Schools and Communities First Initiative Qualifies for November 2020 Ballot

On October 15, Schools and Communities First, a powerful statewide coalition of nearly 300 endorsing community organizations, labor unions, business leaders, philanthropic foundations and elected officials, announced the official qualification of the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act for the November 2020 ballot. This will be the first commercial property tax reform initiative to qualify for the ballot in 40 years since Prop 13 passed in 1978.

“Californians now have the opportunity to reform a 40-year injustice,” said Helen Hutchison, President of the League of Women Voters of California. “Representing organizations from every corner of the state, our grassroots coalition has made history. After five years of planning and strategizing, we have qualified a split roll initiative for the ballot–an achievement once thought impossible. In 2020, California voters can create a new future by investing in our people and our local communities.”

On August 14, simultaneous press conferences were held in 5 different cities across the state to announce the submission of 856,648 signatures in support of the measure, which needed 585,407 valid signatures to qualify. October 15 was the deadline for California’s 58 Counties to complete a random sample count, and today the Secretary of State announced qualification of the measure due to an exceptionally high verification rate.  Due to a large scale and sophisticated statewide volunteer signature gathering program expertly planned and executed by the coalition, the measure has qualified for the November 2020 general election via the random sample process instead of a full count. This is a significant achievement as more than 90 organizations and thousands of volunteers collaborated to ensure enough signatures were submitted to nearly guarantee qualification on the 2020 ballot in the most populous state in America.

Over the last 40 years, California has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue, leading to chronic underfunding of schools, services, and local communities along with poor local land use decisions, and a spiraling housing crisis. Schools and Communities First is the first structural and equitable tax reform in four decades. It will reclaim over $11 billion for schools and local communities, shaping a new legacy of investment in the people of California.

If passed, the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act would close the millionaire and billionaire corporate tax loophole in Prop 13 by requiring all commercial and industrial properties to be assessed at fair market value, putting California on par with how the vast majority of the country assesses commercial property. The measure will reclaim $11 billion every year, roughly half allocated for K-12 schools and community colleges, and the remaining allocated to counties and cities according to current property tax guidelines. The measure maintains Prop 13’s current protections for homeowners, renters and agriculture, and includes small business tax relief and oversight and accountability.

The case for split roll reform has been bolstered recently with the publishing of a peer-reviewed study by Dr. Chris Benner of UC Santa Cruz. His research found that passing a split roll reform measure in California would strengthen the economy, debunking a faulty 2012 Pepperdine study that claimed Prop 13 reform would lead to job loss. In addition, major endorsements from elected officials like State Senator Connie Leyva, and a unanimous vote of support from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in California and second largest in the nation, have helped compound recent momentum around the initiative.

Now that the initiative has qualified early, the Schools and Communities First Coalition will spend the next two years expanding the coalition, building public support, and raising the needed resources to counter the opposition’s misinformation campaign, which has already begun.

LAUSD Votes Unanimously To Endorse Schools and Communities First

By a vote of 6-0, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education unanimously voted to endorse the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act, also referred to as “Schools and Communities First”, which will appear on the November 2020 Ballot. The initiative would reclaim over $11 billion annually for schools and communities statewide by reforming the commercial property tax loophole created by Proposition 13 in 1978. Los Angeles County schools would receive an estimated $1.4 billion for K-12 education and community colleges .

“This is historic and long overdue,” said Alex Caputo-Pearl, President of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). “Students and teachers in the LAUSD have gone for many years with overcrowded classrooms and lack of access to nurses, counselors, and librarians. Teachers can’t afford to live in many neighborhoods and buy their own classroom supplies.  This measure will help students in school, and attract new, young educators to the field of K-12 education.”

The Schools and Communities First Coalition submitted over 870,000 signatures last month in order to qualify the initiative, popularly known as “Split Roll Reform” for the November 2020 election. This endorsement represents a significant milestone, as LAUSD is the largest public school system in California and the 2nd largest employer in Los Angeles County. Board Members Monica Garcia and Dr. Richard Vladovic jointly introduced the resolution to support the measure.

“California currently ranks  41st  in per-pupil spending putting a severe strain on students, families, and teachers of our K-12 schools and community colleges,” said Garcia, currently serving as President of the LAUSD Board. “This initiative will help to boost that funding,  especially in the poorest and most needy school districts. It will allow us to have smaller class sizes, and restore funding for programs that have been cut in the sciences, arts and music. We are grateful to the coalition of labor and community partners fighting to increase resources toward more adequacy and equity in California.

“As a recent graduate of LAUSD, I am excited to join the fight for more investment in education”, said Chelsea Rosales, who graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in El Sereno this year. “My friends and I see how hard our teachers and administrators work to prepare us for college and beyond, and more resources and funding would mean higher graduation and college acceptance rates for us. There is a wave of student activism happening across the country, and here in LAUSD we plan to make our voices heard in support of Schools and Communities First. All students deserve to feel like they can go to school and succeed.“

Since submitting over 870,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for the November 2020 ballot, Schools and Community First has very quickly picked up momentum garnering nearly 300 endorsements, including school boards, local officials, business leaders, philanthropic organizations, and community organizations.

The Schools and Communities First coalition unites every region, demographic and sector of California – from north to south, urban and rural, workers and business leaders, seniors and young people, teachers and students, homeowners and renters, and long-time residents and newcomers. Over the next 2 years, Schools and Communities First will continue to expand the coalition, engage in public education to strengthen the path to victory, and raise the needed resources through the existing broad bench of major funders and thousands of small donors. The aim will be to catalyze a conversation in California over the next two years about the need for Prop 13 reform, and build to significantly increase turnout among new and unlikely voters in 2020.

Schools and Communities First Submits Nearly 900K Signatures for Historic Prop 13 Reform

On August 14, Schools and Communities First, a powerful statewide coalition of nearly 300 endorsing community organizations, labor unions, business leaders, philanthropic foundations and elected officials, announced the submission of over 860,000 signatures to the 58 County Registrars to qualify the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act for the November 2020 ballot. The coalition’s deadline to qualify for November 2020 is August 20th and 585,407 verified signatures are required. This will be the first commercial property tax reform initiative to qualify for the ballot in 40 years since Prop 13 passed in 1978.

Simultaneous press conferences were held in 5 different cities across the state, including Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, and San Bernardino. Over the past 5 months, over 5,000 volunteers and 90 organizations collected more than 860,000 signatures. Hundreds of members of the coalition participated in the events across the state, which concluded with celebratory rallies after the formal press conference ended.

“Over the last 40 years, California has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue, leading to chronic underfunding of schools, services, and local communities along with poor local land use decisions, and a spiraling housing crisis,” said Helen Hutchison, President of the League of Women Voters of California. ”Schools and Communities First is the first structural and equitable tax reform in four decades. It will reclaim over $11 billion robbed every year from schools and local communities, shaping a new legacy of investment in the people of California.”

“California now boasts the 5th largest economy in the world, and yet has the highest rates of poverty, one of the lowest rates of per-pupil spending for our schools, and a housing crisis where teachers, nurses, and security guards can’t afford housing near their jobs. Investing in the future – schools, sustainable neighborhoods, and shared prosperity – is critical to our growing economy,” said Josh Pechthalt, President of California Federation of Teachers. “For too long California has treated children as second-class citizens while prioritizing the wealthiest corporations. This initiative will restore funding to K-12 schools and community colleges, ensuring all children in California have access to a world-class education.”

August 14th is 6 days before the deadline to submit and the first day of school for many districts across the state. By qualifying this year for the November 2020 ballot, the measure will be placed at the top of the 2020 ballot and will catalyze a conversation over the next two years about the need to tackle Prop 13’s commercial property inequities, long considered the untouchable “third rail” of California’s politics.

“This is a defining moment for California,” said Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation. “Closing the commercial property tax loopholes is important to our state and to our Bay Area region. It is

our opportunity to affect positive change by restoring more than $11 billion a year to our schools and vital community services without raising taxes on homeowners, renters, and small businesses.”

The case for split roll reform has been bolstered recently with the publishing of a peer-reviewed study by Dr. Chris Benner of UC Santa Cruz, “Market Value”. Dr. Benner’s research found that passing a split roll reform measure in California would strengthen California’s economy, debunking a faulty 2012 Pepperdine study that claims Prop 13 reform would lead to job loss.

If passed, the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act would close the millionaire and billionaire corporate tax loophole in Prop 13 by requiring all commercial and industrial properties to be assessed at fair market value, putting California on par with how the vast majority of the country assesses commercial property. The measure will reclaim $11 billion every year, roughly half allocated for K-12 schools and community colleges, and the remaining allocated to counties and cities according to current property tax guidelines. The measure maintains Prop 13’s current protections for homeowners, renters and agriculture, and includes small business tax relief and oversight and accountability.

The Schools and Communities First coalition unites every region, demographic and sector of California – from north to south, urban and rural, workers and business leaders, seniors and young people, teachers and students, homeowners and renters, and long-time residents and newcomers. Over the next 2 years, Schools and Communities First will continue to expand the coalition, engage in public education to strengthen the path the win, and raise the needed resources through the existing broad bench of major funders and thousands of small donors. The aim will be to catalyze a conversation in California over the next two years about the need for Prop 13 reform, and build to significantly increase turnout among new and unlikely voters in 2020.

“Today we are taking a huge step toward building a strong and prosperous California, one where everyone can get ahead,” said Andrea Guerrero, Executive Director of Alliance San Diego. “The time is now to build power from the ground up to ensure that California puts people, kids, and communities first – not corporate interests. By reclaiming over $11 billion robbed every year from schools and local communities — including $1 billion that will directly benefit San Diego County — we will shape a new legacy of investing in the people of California.”