Our region would greatly benefit from public investment by our state in educational facilities. This investment would benefit not only our students and our future, but also our regional economic development in the near term.
California’s schools and colleges will benefit from AB 2235, which proposes an educational facilities bond for the November 2014 ballot. Although the legislature is still on track to pass AB 2235, Governor Brown has not committed to signing the legislation. Many fear, in fact, that his resistance will stall the measure in the legislature.
I write to urge your readers to learn more about AB 2235. AB 2235 will provide, if Gov. Brown signs the bill, $9 billion of capital investment in education facilities statewide. Merced College already has two sorely needed projects in the priority list for this bond, for a total allocation of approximately $22 million in one-time funds.
It is critical for supporters of AB 2235 to make their backing known to the governor and to their state legislators. Voters are very likely NOT to see this bond measure in November, unless they or their representatives advocate with Gov. Brown and his staff to get it on the ballot
I represent Merced College, but I know there are many school districts and colleges in our region that would benefit from this proposed bond measure. Merced College and its 15,000 students would benefit profoundly from such an investment. Our needs are not merely for improvements, but for critical replacements. Our vocational education building is over forty years old, and shows it. The same is true of our agriculture building. Both of these buildings badly need to be brought up to standard for current and future students. Local voters graciously approved local bond funding to help do this back in 2002—but we cannot use the funds they authorized without matching state funds. The time has come to ask our citizens to consider investing in their colleges and schools.
An educational facilities bond is a wise infrastructure investment, one that also produces benefits to our local economy. As you know, unemployment is still in the double digits in our area, while statewide unemployment has substantially improved (under eight percent now). Investment in schools and community colleges is the most local type of capital investment that the state can make: it goes straight into the pockets of local construction workers and thus into the businesses that support them. Our area needs this kind of stimulus, badly. The Bay Area may be seeing an economic boom, but it is not happening here.
Most importantly, our own facilities are in sore need of renovation and replacement. Expanding online education is not the answer and does not lessen the need for physical facilities. Online course offerings might benefit some areas of the state, but it is clearly not true here. Our need is to replace aging and out-of-date facilities used by hands-on programs such as agriculture and industrial technology, where online instruction is not likely to be a viable approach.
If Gov. Brown assumes that California cannot afford to issue more bonds, I again respectfully point out that an educational facilities bond is very likely to spur sorely needed economic growth—particularly in rural areas such as ours. This kind of capital investment will surely create jobs locally. In a word, California cannot afford not to invest in its future. The governor has taken just such a stand on water infrastructure and transportation. I have written the governor to encourage his support for AB 2235, and I urge your readers to learn more about AB 2235 and consider doing the same.