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Offical Voter Info Guide Cal Statewide March 2, 2004 Primary Election 10-7-2003
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Ballot Measure Summary

Proposition 55
  Arguments and Rebuttals
  Text of Proposed Law
Proposition 56
Proposition 57
Proposition 58
Bond Overview


Proposition 55


Public education in California consists of two distinct systems. One system includes local school districts that provide elementary and secondary (kindergarten through 12th grade, or "K-12") education to about 6.2 million pupils. The other system (commonly referred to as "higher education") includes the California Community Colleges (CCCs), the California State University (CSU), and the University of California (UC). The three segments of higher education provide education programs beyond the 12th grade to the equivalent of about 1.6 million full-time students.

K-12 Schools

School Facilities Funding. The K-12 schools receive funding for construction and modernization (that is, renovation) of facilities from two main sources—state general obligation bonds and local general obligation bonds. General obligation bonds are backed by the state and school districts, meaning that they are obligated to pay the principal and interest costs on these bonds.

  • State General Obligation Bonds. The state, through the School Facility Program (SFP), provides money for school districts to buy land and to construct and renovate K-12 school buildings. Districts receive funding for construction and renovation based on the number of pupils who meet the eligibility criteria of the program. The cost of school construction projects is shared between the state and local school districts. The state pays 50 percent of the cost of new construction projects and 60 percent of the cost for approved modernization projects. (Local matches are not necessary in "hardship" cases.) The state has funded the SFP by issuing general obligation bonds. General Fund revenues would be used to pay these costs. These revenues come primarily from state income and sales taxes. Over the past decade, voters have approved a total of $20.1 billion in state bonds for K-12 school construction. About $1.9 billion of these funds remain available for expenditure.
  • Local General Obligation Bonds. School districts are authorized to sell general obligation bonds to finance school construction projects with the approval of 55 percent of the voters in the district. These bonds are paid off by taxes on real property located within the district. Over the last ten years, school districts have received voter approval to issue more than $37 billion of general obligation bonds.

Although school facilities have been funded primarily from state and local general obligation bonds, school districts also receive significant funds from:

  • Developer Fees. State law authorizes school districts to impose developer fees on new construction. These fees are levied on new residential, commercial, and industrial developments. Statewide, school districts report having received an average of over $400 million a year in developer fees over the last decade.
  • Special Local Bonds (Known as "Mello-Roos" Bonds). School districts may form special districts in order to sell bonds for school construction projects. (These special districts generally do not encompass the entire school district.) The bonds, which require two-thirds voter approval, are paid off by charges assessed to property owners in the special district. Statewide, school districts have received on average about $270 million a year in special local bond proceeds over the past ten years.

K-12 School Building Needs. Under the SFP, K-12 school districts must demonstrate the need for new or modernized facilities. Through September 2004, the districts have identified a need to construct new schools to house nearly 1 million pupils and modernize schools for an additional 1.1 million pupils. The state cost to address these needs is estimated to be roughly $16 billion.

Higher Education

California's system of public higher education includes 141 campuses in the three segments listed below, serving about 1.6 million students:

  • The CCCs provide instruction to 1.1 million students at 108 campuses operated by 72 locally governed districts throughout the state. The community colleges grant associate degrees and also offer a variety of vocational skill courses.
  • The CSU has 23 campuses, with an enrollment of about 331,000 students. The system grants bachelor and master degrees, and a small number of joint doctoral degrees with UC.
  • The UC has nine general campuses, one health sciences campus, and various affiliated institutions, with a total enrollment of about 201,000 students. This system offers bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees, and is the primary state-supported agency for conducting research.

Over the past decade, the voters have approved $5.1 billion in general obligation bonds for capital improvements at public higher education campuses. Virtually all of these funds have been committed to specific projects. The state also has provided almost $1.6 billion in lease revenue bonds (authorized by the Legislature) for this same purpose.

In addition to these state bonds, the higher education segments have other sources of funding for capital projects.

Amount (in Millions)
New construction projects $5,260a
Modernization projects 2,250
Critically overcrowded schools 2,440
Joint use 50
   Subtotal, K-12 ($10,000)b
Higher Education
Community Colleges $920
California State University 690
University of California 690
   Subtotal, Higher Education ($2,300)
TOTAL $12,300
aUp to $300 million available for charter schools.
bUp to $20 million available for energy conservation projects.
  • Local General Obligation Bonds. Community college districts are authorized to sell general obligation bonds to finance school construction projects with the approval of 55 percent of the voters in the district. These bonds are paid off by taxes on real property located within the district. Over the last decade, community college districts have received local voter approval to issue over $7 billion of bonds for construction and renovation of facilities.
  • Gifts and Grants. The CSU and UC in recent years together have received on average over $100 million annually in gifts and grants for construction of facilities.
  • UC Research Revenue. The UC finances the construction of new research facilities by selling bonds and pledging future research revenue for their repayment. Currently, UC uses about $130 million a year of research revenue to pay off these bonds.

Higher Education Building Plans. Each year the institutions of higher education prepare capital outlay plans in which they identify project priorities over the next few years. Higher education capital outlay projects in the most recent plans total $5.3 billion for the period 2003-04 through 2007-08.


This measure allows the state to issue $12.3 billion of general obligation bonds for construction and renovation of K-12 school facilities ($10 billion) and higher education facilities ($2.3 billion). Figure 1 shows how these bond funds would be allocated to K-12 and higher education.

Future Education Bond Act. If the voters do not approve this measure, state law requires the same bond issue to be placed on the November 2004 ballot.

K-12 School Facilities

Figure 1 describes generally how the $10 billion for K-12 school projects would be allocated. However, the measure would permit changes in this allocation with the approval of the Legislature and Governor.

New Construction. A total of $5.26 billion would be available to buy land and construct new school buildings. A district would be required to pay for 50 percent of costs with local resources unless it qualifies for state hardship funding. The measure also provides that up to $300 million of these new construction funds is available for charter school facilities. (Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of many of the requirements of regular public schools.)

Modernization. The proposition makes $2.25 billion available for the reconstruction or modernization of existing school facilities. Districts would be required to pay 40 percent of project costs from local resources.

Critically Overcrowded Schools. This proposition directs a total of $2.44 billion to districts with schools which are considered critically overcrowded. These funds would go to schools that have a large number of pupils relative to the size of the school site.

Joint-Use Projects. The measure makes a total of $50 million available to fund joint-use projects. (An example of a joint-use project is a facility constructed for use by both a K-12 school district and a local library district.)

Higher Education Facilities

The measure includes $2.3 billion to construct new buildings and related infrastructure, alter existing buildings, and purchase equipment for use in these buildings for California's public higher education systems. As Figure 1 shows, the measure allocates $690 million each to UC and CSU and $920 million to CCCs. The Governor and the Legislature would select the specific projects to be funded by the bond monies.


The cost of these bonds would depend on their interest rates and the time period over which they are repaid. If the $12.3 billion in bonds authorized by this proposition is sold at an interest rate of 5.25 percent (the current rate for this type of bond) and repaid over 30 years, the cost over the period would be about $24.7 billion to pay off both the principal ($12.3 billion) and interest ($12.4 billion). The average payment for principal and interest would be about $823 million per year.

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