more affluent school districts.

"We can't raise the money in Pittsburgh to do the same kind of work they can do in Piedmont with local funds," said Pittsburg School Board Member Laura Canciamilla.

Most school bonds in California have been approved by voters.

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