What is Proposition 13? $15 billion school bond on 2020 ballot

ByRicardo Cano, CalMatters via KGO logo
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
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Here's everything you need to know about Proposition 13 on California's 2020 ballot.

Californians will soon vote on Proposition 13 during the 2020 primary election. Here's everything you need to know about the proposition:


A $15 billion state bond measure to fund facilities projects at public schools, community colleges and universities.


A "YES" vote will allow the state to sell $9 billion to K-12 schools and $6 billion to split among community colleges, California State University and the University of California schools.

Funds will be prioritized to schools with mold, asbestos and lead in their drinking water.

The measure will allow school districts to use bond funds for preschools, help with schools affected by disasters, and let districts add larger school bonds to local ballots.

Backers say the measure will make it easier for schools to compete for bond money.

Perhaps most controversially, Proposition 13 would also change how school districts' can issue future local bond measures. If the proposition passes, it will increase the limits on bond amounts from 1.25 percent to 2 percent of assessed property value for elementary and high school districts. The bond limits for unified school districts and community college districts would increase from 2.5 percent to 4 of assessed property value.

The proposition only changes the limits, schools would still have to ask for voters to approve local school bond measures that utilize the increased limits.

The proposition would also make changes to how school districts can charge developer fees on new multifamily residential developments, such as apartment complexes. The change is part of the state's effort to encourage the construction of new housing, particularly in areas with frequent transit service.


Lawmakers, Democrat and Republican, overwhelmingly voted to put this on the ballot, stressing California's urgent need to modernize its facilities. Academics say that addressing a backlog of those needs would cost about $117 billion over the next decade. California voters approved a $9 billion school bond in 2016, but all that money has been accounted for and oversubscribed.


One of the main selling points by advocates of the measure, including Gov. Gavin Newsom: This bond measure is structured differently from previous state bonds, focusing more on school modernization than new construction.

Prop. 13, they say, will prioritize health and safety issues - such as mold and asbestos - and puts an end to the first-come, first-served application process that critics say has favored wealthier districts at the expense of needier ones.


No organized campaign against the measure has yet surfaced. But opponents including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association contend that Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature should have spent the state's $21 billion surplus to upgrade school facilities instead of "wasting our money on their own pet projects."

As a result, opponents note in ballot arguments, "Wasteful money pits in the vast education bureaucracy will grab much of this money" for "wasteful construction projects that benefit special interests."


Association of California School Administrators, California State University Board of Trustees, California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, League of Women Voters of California


Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association


The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimates it would cost the state about $740 million a year over the next 35 years to repay the costs of the bond, with interest. That's a total estimated cost of $26 billion: the bond itself plus an added $11 billion in interest.

CalMatters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture that covers California state government, contributed to this report.