Los Angeles' 20-year, $10B school construction program ends
The Los Angeles Unified School District has opened the $160 million Maywood Center for Enriched Studies, marking the end of a 20-year, $10 billion school construction program — the biggest in the country, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The program marks an extensive effort to combat decades of school overcrowding. In all, LAUSD built 131 new schools paid for by a $27 billion bond program, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. Now, LAUSD students can attend schools in their neighborhoods, and the district can do away with year-round schedules.
Despite the program's success, the school district has only $5 billion left in school construction funding, which won't be enough to pay for repairs and renovations for LAUSD's older schools.
School construction is a necessary part of meeting the needs of a growing city's population, though funding can often be a sticking point among those footing the bill. Bonds have become a popular way to finance school construction programs — like LAUSD's — though most districts don't approach similar proportions.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, in Charlotte, NC, is seeking voter approval of a five-year, $922 million bond measure to help pay for 29 school projects in the district. Funding for that work would come from county revenues, rather than a tax increase, over the next two to three decades.
Austin, TX, voters will decide in November whether to pass a $1.05 billion school bond measure, following similar measures that passed in Dallas and Houston, according to the Austin American-Statesman. This proposition differs from the 15-year local practice of breaking down school funding requests into smaller amounts to guarantee at least some funding. If the bond measure passes, the district will use the money to modernize its existing schools, relocate a nationally recognized arts and sciences academy and build new schools in an effort to reduce overcrowding.
Other school construction projects may also secure direct state funding.
In May, Florida lawmakers voted to inject $500 million into school construction and maintenance via the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) program. Separate from the $625 million already budgeted for state school construction, PECO provides additional coverage for a range of public educational facilities. That program is subject to government spending cuts, however, with Gov. Rick Scott pulling $53 million in funding for higher education projects last year.
Follow Kim Slowey on Twitter