Rarely does one ballot proposition that crosses political, regional and widely distinct organizations garner such bipartisan agreement. But in this election there is one -- Proposition C, a ballot proposal that would provide general obligation bonds for education.
Why is Proposition C important to the Kenai Peninsula? Because it will provide $3.8 million to Kenai Peninsula College for much needed renovation and expansion.
Why is this so important to Kenai Peninsula College and peninsula residents? Let me count the ways. For those of you who would like to visit our Kachemak Bay Campus, don't go searching for a college-like facility. Look for the old post office along Pioneer Avenue in Homer. Yep, that's half the campus.
While you're in town, drive west about a mile and drop by the old Homer intermediate school (they got new digs and moved out) and peek in at the other half of the campus. Can't find a parking spot at either place? Sorry, our students say the same thing, and we can't help them either.
While the quality of education can't be measured by the poor state of the bricks and mortar, I think you'll agree that a college isn't supposed to look like that. If you don't believe this then let me put you in touch with some Homer High School graduates who decided to go to school Outside because they wouldn't attend a campus that looks and feels like their old junior high.
College life for young students isn't just about the learning they get inside the walls, but it's also about the "feel" and being able to drive up to campus and say, "Yeah, I'm going to college now." What do we hear in our hallways? "This just doesn't feel right. I took eighth-grade science in this room." College memories.
What can $3 million do for the Kachemak Bay Campus? First of all, erase the thought of going back to the future at the junior high. We're going to put the campus under one roof. No more driving down the road to catch your next class and searching for another parking place so you can sit in your old classroom.
If Proposition C passes, you'll see a new 10,000-square-foot, two-story addition and renovation, enveloped by an attractive faAade. The community will gain more classrooms and space than it currently has for meeting the academic, vocational and educational needs of area residents. This "new" facility will say to students and our visitors, "Yes, we have a campus in Homer, it looks like a "real" college, and we're proud of it!"
How about the Soldotna campus, you ask? They get a great upgrade, too. The planned renovation will add almost 13,000 square feet to the Ward building. Have you ever walked our "greenhouse" hallway -- the one that's hot in the summer, cold in the winter and leaks in the rain? That gets demolished.
Classrooms get expanded (yes, we have more students than we can sometimes handle), an attractive new entrance gets built, and the student common area grows larger. You won't recognize the Ward building if Proposition C passes.
Will all of this change the quality of the education we provide? In some ways "no," we'll still have the same top-notch, outstanding professors and staff.
But, in other ways, "yes." Our facilities will be upgraded, our classrooms won't be as crowded, and students will come in smiling, proud of the college they're attending. Believe me, successful learning is contingent on a positive state of mind.
On a statewide scale, Proposition C would provide $236.8 million in general obligation bonds to pay for improving, constructing and major maintenance of educational and museum facilities. Of this money, $61.7 million is earmarked for the University of Alaska, $170 million for K-12 schools, and $5 million for the Anchorage Museum of History and Art.
Just as important to peninsula residents, the proposition offers debt reimbursement to our school district. Local school facility projects, determined on an individual basis by voters, would be reimbursed 60 to 70 percent for these costs. For example in April, Anchorage voters passed two school bonds totaling $98.6 million for school additions and renovations. Sixty to 70 percent of these bonds will be reimbursed if voters pass Proposition C. This same benefit could be accorded the peninsula if the proposition passes.
What will Proposition C do for the state of Alaska? Mike Burns, a University of Alaska regent, has probably said it best: "The engine that's going to change the economy and the success of the economy is the university. It's how it has happened in every other state. It's how it will happen here in Alaska."
Please vote on Nov. 5. After all, Proposition C gives you the chance to vote on one thing that Frank and Fran agree upon. And in this instance, we'll all benefit.
Gary J. Turner is the director of Kenai Peninsula College, a two-campus unit of the University of Alaska Anchorage.