Sanchez Plans Bill to Fund School Construction

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Rep. Loretta Sanchez on Friday toured two of Santa Ana's most crowded elementary schools in preparation for a bill she plans to introduce later this month to help fund school construction.

During her tours of Lowell and Pio Pico elementary schools, Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) learned how the two schools with a combined enrollment of close to 2,000 had implemented year-round schedules, added portable classrooms and used the nearby Boys and Girls Club to make up for a lack of space.

And still, it is not enough to ease overcrowding, Santa Ana Unified School District officials said.

"The one little field of grass is going to end up getting filled up with portables," Pio Pico Principal Judith Magsaysay told Sanchez.

Pio Pico, built for 620 students, has over 900, a situation made tolerable only because the year-round schedule puts one-third of the students on vacation at any time, Magsaysay said.

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Under Sanchez's Expand and Rebuild America's Schools Act, local school districts would have to pass their own bond measures for new school construction and repay the principal.

The districts, however, would not have to pay the interest on the bonds. The federal government would pay the interest.

If the Santa Ana school district passed a $5-million bond, for example, the interest payments could reach an estimated $8.7 million, said Mike Fourcher, a legislative analyst in Sanchez's office.

After deducting for taxes, the federal government would pay the interest to the bondholders, Fourcher said.

Sanchez said she will be seeking $800 million over a two-year period to fund her bill.

But she will face an uphill battle in Congress, where Republicans see school funding as an issue better left to the states and local school districts, said Jay Diskey, a spokesman for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

"I don't think the Republicans want to turn the U.S. House of Representatives into a national school board," Diskey said.

Sanchez acknowledged a likely battle over the bill.

"It will be a tough sell," she said. "But I do believe we can pass it."

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After touring the schools, Sanchez visited one of Anaheim's toughest neighborhoods, the Jeffrey-Lynne area, to discuss problems and solutions with local residents.

Sanchez said the neighborhood has improved over the years with the opening of a community center. But she acknowledged that there was still room for improvement in the neighborhood.

"It's a poverty situation there," she said.

Sanchez said she could help by funneling federal funds for housing and law enforcement into the area.

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