Failure of School Bond Measures Could Spell Trouble

The historic defeat of California’s $15 billion school bond measure has taken a number of observers by surprise. To make sense of it, some have blamed confusion over the ballot measure’s number (Prop 13). But individual school districts also saw their fair share of bad news on March 3. That has raised questions about a larger phenomenon at work.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, a spate of school bond measures went down in defeat in San Diego County last week.

Bond measures proposed by Chula Vista, Cajon Valley, Lakeside, Poway and Escondido Union School Districts did not get enough votes to pass, according to preliminary ballot returns posted Wednesday by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. In two of those cases, Chula Vista and Escondido, the proposed bond measures drew more than 50 percent approval, but fell short of the 55 percent supermajority needed to pass. Only Measures T and U, both proposed by San Ysidro School District, passed muster with voters. Those measures, however, were designed to supplant unspent money from a previous 1997 bond measure, and did not allocate new funds.

Is there a growing aversion to borrowing and taxes in California? That’s the question posed by CalMatters’ Dan Walters. As he notes, in addition to the failure of Prop 13 and many local school bonds, over half of California’s 236 local tax measures were rejected by voters. That could mean trouble ahead for furture bond measures and a November ballot measure that would roll back some of the tax protections offered by the original Prop 13.  

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times continues to be perplexed by the failure of the statewide school bond measure on Tuesday. In a ruthless op-ed, the editorial board wrote:

Ultimately, the problem here is with voters. As is too often the case, they either didn’t bother to learn what this Proposition 13 really was about, or they didn’t care enough about public schools to vote for vital construction and maintenance projects.