A parcel tax that would have raised $500 million a year for the Los Angeles Unified School District has been decisively defeated.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the ballot question, Measure EE, need a two-thirds majority to pass, but only about 45% of voters approved.
District officials say a significant infusion of money is badly needed to provide more resources and staffing to classrooms. They pointed to much higher spending levels for schools in New York City and other large urban areas. The school system also needs more money to deal with a long-term projected funding shortfall, which is exacerbated by commitments to pay for retiree health benefits and pension obligations.
Opponents had argued the district must demonstrate better use of the money it has and that the tax increase would hurt families and businesses.
School district leaders and their allies, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, had envisioned Measure EE as a crucial building block in reshaping the district.
Pursuing a parcel tax was an aggressive change of direction for district leaders. They had rejected that strategy less than a year earlier as unlikely to succeed.
Opinions changed after a six-day teachers’ strike in January, which seemed to generate broad support for the issues raised by teachers, including their advocacy for more education funding.
Based on promising polling, Superintendent Austin Beutner put aside his previous caution and urged the school board to make the try.
Measure EE would have imposed a levy of 16 cents per square foot of indoor space on a property, excluding parking areas. It would have raised an estimated $500 million annually over its 12-year term.
Across most of the school system, the tax measure was the only item on the ballot, meaning that the district had to bear more of the cost of the election—about $12.5 million. In addition, the district set aside up to $1 million for an information campaign that, under election rules, stopped short of directly urging people to vote for the measure.
The slim ballot likely depressed turnout, especially following a May school board election. Low-turnout elections generally bring out a disproportionately older, more conservative, less tax-friendly electorate.