Between 1992 and the year 2000, enrollment in California’s K-12 public schools is projected to grow by over 200,000 students on average each year-from 5.2 to 7.2 million students. To meet that demand, the state Department of Education estimates it will need $17 billion over the next five years for school construction and building modernization alone.
The private sector can help by providing school infrastructure in the form of satellite schools. Satellite schools-developed five years ago in Dade County, Florida-operate as public schools on business worksites. The host-business contributes land, building space, and some operating expenses. The school district supplies everything else-teachers, supplies, curriculum, and administration. Daycare services extend the school day to meet the needs of working parents.
Satellite schools in Dade County have saved the public millions of dollars in school infrastructure and transportation costs. Other benefits include increased academic performance and attendance among students, and increased interaction between parent, child and teacher. Business partners hosting satellite schools claim absenteeism and turnover have dropped among parents with children enrolled in the worksite schools. Satellite schools also provide career advancement opportunities for teachers which is one reason Dade County’s 20,000 strong teachers’ union endorses the idea.
In early 1993, California’s first school of this type will open on the premises of the Hewlett-Packard Corporation in partnership with the Santa Rosa City School District. California’s rigorous seismic safety standards, known as the Field Act, prevent satellite schools from occupying existing office buildings. Meanwhile, vacancy rates average 17 percent for office and commercial space in California’s major cities where school overcrowding is often the worst.
Satellite schools offer a readily available solution to school overcrowding at minimal cost relative to other options. To facilitate their increase, the state should provide tax credits to businesses who sponsor satellite schools, streamline Title 24 building codes (the Field Act) with the Uniform Building Codes (UBC), and expedite approval of satellite schools at the state and local levels.