The Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of Education voted on Aug. 1 to put a $7 billion school bond on the Nov. 4 ballot. That's more than twice the amount the school board was mulling just two weeks earlier. The size of the bond may have jumped because polling showed voters would approve it, and because the Community College District trustees voted the previous week to put a $3.2 billion bond on the same ballot.
But the board may have overreached. About $2 billion of the bond is not yet allocated to any particular project. That lack of specificity may run afoul of the California constitutional amendment that allows school bonds to pass with just a 55% vote, rather than the two-thirds needed for other local bonds. The larger number may also be more of a reflection of bargaining with charter schools over funding and backing for the bond, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's desire to demonstrate progress on improving schools, than actual need.
Voters have approved four school bonds in the last 12 years. The votes allow the district to borrow money by selling bonds and to repay lenders their principal and interest with higher property taxes on residential and business property located in the district.
The ballot language: Not yet available
Ballot arguments: Not yet available
Who votes: Registered voters living within the boundaries of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
- Los Angeles Times editorial, Aug. 4, 2008:
School bonds...got much easier to pass in 2000, when voters amended the state Constitution to allow 55% approval rather than the previous two-thirds. But the 55% rule applies only to bond measures that list "the specific school facilities projects to be funded." Unless the school district wants to try for that difficult 67% approval, it ought to do better than allocate billions of dollars for projects that haven't been identified and aren't needed, but might be someday.
- Los Angeles Times, Aug. 1, 2008: $7-billion L.A. school bond joins November ballot
The requested amount ballooned from $3.2 billion in recent days, allowing district officials to assuage some critics and constituencies with additional dollars and letting board members pad funds earmarked for their favored priorities, such as early childhood education centers. Even so, the district has yet to allocate about $2 billion, leaving that for future unspecified needs.
- KPCC, Aug. 1, 2008: LAUSD approves largest school bond for November ballot
"If you're going to be in the kitchen watching LAUSD put a bond together, you better develop a pretty strong stomach. I'm appalled at the process."
--Parents' advocate Bill Ring
- Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2008: Villaraigosa pushes school bonds
"Today we're putting the muscle behind the reform movement to break down our system into schools that work for all of our kids."
--Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa