February 16, 2003 Vol. VIII, No. 10

Above is a laboratory in Northridge's 43-year-old Science 1 Complex, the university's oldest instructional facility.

Prop. 55 Targets Overcrowding in State's Educational System

Cal State Northridge Would Receive $50 Million for Science and Arts Centers

Voters on March 2 will have an opportunity to weigh in on Proposition 55, the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2004, a measure that would provide $12.3 billion to repair and upgrade California's KŠ12 schools, community colleges and public universities.

California State University, Northridge, the San Fernando Valley's only four-year public institution of higher education, would be a major beneficiary of the proposition, receiving more than $50 million for three projects:

Altogether, the California State University system would receive $690 million of the bond's $2.3 billion higher education allocation, much of it targeted to accommodate 7,000 additional students in 200 new classrooms, 38 new laboratories, and 657 faculty offices to support enrollment demand.

"Proposition 55 is a critical investment in education," said Cal State Northridge President Jolene Koester. "Access to quality education is what has made California great, and the ballot measure is key to the future of the region and the state.

"For Cal State Northridge, it will provide facilities to ensure we continue to educate the kind of outstanding graduates that businesses in the region have come to depend upon. It also will support the university's continuing commitment to expand and enhance cultural offerings for the region."

According to the National Education Association, California ranks third among the states with the nation's most overcrowded classrooms. In recent years, rapid enrollment growth has caused severe overcrowding in the state's KŠ12 schools and in higher education, with more than 700,000 additional students expected to seek enrollment at California colleges and universities by 2010. It has been estimated that in order to meet enrollment demands, the state will need to spend about $1.5 billion per year through 2010 for facilities.

Joining Cal State Northridge as Proposition 55 beneficiaries would be three San Fernando Valley community colleges: Mission, Pierce and Valley. The measure would provide $9 million to support construction and renovation projects on those campuses.

Currently, there are about 8,000 public schools in California, with a student population exceeding six million, roughly equal to the population of Indiana, the nation's 13th largest state.

The $10 billion allocated for KŠ12 schools would address overcrowded, outdated facilities and rapid enrollment growth. The bond would build more than 22,000 classrooms, fund more than 300 critically needed school repair projects, allow for seismic and other safety improvements, and provide new labs, research facilities and hospital teaching facilities.

According to the state Department of Finance, the proposition would create 13,000 new jobs.

Proposition 55 funds can only be spent on school repair and construction at schools most in need of repairs or experiencing severe overcrowding problems. The measure contains strict accountability provisions, including independent annual audits, cost controls and other requirements.

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