Legislation gives school construction a boost

School construction will be getting a boost as the Legislature deals with initiative 1351 which passed last year and requires the state to reduce class sizes throughout the State.

Although both Republican leaders in the Senate and Democrat leaders in the House agree that the Legislature will modify the initiative so it only applies to K-3 there is nevertheless widespread support for providing additional funding for new classroom space.

The primary bill is SB 6080 which would launch a six-year building program that would provide funding for up to 2200 classrooms for kindergarten through third-grade students. Under this plan the Legislature would place a renewed emphasis on school construction in each of our next three biennial capital budgets adding $280 million per biennium to the state’s current school-construction budget via general obligation bonds without exceeding the state’s debt limit or endangering our state’s triple-A bond rating.
Although some of the money will likely go toward portable classrooms most is expected to help build new classroom space.

This bill also makes changes in how the state prioritizes and allocates its dollars. Under today’s system wealthier districts find it easier to raise money for new schools than poorer districts particularly those that are experiencing the fastest growth and have the greatest needs. The current construction model is based on property values not poverty rates and it does not reflect the actual needs of our communities.

The bill’s new model would include for the first time a special poverty-rate enhancement in the state match. Districts that have a higher rate of students receiving free or reduced-cost lunches would receive more money. School districts would be able to decide if they want to build a new school or expand an existing school by adding a modular wing or durable portables.

SB 6080 is sponsored by Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-25). It passed the Senate last week on a 42-7 vote and awaits further action in the House Capital Budget Committee.

For more information contact AGC Chief Lobbyist Jerry VanderWood 360.352.5000.