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California Proposition 13: $15 Billion School And College Facilities Bond

Lee Romney
Kids line up outside Dr. G.W. Carver Academic Elementary School in San Francisco.

The first thing you should know: This has nothing to do with the Prop 13 most Californians have heard about: That’s the measure that capped property taxes more than four decades ago. This Prop 13 just happened to be assigned the same number.

It’s a $15 billion state bond measure that would go to making public school facilities in California safer. That’s preschools all the way through four-year universities. It would cover some new construction but mostly go to modernizing existing buildings.

The funds would be earmarked to make buildings earthquake and fire safe, for example, and to get rid of lead and mold. The state has always paid a share of these kinds of upgrades. Prop 13 would tweak that sharing formula a bit: By requiring the state to pay a bigger share for certain projects. And by making sure the projects with the greatest safety risks get state funding first. Prop 13 would also allow local school districts to issue more of their own bonds — to pay their own share of these safety upgrades. 

Backers — like teachers, nurses and the vast majority of state lawmakers — say too many school buildings in California now are dilapidated, unsafe and unhealthy for kids. They’ve raised $6.8 million in support. Opponents haven’t raised any money to defeat Prop 13. But some, like the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, say the interest on this debt, which would take the state more than three decades to repay, is too high. And they don’t like the fact that this measure lets local school districts borrow more. 

So, if you want the state to borrow 15-billion-dollars to help fix unsafe and unhealthy school buildings — and change the way the state shares these costs with local school authorities — vote yes on Prop 13. If you don’t, then vote no.