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Facilities Construction and Reform

Strategy No. 9 in A Blueprint For Great Schools report from the Transition Advisory Team dated August 9, 2011.

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A substantial body of research correlates the impact of school facilities on educational achievement. Over the last decade, these studies have focused on architectural components such as air quality, temperature control, acoustics, daylight/illumination, and out-of-date equipment and furnishings, and are widely reported in the school facility literature.35

Recognizing the important role of facilities in student achievement, the state has provided capital assistance to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) for over 60 years. The current School Facility Program (SFP), passed in 1998 (SB 50, Greene), provides matching funds for the construction of new schools and the modernization of existing schools, and was intended to create flexibility and enhanced local decision making. The State Allocation Board (SAB), on which the Superintendent serves, approves eligible projects from funds made available from voter-approved general obligation bonds.

Districts receiving these funds must work with four separate state agencies to gain approvals for their plans, and multiple reports have documented concerns with the efficiency of this state administrative structure.36 LEAs and other stakeholders have repeatedly expressed a desire for a single agency to administer all aspects of the SFP.

Although the state has invested over $35 billion in K-higher education school facilities since 2002 with the passage of Propositions 1D, 55 and 47, the state does not have a system-wide facility inventory to make priority decisions for determining where school facility investments are most needed. Within some general ground rules, funds are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. As infrastructure resource allocations become more constrained by the state's fiscal crisis, needs assessments are critical for allocating coveted state funds efficiently.

It is estimated that 20 percent of the education budget is assigned for construction, professional outside services, school equipment, information technology, energy and other services. This represents between $9 billion to $12 billion per year. Despite the size of this investment, there is currently no systemic approach to procurement practices governed by CDE. Local business officials in over 1,000 school districts operate as independent islands with respect to procurement, without clear guidance or incentives that promote efficient practices or socially beneficial outcomes like supplier diversity. The Superintendent of Public Instruction has the authority to set statewide policy in education procurement services that promote inclusion and diversity, as well as greater effectiveness and efficiency. This is a critical time to use that authority to create a more fair, green, and economical system of facilities development.

Facilities Construction and Reform Key Recommendations

California can gain by developing smarter systems for school construction reform, promoting school district energy self-sufficiency, and improving incentives for educationally supportive construction designs. To facilitate these goals, CDE should:

  • Collaborate with the Governor to consolidate or better coordinate agencies that have responsibility for facilities design and approval to streamline the process of developing facilities.
  • Inventory school facilities as the basis for a multi-year, needs-based facilities plan. Establish a facility condition index that considers utilization, educational suitability, building condition, and technology readiness to determine priorities and investment levels.
  • Enable districts to engage in more efficient facilities construction and re-design, including movement toward energy self-sufficiency, by setting targets for energy goals and providing information for LEAs to use to determine the most effective options for designing, building and modernizing school facilities.
  • Establish a Superintendent's Council of Business/Labor to develop procurement criteria and to provide opportunities for procurement that promotes supplier diversity.
  • Foster joint use agreements that support schools as community hubs and create efficiencies with other community service providers.


35. For a review, see Earthman, Glen I. Prioritization of 31 Criteria for School Building Adequacy [Note: the preceding Web document is no longer available]. Baltimore, MD: American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Maryland, 2004.

36. California Public School Construction Expert Workshop Process Review (2010) [Note: the preceding Web document is no longer avaliable]; The State Allocation Board (2007). Improving Transparency and Structure [Note: the preceding Web document is no longer available], Little Hoover Commission.

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Last Reviewed: Friday, January 24, 2020