PROP. 223



U.S. Senate



Secretary of State



Attorney General

Insurance Commissioner

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Board of Equalization


Prop 219
Prop 220
Prop 221
Prop 222
Prop 223
Prop 224
Prop 225
Prop 226
Prop 227


Districts 1 - 26
Districts 27 - 52


Districts 2 - 40

Districts 1 - 20
Districts 21 - 40
Districts 41 - 60
Districts 61 - 80

Background | Proposal | Arguments for | Arguments against

An initiative that limits school spending on administration.


The idea that there is too much administrative fat in the state's schools is one of the few things on which those with otherwise disparate views on school reform agree. At the same time, the concept of "performance-based budgeting" is a notion gaining considerable support among many educators and parents concerned that there be some consequences for districts that continue to perform poorly. Proposition 223 seeks to wed the concepts in an effort to increase administrative efficiency, all under the banner "95-5" -- 95 percent to the classroom, 5 percent to administration. Proposition 223 is not specific about how performance budgeting would actually be implemented in local districts, which would be required to get an independent evaluation every five years beginning in 2004-2005. The legislative analyst estimates costs of approximately $10 million annually to implement performance budgeting, plus some $20 million every five years for the independent performance audits. In 1996-97, K-12 public schools in California spent about $34 billion from federal, state and local sources. Also at issue in the measure is exactly what would count under the 5 percent that goes to administration. According to the Legislative Analyst's Office, some expenses are "easy to classify" based on the definitions in the initiative -- teacher salaries are clearly a direct service, for example, while board and superintendent costs are clearly administrative. But other expenses are more difficult to define within the 95-5 requirements: printing and duplication expenses, for example, that are prepared in a central administration location rather than at a school site. Based on "current reporting practices," the LAO estimates that districts spend an average of 7.3 percent on administrative costs -- about $700 million more than the initiative would allow. The proposition imposes stiff fines -- approximately $175 per student -- on districts that fail to comply.

Proposition 223, referred to by supporters as "95-5" initiative, requires each of California's 994 school districts to limit certain administrative costs to 5 percent of all federal, state and local funds received, beginning in 1999-2000. Presumably, this means that 95 percent of all funds will go to the actual education of children in K-12, including the salaries of classroom teachers. It also requires each school district, beginning in 1998-99 to tie its annual budget to specific outcomes, generally related to improvements in student performance. Penalties are imposed for non-compliance.

Arguments For:
Prop. 223 proponents -- principally the United Teachers of Los Angeles, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan -- argue that California school districts are rife with "wasteful spending" practices which translate into fewer dollars for the education of children. Tax dollars, they argue, should be spent at the school sites, rather than on administrators at central offices. The national average for administration is a little under five percent while California, they contend, spends twice that, and a few districts are in the range of 20 percent. Priority in education should be placed on smaller class sizes, more teachers, updated textbooks, computers, after-school programs, an end to social promotions as well as cleaner and safer schools." Proponents also claim the initiative will shift $500 million-plus per year to direct services for schoolchildren.

Arguments Against:
Opposition to Prop. 223 is being led by the Association of California School Administrators, which says it plans to raise $1 million to defeat the measure. Also opposed are the California PTA, the California Association of Suburban School Districts and the Small School Districts Association. They contend the initiative would severely harm small and mid-size school districts by imposing the 5 percent limit, putting money instead into the massive L.A. Unified School District. They say the comparisons between California and other states are "phony," and that the initiative uses misleading statistics and categories which, for example, would place a school bus mechanic in the "administrative" category. The California PTA argues that 223 "locks in" a 95/5 formula which most school districts "lack the economy-of-scale" to meet, thus penalizing smaller schools. The California Teachers Association has taken neutral stance on the initiative.

--- Article by Sigrid Bathen

This page first published May 5, 1998

Last updated May 25, 1998

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