Courtesy of UTLA
Educators in the United Teachers Los Angeles union march for a new contract on Dec. 15, 2018.
This story was updated June 5, 2019 with additional comments from supporters and opponents of the measure.

Setting back efforts to restore Los Angeles Unified to financial health, voters have decisively rejected a tax on real estate which would have raised approximately $500 million annually for the state’s largest school district. 

With 100 percent of precincts reporting at 1 a.m. Wednesday, Measure EE won only 45.68 percent of the vote, with 54.32 percent against. That was more than 20 percentage points less than the two-thirds majority the parcel tax measure needed for passage.

The measure, which would have been in effect for 12 years, would have imposed a tax of 16 cents per square foot of interior space on residential and commercial property. The owner of a 2,000 square-foot-house would have paid $320 a year.

The overwhelming defeat of the measure represents a major setback to teachers and many other backers of the measure, including the Los Angeles school board and Mayor Eric Garcetti. The board voted unanimously in February to put Measure EE on the ballot in the wake of a teachers’ strike that attracted significant public support. The board commissioned a survey earlier this year that showed that more than two-thirds of respondents said they would support a 16 cents per square foot parcel tax. 

The results of that survey and the momentum from the teachers’ strike gave district leaders optimism that Measure EE could generate enough support to get over the high bar of a two-thirds majority vote. 

Among the many factors that contributed to the measure’s defeat was the strong opposition of several business organizations, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Despite the defeat, prominent supporters said they would not give up.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Garcetti said at a Tuesday night rally in Boyle Heights. “Pass or not, tomorrow we roll up our sleeves and continue that work.”

L.A. Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner spoke Wednesday at a press conference at Western Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles. “The kids can’t wait any longer,” he said. “This is not the end, but rather the beginning of our fight to adequately fund public schools.”

At the same news conference, school board member George McKenna said the supporters of Measure EE “intend to be back again.”

“To reach out to our community and be rejected the way we were, I feel badly about it. But it doesn’t mean we quit. I’m a competitor,” he said. “I intend and we intend to be back again and try to be more persuasive.”

McKenna didn’t specify whether the board plans to bring another parcel tax to the ballot. Some members of the board previously advocated for waiting until 2020 to put the measure on the ballot, when turnout could be higher, particularly among liberal voters.

Another board member, Nick Melvoin, said in a statement Wednesday that he hopes the Measure EE coalition “doubles down on our efforts” but also called on supporters to “learn the lessons from yesterday’s defeat.”

“Voters believe LA Unified needs to do more to reform and improve outcomes for kids in addition to seeking increased investment,” he added.

Opponents of the measure celebrated Tuesday’s results.

“Yesterday, Los Angeles voters showed us they want absolute accountability and oversight when asked to approve impactful tax increases like Measure EE,” said Maria Salinas, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Failure to get voter approval of the tax could make it more difficult for the district to follow through on promises it made at the end of January’s teachers’ strike to hire additional support staff, reduce class sizes and increase teachers’ pay. The district has said the class-size reductions and the additional nurses, counselors and librarians that the district committed to will cost $403 million over the next three years.

The agreement between the district and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the teachers’ union, also called for giving teachers a 6 percent raise.

Concerns have already been raised about whether the district will be able to pay for the commitments it made in the contract. The Los Angeles County Office of Education said in a report to the district board earlier this year that the contract “is not sustainable on an ongoing basis.”

The tax measure was backed by district leaders as well as both union and charter supporters. Both major unions, the teachers’ union and Local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which represents most of the district’s non-teaching employees, supported the measure. Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist, and the California Charter Schools Association also supported the tax.

In the voter’s guide, the argument in favor of the measure, signed by Garcetti and others, called the tax a “critical part of the solution to the public education funding crisis that was highlighted by the recent teachers strike.”

Several business groups, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, opposed the measure and mounted a campaign against it, arguing that district officials couldn’t be trusted to spend the money as they said they would.

The anti-measure statement in the ballot read in part: “DON’T BE FOOLED. Money from the tax won’t add resources to classrooms. It will be used to temporarily fix a budget deficit and to pay for LAUSD’s over-promised pension and health insurance costs.”

Tuesday’s vote marked the second time since 2010 that the district had failed to pass a parcel tax. The 2010 measure received less than 53 percent of voter support.

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  1. Marcus 4 months ago4 months ago

    LAUSD baby sits rather than educates. It produces, at best, cheated “graduates” that are barely educated. It wastes all our money. Considering the undisputed fact that anyone that wants a real education for their kids in L.A. needs to “pony up” for private school money, LAUSD needs to be phased out, and quickly. Bring on more charter schools.

  2. JudiAU 4 months ago4 months ago

    Even with children in public and charter LAUSD schools, I didn’t believe this measure would improve education in LA. Certainly not at our district school— LAUSD will spend the money on writing rules about pencil sharpening, hire designated pencil sharpeners at remote locations, ship broken pencils FedEx, then increase class size because of lead newly discovered graphite allergies requiring additional medical expenses. The trust is not there. And I voted for it. Our charter school … Read More

    Even with children in public and charter LAUSD schools, I didn’t believe this measure would improve education in LA. Certainly not at our district school— LAUSD will spend the money on writing rules about pencil sharpening, hire designated pencil sharpeners at remote locations, ship broken pencils FedEx, then increase class size because of lead newly discovered graphite allergies requiring additional medical expenses. The trust is not there. And I voted for it.

    Our charter school will probably spend it wisely. At least they listen and try.

  3. Daniel Plonsey 4 months ago4 months ago

    On the one hand, it simply doesn't make sense to claim that you can improve schools by paying teachers less. Pay for teachers in constant dollars has been declining for years, and teachers are leaving the profession. It's also nonsensical to want class sizes as large as they are in LA. On the other hand, a parcel tax is regressive taxation, and inadequate funding for education is a statewide problem. Meanwhile, the wealthiest Californians are … Read More

    On the one hand, it simply doesn’t make sense to claim that you can improve schools by paying teachers less. Pay for teachers in constant dollars has been declining for years, and teachers are leaving the profession. It’s also nonsensical to want class sizes as large as they are in LA. On the other hand, a parcel tax is regressive taxation, and inadequate funding for education is a statewide problem. Meanwhile, the wealthiest Californians are rapidly acquiring a growing share of all the wealth. The solution is to tax the wealthiest at much, much higher rates.

  4. Anonymous 4 months ago4 months ago

    I think people are willing to pay for something when they see a real improvement or benefit. Evidently the voters didn’t have confidence that the extra cash would make much of a difference.

  5. JudiAU 4 months ago4 months ago

    As a parent of school-age children, I voted for EE. I think property taxes are too low and the schools are generally underfunded. I’ve never missed any election. But I had a hard time making myself go the polls because I have no confidence in LAUSD. The money will be wasted on bureaucratic idea, forms, and benefits. LAUSD serves the best interests of its employees not students. The best thing for is fiscal crisis, county … Read More

    As a parent of school-age children, I voted for EE. I think property taxes are too low and the schools are generally underfunded. I’ve never missed any election. But I had a hard time making myself go the polls because I have no confidence in LAUSD. The money will be wasted on bureaucratic idea, forms, and benefits. LAUSD serves the best interests of its employees not students. The best thing for is fiscal crisis, county or state takeover, union contracts dissolved, benefits slashed, admin cut in half, and the money funneled to class size reduction and more options.

  6. Dr. Bill Conrad 4 months ago4 months ago

    4 years of student outcome data for LAUSD (http://sipbigpicture.com) would suggest that there is a crisis in academic achievement within the school district. Beutner's theory of action of providing more autonomy to principals is a political and not structural solution. The union's solution of reduced class size is not supported by research. Professor John Hattie reports very low effect size on academic achievement with reduced class size unless it is accompanied by improvements in … Read More

    4 years of student outcome data for LAUSD (http://sipbigpicture.com) would suggest that there is a crisis in academic achievement within the school district. Beutner’s theory of action of providing more autonomy to principals is a political and not structural solution. The union’s solution of reduced class size is not supported by research. Professor John Hattie reports very low effect size on academic achievement with reduced class size unless it is accompanied by improvements in professional practices especially the use of formative assessment with descriptive feedback.

    The people and business community could easily see through this charade and rejected the tax increase. Until LAUSD admits that it is in the intensive care for low academic achievement and commits to the systematic improvement and alignment of professional practices, curricula, and assessments. It is that simple. Establish the appropriate goals and modus operandi and then go to the voters to ask for Mo $. Better yet, take on this basic theory of action, show results and then go to the voters to ask for Mo $.

  7. Derek Parker 4 months ago4 months ago

    I think the message here from voters is, “While we support teachers with our mouth, we’re taxed enough thank you very much.”

  8. Daniel P Rice 4 months ago4 months ago

    One of the highest funded school districts in the country that continually produces some of the worst educated students by way of some of the highest paid educators in the country. The reason this was voted down is because we know the money supposedly taxed for children and education will be funnelled into something else, just like it has been for decades. California keeps saying it's one of the biggest economies in the world by … Read More

    One of the highest funded school districts in the country that continually produces some of the worst educated students by way of some of the highest paid educators in the country. The reason this was voted down is because we know the money supposedly taxed for children and education will be funnelled into something else, just like it has been for decades. California keeps saying it’s one of the biggest economies in the world by itself, yet we have a raging homeless epidemic, more poverty than the rest of the country, and very few people in positions of power care to do anything about but fill their own pockets under the guise of helping children and the future.

    Replies

    • el 4 months ago4 months ago

      On a per student basis, LAUSD isn’t even close to being in the top funded districts in the country.

  9. Kdub Ferguson 4 months ago4 months ago

    It seems rather short-sighted of the community not to support the local schools. This will affect students!! The bottom line is that we need to support those who support our students.

    Replies

    • Joe S 4 months ago4 months ago

      I voted “No” because I am sick and tired of forking over $1000’s every year, only for Garcetti and others to tell me I’m not paying my fair share. Enough is never enough for these people. Want even more $$ for the schools? Bill the parents.

      • Rosy Martin 4 months ago4 months ago

        Agreed