The November 8th election is upon us. Many of you might have already voted by mail, but if you have not, please take the time to cast your ballot. Please encourage everyone you know - students, faculty, staff, and neighbors - to exercise their vote. Let's not take our right to vote for granted.
Earlier this fall, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors unanimously adopted a resolution in support of a partnership with the California Students Vote Project, a nonpartisan effort by the Secretary of State to increase civic participation and voter registration on our campuses. I am proud that both Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College got behind this effort.
It goes without saying that this is an important election. Not only are we electing the next President of the United States, but there are also many critical national, state and local elections, including key contests in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, and California Assembly. Of course, there are also important choices to be made for mayors and city councils as well as K-12 schools and college district boards.
There are several measures on the ballot of importance to education as well. The following are some of the most important to our schools and colleges. I provide these for informational purposes only.
This ballot measure allows for the sale of $9 billion in general obligation bonds to pay for building and modernizing K-12 and community college instructional facilities. It is the first school bond measure on the state ballot since 2006.
If this proposition were to pass approximately $7 billion would be allocated for K-12 public school projects. These could include new construction, as well as modernization of existing buildings. The measure would also allocate about $2 billion for community colleges. These funds could go toward any facility project, including buying land, constructing new educational facilities, modernizing existing buildings and purchasing equipment.
For a K-12 public school district to get the bond money, it would submit its proposed project to the state's Office of Public School Construction. For community colleges to obtain funding through this bond measure, they would submit a proposal through the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. In most cases, approved projects will require that the community college district provide local funding as well.
From 1998 through 2006, voters approved four state facility school bonds that provided funding to K-12 schools and community colleges. Since no statewide ballot measures have been approved since then, California has almost no money left in its coffers for these kinds of projects.
In 2012, voters approved Proposition 30, which raised sales and income taxes. These increases are set to expire at the end of 2016. Proposition 55 would require the wealthiest Californians to keep paying higher income taxes through 2030. The income tax increase starts at 1 percent for individuals making $250,000 annually and goes up to 3 percent for individuals making above $500,000.
If Proposition 55 is approved, fiscal experts estimate it will raise $4 billion to $9 billion a year, depending on the economy. The additional money would be used for schools, low-income health care and the state's rainy day fund. Under Proposition 55, half of the funds will go to K-12 schools and community colleges. Of those funds, roughly 89% would go to K-12 schools and 11% to California community colleges.
Proposition 55 does not extend the quarter-cent sales tax increase that was part of the 2012 tax hike.
Although this ballot measure will not directly impact community colleges, it is certainly of interest to California educators.
Eighteen years ago, California voters approved Proposition 227, the English in Public Schools initiative, Proposition 227, which required K-12 public schools to teach all students in "English only" unless parents obtained a special waiver for their child.
Proposition 58 would eliminate the English-only mandate. With its approval, school districts could adopt any methodology they see appropriate to teaching English learners, as long as they solicit community input and ensure that all students become proficient in English.
The instructional approaches could include bilingual programs that were basically eliminated under Proposition 227. In a bilingual program, a student's native language is utilized in the classroom. If Proposition 58 passes, there would be no prohibition against bilingual programs. English learners typically remain in bilingual programs for three to six years. After that, students generally are mainstreamed into classes taught only in English.
If this measure fails, schools would be required to continue teaching students in English-only programs. In these programs, English learners take all their subjects in English from teachers who speak only in English. The program lasts for no more than a year before they move into regular classrooms where instruction occurs only in English.
This measure was placed on the ballot by one of our most important partners in education, the Orange Unified School District. It is a $288 million bond measure that, if approved by the voters in that district, would provide funding for specific projects outlined in the district's bond project list, which can be found at orangeusd.k12.ca.us/facilities/plan.
The list includes a variety of safety, modernization and renovation projects at Canyon, El Modena, Orange and Villa Park high schools, including bringing these schools up to current technological standards, replacing aging portables with new and renovated buildings, retrofitting older buildings for earthquake safety and generally modernizing all four high schools.
Thank you for everything you do for our students. As always, I welcome your feedback. Have a great week.
All the best,