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 A Look at Education-Related Ballot Initiatives

The California ballot for the Nov. 8 general election is long and filled with initiatives dealing with a wide range of issues. Four measures of the measures are particularly related to education. They are:

Proposition 51 would authorize $9 billion in bonds to build new schools and modernize existing ones. Most of the money would be for K-12 schools, with about $2 billion for community colleges. Borrowing this amount would cost the state an extra $8.6 billion in interest. The state would likely pay off the debt over 35 years, at a cost of about $500 million a year.

Proposition 55 would extend the 2012 voter-approved tax increase on high-income earners until 2030. The tax applies to earnings over $250,000 a year for individuals, or over $500,000 for couples. Unlike the previous tax, this money does not go just to education but also pays for health care for low-income children.

Proposition 56 would add a $2 tax to cigarettes, electronic cigarettes containing nicotine, and other tobacco products to primarily increase funding for existing health care programs. If passed, this initiative could potentially add $1 billion to $1.4 billion in revenue in 2017-18, with potentially lower amounts in future years. It would also increase Proposition 98 funds because an additional excise tax will result in higher sales tax revenues. An estimated $20 million to $30 million will be set aside for anti-tobacco programs to be sponsored by the California Department of Education. 

Proposition 58 would repeal Proposition 227, which California voters approved nearly 20 years ago. Proposition 227 required schoolchildren to be taught almost exclusively in English. Proposition 58 would remove those restrictions and allow public schools to decide how to teach English learners – approximately one fifth of California students. Schools could choose from among English-only, bilingual, or other programs.

Read more about the state initiatives on the ballot on the attorney general's website.