Need and funding for schools

Pent up need for new schools + New state funding = Increased use of eminent domain

The increased use of eminent domain by the Los Angeles public schools in the early 2000s was directly related to the emergence of state funding to pay for a catch-up process in building new schools to replace aging schools and also build new schools in neighborhoods whose schools were experiencing overcrowding. A statewide school funding breakthrough occurred in 1998 when Republican Governor Pete Wilson and the Democratic Party-controlled state legislature agreed on a new avenue for local school funding. An obstacle to school funding had been a California State Constitutional provision that all local bond issues—the way in which local school districts raise money for new construction—need to be approved by two-thirds majorities of the local voters. The reality of this obstacle was apparent in the most recent election; in 1997, 19 local school bond proposals around the state that had been supported by the majority of voters had failed because they did not meet the two-thirds threshold.[1]

The legislative way around this was to create a statewide school bond fund that would provide 50 percent of the funding to local districts if they could match it with local funding. Statewide bonds only required 50 percent voter support to pass. The state proposal would work to create over $16 billion in state funding for local schools in the upcoming decades. [2]  Ultimately the LAUSD was a beneficiary of this new funding stream.

After years of limited budgets and building only a few new schools, LAUSD built 55 new schools between 2002 and 2006. Twenty-five additional schools were under construction during these years. This completed and planned construction was part of an $11.7 billion construction program.[3] In land-locked Los Angeles Neighborhoods, this meant that eminent domain had to be used to take over existing privately-owned residential and commercial properties.

[1] Lesher.

[2] Lesher.

[3] Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) “Building the Learning Community” Powerpoint presentation. Circa 2006. Accessed February 24, 2016.