Kristin Olsen: School bond would help children learn and create new jobs

Many of you know me as a state lawmaker who advocates and promotes public policies aimed at job creation, prosperity, improving our education system and providing for a better life for all Californians.

While I am honored and privileged for the opportunity to represent the hardworking individuals and families of the 12th Assembly District, my family is never far from my heart or mind.

As working parents of three school-age children, my husband and I are doing all that we can to provide our kids with the tools to help them achieve lifelong success. I am passionate in advocating for the success of kids across the state, with my primary focus to ensure that children receive the first-rate education they deserve.

As the vice chair of the Assembly Committee on Education, my efforts have included making sure that students have effective teachers, safe learning environments free of drugs and violence, and quality educational facilities.

Studies have shown that when children learn in safe and optimal learning environments, including clean air, natural light and regulated temperatures, they perform better.

California’s recent budget crisis led to the depletion of state funding for the construction and modernization of schools, which has left too many of our children in overcrowded and aging buildings (some even lacking air conditioning) and without access to critical technology.

In my district alone, we have unfunded state school facilities needs of nearly $12 million.

That is why I’m co-authoring a critical bipartisan measure to ask voters to approve new funding for school facilities.

Assembly Bill 2235 by Assemblymembers Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) and Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills) proposes to place a statewide school facilities bond on the November ballot. If approved, this measure would allow California to continue its successful partnership with local school districts and businesses by funding new school construction and the renovation of decaying classrooms.

This is especially critical in areas such as ours, where rural and small school districts need state funding to match local dollars for improvements or the construction of new facilities. Funding must be used efficiently, with specific criteria to ensure fiscal accountability and wise use of taxpayer dollars.

An added benefit is job creation. It is no secret that the Central Valley was one of the hardest hit regions in the country during the Great Recession and we have yet to fully recover. Unemployment rates hit nearly 20 percent and remain high compared with other parts of the state. The latest numbers from the California Employment Development Department show the current unemployment rate is 11.1 percent in Stanislaus County, and 10.3 percent in San Joaquin.

With continued unrest in the employment market, many Valley families remain concerned about job security, family finances and their children’s future.

The passage of AB 2235 and subsequent voter approval would go a long way toward creating the jobs we so desperately need, and providing a brighter future for our kids.

A study by the Center for Strategic Economic Research found the existing $3 billion pipeline of new school construction and modernization statewide could result in more than 15,000 new jobs annually, $990 million in employee compensation, $99.8 million in state and local tax revenue, and more than $2.5 billion in overall economic benefits for California.

The best part about this proposal is that many improvement projects could start as soon as 90 days after receiving funding.

It is essential that we pass and approve AB 2235, the Education Facilities: Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2014. This job-creating measure not only provides economic opportunities for Californians, but will bolster our fragile economy and ensure that every California child is given the opportunity to learn in a safe and quality learning environment.