California voters have approved all three education-related initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot, based on 100 percent of returns reported by the California Secretary of State.
Proposition 55, which will extend the state income tax on high-income earners that raises billions of dollars a year for K-12 schools and community colleges, was handily approved by a 62.1 percent majority. Proposition 58, which would end restrictions on bilingual education, received overwhelming voter support, with a 72.4 percent yes vote.
Proposition 51, which will float billions of dollars in bonds for construction and renovation of schools and other education facilities, received 54 percent of the vote. Unlike the positive pre-election polls for Props. 55 and 58, those on Prop. 51 had predicted that it would not pass.
Prop. 55 will continue to generate an estimated $4 billion to $9 billion a year for the state’s general fund, depending largely on stock market fluctuations and economic conditions. About half is expected to go to K-12 schools and community colleges, with much of the remainder funding Medi-Cal health services for low-income families and the state’s rainy day reserve fund.
It will extend Proposition 30 — the 2012 initiative approved by voters that boosted taxes on high-income earners — and marked a decisive shift away from decades of Californians voting to hold the line on new taxes, beginning with the passage of Prop. 13 in 1978.
But during the next two years, overall school funding is projected to flatten. Supporters argued that additional revenues from Prop. 55 could help cushion schools during another recession, which Gov. Jerry Brown and his financial advisers have predicted.
Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association, said Tuesday night that the measure’s passage will “bring stability in funding over the next 12 years.”
The vote, he said, confirms “that California voters support public schools and are willing to stand up for our students.”
“I’m excited that Prop. 55 passed and that as much as $4 billion for schools won’t disappear,” said Chris Ungar, a member of the San Luis Coastal Unified School District and president of the California School Boards Association. He called the passage “one step toward adequate school funding.”
Los Angeles Unified Board President Steve Zimmer and Superintendent Michelle King also welcomed the funds the district will receive, but said that the state needs to do even more.
“The passage of Prop. 55 provides a critical infusion of revenue that will allow L.A. Unified to continue serving our students and families,” they said in a joint statement. “Now is the time for California lawmakers to consider true long-term investments to ensure that our public schools are once again funded on an equitable level with other states.”
Tuesday’s results were expected for two of the propositions based on pre-election polls, which showed Props. 55 and 58 easily passing, although not by as large a margin as the eventual vote. Passage of Prop. 51 was far less certain, as pre-election polling showed less than majority support for the measure. Brown had opposed the measure, and the California Teachers Association had taken no position on it and had not contributed any funds to get it passed.
Altogether, supporters of the three propositions spent $75.8 million to persuade voters to pass the measures, compared to $6,240 spent in opposition. That was in addition to the costs of drawing up and filing the initiatives, as well as gathering the signatures needed to put Props. 51 and 55 on the ballot. Prop. 58 was placed on the ballot by a two-thirds vote in the state Legislature, which meant that signature gathering was not necessary.
Prop. 58 will repeal the English-only requirement of Prop. 227 — a highly controversial measure passed in 1998 requiring English-only instruction for English learners. It also will remove the requirement that parents sign waivers if they wish to enroll their children in bilingual education programs. The measure will give local school districts the ability to decide how they want to serve English learners and what other bilingual programs to offer.
“This is a historic day, one to be celebrated,” said Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, executive director of Californians Together, a statewide advocacy coalition. “California will once again be the leader in promoting multilingual and biliteracy programs for all students.”
Ron Unz, chairman of “English for the Children,” which sponsored Prop. 227, said the changes wrought by Prop. 58 “are not good policy,” particularly the removal of the requirement that parents who want their children educated in a bilingual class sign a waiver.
Even so, Unz doubted there will be a dramatic increase in the number of students enrolled in bilingual classes with the passage of Prop. 58. He predicted that if English learners are not learning English fast enough, parents themselves will complain and the policy will have to be adjusted.
Prop. 51 will provide about $7 billion for K-12 school construction and $2 billion for community colleges. Of the $7 billion, $3 billion is earmarked for new construction, $3 billion will pay for modernization, $500 million will be spent on charter schools and $500 million will fund career technical education facilities.
“California voters chose to invest in students and to fulfill the promise of a robust public education system,” said Jenny Hannah, chief facilities officer at the Office of the Kern County Superintendent and chairwoman of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, which supported the measure. “Voters understood that students – from kindergarten through community college – cannot be adequately prepared for a modern workforce or higher education without safe, well-equipped school campuses.”
Executive Director Louis Freedberg contributed to this report.
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