With all precincts now reporting in, Proposition 13, the bond measure that would have $15 billion go to repairing and modernizing public schools, has failed to pass.
Prop 13 fails
Voters turned down the measure 56% to 44%, with 2.9 million voters saying ‘No’ and only 2.3 million voters saying ‘Yes’. A wide array of groups had come out against the Proposition, ranging from taxpayer associations to the Green Party, many of which celebrated the bonds’ failure at the polls on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, supporters of the bill, such as Governor Gavin Newsom, had quietly let the loss go with little acknowledgement.
A large part of the failure had to do with the cost on taxpayers. While the bond was for $15 billion, interest would have nearly doubled the amount by the time of the bond payback in several decades. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the interest would have totaled $11 billion.
There was also debate over what the Proposition would actually do. While few argued with the need to remove asbestos and removing lead from drinking water at affected public schools, many argued over the need for spending on things such as controversial charter schools, technical education, new school construction, and ‘unnecessary’ school updates.
Proponents of the bill have said that the failure of the measure is failing children.
“This is sending a message to children and parents across California. It’s saying ‘We don’t care about you,’ said Los Angeles teacher Debbie Garcia, who had helped rally local support for the Proposition. “Now we’re back at square one. And this is bad. Really bad. We have schools falling apart and students coming in eager to learn who now have to contend with inadequate facilities. Facilities, may I remind you, that may have Flint-like water in them.
Doing the best for children shouldn’t be about the money. You can’t put a price tag on the future. But voters just did. They voted to give a worse future for poor students, for students of color, and for any student not going to a good school district or private school. It makes me sick.”
A tax burden
Conversely, many opponents have said that the state doesn’t even need to borrow money for needed repairs, and that it’s simply an added tax burden on California taxpayers.
“While all the state’s taxpayers will see more of their hard-earned money go to pay off bonds if Proposition 13 passes, the real hit will be to local property owners in the form of higher property taxes,” said Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, in an earlier San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed. “That’s because local school districts must pass local school bonds in order to generate the matching funds required to get any of the state bond money. Unlike state bonds, local bonds always come with a tax hike, and, in the case of school bonds, it is always a property tax.”
“A provision of this Proposition 13 makes it easier to load even more debt onto local taxpayers. School districts currently have a debt cap based on the total assessed value of taxable property in the district. If approved by voters, this Proposition 13 would nearly double the debt caps. This will make home ownership more expensive at a time when only about 25% of Californians can afford a median-priced home.”
“Finally, a little-known element of this bond is the preference for Project Labor Agreements or PLAs. The effect of a PLA on a local construction job is to effectively freeze out non-union contractors and thus decrease competitive bids. PLAs are not an effective use of taxpayer dollars and have been shown in numerous studies to increase construction costs. Despite this, local school districts will be incentivized to use a PLA in their bonds if Proposition 13 passes because they will receive additional priority for state matching funds.”
“The Proposition 13 on the March 2020 ballot hurts taxpayers. It will divert more general fund dollars from needed services or paying off unfunded pension liabilities. It will likely increase property taxes in communities throughout California and will increase school construction costs.”
With the failure of Prop 13, California schools and lawmakers will likely try and find another way to fund needed school repairs and construction. But as of now, with many Californians having just avoided a large property tax hike, a new plan will likely not be in the immediate future.