Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Diana Selig

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This senior thesis examines California’s Proposition 13 in order to determine its impacts on public education. While at face value the Proposition seems unrelated to public education, it was responsible for cutting property taxes by over 50%. At the time the Proposition passed in 1978, the California public education system relied on levied property taxes to fund its schools. The thesis analyzes media coverage over three decades, arguing that Californians valued lower taxes over a high-quality education. Researchers and reporters detailed the Proposition’s damage to the quality of public education in the state, yet challenges to the Proposition in the polls fell short. In the first five years after passage of Proposition 13, public school leaders cut programs and learned how to operate with smaller budgets. By the ten-year anniversary of the Proposition, school administrators had opened the door to private funds, which helped make up some of the funding gap but exacerbated inequities between wealthier and poorer districts. In the early 2000’s, even as the California economy improved and the state had more money, California public schools ranked some of the worst in the country. This thesis examines/analyzes one piece of the complex system that is (that makes up/shapes/explains) California’s failing public schools. The story of Proposition 13 urges us to challenge the disparities in the system and to question why and how the relative wealth of a community became the deciding factor for the quality of education it offers its children.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.