In peacetime, we as a nation turn to our brave members of the military to stand as guardians of freedom and liberty.
During times of conflict, we ask them to be our warriors, and if required, make the ultimate sacrifice.
In return, we as a proud and thankful nation have long committed to support our members of the military, both during and after their service.
Programs like the G.I. Bill and our national veterans healthcare system are just two such ways we honor this commitment.
Another part of that commitment is to support the education of service member children that live on our nation's military bases. There are now two base schools serving Camp Pendleton families, one serving Edwards Air Force Base and one serving Travis Air Force Base that may be in jeopardy.
In 2010, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the federal Department of Education examined the condition of the 157 base schools nationwide. These schools are not necessarily located on military bases, but earn the classification if more than 50 percent of their students are military base residents. These schools are run and operated by local government authorities and are not under federal jurisdiction.
The resulting DoD report found numerous base schools that simply don't meet federal standards of adequacy. The situation was deemed so critical that the federal government, which rarely provides funds directly for local school facilities, allocated $500 million to help upgrade the most in-need base schools.
In California, the report identified seven base schools within five school districts that are in critical need of repair or replacement.
These schools qualify for an estimated $165 million to $175 million from the $500 million federal allocation. Another 17 California base schools could be a part of future funding rounds.
To obtain the funding, the school districts must put up a 20 percent match of local funds.
This is a good deal for local school districts because they can get $4 for every $1 they put into the projects.
However, three of the districts-- which have a total of four in-need base schools serving a total of more than 3,200 students-- have been unable to raise the 20 percent matching local funds.
This essentially cuts off the two base schools serving Camp Pendleton families, another serving Edwards Air Force Base and a fourth serving Travis Air Force Base from the needed federal funds. According to the DoD report, the four schools need a total of nearly $120 million in repairs and construction.
In my role as a member of the State Allocation Board, I have proposed a solution to this problem.
I am leading the charge to convince the legislature to adopt a plan that will cover the roughly $20 million match required by the DoD to fix these schools, while also paying down more than $15 million in state debt.
The funds come from a pool of money left over from a school facilities bond issuance that long ago completed the projects for which it was raised. For various reasons, the money has only recently been freed up by the Allocation Board.
My plan would give the state the ability to leverage roughly $20 million to secure more than $120 million in federal funds—money that the state simply does not have. These critical construction projects will also create a considerable number of jobs for hardworking Americans.
In addition, the remainder of the previously sequestered funds will be transferred to the state General Fund to pay down the state debt.
It is not too often in government that you can affect a win-win. In this case it is more like a win-win-win-win: paying down debt, a sizable return on an investment, creating jobs and renewing our commitment to the families of our military service members.
Just as we in the Legislature have an obligation to manage the state finances and demand good return on the people’s money, we as a nation have an obligation to our defenders, to our warriors and to our heroes.