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Commentary by Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook
| Wednesday, Nov 2, 2016

dvh070113a_largeOne of our community’s defining characteristics is the quality of education available at every level of learning in Santa Clarita. From kindergarten to college, our schools are recognized for their ongoing innovation, cutting-edge instruction and commitment to student success.

High-performing schools are more than a point of civic pride. In fact, school districts play a critical role in supporting the health of our local economy. Well-regarded schools draw new families to Santa Clarita, giving home values a welcome boost as prospective residents seek to live in neighborhoods served by award-winning K-12 campuses. Local businesses benefit from having access to a skilled workforce, and they rely on the cutting-edge training and instruction offered at College of the Canyons to stay competitive.

Local residents are justifiably proud of the education available in Santa Clarita, and that’s why they should pay particular attention to two propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot. Although they are statewide measures, both Proposition 51 and Proposition 55 will have a local impact on elementary schools, junior highs, high schools and College of the Canyons.

Proposition 51 would authorize $9 billion in bonds to fund construction and modernization of K-12 schools and community colleges throughout California. Of that amount, $2 billion is earmarked for the state’s 113 community colleges. The remainder goes to K-12, with $3 billion for new construction and $3 billion for modernization, along with $1 billion for charter schools and career-technical education facilities.

If Proposition 51 passes, the bonds would be repaid from the state’s $125 billion general fund at a cost of $500 million per year. The current cost of previous bonds is $2.7 billion per year.

This is the first statewide school construction bond to make the ballot in 10 years. The last such measure was passed in 2006, and the funds have long since been spent or allocated. There is clearly a need to invest in school facilities, and the measure has been endorsed locally by the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Newhall School District, the Saugus Union School District, and Assembly Members Scott Wilk and Tom Lackey.

Currently, the state chancellor’s office estimates the total unmet facilities needs for the California community colleges to be approximately $28 billion. College of the Canyons is included in that list, and the science center at COC’s Canyon Country campus has been approved for state construction funding when it is available.

To qualify, colleges typically must match state dollars with local funds. Thanks to the approval of Measure E in June, College of the Canyons has the resources to do that. The college is eligible to receive 41 percent of the total project cost of $32 million.

The savings would allow the college to stretch Measure E dollars and build additional facilities at the Canyon Country campus beyond the four permanent buildings currently planned to be constructed with Measure E funds.

Proposition 55 would also deliver significant revenue to College of the Canyons. Known as the California Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act of 2016, it would extend the temporary income tax rates on earnings over $250,000 for an additional 12 years.

The tax rates were enacted when California voters passed Proposition 30 in 2012 to establish the Education Protection Account, which directed needed funding to K-12 and community colleges following years of budget cuts during the Great Recession.

College of the Canyons has received $46.4 million from the state since the Education Protection Account was established – revenue used directly to support classroom achievement by funding faculty salaries and benefits. Given that magnitude of funding, the college’s board of trustees passed a resolution in support of Proposition 55. The Saugus Union School District also passed a resolution backing the measure.

It is important to note that Proposition 55 includes fiscal accountability provisions that do not allow the funds to go toward bureaucracy or administrative costs. Instead, funds generated by Proposition 55 must be used to help students by adding classes, hiring new faculty and keeping tuition affordable.

With so many candidates and proposals on the Nov. 8 ballot, it’s easy to miss the local impacts of statewide measures. But as you go the polls or vote by mail, take the time to consider what Proposition 51 and Proposition 55 could mean to Santa Clarita and its award-winning schools.

 

Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook is chancellor of College of the Canyons.

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1 Comment

  1. cc says:

    NO ON PROP 55 more taxes for unsupervised money..hurts small business and cuts their labor force…there is plenty of money for schools, too many bonds, taxes and fees for schools…they have have solar panals and ipads…that saves on paper and electric…plus most parents pay for other stuff as well no one in the history of this country needed this much money, if the teachers are good they don’t need more.$$ ..the kids could get rid of their fancy wardrobes and cell phones and work or volunteer for school credit to help other students or teachers stop with taxing the rest of us when there is no accounting for the money any way read Tom McClintock on 55 or KFI radio John and Ken on 55 explains the scam

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