"Why isn't it news that an Arizona PAC secretly funded an $11 million dollar attack on Proposition 30?" Governor Jerry Brown asked passionately as he wagged his finger at my husband at a party on Saturday night.
He must have forgotten that my husband, Phil Bronstein, is no longer in the daily newspaper business. Nonetheless, Governor Brown has a very good point.
A San Francisco Chronicle story explained the importance of Brown's Proposition 30:
"The proposition is by far the biggest decision on the state ballot, one that will shadow or brighten the state's future for years... Without these increases, so-called trigger cuts will hit, slashing schools and other critical programs. To make his case, Brown has said he won't sign any morning-after measures to paper over the $6 billion gap that will materialize should Prop. 30 fail. These looming cuts are for real."
Why don't we know that out-of-state PACs are trying to trick us out of funding our own school system? Brown said a court battle over efforts to reveal who is behind the murky donation had been waging all weekend but news outlets weren't paying attention.
If Californians were better informed about Propositions 30 and 38, we would know that you can (and should) in fact vote yes on both (which I didn't know until I attended an Educate Our State fundraiser two weeks ago) and that splitting the vote between the two propositions is the best way to ensure they both fail.
I asked Crystal Brown, the founder of Educate Our State -- a parent-led grass roots education advocacy group with over 45,000 members -- to boil it down for me.
Can people vote yes on both?
Yes they can -- and (the propositions) can only go into effect if one gets over 50 percent of the vote. Here is a short one minute video describing this: http://youtu.be/eCgUlM1ZM6Y
What happens of they both pass?
If both pass, the one with the most votes will go into effect. The one with less votes will likely go to court to see if there are pieces and parts that could possibly be put into place. But that depends on the court and also what the Governor and Molly Munger, the force behind Proposition 38, decide to do. No one will be taxed twice.
What will be the most egregious effects on CA schools if 30 and 38 do not pass?
The biggest effects on California schools are the impacts of the trigger cuts. School districts are already operating in most cases as if these cuts will not happen. If the trigger cuts go into effect, many school districts will be forced to borrow more money than they have already (because of prior year deferrals) just to stay solvent. If they cannot borrow the money (at a high interest rate) -- and most can't -- they will be forced to shorten the school year, cut programs like transportation, reading specialists, art, music, PE, etc. This will result in loss of wages for teachers and loss of critical programming for students.
This doesn't even begin to speak to future years. There will likely be more massive teacher lay-offs as of March. Last year we laid off 15,000 teachers in California. Over the past four years we have laid off about 40,000 and class size is rising above 40-60.
We have cut over $20 billion from education already.
Positive effects if 30 passes?
If 30 passes, schools will retain and preserve current year funding and not face devastating decisions this year. This will not add any new revenue to schools for the coming year, but there will not be mid-year cuts or districts forced into insolvency.
The Governor described 30 as boiling down to taxing the top one percent to pay for our schools, but the rhetoric around it makes it more complicated. How would you describe 30?
Prop 30 is a combination of an income tax to those earning more than $250,000 per year (which I do not believe is just the top one percent but it is close) and a sales tax which will impact all Californians. Between these two revenue sources, about $7 billion would be generated to make up the gap in the expenses and revenue of the current budget.
How would you describe 38?
It is an across-the-board income tax -- generating almost 12 billion per year for k-12 and early education. However, it would not eliminate the need for the trigger cuts as written. We don't exactly know what the governor would do if it passed and 30 doesn't.
What could be the long-term effects on our society if both fail?
The long-term effects would be devastating. We are already underfunding so many critical programs in California, and education has taken by far the largest hit over the past five years. California has a 25 percent drop-out rate, some of lowest test scores in the country, and a very diverse population to educate. All of this while we are one of the largest economies in the world and educate more children than any other state. In fact, the next most populous state for public school kids is Texas and they educate two million less than we do!
Some facts from the Educate Our State website, that might make us all want to invest in the education of our state's children.
- California is the ninth largest economy in the world, and we educate one in eight children in the United States, or 6.2 million children (1,500,000 more than Texas, the second largest)
- California currently ranks last in teacher to student ratio
- California currently ranks last in librarian to student ratio
- California ranks last in guidance counselor to student ratio
- California ranks 47Th for district/administration to student ratio
- Only 75 percent of California students graduate from high school in four years.
- Dropouts from the class of 2008 will cost California almost $42.1 billion in lost taxable wages over their lifetime
Who are the biggest losers if both initiatives fail?
My kids, your kids, your neighbor's kids, the college kids who can't get their classes or afford the tuition increases -- in essence, the future workforce of California and the future economic stability of our state. Consider the long-term consequences of the loss of an additional three full weeks of instruction (after having already lost up to five days in recent years), ballooning class sizes, the shutting of school libraries, the elimination of physical education, the termination of reading specialists, and/or ongoing technological stagnation, among other possible budget remedies.
Can you tell me your mission for Educate Our State?
Educate Our State is a grassroots, parent-led, statewide campaign uniting the voices of Californians in support of high-quality, K-12 public education and to demand real, systemic change. We believe parents, together with community leaders, can organize, mobilize and put pressure on all stakeholders to work together and agree on fundamental changes that put our children's achievement and success first. We are a 100 percent parent-led and directed effort.
What do you recommend people do on Tuesday?
Vote Yes on 30 and 38! Easy.
For more information Read Crystal's blog on Huffington Post