Paying Back, Voting Forward

by Jeff Camp | February 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
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Election Day Approaches

My vote-by-mail ballot is staring at me. I will fill it out soon, I promise. I usually start my ballot research using VotersEdge, a nonprofit, nonpartisan project of the League of Women Voters.

The Democratic presidential primary is occupying most of the limelight this month, fueled by massive ad spending by the campaigns. But this election is consequential for other reasons, too. The March ballot includes far more than the presidential primary.

Crucial Votes for Education

When it comes to education, the most important item is Proposition 13 (2020), which the state legislature placed on the ballot with nearly unanimous bipartisan votes. If passed, it will provide state funds to support local construction and renovation of public schools and colleges throughout the state. You can learn a lot more about Prop 13 (2020) in our blog.

On the same ballot, voters in some school districts will also decide whether to support a local school bond measure. In many cases the votes will be connected because state school construction bonds, including this one, are structured as matching funds.

In a handful of school districts, voters will also choose whether to support their local schools with a parcel tax. These measures are not for construction or facilities — instead they pay for teachers and other costs of operating schools. Parcel taxes are difficult to pass because they require a ⅔ supermajority of votes. Effectively, it takes two yes votes to counteract one no vote.


School districts depend on these measures passing, but they cannot campaign for them.

Donor and Volunteer Fatigue

Elections matter. To influence the outcome, individuals and interests exercise their right to speak — and the power of "speech" is amplified with dollars. Some predict that the total expenditures just on advertising in the 2020 elections will reach $10 billion.

Leaders of nonprofit organizations look on with a mix of professional admiration and frank jealousy, imagining all the good they could do with such lucre. As recently as 2016, there was little evidence that political donations were displacing nonprofit donations, but the numbers have continued to expand. At some level, generosity is zero-sum. Donors ask themselves: will I do more good by donating to support a candidate, or by donating to support a nonprofit organization?

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