$15 billon school bond to go before voters in March: PLAs will give priority to union contractors

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distribution of funds
image from the Public Policy Institute of California

California lawmakers have cleared the way for a $15 billion educational construction bond program to go before state voters in March.

The funds would be applied for public preschool, K-12 and higher education construction and modernization projects.

Most of the money — $9 billion, will be spent on preschool and K-12 projects, broken down as follows: $2.8 billion for new construction, $5.2 billion for modernization, and $500 million each for career technical and charter schools.

As well, for postsecondary education, $2 billion would be available for The University of California and Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, along with funds for California State University facilities and the California Community Colleges system.

The General Services Department will prioritize projects for facilities that have posed health or life safety hazards. Then, priority will follow for projects proposed by school districts with financial hardships; school facilities that have concerns with lead in water; projects that have been waiting for approval for two quarters; and new construction or modernization projects that will ease overcrowding.

There is some controversy about the role Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) in the funding, since the legislation’s 17070.56(a)(2) gives first consideration to PLA projects within each priority category..

The Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) said in a Sept. 14 statement that the legislature’s decision to incentivize PLA’s “inappropriate”.

“WECA thinks this will become a rallying cry for PLA supporters who will tout that a PLA ‘increases your odds of receiving state funds,'” the organization said. “WECA is disappointed you have decided to incorporate this special interest provision in this critical funding measure. WECA suspects you did so to obtain the support of the State Building and Construction Trades Council.

However, the unions’ perspective is that PLAs guarantee that workers make a good wage and benefits and don’t fall prey to labor brokers or others who might exploit them.​

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