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Proposition 51: Funding for K-12 School and Community College Facilities. Initiative Statutory Amendment.

The California Labor Federation supports this measure. Want to learn more? Read “Repair our rundown schools: YES on Prop 51” by Rachel Warino in California Labor’s 2016 Top Props Series. Check it out here.


Click here to download California Labor’s 2016 Endorsements & Ballot Measures Analyses

A YES vote on this measure means:

Voters authorize the state to issue $9 billion in bonds to fund the improvement and construction of school facilities for K-12 schools and community colleges.

A NO vote on this measure means:

The state will not issue any bonds to fund the improvement and construction of school facilities.

Official Secretary of State Ballot Summary: 

  • Authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds:
    • $3 billion for new construction and $3 billion for modernization of K-12 public school facilities;
    • $1 billion for charter schools and vocational education facilities; and
    • $2 billion for California Community Colleges facilities.
  • Bars amendment to existing authority to levy developer fees to fund school facilities, until new construction bond proceeds are spent or December 31, 2020, whichever is earlier.
  • Bars amendment to existing State Allocation Board process for allocating school construction funding, as to these bonds.
  • Appropriates money from the General Fund to pay off bonds.


The Legislature created the State Allocation Board (SAB) in 1947 to determine the allocation of state funds for the construction, modernization and maintenance of local public school facilities. School districts submit proposals for facility projects to the SAB which determines if the projects meet the requirements for funding. The SAB administers the School Facility Program (SFP), which allocates bond funding for new construction and modernization of facilities to school districts. The state covers up to 60 percent of the cost of a project and school districts are required to cover the remainder of project costs through local matches that can be funded through local tax revenues, local bond measures or developer fees.

The state funded the SFP with a series of four voter-approved bond measures between 1998 and 2006 that provided $35.4 billion in financing. The most recent bond measure, Proposition 1D, passed in 2006 and provided $7.3 billion for school facilities. However, the state has been out of bond authority for new construction and modernization since 2012. Since that time, the SAB has maintained an “Applications Received Beyond Bond Authority” list. As of January 2015, the list indicated 116 new construction applications totaling $571 million and 200 modernizations applications of about $330 million.

California educates approximately 6 million students from grades K-12 in 10,000 schools in 1,000 school districts throughout the state. The Office of Public School Construction has estimated that California needs up to $16 billion to build and modernize new and existing schools. The California Community Colleges are estimated to need over $3 billion every two years to keep up with facility needs.

Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance estimate of fiscal impact: 

State General Fund costs of $17.6 billion to pay off principal ($9 billion) and interest ($8.6 billion) on bonds over a period of 35 years. Annual payments would average $500 million. Annual payments would be relatively low in the initial and final few years and somewhat higher in the intervening years.

Support and Opposition:

Supporters include the State Building and Construction Trades, PTA, Chamber of Commerce and many more organizations and elected officials. They argue that 6 million students in California attend schools that are crumbling, unsafe and in disrepair. They point to studies that show student performance is improved in schools that are clean, comfortable and safe, arguing that an investment in school facilities is an investment in student success. They argue that the state has not approved a school bond for a decade, and there is a backlog of existing projects to modernize and construct schools for students, but local school districts cannot afford to fund on their own. They also contend that a school bond will spur the economy since 13,000 jobs are created for each $1 billion of state infrastructure investment.

Opposition consists of the California Taxpayers and Educators Opposed to Sprawl and Developer Abuse that argue this initiative is a money grab of public education dollars to build new schools in sprawling areas. The contend that sprawl creates significant negative ecological, social and cultural harms including: increased air and water pollution, a larger carbon footprint, loss of aesthetic landscapes, wetlands, biodiversity, community, pedestrian amenities, greater traffic, longer commutes, economic and racial segregation.

Prior Positions:

The Labor Federation took a support position on all of the school facilities bonds on the ballot since 2000, in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

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