When is too much enough? A look at schools, money and taxpayers

Dump truckA proposed $9 billion state bond for school construction projects includes multimillion-dollar project requests from districts where student enrollment has declined, a CalWatchdog investigation has found.

The measure, on the 2016 ballot, is supported in large part by a cadre of interests led by developers, architects, contractors and educators. Among the talking points from proponents is a professed $2 billion in projects that await funding, in all nearly 400 requests from districts that have been either approved or requested by districts. 

Most of the money is aimed at improving schools or building more, and in some cases for districts that are struggling to attract students.

Declining Enrollment

West Contra Costa Unified has seen enrollment dip by 2,000 students to 30,596. Voters in the Northern California district approved a $360 million bond measure in 2012. The district is asking for $47 million more in state funding.

At Los Angeles Unified, the second largest school district in the U.S. in terms of students, enrollment has dropped 12 percent since 2005 to 646,683 in 2014-15.  It has $43 million worth of requests for state funding. The number of certified staff, which includes teachers along with upper-level administrators, has also dropped at L.A. Unified, by 8 percent in the last decade.

Then there’s the case of Centinela Valley Union High School District, where voters approved bond measures in 2008 and 2010 totaling $196 million. Over that same period, district Superintendent Jose Fernandez was handed a perk-laden contract that added up to $663,000 in compensation in 2013.  Fernandez was fired last year after the package was revealed.

Enrollment in the district dropped from 8,000 to 7,878 between 2005-06 and 2014-15 as the two bond measures were passed.

Statewide, public enrollment has remained static for the last five years.

Here’s a look at the districts with recently voter-approved bonds and projects on the waiting list for state bond funds. The listing includes the margin of approval and the ballot language, as well as the dollar amount of the district’s request with the state.

RELATED Developers Lobby Pushes Statewide Education Bond

For an interactive map of the info listed below, CLICK HERE

Oakland Unified

  • 2012: $473 million approved by 84 percent of voters “to improve the quality of Oakland schools and school facilities to better prepare students for college and jobs, to upgrade science labs, classrooms, computers and technology, improve student safety and security, repair bathrooms, electrical systems, plumbing and sewer lines, improve energy efficiency and earthquake safety.”
  • On the list: $3.1 million

West Contra Costa Unified

  • 2012: $360 million approved by 64 percent of voters “to make schools safe, complete essential health/safety repairs, qualify for State matching grants, shall West Contra Costa Unified School District upgrade schools for earthquake safety and handicap accessibility, remove asbestos, upgrade science labs, restrooms, vocational classrooms, technology and energy systems to reduce costs, install lighting and security systems, and acquire, repair, construct, equipment, sites and facilities.”
  • On the list: $47 million

San Ramon Unified

  • 2012: $260 million approved by 57 percent of voters “to improve local elementary, middle and high school classrooms, labs and learning facilities by adding classrooms to prevent school overcrowding; upgrading fire, security and earthquake safety; updating science labs, and instructional technology infrastructure for 21st-century learning; improving energy efficiency; and renovating, constructing and equipping schools, facilities and classrooms.”
  • On the list: $2.7 million

Chico Unified

  • 2012: $78 million approved by 65 percent of voters. “The bond funds could be expended only for the purposes specified in the ballot measure, including: improving student access to computers and modern technology, repairing or replacing leaky roofs and plumbing systems, upgrading heating, ventilation and cooling systems.”
  • On the list: $3.4 million

Clovis Unified

  • 2012: $298 million approved by 65 percent of voters “to maintain excellent neighborhood schools, offset state budget cuts, and retain/attract quality teachers by: Upgrading classrooms/science labs/fire safety systems/libraries; Improving energy efficiency systems; Enhancing vocational education facilities; Fixing deteriorating roofs/plumbing/bathrooms; Ensuring handicapped accessibility; and Acquiring sites, constructing/equipping school facilities.”
  • On the list: $37.7 million

Fresno Unified

  • 2010: $280 million approved by 75 percent of voters “to offset state budget cuts, attract quality teachers, and repair classrooms by: Upgrading vocational education classrooms/science labs/technology/libraries; Improving security/fire safety/restrooms/plumbing/ventilation systems; Increasing handicapped access; Securing state matching funds; Replacing deteriorating portables; Preventing dropouts by improving alternative schools; Acquiring, constructing, repairing campuses/facilities/equipment.”
  • On the list: $43.7 million

Washington Unified

  • 2012: $22 million approved by 73 percent of voters “to better prepare Washington Union High School students for college and quality jobs, shall Washington Unified School District upgrade technology in classrooms, job-training labs, and student- support facilities; modernize science labs; rehabilitate deteriorated roofs, plumbing, electrical, lighting, ventilation; improve safety; and acquire/construct/repair instructional and athletic sites, facilities and equipment.”
  • On the list: $7.4 million

Orland Unified

  • 2008: $21.9 million approved by 56 percent of voters for new construction and modernization.
  • On the list: $1.8 million

Eureka City Unified

  • 2014: $49.75 million approved by 57 percent of voters “to upgrade every school site and help improve education by: upgrading career technical/job training classrooms; investing in technology/science labs; repairing aging classrooms; qualifying local schools for matching state funds; and constructing/acquiring facilities, classrooms, sites and equipment.”
  • On the list: $364,590

Los Angeles Unified

  • 2008: $7 billion approved by 69 percent of voters “to improve student health, safety and educational quality, shall the Los Angeles Unified School District: continue repair/upgrade of aging/deteriorating classrooms, restrooms; upgrade fire/earthquake safety; reduce asbestos, lead paint, air pollution, water quality hazards; build/upgrade specialized classrooms students need to meet job/college requirements; improve classroom Internet access.”
  • On the list: $43.6 million

Centinela Valley Union High School District

  • 2010: $98 million approved by 65 percent of voters “to protect students from earthquakes; remove asbestos, lead paint, and other safety hazards from schools; and improve learning and academic achievement, shall the Centinela Valley Union High School District issue $98,000,000 in bonds, at legal rates, to repair, acquire, and construct local schools, sites, and facilities, including libraries, classrooms, science labs, and academic academies; and replace aging plumbing, heating, electrical, and school security systems.”
  • 2008: $98 million approved by 71 percent of voters “to improve the quality of education/student safety/reduce overcrowding, shall Centinela Valley Union High School District issue $98,000,000 in bonds, at legal rates, to repair/acquire/construct local schools, sites, facilities, libraries, classrooms, science/computer labs, ensure earthquake safety, remove mold/asbestos, upgrade fire safety/security systems, leaky roofs, restrooms, plumbing/electrical/heating/cooling systems.”
  • On the list: $28.3 million

Redondo Beach Unified

  • 2012: $63 million approved by 64 percent of voters “to prepare students for success in high school, college, and the workforce; acquire, construct, upgrade, furnish, and equip school facilities, including career and technical facilities, improve classroom technology, and make energy efficiency improvements to reduce operating costs and put more money in classrooms.”
  • 2008: $145 million approved by 66 percent of voters “to improve the quality of education, complete the renovation of local schools, make health and safety improvements, upgrade and modernize existing classrooms and school buildings, including multipurpose rooms, and improve student support facilities at the High School, including the library, computer and science labs and athletic facilities.”
  • On the list: $2.4 million

Anderson Valley Unified

  • 2010: $15.2 million approved by 65 percent of voters “to acquire, construct, and improve classrooms and facilities, including repairing, upgrading, and modernizing Anderson Valley Elementary, improving student access to modern technology at Anderson Valley Junior Senior High, improving energy efficiency, installing solar panels to reduce energy costs.”
  • On the list: $754,796

Calistoga Joint Unified

  • 2010: $42 million approved by 65 percent of voters “to renovate and improve Calistoga schools, improve school libraries, upgrade classrooms, modernize computer networks, build a new gym and a cafeteria, install solar energy systems, replace aging roofs, old heating, electrical, plumbing, cooling and ventilation systems with energy efficient systems.”
  • On the list: $442, 693

Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified

  • 2008: $200 million approved by 57 percent of voters to “authorize the School District to issue and sell bonds of up to $200,000,000 to finance school facilities projects.”
  • On the list: $5.7 million

Anaheim City School District

  • 2010: $169 million approved by 64 percent of voters “for the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of school facilities or the acquisition or lease of real property for school facilities.”
  • On the list: $5.4 million

Savanna Elementary School District

  • 2012: $28.75 million approved by 59 percent of voters “in order to protect the quality of education at our schools, provide safe and modern school facilities, and complete priority school renovation that would otherwise not occur due to State budget cuts, and in so doing increase health, safety, welfare and educational effectiveness of classrooms for students.”
  • 2008: $24.9 million approved by 72 percent of voters “to improve student learning and safety in neighborhood schools, shall Savanna Elementary School District rehabilitate 46-50-year old classrooms and school facilities, upgrade fire/safety/security systems, repair or replace deteriorated roofs, electrical, plumbing, restrooms, heating, and ventilation, and improve classroom technology and school libraries.”
  • On the list: $6.4 million

Tustin Unified

  • 2012: $135 million approved by 60 percent of voters “to better prepare students for college and high-demand jobs, improve students’ technology skills for today’s higher standards, retain qualified teachers, improve instruction and career training in science, math and skilled trades, and maintain high-quality education; shall Tustin Unified School District upgrade classrooms, science labs, equipment, instructional technology and infrastructure.”
  • On the list: $12.7 million

Desert Sands Unified

  • 2014: $225 million approved by 69 percent of voters “to upgrade classrooms, labs for career/technical education classes to prepare students for college/good-paying jobs in math, science, engineering, technology/ skilled trades, repair deteriorating roofs, plumbing/electrical systems, acquire, renovate, construct/equip classrooms, sites/facilities to keep pace with technology.”
  • On the list: $15.5 million

Val Verde Unified

  • 2012: $178 million approved by 62 percent of voters “to protect the quality of education in our local schools, relieve overcrowding and provide safe/modern schools, shall the Val Verde Unified School District update computers/technology in classrooms/science labs/libraries; provide facilities/equipment for career training/education; make funds available to attract/retain qualified teachers and protect academic instruction; construct new high school facilities to relieve overcrowding.”
  • On the list: $43.9 million

Temecula Valley Unified

  • 2012: $165 million approved by 64 percent of voters “in order to acquire, construct and reconstruct school facilities, and provide for supporting infrastructure at the existing school site of the Temecula Valley Unified School District, and in so doing increase health, safety, welfare and educational effectiveness of classrooms for students.”
  • On the list: $3.1 million

Corona-Norco Unified

  • 2014: $396 million approved by 57 percent of voters to “upgrade classrooms, science lands, computers, career-training technology to support high-quality instruction in math, science, engineering, technology/skilled trades, repair/replace leaky roofs, floors, plumbing/hazardous materials where needed, address overcrowding, improve student safety/security, repair, construct, acquire, equip classrooms, facilities/sites.”
  • On the list: $2.8 million

San Juan Unified

  • 2012 $350 million approved by 60 percent of voters To improve the quality of education at every school, modernize aging classrooms, upgrade technology, provide 21st century learning opportunities, improve student safety and become eligible for millions in additional State dollars
  • On the list: $454,883

Cajon Valley Union

  • 2008: $156.5 million approved by 64 percent of voters “to improve the quality of education, upgrade and construct classrooms and joint-use gymnasiums, increase access to computers and technology, replace 50-year old schools, make safety and security improvements, improve energy efficiency, and make the District eligible for State-matching grants.”
  • On the list: $2.9 million

San Diego Unified

  • 2012: $2.8 billion approved by 62 percent of voters “to repair neighborhood schools and charter schools with funding the state cannot take away by: Repairing deteriorating 60-year-old classrooms, libraries, wiring, plumbing, bathrooms and leaky roofs; Removing hazardous mold, asbestos, and lead; Upgrading fire safety systems/doors; Upgrading classroom instructional technology, labs and vocational education classrooms.”
  • On the list: $2.2 million

San Marcos Unified

  • 2010: $287 million approved by 63 percent of voters “to maintain excellent local schools, repair aging, deteriorating classrooms/schools, attract quality teachers and offset State cuts by: removing asbestos, lead paint, repairing roofs, plumbing, wiring; preventing overcrowding; upgrading instructional technology, libraries, science labs; improving seismic, fire and student safety; and improving disabled access.”
  • On the list: $36.9 million

Stockton Unified

  • 2014: $114 million approved by 67 percent of voters “to increase student access to computers; maintain and upgrade educational technology; upgrade classroom security systems for increased student safety; upgrade technology servers, routers, switches and storage area networks; and significantly reduce borrowing costs.”
  • 2012: $156 million approved by 74 percent of voters “in order to repair, equip, acquire and construct classrooms, school facilities, playgrounds and athletic fields; replace portables with permanent classrooms; and reduce overall borrowing costs.”
  • 2008: $464.5 million approved by 69 percent of voters “to improve the quality of education and student access to computers and technology, renovate science labs, repair restrooms, modernize and upgrade schools and classrooms throughout the District, construct additional classrooms and facilities, replace outdated temporary portable classrooms with permanent classrooms, and qualify the District for millions in State matching funds.”
  • On the list: $9.3 million

Belmont-Redwood Shores School District

  • 2014: $48 million approved by 65 percent of voters “to add elementary and middle school classrooms and science labs for math, science, reading and writing programs, relieve school overcrowding, provide updated classroom computers and instructional technology for quality 21st Century education, repair, construct, acquire classrooms, facilities and equipment, add restrooms to accommodate growing student enrollment.”
  • 2010: $25 million approved by 66 percent of voters “to continue quality education/prevent classroom overcrowding, shall Belmont-Redwood Shores School District repair/replace leaking roofs, provide additional classrooms for science, math, general instruction, construct, acquire, repair classrooms/ facilities/sites/equipment, meet current fire/safety codes, improve disabled access, upgrade technology, replace outdated electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation, safety/security systems.”
  • 2010: $35 million approved by 64 percent of voters “to continue quality education, shall Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District (SFID) repair/replace leaking roofs, construct, acquire, repair classrooms/facilities/sites/equipment, meet current fire/ safety codes, improve disabled access, provide science classrooms/additional classrooms to prevent overcrowding, upgrade technology, replace outdated electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation, and security systems.”
  • On the list: $6.2 million

Burlingame Elementary School District

  • 2012: $56 approved by 67 percent of voters “to maintain excellent local schools by modernizing science labs, upgrading instructional technology/computers, adding classrooms/reopening an existing school to reduce current overcrowding, upgrading classrooms to meet current safety codes, renovating heating and electrical systems to save money.”
  • On the list: $1.5 million

Sequoia Union High School District

  • 2014: $265 million in bonds approved by 65 percent of voters “to support high quality education and upgrade local high schools with funding that cannot be taken by the state by adding classrooms, science labs, and schools to avoid overcrowding, provide updated classrooms technology, labs, and career technical facilities; renovate aging classrooms and repair, construct, or acquire equipment, classrooms, and facilities”
  • 2008: $165 million approved by 66 percent of voters “to create a 10 year technology fund for upgrading classroom computers; to improve energy efficiency; to build classrooms for career, technical, and vocational education courses; and to improve, expand, modernize and construct classrooms and facilities at Carlmont, Menlo-Atherton, Sequoia, and Woodside High Schools and other district sites.”
  • On the list: $11.2 million

East Side Union High School District

  • 2014: $113.2 million approved by 68 percent of voters “to increase student computer access; upgrade educational software; keep pace with 21st century technological innovations; and implement statewide testing requirements at Andrew Hill, Calero, Evergreen Valley, Foothill, Independence, James Lick, Mt. Pleasant, Oak Grove, Piedmont Hills, Santa Teresa, Silver Creek, Yerba Buena, W.C. Overfelt, Adult-Ed, alternative and District charter schools.”
  • 2012: $120 million approved by 71 percent of voters “to upgrade computer/science labs; improve security/safety; repair, equip, and construct classrooms/facilities at Andrew Hill, Calero, Evergreen Valley, Foothill, Independence, James Lick, Mt. Pleasant, Oak Grove, Piedmont Hills, Santa Teresa, Silver Creek, Yerba Buena, W.C. Overfelt, and District adult, alternative, and charter schools; and acquire property for new schools.”
  • On the list: $5 million

Franklin-McKinley School District

  • 2010: $50 million approved by 70 percent of voters “to provide safe, modern neighborhood schools with updated computer technology, maximize energy efficiency to save money, improve student learning for local elementary school students by acquiring, upgrading, constructing, equipping classrooms, sites/facilities, science/computer labs, replacing aging roofs, plumbing, heating, ventilation/electrical systems, improving fire alarms, school security/earthquake safety.”
  • On the list: $511,489

Rincon Valley Union School District

  • 2014: $35 million approved by 67 percent of voters “to continue critical renovation, modernization and safety upgrades to District schools, add classrooms to avoid overcrowding, make needed upgrades to libraries, science and computer labs, improve access to classroom technology, improve energy efficiency to save money, and renovate, construct, acquire classrooms, sites, facilities and equipment.”
  • On the list: $1.47 million

Windsor Unified School District

  • 2008: $50 million approved by 63 percent of voters “to build new classrooms to relieve severe overcrowding, replace aging portables with permanent classrooms, build science labs, upgrade classroom computers and technology and to secure state matching funds.”
  • On the list: $2.8 million

23 comments

Write a comment
  1. Brain Dead Colliefornian Voter
    Brain Dead Colliefornian Voter 15 October, 2015, 09:30

    How dare you! Don’t you know our rulers, their minions and these special interests love you and everything they do is for the childern?

    And besides, the $9 billions comes from bonds so it’s free money!

    Reply this comment
  2. Skep41
    Skep41 15 October, 2015, 10:20

    Money doesnt grow on trees…you vote it into existence! If it grew on trees we’d have to hire illegal aliens to pick it and, as a good conservative, I’m certainly against that. The Educational Establishment is hungrier for money than a jones-ing dope fiend is for their next bag of China White. One day people in this benighted state will be looking at property tax bills that look like they moved to Connecticut or New York and saying, “What about Prop 13?”

    Reply this comment
  3. Dude
    Dude 15 October, 2015, 10:53

    Do you really want to continue to pay more and more to fund illegal aliens breakfast and lunch programs while your children are ignored by their teachers because they’re trying to communicate with the illegal aliens in pigeon english?????

    JUST SAY NO!!!!!!!

    Reply this comment
  4. Brain Dead Colliefornian Voter
    Brain Dead Colliefornian Voter 15 October, 2015, 12:54

    Don’t you know bonds are free money? How can you have enough free money?

    Reply this comment
  5. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 15 October, 2015, 13:50

    Hey, it’s for the “children”.

    Reply this comment
  6. Roman
    Roman 15 October, 2015, 15:20

    Money spent into our school system is money well spent in my opinion.

    Reply this comment
    • Dude
      Dude 15 October, 2015, 15:44

      It’s money going into the bottomless pit of teachers unions and government contractors. The phrase, “Money Pit” comes to mind

      Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 15 October, 2015, 21:30

      Money spent into our school system is money well spent in my opinion.
      Good then YOU can pay for ALL of it.

      Prop 98, passed almost 20 years ago, dedicates close to 50% of ALL general fund revenue go to schools, and almost ALL of that 50% of general fund revenue goes to pay and benefits, less than 10% goes to facilities.

      Our schools, counting bond money, spends close to $30K per student per year, if you think that $30K is money well spent you’re crazy… and if you think schools need MORE you’re mental and crazy.

      Reply this comment
      • Rex the Wonder Dog!
        Rex the Wonder Dog! 15 October, 2015, 21:37

        Back in the 190’s and through most of the 1970’s, construction workers earned double what a teacher did. Today a teacher earns 4-5 times what a construction worker makes, thanks to the CTA and illegal immigrants who have decimated the construction trades.

        Reply this comment
  7. desmond
    desmond 15 October, 2015, 16:00

    This makes me think of the athletic director at school who was recently speaking to a parents group about how tough being in education was. That money sucked, but the job was rewarding. Checked out his pension on transparent cal.$110,000 per year. I saw him in Target and called him a lying asshole. He said I had a bad attitude, told him to shut the f up. Now, that was rewarding.
    My father saw him at the golf course, and hit into his group on the green, told his partners about the deceitful jerk. Everyone hates him at the course. I can t wait to see him, and call him out again.

    Reply this comment
  8. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 15 October, 2015, 17:41

    Go back to teaching the kids about the real america not their revionists history version and telling them the real 3 R’s is not Reduce,Reuse,Recycle(They made a stupid song about it)and teach kids about the U.S. Constitution and no more of this Pledge to the Earth crap

    Reply this comment
  9. Queeg
    Queeg 15 October, 2015, 19:45

    Comrades

    Without Happy Hours the young/dumb would starve to death!

    Reply this comment
  10. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 15 October, 2015, 22:28

    Queeg. Shame on you for suggesting kids be allowed to drink dirty liqure

    Reply this comment
  11. Richard Michael
    Richard Michael 20 October, 2015, 08:05

    I’m fighting the $485 million in new taxes here in Walnut Valley Unified School District.

    The district’s selling point is that it won’t raise your tax rates. It believes that the voters are incredibly stupid. And it should know. It taught them.

    The committee in favor is completely funded by school bond construction industry.

    metrolinktrainriders.com/WVUSD/astroturf.cfm

    It filed a false FPPC statement.

    http://www.metrolinktrainriders.com/WVUSD/fppc-complaint.cfm

    The SARCs for every school report that every school’s facilities are in tip-top shape.

    http://www.metrolinktrainriders.com/WVUSD/reportcard.cfm

    Yet the measure lists vague repairs and safety issues that, of course, must be taken care of.

    http://www.metrolinktrainriders.com/WVUSD/ballot-question.cfm

    I’m organizing a clearing house to help you fight these fraudulent bonds.

    “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…” Winston Churchill

    Call or text: 909-378-5401

    Reply this comment
  12. Brady
    Brady 9 November, 2015, 15:38

    I believe that their has to be limitations when it comes to money going into our school systems. However, with two parents who are elementary educators, I have seen firsthand the impact that limited budgets can have on children’s learning.

    Reply this comment
    • Dude
      Dude 9 November, 2015, 15:55

      Really??? And it has nothing to do with the hordes of illegal aliens dragging down the pace of learning to a standstill because they don’t speak English??????

      Reply this comment
  13. Jaysan
    Jaysan 10 November, 2015, 15:11

    Interesting article. It’s crazy the difference in the amount of money that goes into some school systems compared to others’ in different states.

    Reply this comment
    • Dude
      Dude 10 November, 2015, 15:27

      Actually, you should have said that it’s obscene when you see how much cash we pour into this money pit and how little of it makes it out of the unions greedy hands.

      Reply this comment
  14. Bill Gore
    Bill Gore 23 November, 2015, 08:27

    Across all functional areas of government, the universal refrain: “We don’t have the resources!”
    I hear this EVERYWHERE. No one has the resources to really do thier job, but THEY STILL HAVE A JOB. And that is key. They still have a job, so they still must be paid. With annual step increases and COLAs, fringe and benefits (retirement, health, life insurance, DROP, etc etc, you name it). Throw in the contractors, designers and engineers and their elevated salary needs, and often not one penny will ‘hit the ground’ in the form of tangible improvements to plant and equipment. This is a real existential problem in states like California and New York, where the inmates are running the asylum, seen most acutely in education and roads. But the voters, trancelike, will always vote for the ‘kids’ and for ‘safety’. Everyone wants to think of themselves as loving kids and everyone wants to be ‘more safe’……And the roads crumble and the schools continue to disintegrate, till the next bond issue…..No accountability = no traction….

    Reply this comment

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