Several measures approved by the Berkeley voters benefit the schools. There are two categories of these measures. One category is special taxes, like BSEP (Berkeley Schools Excellence Program) and Measure BB (Measure H of 2010) which are special taxes that provide money annually for specific purposes for our schools. The other category is facilities bonds, which pay for new buildings (such as the Jacket Stadium completed in September, 2012 at the Berkeley High football field) and major refurbishment of old buildings (such as the refurbished building on Bonar at University that now houses the school district headquarters). Information on facility bonds can be found by clicking here.
When the devastating effects of Prop.13 had become all too evident in our schools, a group of Berkeley citizens created – and the voters of Berkeley approved – the “Berkeley Public Schools Educational Enrichment Act of 1986” (known as BSEP).
This 8-year special tax funded:
- lower class sizes,
- supplementary educational materials,
- facilities and grounds improvements, and
- enrichment funding given to each school on a per pupil basis, to be spent as determined by a committee of parents and staff at the school.
The Measure was renewed by an 83+% vote in 1994 as the Berkeley Schools Enrichment Project became Berkeley Schools Excellence Project (still BSEP!) — a 12-year measure. The Elementary Instrumental Music Program, a victim of budget cuts, was added. To make the addition of music possible, the percentage dedicated to facilities was reduced and its focus changed to maintenance and security. Also added was a small amount for public information (1%). BSEP was reaffirmed by 91% of the voters in 1998.
As costs grew in the later years of the measure, and as the Dot-Com boom went bust in the early part of the 21st century, funding for all California school districts suffered. Berkeley Unified was forced to use the “fiscal crisis” clause of BSEP, which allowed higher levels of class sizes.
Berkeley parents and community members responded to the crisis by working with the district to put Measure B of 2004 on the ballot. This two-year “bridge” measure was designed to expire in 2006, when BSEP also expired. Measure B added money for Class Size Reduction, augmented money for the 4-8 music program, and added explicit funding for libraries and for program evaluation. Measure B increased support for the schools by about $8 million. By 2006, the total of BSEP and Measure B support for the schools reached $19 million.
In November 2006, Measure A renewed Berkeley’s commitment to its schools with no tax increase. There was some slight rearranging of the priorities, though class size reduction still is two-thirds of the measure. With Cost of Living Adjustments, increased square footage in residential and commercial properties, and other factors, BSEP generated a total of $23.9 million in 2011-12. More on the purposes of the BSEP Measure here.