Proposition 13 (2020)


California has long been a forward-looking place where people cherish values like innovation, learning, and sustainability.  Maybe this is why California voters are often suckers when somebody asks them to spend more money on education. In two decades, we’ve approved five tax increases to borrow money for school facilities:

  • Proposition 51 (2016)
  • Proposition 1D (2006)
  • Proposition 55 (2004)
  • Proposition 47 (2002)
  • Proposition 1A (1998)

Just four years ago, politicians asked us to borrow $9 billion more to fund K-12 and college educational facilities. Now they want to borrow an additional $15 billion for the same purposes.

Sadly, our willingness to “invest in the future” is harming the future generations we want to help, by burying them in debt.

At 3% interest this latest IOU bond measure will burden California’s future and with an additional education bill of over $22 billion over the next 30 years.  This will bring the annual payment for all five bond measures to $4,200,000,000 per year.

If we just keep spending at the expense of future generations, what incentive do school administrators have to stay within their budgets? Or even tell the truth about those budgets? Proposition 13’s authors anticipate school officials lying about their funding needs: Several paragraphs of the measure (Section 9) detail what happens if “eligibility or funding application related information is found to have been falsely certified by school districts”.

“What happens” however is essentially nothing – Prop. 13 provides no penalties whatsoever for officials caught making false declarations! Their schools will remain eligible for funding, reduced only “as necessary to reflect the actual nature of the project (and) disregard the inaccurate information or material”.

Meanwhile the measure completely ignores many actual educational needs popular among poor, immigrant and minority families. Millions of California students homeschool or attend independent schools. But low income families choosing these alternatives will be ineligible to receive any of Prop. 13’s billions of dollars, even when they produce better educational outcomes for students than failing government-run schools.

Bonds are traditionally used to fund large capital expenses such as buildings that will last decades. Prop. 13 would allow bond money to be spent on “portable electronic devices” that need replacing in as few as 3 years (Section 29) – a potentially profitable arrangement for favored big tech companies, but are their profits a good reason to raise your taxes?

Politically powerful unions will also do well under Prop. 13 – it requires the state “prioritize projects that include the use of a project labor agreement” (PLA) (Section 12). PLAs are special deals that require paying organized labor far above market wages.

California renters will face higher rents under Prop. 13’s property tax increases. Forcing residents who’ve never attended college to subsidize higher education for others, including the wealthy, is unfair.

Cutting California families’ budgets to fatten an unaccountable educational establishment with bureaucrats making 6-figure salaries is irresponsible. And borrowing against the future to fuel an ever-growing educational bureaucracy is unsustainable.

Please vote NO on Proposition 13!

Libertarian Party of California,