There were 10 local school bonds on the ballot in Orange County on Tuesday, and all but two of them passed by healthy margins.
Measure M in the Capistrano Unified School District – the “Billion Dollar Bond” – was soundly defeated:
As was Measure K in the Brea Olinda School District:
The eight other school bonds all passed:
Measure J (Anaheim Elementary School District)
Yes – 73.9%
No – 26.1%
Measure N “Building Strong Neighborhood Schools” (Centralia Elementary School District
Yes – 70%
No – 30%
Measure O “Basic Repairs and Essential Upgrades for Our Students (Fountain Valley School District)
Yes – 63.2%
No – 36.8%
Measure P “Measure to Improve Safety and Learning Environments” (Garden Grove Unified School District)
Yes – 74.6%
No – 25.4%
Measure Q “Bond Measure Election” (Huntington Beach City School District)
Yes – 63.1%
No – 36.9%
Measure R “Ocean View Schools Student Success Measure” (Ocean View School District)
Yes – 57.6%
No – 42.4%
Measure S ” Classroom & Facility Safety, Modernization and Renovation Measure” (Orange Unified School District)
Yes – 60.8%
No – 39.2%
Measure T – Westminster School District Classroom Improvement Measure” (Westminster School District)
Yes – 69.2%
No – 30.8%
School bond proponents – as with the sales tax hikes on this years ballot – benefited from taxpayer-funded “public information” campaigns mounted by the school districts, as well as well-funded bona fide political campaigns funded by teachers unions, school district vendors and firms that stood to gain contracts if the binds passed.
Measure M in CUSD was one of the isolated instances of a bond being rejected by voters, which happened for several reasons.
First, there was an active opposition campaign led by businesses organizations, school activists and local elected officials. Although it was out-spent by bond proponents by orders of magnitude, it was sufficiently funded.
According to Jennifer Beall, who led the “No” campaign, the most important things were filing effective ballot arguments against Measure M, and the rebuttal argument.
“We sent targeted mail, put up signs and walked over 25,000 households with a very compelling flyer. We had a few slates and multiple groups opposing the bond who ran independent social media campaigns. The entire No on M group spent under $26,000,” said Beall.
The South Orange C0unty Economic coalition PAC was also active in the opposition effort.
Secondly, the CUSD failed to cultivate public opinion prior to placing Measure M on the ballot. The Capo Unified Board basically come out of the woodwork with a sloppily written school bond carrying a gargantuan price tag. It also alienated public opinion by suing two cities and their mayors simply for coming out in opposition to the bond.
Thirdly, the $889 million price tag – actually closer to $1.8 billion when all is said and done — gave voters sticker shock and opponents a pithy soundbite. The CUSD Board of Trustees’ eyes were bigger than the collective stomach of the voters.
Finally, the Yes on Measure M campaign was late out of the gate when it came to voter communication – despite a large and early fundraising advantage. “Yes” mail didn’t start hitting voter mailboxes until seven to 10 days before the election – although it landed heavy, with voters getting two pieces of mail per day.