Gov. Jerry Brown opposes $9-billion school bond measure

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday came out against a $9-billion school bond measure that will go before voters in November, erecting a political hurdle for advocates of new spending on school construction.

"I am against the developers' $9-billion bond," Brown said in a statement to The Times. "It's a blunderbuss effort that promotes sprawl and squanders money that would be far better spent in low-income communities."

Brown has hinted in the past at his displeasure with the ballot proposal.

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When he unveiled his budget plan last month, the governor said the bond measure would not change the state program that determines how school facilities are built and maintained. That process prioritizes districts that submit early applications for projects — which Brown said favors affluent districts over cash-strapped ones.

"The Legislature could do a better job than the developers who put that one together," Brown said at the time.

But lawmakers' efforts to craft a smaller bond have stagnated.

Representatives for Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) confirmed that legislators will not be voting on an alternative measure in time to meet state election deadlines for the June primary ballot.

Outright opposition from Brown could prove politically damaging for the larger proposal. The governor notches high marks from Californians: 60% of registered voters approve of his job performance, according to a January poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

But the $9-billion bond has racked up its own cadre of influential supporters, including the California Chamber of Commerce, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and Tom Torlakson, the superintendent of public instruction. Nearly a dozen legislators also have endorsed the measure.

Under the proposal sponsored by the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, a group promoting new construction, and the California Building Industry Assn., most of the money would go toward building and upgrading K-12 facilities.

The proposal includes $2 billion for community college projects.

"California is facing at least $20 billion in projected school facilities needs over the next decade, and we have sponsored this bond to make sure school districts can continue to partner with the state to create quality learning environments for all students," David Walrath of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing said in a statement.

"Our measure will continue this important school bond program that has been supported by the past three governors, and which our supporters — including the business community, school districts, elected officials from both sides of the aisle and labor — all agree is needed to ensure California's students have modern and safe classrooms," he said.

melanie.mason@latimes.com

Twitter: @melmason

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 12, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Brown opposes school bond effort - The $9-billion ballot proposal `squanders money' that could be spent in low-income communities, he says." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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