Decision 2020

California Voters Reject $15 Billion School Upgrade Bond

Updated vote tallies Tuesday showed the question with only 46% support.

Primary school classroom
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California voters have rejected a $15 billion bond to renovate California's aging schools, the only statewide measure on last week's primary ballot.

Proposition 13 promised to provide funds for new construction and repairs at campuses dealing with problems like leaky roofs, old wiring and toxic mold. It needed a simple majority to pass. But the “no” votes had a comfortable lead immediately after the March 3 election and only tightened slightly as several million additional ballots were counted.

Updated vote tallies Tuesday showed the question with only 46% support.

Opponents said California has a large budget surplus and shouldn't borrow more money. Taxpayers would have owed an estimated $11 billion in interest over the next 35 years as a result of Prop. 13, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

Republican state Sen. Brian Jones said voters “rightly wondered why the state was trying to pass more bonds and hike taxes rather than using those budget surpluses to help schools?”

The opposition was led by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which took particular issue with a provision that would have increased the limit on what a local school district could borrow, from 1.25% to 2% of assessed property value. The group feared that could have led to future tax increases to pay back the debt.

The state should fund school facilities itself rather than adding to school districts' debt, the group said.


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Supporters, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, argued the need for school repairs was crucial. The proposal was backed by teachers and firefighter unions, school boards and Democratic state lawmakers.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 70% of California's 10,000 public schools are 25 years or older, with 10% of them at least 70 years old.

About $9 billion from the measure would have gone to K-12 schools, with priority given to addressing health and safety concerns such as removing asbestos and eliminating lead from drinking water.

Of that, $5.8 billion would have gone to improving school facilities, followed by $2.8 billion for new construction and $500 million each for charter schools and facilities for technical education.

Many school districts say they do not receive adequate state funding to make repairs and fully modernize their buildings, leading to a Band-Aid approach of periodic repairs and deferred maintenance.

The proposition also would have allocated $6 billion for higher education, which last benefited from a statewide bond measure in 2006. The funding would have been split evenly, with $2 billion each for community colleges, the California State University system and the University of California system.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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