A bond measure that would raise $15 billion for new construction and renovation at schools and colleges across California was trailing in election returns Wednesday, with all of the state’s precincts reporting at least partial ballot counts.
“No” votes held a comfortable lead statewide. In L.A. County, where the vote count was still underway, the measure was narrowly passing.
The measure, which needed a simple majority to pass, would not have imposed a new property tax. It would have been repaid with interest out of the state’s general fund over 35 years, at a total cost of $26 billion.
Of the bond’s $15-billion total, $6 billion would be divided evenly among the University of California, Cal State and community college systems, and $9 billion would go to preschool through K-12 schools, including charter schools and career and technical education facilities.
Ahead of the vote, Proposition 13, which has no relation to the 1978 measure that capped property tax increases, enjoyed widespread support from public school districts, teachers unions, charter advocates, and all three systems of higher education.
“What was really unfortunate was the number linked to it and the elevated confusion around property taxes,” said Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, which supported the measure.
A provision in the measure would have increased the amount of money school districts could borrow through local bonds, which require local voter approval. Those bonds are typically repaid by property owners. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., the only registered opposition to the measure, seized on that possibility in its messaging.
Notably absent from the list of endorsers was the Los Angeles Unified School District, where officials did not say how much money they expected to lose or gain from the measure.
Concerns about L.A.'s eligibility for the funds and reduced revenues from developer fees may have played a role in their lack of an official endorsement. L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner said he considered Proposition 13 helpful, but L.A. public schools need much more than the bond measure would provide.
In the past, the state awarded funds on a “first come, first served” basis, which critics said gave an advantage to bigger and wealthier districts. Under the new Proposition 13, districts that demonstrate a need to make “health and life-safety repairs,” have a hard time raising funds locally, and serve high shares of low-income students, English learners and foster youth wouldreceive priority consideration. Within these categories, additional priority would be given to construction projects that use unionized labor.
The measure would also reduce the “impact fees” that districts could charge developers of multi-family housing, especially when that development is near transit.