As mail-in ballots were sent out earlier this month, Californians who are registered with a preferred party will cast their vote on Proposition 13, the only proposition on the ballot by March 3, 2020.
Kern Sol News youth reporter Oscar Camacho has broken down the proposition and what it would mean if it passes.
What is Prop. 13?
Some have confused the 2020 Proposition 13 with the 1978 proposition that shares the same name. The 1978 Prop 13 was voted on to limit the tax rate for real estate. But this new proposition is completely different and, if passed, would authorize $15 billion in state general obligation funds for public education facilities, according to California’s Voter Guide page.
The focus of the proposition is aimed towards projects that will improve facilities’ health/safety conditions (including earthquake/fire safety and removing lead from water) and increase affordable student housing, according to the Official Voter Information Guide.
Where would $15 billion go?
California’s pre-schools and K-12 schools would receive a total of $9 billion, with allocations of $5.2 billion for renovation/modernization, $2.8 billion for new construction, $500 million for charter schools, and $500 billion for career technical education. Ten percent of the money for renovation would be reserved for school districts with less than 2,500 students and $150 million would be reserved for testing and treating lead in water at schools.
Nearly $6 billion would go to California’s public higher education facilities, including community colleges and the California State University and University of California systems, each receiving $2 billion.
Who supports it? Who opposes it?
Californians for Safe Schools and Healthy Learning has led the campaign for Prop. 13, with the goal of addressing the crisis of millions of California students attending rundown, obsolete, unsafe and unhealthy facilities.
According to their website, Prop 13 would allow California public schools to upgrade facilities for earthquakes and also have emergency funding in case of disasters. Another public health focus is to remove mold, lead paint, asbestos, and other hazards from classrooms and also repair and replace deteriorating water pipes for clean drinking water.
In September of 2019, AB 48 (Proposition 13) received overwhelming support in the California legislature, with final votes of 34 to 4 in the Senate and 78 to 1 in the Assembly.
“We are back asking the voters yet again to do what they historically have always done, and that is to embrace our children and embrace their fate and future and do more to do justice to the cause of public education in the state of California,” said Governor Gavin Newsom, who signed AB 48 in October of 2019.
Additional support has come from organizations like the Association of California School Administrators, Board of Regents of the University of California, California Coalition for Public Higher Education, California Teachers Association, and more, according to Ballotpedia.org.
The main opposition has come from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Changes to facility rules, projects, and local funding
Prop 13 would make three main changes to the rules governing public education facility projects, including changing the state’s existing share of project costs to a sliding scale, which would qualify school districts for a higher percentage of state funding for new construction projects.
Schools that have less capacity to raise local funds or who have higher shares of low-income students, foster youth, and English learners would have a higher state share.
According to the Kern County Network for Children’s Important Facts About Kern’s Children, 41,179 students in Kern Counties public schools were English learners, accounting for 23 percent of total county enrollment. They also found that one out of every four Kern families was poor and nearly one in three Kern children lived in poverty during 2017, all of which were statistically higher than the state average.
The state’s existing first-come, first-served approach for reviewing applications would be replaced with new rules. Priorities would be placed on health and life-safety projects, followed by applications submitted by districts with difficulty raising their local share and projects that test for and address lead in water at school sites, among other categories.
An interactive map by Edsource.org shows the lead levels in California schools’ drinking water, showing how it is a widespread issue.
Changes to local funding rules for districts would include allowing districts to issue a higher amount of local general obligation bonds, giving school districts the ability to apply for additional state funding if they cannot raise a certain amount of money, and placing new limits on developer fees regarding residential developments.
University projects would also prioritize life-safety and certain other deficiencies with existing facilities and campuses would also be required to develop five-year plans to expand affordable housing options for their students.
As a condition of receiving bond funding, school districts and university campuses would be required to develop five-year master plans.
Additional information about Proposition 13 and other elections and voter information can be found on the official California Secretary of State Website at www.sos.ca.gov/elections