In the March 2000 primary, Proposition 26 went down to defeat. The measure would have reduced the threshold necessary to pass local school bonds from two-thirds to a simple majority vote. The proposition failed despite a $20+ million campaign waged on its behalf mainly by the California Teachers Association. A similar measure also had failed as Proposition 170 in the November 1993 special statewide election, going down 41-59.

After voters’ rejection of Prop. 26, then-state Sen. Jack O’Connell (now California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction) and a group of Silicon Valley investors and high-tech professionals who were concerned about the deteriorating state of public school facilities in California, asked Garry South to serve as Chief Strategist in an effort to place a revised measure (requiring a 55 percent margin, not a simple majority), with greatly enhanced accountability provisions, on the November ballot.

Working with Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli, a leading Sacramento-based campaign-management firm, South led the successful attempt to quickly (gathering 1.1 million signatures in 40 days) re-qualify the measure for the November election, and to assemble a huge coalition of supporters and endorsers – more than 500 respected organizations and countless individual endorsements. This included signing up Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson to serve as Chair and Honorary Chair, respectively, of the campaign, and to do unusual joint television commercials and mailers promoting passage of the measure.

On Election Day, Proposition 39 passed by a comfortable margin of 53-47, reversing the two previous losses. The reduced threshold required for passing local school bond measures has led to more than $3 billion in new school-construction funding since 2000 that would not have been available had the two-thirds margin still been in effect.