Vernon M. Billy | Inaccuracies about the New Prop. 13

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In a Feb. 11 commentary, “The Prop. 13 Switcheroo on March Ballot,” Jonathan Kraut makes many inaccurate assertions about the statewide school facilities bond measure on the March 3 primary ballot. In fact, this Proposition 13 — also known as the Public Preschool, K-12, and College Health and Safety Bond Act of 2020 — does not raise property taxes nor does it have anything to do with property tax assessment. On the contrary, this Proposition 13 is a traditional school bond to fix outdated and unsafe school buildings across California. It in no way affects the property tax protections passed by voters in 1978.

Mr. Kraut is not alone in his confusion about the content of the new Prop. 13 or how the proposition number was assigned. Allow us to clarify: ballot measures are numbered sequentially by the secretary of state according to the order in which they qualify for the ballot. Every 10 years since 1998, the ballot numbering system has reset to “one.” 

On the substance of the measure, approval of Proposition 13 would represent a critical investment in our future by securing $15 billion for facilities at California’s preschools, K-12 schools, community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. It would allow the state to sell $9 billion worth of bonds to help fund local school facilities projects, including the modernization of existing schools and the development of new schools.

It is estimated that, of the 310,000 classrooms in California, 75% are more than 25 years old, 30% are more than 50 years old and 10% are more than 70 years old. Both in Southern California and statewide, there is great need for repaired and revitalized school facilities. Currently, the Office of Public School Construction has a $1.3 billion backlog of projects requiring urgent attention. More than 100 school districts have projects on this list and even that figure understates the severity of the problem.

This bond measure improves upon the old rules and addresses inequity through key reforms that ensure school facilities spending is invested in the districts that need it most. Priority will be given to districts with critical health and safety issues, including the removal of lead from drinking water. Smaller school districts and those with low property values would also be awarded priority under the new bond process, thereby leveling the playing field.

Unfortunately, too many of California’s students attend schools that require additional modernization for health and safety reasons. We support providing students with a high-quality educational experience and don’t believe that our school facilities should be a barrier to student success. Our students deserve better — and we can do better by voting “yes” on Proposition 13.

Vernon M. Billy

CEO and Executive Director

California School Boards Association

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