Archive » November 1, 2012
Superintendents prepare for Prop 30 fate
By Jeremy Foster, Staff Writer
As support slips for Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, Proposition 30, local school superintendents are bracing for severe cuts.
Brown has pitched the proposition as a way to save public schools from $6 billion in “trigger cuts” that will result in higher college tuition and most likely shorter school years. Public support for the proposition has fallen, despite a boost of nearly $62 million in campaign cash, mainly from public-employee unions.
A USC/Dornsife poll released last week, found that 46% of voters favor the measure, with 42% opposed and 12% undecided. Pollsters noted that the results marked “a sharp decline from support of 55% of voters last month and 64% in March.”
“It will, in fact, be devastating to California public schools if it fails to pass,” Solvang School superintendent John Karbula told the Journal on Tuesday. Karbula, like other school leaders has prepared for the worst, or what he called the “plan for the worst and hope for the best” approach.
“We will not get into the specifics of what it means in terms of budget impacts, until we actually know the results of the vote,” he said. “I hesitate to pre-suppose anything.”
Prop 30 would raise up to $8.5 billion annually by adding a quarter-cent to the state sales tax for four years and imposing a seven-year tax hike on Californians earning at least $250,000 a year. The income tax would expire in seven years and the sales tax increase will sunset in four. Approximately 89% will go toward K-12 and 11% toward community colleges.
Funding could not be used for administrative costs but gives local school boards discretion to decide, in open meetings and subject to annual audit, how funds are to be spent. The proposition also guarantees funding for public safety services “realigned” from state to local governments.
If Prop 30 fails, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School stands to lose an extra $261,327 in the 2012-13 fiscal year, amounting to nearly $1 million in total cuts from the state, according to district superintendent Paul Turnbull. The cuts would be made through reductions in state aid in the form of categorical funds – which pay for instructional material and supplies to transportation to English learner and students-of-poverty support.
He said the governor’s tax initiative to “save education” is only designed to keep funding the same from the 2011-12 fiscal year and “is not designed to increase the funding to schools if state revenues begin recovering on their own in a few years.”
Although the high school is part of a Basic Aid district, which means it is largely funded by property tax revenue, it faces lost revenue in the form of “fair share” cuts that equal cuts imposed on Revenue Limit districts, which rely heavily on state revenue.
“Either way, Santa Barbara County schools have lost more than $300 million over the last five years, and the district has lost more than $2 million,” Turnbull said. “If Prop 30 fails, our schools will have even more dramatic cuts to deal with because the governor has been clear in his position that the voters are in charge of the decision. In my opinion, the Legislature has shown a consistent inability to prioritize the state’s children – and their futures – since 2001.”
Moreover, the state has categorized special education funding as state aid, rather than categorical funds, a move that has siphoned nearly $86,000 in special education funding from the district.
SYVUHS Faculty Association president Mark Peterschick spoke strongly about the consequence of the proposition failing. “Any new funding cuts will mean staffing or instructional days cut, probably both,” he said. “It will also mean larger class sizes, fewer days where kids are educated, fed, counseled, monitored and involved in productive activities.”
“If Propositions 30, 38 and Measure L2012 all fail, the only certainty is there will be less time and opportunity for teachers, coaches and support personnel to impact kids’ lives,” he added. “A voter who can’t find it within themselves to support these ballot initiatives is hurting a kid’s future.”
Proposition 38, which has been bankrolled primarily by civil rights attorney Molly Munger, is a rival tax measure that would prevent education cuts next year through income tax increases on most Californians.
Bryan McCabe, superintendent of Buellton Union School District, which is a revenue limit district, said the failure of Prop 30 would set the school back by $290,000 for the current 2012-13 school year. Over the past five years, the district’s operating budget of $7.4 million has been burdened with an extra $3.9 million in cuts, he said. The district will consider every option to weather the cuts, but that would likely come in the form of layoffs, since 80% of the budgets for most school districts are personnel costs, he said. The school has already eliminated music and art programs, and may consider staff furloughs, which could shorten the school year from 180 days to 165. This change, however, must happen through negotiations with the teachers’ association.
The Orcutt School District is anticipating a cut of $430 per student, or an ongoing cut of $1.8 million annually, beginning this year. In the wake of ongoing cuts, the district has had to lay off employees, cut programs, increase class sizes, re-organize the district and take other budgetary measures to stay solvent, said the district’s superintendent Bob Bush.