Did John Serrano Vote for Proposition 13? A Reply to Stark and Zasloff's "Tiebout and Tax Revolts: Did Serrano Really Cause Proposition 13?"


In several previous articles, I argued that California's famous school-finance decision, Serrano v. Priest, which required equalized school spending, caused Proposition 13, which decimated property taxes in 1978. In an article in this Review in 2003, Kirk Stark and Jonathan Zasloff contested my explanation of Prop 13. My statistical evidence was a strong correlation between tax base per pupil in Los Angeles County school districts and the districts' vote swing from a defeated 1972 property tax-limitation initiative to the successful 1978 vote. In contrast, Stark and Zasloff found that school districts with larger proportions of high income and elderly voters, not those with a high tax base per pupil, accounted for the swing in votes between 1972 and 1978. In the present Article, I show that their primary results are entirely consistent with my hypothesis. I further demonstrate that Stark and Zasloffs other statistical inquiries are not germane to the causes of Prop 13. 1 also parry their claim that institutional problems, rather than compliance with the Serrano decision, undermined the legislature's response to the tax revolt. The Article concludes by suggesting that the basis for the Serrano litigation-tax base inequalities--has outlived its usefulness and that an educational adequacy standard ought to replace the Serrano standard.

About the Author

Professor of Economics and Patricia F. and William B. Hale '44 Professor in Arts and Sciences, Dartmouth College.

By uclalaw