June 18, 2024—Public Advocates’ Managing Attorney John Affeldt spoke with EdSource’s John Fensterwald on the potential TK-12 and community college school facility modernization bond that could be placed on the November 2024 California ballot. While state funds to assist school districts with repairing and modernizing their current facilities is much needed (as the funds from the state’s 2018 bond have run out), the current formula that determines the amount of state funds that a school district would receive is inequitable and disadvantages lower-wealth communities.

Along with a June 27 deadline to write ballot language, Newsom and legislative leaders face the threat of a lawsuit challenging the legality of the present system that ignores vast inequalities in districts’ ability to upgrade and repair schools. The public interest law firm Public Advocates filed its warning, a 21-page demand letter, with state officials in February. Public Advocates is calling for a new method that shares more state bond proceeds with districts that need more help. Their proposal focuses only on repairing and renovating facilities, not new construction.

Newsom’s aides and legislative leaders have expressed interest in proposals for a fairer system of allocating state funding, “but it is far from clear where the equity conversation will land,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney for Public Advocates. “As long as state bond funding continues to exacerbate rather than redress local wealth disparities, the constitutional problem and our legal demands remain.”

Affeldt said something like a 5%-95% scheme is needed to begin to offset local wealth disparities.

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