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Proposition 51 – School Bonds

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Official Title

Kindergarten Through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2016


Proposition 51 would authorize the state to sell $9 billion of general obligation bonds—$7 billion for K-12 school facilities and $2 billion for community college facilities.  The $7 billion designated for K-12 school facilities would fund four types of projects – new construction, modernization, career technical education (CTE) facilities, and charter school facilities.  Proposition 51 also includes $2 billion for community colleges to construct new buildings and related infrastructure, modernize existing buildings, and purchase equipment.  The Governor and Legislature would approve the specific projects to be funded by the bond monies in the annual budget act over the next several years.

Since the creation of the School Facilities Program (SFP) in 1998, voters have approved a total of $35 billion in state general obligation bonds for K-12 school facilities. The state still has about $200 million in K-12 bond authority, primarily consisting of funds designated for seismic projects ($140 million) and charter school facilities ($32 million). The state exhausted bond authority for new construction and modernization programs in 2012.

The last recession had a dramatic impact on California's funding for its educational system.  Many school construction and modernization projects were delayed or canceled due to budget cuts implemented during the recession.  Under Proposition 51, investments will be made in partnership with local school districts to upgrade aging facilities to meet current health and safety standards, including retrofitting for earthquake safety and the removal of lead paint, asbestos and other hazardous materials.  Some studies show that 13,000 jobs are created for each $1 billion of state infrastructure investment. These jobs include building and construction trades jobs throughout the state.

Fiscal Impact:

According to the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO), the cost to taxpayers to repay the bonds would be approximately $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.

CCC Position:

No position


Supporters of Proposition 51 include Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the California Democratic Party, the California Republican Party, the California Taxpayers Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Association of School Business Officials, the California School Boards Association, the California State PTA, the Community College League of California, the State Building and Construction Trades Council, and over 125 school districts and county offices of education.

Supporters of Proposition 51 argue that it will provide for much-needed state investment in the construction and modernization of K-12 public school facilities, charter schools and vocational educational facilities, and community colleges.  They state that while local school districts are doing their part, now it is time for the state to fulfill its funding responsibility.  California has not passed a statewide school bond in ten years, and, consequently, faces a massive backlog of local school projects.  Proposition 51 will modernize and repair schools to 21st century standards and will upgrade classroom technology, science labs, libraries, and career technical education program facilities to ensure all school children have access to a quality education.


Opponents of Proposition 51 include the California Taxpayers Action Network. 

Opponents assert that, since 1998, California voters have approved $35 billion in state school construction bonds.  While these previous bonds were placed on the ballot by the Legislature and backed by the Governor, opponents state that the Legislature did not put Proposition 51 on the ballot, and the Governor opposes it.  California already pays $2 billion each year on state school bonds, and Proposition 51 would cost an additional $500 million each year – money the state does not have.  Opponents believe that local control is the best way to minimize government waste, and that for school construction projects, local bond measures work better than statewide bonds. 

Reflections on Church Teaching:

"All men of every race, condition and age, since they enjoy the dignity of a human being, have an inalienable right to an education that is in keeping with their ultimate goal, their ability, their sex, and the culture and tradition of their country, and also in harmony with their fraternal association with other peoples in the fostering of true unity and peace on earth. For a true education aims at the formation of the human person in the pursuit of his ultimate end and of the good of the societies of which, as man, he is a member, and in whose obligations, as an adult, he will share."  Gravissimum Educationis (Declaration on Christian Education), Vatican II (1965).

"It is incumbent on those who exercise authority to strengthen the values that inspire the confidence of the members of the group and encourage them to put themselves at the service of others. Participation begins with education and culture. One is entitled to think that the future of humanity is in the hands of those who are capable of providing the generations to come with reasons for life and optimism."  Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1917.

“Education cannot be neutral. It is either positive or negative; either it enriches or it impoverishes; either it enables a person to grow or it lessens, even corrupts him. The mission of schools is to develop a sense of truth, of what is good and beautiful. And this occurs through a rich path made up of many ingredients. This is why there are so many subjects — because development is the results of different elements that act together and stimulate intelligence, knowledge, the emotions, the body, and so on.”  Pope Francis, address with Italian school teachers, May 10, 2014.

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See also: Proposition 58