Election 2020: Your Guide To Prop 13, The Only Statewide Ballot Measure In The March 3 Election

A classroom at El Sereno Middle School. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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Remember that time California had an election with 17 ballot propositions? Well, the studying-averse got lucky this year — if you're voting in the March 3 primary, there'll only be one statewide ballot measure to read up on. It's Proposition 13 — no, not that Proposition 13. Unlike the 1978 ballot measure that cut school operating budgets, this brand new Prop 13 is about creating new money for school construction.

Here's what to know before you vote.

WHAT PROP 13 WOULD DO

If it passes, Prop 13 would authorize $15 billion in general obligation bonds (money that California has to borrow from bond buyers) that would go toward construction projects on both K-12 and college campuses around the state. It includes:

  • $9 billion for preschool and K-12 schools (of which $2.8 billion would go toward new construction, $5.2 billion would go toward modernization, $500 million would go toward facilities for charter schools and $500 million would go toward career technical education programs)
  • $4 billion for universities
  • $2 billion for community colleges

Under Prop 13, the way that schools receive state bond money would also be different.

Currently, schools apply for those funds and get it on a first-come, first-served basis.

Prop 13 would change that by prioritizing schools that require health or safety-related repairs (like improved drinking water or earthquake-related renovations), schools with large proportions of students facing financial hardships, and schools with projects that use unionized labor.

On top of that, Prop 13 would give school districts the ability to raise more money through local property taxes to pay for their own bond sales.

It would also prohibit school districts from charging developer fees on multi-family residential developments within half a mile of a major transit stop. You can read more about that here. (Currently, schools can issue one-time fees on new developments for school construction if it can show the development will bring new students into the district.)

The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that Prop 13 will cost about $26 billion total, or $740 million per year for each of the next 35 years.

ARGUMENTS FOR IT

Supporters say Prop 13 provides for much-needed renovations, and point out that most of the funds would go toward modernization rather than new construction. They say that Prop 13 will help protect children from aging pipes and critical disrepair, and create better and safer learning environments. Supporters also say the accountability measures built into Prop 13 help ensure that funds will go directly to schools that need the money most.

You can read some op-eds supporting Prop 13 from the L.A. Times, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and the San Francisco Chronicle.

WHO'S DONATING MONEY TO SUPPORT IT?

Major donors to the "yes" campaign include the California Teachers Association, California Democratic Party, California Charters Schools Association and foundations for various University of California campuses.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST IT

Opponents say the measure will likely push up property taxes for homeowners to pay for it because school districts will be able to issue local bonds at higher amounts. They also say that due to the ban on developer fees on multi-family units near transit stops, school districts will seek to make up for those funds by raising property taxes as well. Others argue that prioritizing union labor for construction work unfairly punishes private developers.

You can read some op-eds opposing Prop 13 from the Desert Sun, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Orange County Register.

WHO'S DONATING MONEY TO OPPOSE IT?

Opponents aren't spending any money against Prop 13; no ballot measure committees were formed to oppose it.

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