Looking Ahead

The start of the New Year typically brings a flood of predictions — some end up being on the money; others aren't worth the paper they are printed on.

Since I'm not gifted with psychic abilities, I hesitate to make predictions. However, being privy to extensive data, I will venture an educated guess on what 2005 and beyond will hold for education construction.

According to American School & University's 30th annual Official Education Construction Report (May 2004), almost $150 billion will be spent on new, retrofit and addition construction from 2004 through 2006. And judging by the number and dollar-amount of school-construction bond issues passed in 2004, campuses across the nation will be in construction mode for years to come. (For a list of the Top 10 local school-construction bond issues passed in 2004, see p. 13.)

The success rate and total-dollar amount of school-construction ballots passed is a good barometer of the public's support of education infrastructure issues. In 2004, of the 675 school construction bond issues proposed, 472 were approved (69.9 percent). The truly impressive figure, however, is the total-dollar amount passed. Of the $39.526 billion in ballot questions proposed, $34.489 billion was approved — a whopping 87.3 percent.

Of particular interest is the fact that the largest bond issues passed actually were mega-bond issues, such as California's $12.3 billion statewide initiative and Los Angeles Unified School District's $3.87 billion issue. In 2002, a similar thing happened: California passed a $13 billion statewide initiative and Los Angeles USD a $3.35 billion issue. In addition, the majority of the largest bond issues proposed in 2004 were concentrated in just two states. Of the top 15, only two were in states other than Texas or California (seven in Texas and six in California).

So, while not making an actual prediction, I will say that based on data, spending on education construction will remain vibrant well into the future … and communities will continue to be supportive of intelligent spending to create the best possible learning environments. The challenge, however, will be to get state and federal lawmakers to seriously address the issue.

SCORECARD

675

Number of ballot questions, totaling $39.526 billion, proposed for K-12 construction and repair in 2004.

472

Number of bond issues, totaling $34.489 billion, approved by voters for K-12 construction and repair in 2004.

87.3

Percentage of the dollar-total submitted that local voters approved in 2004 bond referenda.

69.9

Percentage of the total K-12 construction bond issues approved by local voters in 2004.

3.87

Amount (in $ billions) of the largest local bond issue approved in 2004 (Los Angeles Unified School District).

299

Amount (in $ millions) of the largest bond issue defeated in 2004 (Orange Unified School District, Calif.).

Source: The Bond Buyer

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