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Action Guide
November 7, 2000


Proposition 39 School Facilities. 55% Local Vote. Bonds, Taxes. Accountability Requirements.

Description - Background - Important Points - Supporters/Opponents - Resources - Letter to Editor - Flyer


Proposition 39 amends the California Constitution to allow school and community college districts and county offices of education to issue bonds for construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation or replacement of facilities and to authorize property taxes higher than the existing 1% limit to repay the bonds, if approved by a 55% vote rather than the current two-thirds requirement. To qualify, a bond measure must not allow bonds to be used for salaries or other operating expenses; must require annual performance and financial audits; and must require inclusion of a specific list of projects after consideration of safety, class size reduction, and information technology needs.

The measure requires that facilities be available to public charter schools to accommodate their students, but the school district could charge a charter school for use of the facilities.

After Proposition 39 qualified for the ballot, legislation (AB 1908, Lempert) was approved that adds certain restrictions to school bonds approved by a 55% vote. If Proposition 39 is passed, these limits would take effect:

The Legislative Analyst estimates there could be (1) increased debt costs for many school districts, depending on local voter approval of future school bond issues and varying by individual district. Statewide, district costs could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year within a decade; and (2) uncertain effect on state costs. Potential longer-term savings to the extent local school districts assume greater responsibility for funding school facilities.


The California Constitution now requires a two-thirds vote to pass a local bond measure. It limits property taxes to l percent of the value of property, and says property taxes may only exceed the limit to pay for bonds approved by a two-thirds majority of the voters. Responsibility for school facilities falls on local districts, paid for by local general obligation bonds, some special local bonds (Mello-Roos bonds), or developer fees. The state has also provided assistance to K-12 schools, most recently with a $6.7 billion issue approved by voters in 1998 as part of Proposition 1A. Under this program, the state pays up to 50% of the cost of new facilities, 80% of modernization costs, and 100% of the costs of either in certain "hardship" cases. State bonds have funded most community college facilities, but local bonds may also be used.

Charter schools are independent schools, but are part of the school system in that they operate under contracts with local school districts, a county board of education or the State Board of Education. School districts must now allow charter schools to use, at no charge, school facilities that are not in use.

Between 1986 and June 1999 local school district voters approved bond measures totaling more than $17 billion, but during that period almost $11 billion in bonds received more than 50% voter approval but less than the necessary two-thirds. Local community college district voters approved almost $330 million in bonds, while almost $390 million of bonds were approved by more than a majority but less than two-thirds of the voters.


Signing the ballot argument for:
Signing the ballot argument against:
Lavonne McBroom, President
California State PTA

Jacqueline N. Antee
AARP State President

Allan Zaremberg, President
California Chamber of Commerce

Jon Coupal, Chairman
Save Our Homes Committee, Vote No on Proposition 39, a Project of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Dean Andal, Chair
Board of Equalization, State of California

Felicia Elkinson, Past President
Council of Sacramento Senior Organizations

The rebuttal to the opponents' arguments was signed by Andrew Ysiano, Immediate Past President, California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; William Hauck, Chair, California Business for Education Excellence; and Dan Terry, President, California Professional Firefighters.

Other organizations and individuals supporting the measure include Association of California School Administrators; California Association of Realtors; California Organization of Police and Sheriffs; California Tax Reform Association; Children's Advocacy Institute; Consumer Federation of California; Governor Gray Davis; Thomas W. Hayes, former State Treasurer and Auditor General; Latino Issues Forum; League of Women Voters of California; Planning and Conservation League; and former Governor Pete Wilson.


Mary Lynne Ishikawa, LWVC Social Policy Director, dishi8459@aol.com

Elizabeth Zemmels, LWVC Education Program Director, ezemmels@yolo.k12.ca.us

Taxpayers for Accountability & Better Schools, 1121 L Street, Suite 401, Sacramento 95814, 916-341-1055, info@betterschoolsforCA.org, www.yesonprop39.org

Budget Brief: California's Schools & Proposition 39, California Budget Project, 921 11th Street, Suite 502, Sacramento 95814, 916-444-0500, Fax 916-444-0172, www.cbp.org



I support Proposition 39 on the November ballot. Our classrooms are among the most crowded in the nation now and with class size reduction and a growing population ,the situation will only worsen. The time has come for our California children to receive equal treatment. It takes a simple majority to house our criminals but a two-thirds vote to house our children.

Proposition 39 will lower the present two-thirds vote requirement to 55 percent and allow our schools to issue bonds for construction, renovation, or replacement of school facilities.

Taxpayers will know how their dollars are spent. Proposition 39 requires schools to list in advance the projects that will be paid for and to have independent financial and performance audits done to ensure that the money was spent as promised. The bond money may not be used for salaries or administration.

Join me in casting a YES vote for Proposition 39 and rest assured of a positive learning environment of our greatest resource for the future, our children.


We need to construct, renovate and rehabilitate our schools. Their condition is the worst in the nation and given our prosperous economy, there is no excuse for that. By giving your support to Proposition 39 you will be contributing to a better learning environment in the future--one that allows our children to acquire the tools for the information age.

Proposition 39 will amend the California Constitution to help our schools issue bonds to meet current and future facility needs, by reducing the existing 2/3 vote requirement to 55%. It is unfair to our children for schools to have to meet an unreasonably high level of voter approval. Proposition 39 ensures that the monies are used ONLY for facilities and puts local oversight committees in place to make sure funds are used as the voters intended.

Please join me in supporting Proposition 39 on November 8. Our support will provide an improved learning environment for our children, who are the greatest resource for everyone's future quality of life!

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