Next Tuesday’s Youth-Related Ballot Initiatives

Most of the votes cast next Tuesday will send people to state houses and Congress to legislate. But in some states, voters will pull the lever for direct policy initiatives.

Youth Services Insider scoped out the list of ballot initiatives across the country. Many will have an indirect effect on kids, but here’s a look at some that will make the most direct impact on children


Proposition 123: $3.5 Billion in State Funding for Education 

Actually, this already passed, narrowly, in May. The funds settle a dispute with local school districts over the state’s failure to comply with a 2000 ballot measure, which made specific guarantees of education funding pegged to inflation. The state came up short on that in the years following the 2007 recession.

There are no strings on the money, so funding to serve system-involved youths or other special needs students is in play.


Proposition 57: Felons Convicted of Non-violent Crimes and Juvenile Trials

The initiative would return the choice about whether to prosecute teenagers to judges instead of prosecutors. The ballot measure would also make more adults inmates in California eligible for early release through parole.

A yes vote here would remove much of the direct file power given to prosecutors in 2000, when voters support Proposition 21.

Prop. 57 drew strong support from Gov. Jerry Brown.

Proposition 64: Legalization of Marijuana

Weed would still be illegal for anyone under 21. If this passes, it will be interesting over time how that impacts youth. Will laws on marijuana toughen for them, stay the same, become more akin to purchasing alcohol with a fake ID?

But the immediate impact here would be that youth programs are among the short list of allowable expenditures related to tax revenue from the sale of marijuana. Also on that list is drug treatment programs.


Amendment 69: ColoradoCare

If yes prevails, Colorado will move toward establishing the first state single payer system in the country, paid for with a 10 percent payroll tax. Among the medical services guaranteed under ColoradoCare: pediatric care (including dental, vision and hearing), substance abuse and mental health.


Amendment 1: Authorization of State Government to Intervene in Failing Local Schools 

If this passes, Georgia will be empowered to establish an Opportunity School District that would take control of elementary and secondary schools classified as “chronically failing.” The state could use that power individually, share power with a local district, or turn the school into a charter school.

Schools would be considered “persistently failing schools” if they score below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education accountability measure.


State Question 780: Reclassification of Some Drug and Property Crimes As Misdemeanors

Possession of illegal drugs would be come a misdemeanor, and the threshold for felony theft would go up from $500 to $1,000.

For starters, juveniles in Oklahoma can be transferred to adult court for any felony. And the state has a “once an adult, always an adult” statute, meaning any subsequent arrest after a transfer will land them back in adult court. So this could lower transfers to adult court.

There is a tandem initiative that would redirect savings on prison costs to counties for rehabilitation, and those dollars could be claimed for drug and mental health treatment, job training, and education programs.


Measure 98: Require State Funding for Dropout Prevention 

This would require the Oregon legislature to spend at least $800 per high school student on career and technical education programs, college-level educational opportunities, and dropout-prevention strategies.

The impetus is that Oregon currently has the second lowest high school graduation rate in the country: 68.7 percent, compared with the national average of 81.4 percent.

Rhode Island

Question 7: Bonds for Affordable Housing

Fifty million dollars in bonds for creating affordable housing; $40 million to establish opportunity programs, and $10 million to revitalize blighted properties. In a small state, there is a long waiting list of chronically homeless people in need of housing assistance. You can bet plenty are families, and you can bet plenty are former wards of the state.

South Dakota

Referred Law 20: Lower Minimum Wage for Under 18

Two years ago, a ballot initiative raised the minimum wage in South Dakota to $8.50. Since then, a subsequent law lowered the minimum wage for teenagers to $7.50. This vote will either accept that exception or reject it.

Proponents believe it will incentivize employers to give young people early work experience; opponents believe that the economy is strong enough for that to happen without a carrot.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at