By Tony Thurmond
As the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction and as a Bay Area native, I know that Proposition 13 is exactly what our schools need. For nearly two decades, I’ve been at the forefront, fighting to ensure our kids have access to the best schools and community programs we can give them. As a dad myself, with two daughters in Bay Area public schools, I want to be certain that clean drinking water, safe buildings and hazard free learning environments are available to every student across the state, and Proposition 13 is a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, what we would consider a rudimentary foundation – clean drinking water and safe school buildings – is not the reality for many of California’s schools. A California State Auditor study recently outlined severe exposure to lead, which we know can have damaging impact on a child’s cognitive development. Proposition 13 would help repair those aging pipes to make schools safer for kids and turn, better learning environments.
The initiative, a $15 billion investment into public school buildings across California, will benefit dozens of schools in the Bay Area, including kindergarten-12th grade facilities, preschools and colleges, prioritizing those that are in serious disrepair or suffer from unsafe contamination – including lead contamination, mold and asbestos.
This is the only statewide ballot measure this spring and is undoubtedly the most important school facilities bond in state history, which is why I ask for you to join me in voting”yes” on Prop 13. Why? A report from the UC Berkeley Center says that more than half of the state’s K-12 public school districts fail to meet minimum industry standards for facilities maintenance. We must do better than that.
I have seen first-hand the hard work that goes into Bay Area schools – it’s been a part of who I am since I was a small child and my mom was a public school teacher. It’s that exposure that has driven me to advocate for better, safer schools as an adult. As a local school board member and as Richmond City Council’s liaison to the West Contra Costa County Unified School District, I have fought tirelessly to ensure our kids are learning in environments that are safe and are setting them up for success beyond the Bay Area. But more has to be done and Proposition 13 is the help that schools need.
Despite what opponents may say, Proposition 13 is a typical statewide school bond, to be issued by the California State Treasurer – and paid for entirely out of the state’s existing general fund, not as a tax increase on any California taxpayer. That’s why such a wide coalition of Republicans, Democrats, firefighters, doctors, teachers, school nurses, labor and business have all joined in support.
What sets Prop. 13 apart from other school bond measures is that it guarantees funding goes directly to schools – and the schools that need it most. With strong accountability measures, Prop. 13 limits administrative costs and requires independent audits and open public hearings.
Contra Costa County is my home. It’s where my girls are growing up and where I want to see their families grow one day too. But what I know from the work I’ve done with so many amazing and dedicated local organizations is that kids here – and across California – deserve better learning environments that will keep them safe and help them excel. Join me in voting Yes on Proposition 13.
Tony Thurmond is California’s Superintendent of Public Schools.