Proposition 203
Public Education Facilities Bond Act

The information below was provided by the California Journal.

Background: Just a few years ago, education bonds were as close to a slam dunk as any other factor in California elections, invariably passing with more than 60 percent of the vote. But in the 1990s several factors have combined to diminish the popularity of education-related measures. First, there is general concern over the state's cumulative bonded debt. In addition, the voting population -- as opposed to the population as a whole -- is aging and thus less-interested in spending money on education. Finally, schools themselves have come under mounting criticism for, among other things, falling test scores and high dropout rates among students. The first inkling that something was amiss with school bonds came in 1992. Although voters passed bond measures in both June and November of that year, the margins of victory were substantially less than in previous years. Two years later, the unthinkable occurred when both school and higher-ed bonds failed in the June primary. In addition, many local school-bond measures, which require a two-thirds vote, have failed in recent years. As a result, Proposition 203 is the first school bond to appear on a statewide ballot since June 1994. And it almost did not make it. Although both Republicans and Democratic lawmakers expressed the need for a school-bond measure, the current proposal became enmeshed in partisan wrangling throughout 1995. Democrats wanted a stand-alone education bond, while Republicans wanted education bonds linked with another proposal to provide bonds for prison construction. As a result, both proposals were defeated in the final hours before the 1995 legislative session adjourned in September. The current, education-only proposal was revived when lawmakers returned in January, passing both houses on January 8th -- the deadline set by the secretary of state for putting measures on the March primary ballot.

Proposal: Proposition 203 provides for the sale of $3 billion worth of general obligation bonds, with the proceeds to be used for the construction of classrooms, libraries and other needed facilities in the state's public schools, community colleges and public universities. Funds also may be used to make current classrooms earthquake safe, to provide computer technology, reduce class size and meet expenses associated with enrollment growth. The money may only be used for approved school construction projects.

Arguments for: Although specific ballot arguments had not been received by the secretary of state prior to press time, proponents of past school-bond measures have argued that new schools must be built to keep pace with the state's increasing enrollment and that since m ore than half of California schools are at least 30 years old, renovating them would improve the quality of the learning environment. Traditional proponents for school bonds include the state PTA, California School Boards Association, the state Chamber of Commerce and the California Taxpayers' Association.

Arguments against: Opponents traditionally have argued that bonds are not free money and that the interest on the bonds must be repaid from the state general fund. They have argued that school bonds do little to help the state's economy and that half of the state budget already is dedicated to education -- primarily to bureaucrats. In the past, the Libertarian Party has opposed all bond measures, including those for education.

For additional information please see:

Secretary of State Ballot Pamphlet

Campaign Finance Data from the Secretary of State

Original Legislation

California State Senate Office of Research

California League of Women Voters

Easy Reader Voter Guide

Related News Articles:

Campaign Web Sites:

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