Saturday, September 07, 2013


By Kimberly Beltran | SI&A Cabinet Report – News & Resources

Friday, September 06, 2013  ::  A plan hatched just last week to seek urgency legislation needed to free up a restricted pot of school construction money apparently did not resonate with Gov. Jerry Brown nor legislative leaders.

Sen. Loni Hancock, representing the State Allocation Board which hatched the plan, said through her press secretary on Thursday that she immediately looked into the possibility of a last-minute bill to unencumber $38.4 million in high-performance schools incentive grants but that “the administration isn’t supportive of legislation at this time.”

The Berkeley senator’s statement noted that she will “work with the administration during the interim to address ways to ensure that the remaining HPI grant funds are made available to school districts interested in high-performance schools.”

Meanwhile, an SAB subcommittee that has been meeting since last year to streamline policies and procedures of the School Facility Program on Thursday considered various options for consolidating several of the SFP’s smaller programs, including the high-performance grant fund.

The panel also is considering changes to the formulas that determine how much state funding districts may qualify for under the SFP’s two largest programs: new construction and modernization. The group plans to compile its recommendations in a report for the entire board to consider later this year.

That report will, in part, be used as part of a push to convince the Legislature and Brown to support a 2014 statewide bond needed to keep the program viable.

Earlier this year, Brown and his administration questioned the future of the state’s role in funding school construction projects – a message SAB members heard loud and clear.

“We have a program that says local school boards are responsible for the construction and maintenance of their schools – it’s never really been the responsibility of the state; we’ve provided grants and bond funds,” said Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, chair of the subcommittee. “The governor is looking for a simple, streamlined, cost-effective program. Even if we’re fortunate enough to get a bond to the ballot, it’s not going to be what we’ve had in the past.”

Since 1998, the School Facility Program has provided some $35 billion to schools in matching construction funds – funds generated through statewide voter-approved bonds, the last a $10.5 billion bond in 2006.

With new construction and modernization project bond authority depleted, roughly $400 million remains in the various smaller programs authorized through the bonds, including Charter School Facilities, Seismic Mitigation, Career Technical Education, Overcrowding Relief and High Performance Incentive.

But these funds are restricted through the bond process to only those purposes for which they were approved, and the SAB on several occasions has considered ways to shift the unused funds to the heavily-used new construction and modernization programs, where districts with approved projects are stalled awaiting their state matching funds.

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