Adventures in Ed Funding

New Revenues for California Schools & Local Communities? Journey Into the Heart of Proposition 15

July 10, 2020 California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO) Season 1 Episode 24
Adventures in Ed Funding
New Revenues for California Schools & Local Communities? Journey Into the Heart of Proposition 15
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Proposition 15 on the November 3, 2020 statewide ballot would generate billions in new funding for schools and other local services by changing the way commercial and industrial property taxes are assessed. How would Proposition 15 work? And how is the campaign shaping up?

In this episode, guests David Goldberg, Vice-President of the 310,000-member California Teachers Association (CTA); Saa’un Bell, Strategy Director for Californians for Justice; and Tim Gage, longtime fiscal policy expert and former director of the State Department of Finance take us on a journey into the heart of Schools and Communities First.

A broad-based coalition of organizations have been driving this effort. Proponents say the initiative would revise Proposition 13 (passed in 1978) to require larger, older corporate and commercial property owners to pay their fair share in property taxes. When fully implemented, the measure would generate about $11.5 billion in new revenues for education and community services, with public schools receiving about 40 percent of those new dollars. 

Throughout our series, we’ve examined how California, which once ranked among the top states in per-student funding prior to Proposition 13, slid into a decades-long school funding decline. We repeatedly pose the question: What will it take for California to get back among the top-spending states, so we can provide the level of resources that research shows all students need to succeed? Proposition 15 may be a critical component of that answer.


An educator for more than 20 years, CTA Vice President David B. Goldberg has spent most of his career as a bilingual teacher at Murchison Elementary in the Los Angeles USD. In addition to serving two terms on the CTA Board, he also served as treasurer of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and was the youngest executive officer to ever hold office in that union.

As a former English Language Learner student from Long Beach USD and first generation college graduate, Saa’un Bell is committed to building a public education infrastructure where all students have opportunities to fulfill their highest aspirations. Saa’un joined CFJ in 2009; currently, she oversees all communications & narrative strategy for regional and statewide campaigns. Listen to more from Saa'un about LCFF.

Principal and co-founder of Blue Sky Consulting, Tim Gage is a highly regarded public servant, having spent over 24 years as a top fiscal advisor in both houses of the California Legislature and as the Director of the California Department of Finance from 1999-2003. He specializes in state-local relations and tax policy.


The California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO) is the premier resource for professional development and business best practices for California's school business leaders. Follow at @CASBO.

About your series guide
Paul Richman is a public education advocate and consultant. Contact him at We value your feedback! Follow at @pjr100

Introduction, overview & context -- Exploring Proposition 15 on the November 2020 ballot: Schools and Communities First
Initial perspectives from CTA Vice President DAVID GOLDBERG; CTA is a major proponent of Proposition 15
Why Schools and Communities First? David says it's an opportunity to reframe and address decades of underfunding in our schools and local services.
Introducing TIM GAGE, fiscal and state-local government policy expert
Tim Explains how Proposition 13 passed in 1978 treated commercial and industrial property tax assessments, and how Proposition 15 (2020) would change that.
Does Proposition 15 address residential property taxes in any way?
Why changing the way commercial and industrial property is assessed is considered to be "closing a loophole" in Proposition 13.
How much additional revenue would Proposition 15 raise and by when?
"It's really a long-term investment."
How would the money generated by Proposition 15 be allocated to K-12 schools, community colleges, and cities, counties and special districts?
Are these truly additional funds for schools and local services?
More about how the measure would work: Tim explains safeguards aimed at protecting small businesses.
About 92% of the new revenues generated by Schools and Communities First would come from only 10% of the largest properties.
Tim addresses the question of whether large property owners would simply "pass on" any added costs as a result of property reassessments to their tenants. The fact is, he says, those property owners have already been charging their tenants "market" value.
One last question for Tim: Given the enormous underfunding of California schools, does Proposition 15 go far enough in raising additional revenues?
DAVID GOLDBERG from CTA also addresses the question: Does Proposition go far enough in addressing the severe underfunding of California schools? David says only a broader coalition effort such as through Prop. 15 can succeed in meeting the ultimate needs.
Schools and local communities need investment on a far greater magnitude -- but this gives us a "reframe" for how to move forward to achieve that, David says.
"We have to take on the savage inequality in this state."
The coalition supporting Proposition 15 is broad-based.
It will take more than ballot measures to ultimately meet the funding needs of our students. Legislators and state leaders need to do their part, David says.
Making changes to Proposition 13 has often been considered a "third-rail" in California politics. Why do Prop. 15 supporters think 2020 is the time to take it on? "At the end of the day, this is the struggle to have."
What are some key messages David would want everyone to know about Proposition 15?
The policy and fiscal reforms proposed in Proposition 15 have actually been in the works for many years.
Paul asks, How is the campaign shaping up? What can you share with us?
David talks about his personal engagement in the effort. "The savage inequities in local services and public education -- that's what keeps me motivated every day."
Introducing SAA'UN BELL, Strategy Director at Californians For Justice -- We interviewed her back in February for the LCFF episode -- and also discussed Schools and Communities First
Saa'un talks about the Schools and Communities First movement.
Schools and Communities First would be a key milestone along the way to restoring there 40-plus year divestment in public schools that has occurred in California, Saa'un says.
Why is it so important that Proposition 15 addresses not only school funding needs, but also funding needs of other key local services?
Closing credits