Understanding Proposition 39



Proposition 39 was passed by California voters in 2000 to ensure that all public school students were given equal access to district facilities. Prop. 39 also reduced the threshold for the state or a local school district to pass a facilities bond from two-thirds to 55%, an easier standard to meet.
Prop. 39 is about the principle of equity and fairness for all public school students, regardless of whether they attend public charter schools or public district schools -- under Proposition 39 they are all public school students.  
The language of Proposition 39 states "that public school facilities should be shared fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools."
According to Prop. 39 school districts must provide charter school students with facilities that are "reasonably equivalent" to those used by non-charter students within the district, and those facilities must be: 
  • Contiguous (located together, not spread across campus or multiple sites)
  • Similarly furnished and equipped.
  • Located near the area in which the charter wishes to locate
There are specific requirements for making a Prop. 39 facilities request to a district, and a variety of dates that must be met. The initial request must be made by the charter school by November 1.  On February 1, the district must respond with a preliminary offer to the charter school.  Charter schools are then required to respond to these preliminary offers by March 1, and final offers are presented to charter schools on April 1.  This process happens on an annual basis and is very time consuming for both the charter school and the district.

BCS and Prop. 39 

In the past, many districts have not complied with Prop. 39.  An important victory for charter schools and for the enforcement of Prop. 39 statewide came in January 2012 in the Bullis Charter School case with the Los Altos School District.
On January 16, 2012, the California Supreme Court denied review of a decision by the Sixth District Court of Appeals, in which the Los Altos School District was found non-compliant with Prop. 39 after excluding over one million square feet of collective non-classroom space from its comparison group school analysis in its attempt to make an offer of "reasonably equivalent" facilities. This action by the Court lets stand the published decision for use throughout the state.

Additional Background on Prop. 39

  • For an overview of how Prop. 39 relates to charter school facilities and how it works in California, see CCSA's Amicus Brief submitted in the appellate case Bullis Charter School v. Los Altos School District et. al.