The biggest test is fast approaching for two ballot measures designed to help state schools by raising taxes, but it will be up to voters this November to decide which proposition will pass or fail.
Local school ballot measures in Marin are limited in the Nov. 6 election to Measure B, the Mill Valley School District's $196 parcel tax on top of the existing $731 parcel tax. One of the arguments for the Mill Valley parcel tax centers on ensuring local control and not depending on either Proposition 30 or 38 to pass in an effort to avoid cuts to core educational programs and retain quality teachers.
Propositions 30 and 38 have been the subject of much debate across California.
Prop. 30, backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would raise the sales tax by one-quarter of one cent for four years while increasing personal income taxes for Californians who earn over $250,000 for seven years.
Those who support it, like the California Teachers’ Association, argue its failure would have a devastating impact on schools, including in Los Angeles, according to Frank Wells, spokesman for the California Teachers’ Association’s Santa Fe Springs office.
“Schools have already undergone massive cuts over the past several years leading to larger classes, thousands of layoffs, and a shortened school year in many places,” Wells said. Prop 30's failure would "mean a $236 million cut to LAUSD.”
Prop 38 has been primarily financed by Pasadena attorney Molly Munger. The proposal, supported by California PTA which worked with Munger on the measure, aims to increase personal income taxes using a sliding scale, with a single filer earning as little as $17,346 per year, for example, seeing higher taxes, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Scott Folsom, vice president of the California PTA’s 10th District which covers Los Angeles County, said Prop 38 makes the most sense.
“It’s really the only initiative on the ballot that brings new funding to schools,” Folsom said. “The money Prop 38 raises is not disbursed by Sacramento. It’s decided at the local school site. The money goes directly to schools.”
However, the PTA’s official stance is it will not necessarily encourage Prop 38 supporters to vote against Prop 30, he said.
“The state PTA has looked at and decided to take no position on it,” Folsom said. “We’re asking our members to carefully look at Proposition 30 and make up your own mind.”
The PTA nonetheless sees some problems with Proposition 30.
“It doesn’t bring new money to the schools, and if it doesn’t pass, it reduces money,” Folsom said. “It doesn’t solve the problem schools are in now. If it fails, it cuts funding. It’s the reverse of bringing money to the schools.”
Prop 30 backers are playing hard ball. Supporters of Gov. Brown have started a committee called Stop the Middle Class Tax Hike - No on Prop. 38 to oppose the plan. For her part, Munger has funded a TV advertising campaign against Proposition 30, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
A “yes” vote on Prop 30 means “the new tax revenues would be available to fund programs in the state budget,” according to California's official Voter Information Guide. A "no" vote means state budget cuts, which would primarily impact education programs, would take effect in 2012 to 2013.
According to the guide, a "yes" vote on Prop 38 means personal income tax rates would guarantee new funding to restore budget cuts and improve educational results. A "no" vote would mean no additional revenue from the measure would be available for schools, child care, preschool, and state debt payments.
The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education voted to support both ballot initiatives, saying both measures would provide “urgently needed funding for public education,” according to the board's website.
LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer, who represents Board District Four, said the most important thing to remember over the next few weeks is who will be most impacted by the voters' decisions.
“For the next month, our children deserve for us to turn our attention towards the November ballot,” Zimmer said by email. “Every family touched by public education is impacted by the draconian cuts to our schools. The next 28 days offer us a rare opportunity to come together and work together on behalf of our children, their teachers and our school communities.”
If both propositions pass, the measure with the most "yes" votes would go into effect, according to the California Legislative Analyst's office.
To see more information on the major propositions up for vote in November, go to the MapLight voter guide.