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Proposition 13 and the California School System

Proposition 13 and the California School System

To understand the effects of Proposition 13 on the California school system, we must first understand what Proposition 13 is. We must also briefly glance at the events leading up to Proposition 13, also known as the Jarvis-Gann initiative. Proposition 13, adopted on June 16, 1978, is an amendment to the Constitution of California. It forever changed Californian property laws and sent massive shock waves across other state governments.

“The sound roaring out of the West- what was it? A California earthquake? A Pacific tidal wave threatening to sweep across the country? Literally, it was neither; figuratively, it was both. That angry noise was the sound of a middle class tax revolt erupting . . .”
Time, June 19, 1978

Before Proposition 13- The Tax Revolt

There are 2 factors that stand out when striving to understand the brief history of Proposition 13. These factors include the unusual economic conditions of the late 1970’s and the ineffective political leadership of that era.

The economic conditions present in that era, different than those of prior eras, were a major contribution to the tax revolt of the late 1970’s. Incomes, which were on the rise throughout the post-World War II period, began to decline in 1973. At the same time, government spending was experiencing a period of steady increase. Prior to 1973, both government spending and income experienced a period of steady increase. Throughout the 1960’s, there were no fluctuations in the percentage of income taken as taxes by both state and local governments, although income and spending grew at an increased rate. But government spending in California continued to grow 30 percent faster than did income throughout the 1970’s.

The public sector was now feeling the effects of inflation on tax revenues. Rising prices began to increase sales tax revenue, while rising money incomes skyrocketed taxpayers into unwanted higher tax brackets. However, real incomes had not increased at all. Local governments now experienced a huge increase in state income tax. The sudden increase in single-family home values caused homeowner’s property taxes to rise. At the same time, poor economic conditions held business property tax rates steady. California taxpayers paid 12.7 percent of their income in state and local taxes in 1970. By 1978, this...

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