The PTA vs The LA Times on Prop 38

PTA comments on Los Angeles Times editorial October 2, 2012

Proposition 38 “is more focused on pumping money into schools to reduce class sizes, restore instruction in the arts and other subjects that have been lost to budget cuts, improve classroom technology and update teaching materials.”

That’s what the Los Angeles Times editorial board had to say on Oct. 2, even in writing against the initiative.  Click here to read the full LA Times article.

We appreciate that the Times thoughtfully described the distinct differences between Propositions 38 and 30. While we obviously and strongly disagree with the editorial board’s conclusion, by and large the editorial actually identifies key features of Proposition 38 that we believe separate it from Proposition 30 – and make Proposition 38 the true education initiative.

Here is what the editorial says, in part, about Proposition 38, and our comments:

LA Times:  “Proposition 38, by contrast, is more focused on pumping money into schools to reduce class sizes, restore instruction in the arts and other subjects that have been lost to budget cuts, improve classroom technology and update teaching materials. The measure would raise an estimated $6 billion to $8.5 billion annually for public K-12 schools for 12 years. That’s the equivalent of $1,000 to $1,400 per student. It also would raise $1 billion or more annually for early childhood education, including a new Early Head Start program for children under age 3 from low-income families.”

PTA’s comments: Absolutely correct. The heavy focus on pumping money into our public schools – which are now 47th in the nation in average per-pupil funding – is exactly why the California State PTA supports Proposition 38.

LA Times: “The measure is akin to a no-confidence vote for Sacramento; the money it would raise for schools would flow directly to local school boards and charter school governing bodies, bypassing the Legislature and state education officials.”

PTA’s comments: Again, the newspaper accurately presents the reasons why parents and PTA members across the state strongly support Proposition 38: the money flows directly to our schools, not Sacramento.

LA Times: “[Proposition 38] would help relieve the state’s budget problems, but only for four years. From mid-2013 to mid-2017, 30% of the money from Proposition 38 would be dedicated to paying down school bonds and other state debt, freeing about $3 billion in the state’s general fund for other purposes.”

PTA’s comments: With regard to state general fund relief, it’s important to elaborate. Proposition 38 will provide over $3 billion per year for 4 1⁄2 years, for a total of $15 billion by mid-2017. These funds can be utilized to prevent cuts to other programs, such as higher education. In addition to this initial $15 billion, Proposition 38 will provide hundreds of millions of dollars more through 2024 (through its “smoothing” provisions that help level out the volatility of the income tax). Over its lifetime, not only does Proposition 38 pump more money directly into schools, it actually provides more total general fund relief than Proposition 30.

LA Times: “The biggest shortcoming of Proposition 38, though, is what its supporters consider its main selling point: the fact that it walls off from the general fund most of the money it raises. That’s a real problem for the current fiscal year, which will be over before much of the funding would kick in….If Proposition 38 comes out on top, the nearly $6 billion in trigger cuts to schools and other programs would go into effect unless the Legislature scrambled to change the law. These cuts could leave some non-school programs too far behind to ever catch up.”

PTA’s comments: Proposition 38 guarantees new funding for every school and prohibits the legislature from diverting or cutting that funding. We believe school funding must be “walled off”; otherwise, the legislature has been prone to cut school funding or manipulate funding formulas.

LA Times: “Because Proposition 38 raises more money overall (an average of $10 billion per year compared to $6 billion per year), Proposition 38 not only provides enough to give K-12 schools the substantial infusion they need, it also provides relief to the general fund so that cuts to other programs such as higher education can be avoided if Proposition 30 fails.”

PTA’s Comments:  As Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has suggested, the legislature could go back and revise the budget based on new revenues generated in Proposition 38 in order to prevent cuts to other programs. If recent history is an indicator, the legislature has experience at going back and doing just that. This may not be the approach that the legislature had in mind when it passed the budget in June before the election results, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a better course for our schools and for California.

Lastly, here is, in part, what the editorial says about Proposition 30:

LA Times: “[Proposition 30] requires that 89% of the money raised goes to K-12 schools and 11% to community colleges, but those dollars would help satisfy the minimum annual funding requirements of Proposition 98 (the 1998 ballot measure that requires about half the general fund to be spent on public education). The result would be about a $3-billion increase in annual spending on schools and about $3 billion freed up in the general fund for other state priorities. The proposition would also make a critically important change in the state Constitution, dedicating state revenue (mainly from sales taxes) to local governments to fund the criminal justice programs and other responsibilities Sacramento transferred to them under Brown’s “realignment” initiative.”

PTA’s Comments: The Times makes clear that only about half of the revenue raised from Proposition 30 actually goes to K-12 schools and community colleges. By contrast, Proposition 38, according to the editorial, “would raise an estimated $6 billion to $8.5 billion annually for public K-12 schools for 12 years.”

For more information about Proposition 38, or to find out how much in new funding your local school will receive, go to www.prop38forlocalschools.org.

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