The Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Council and the Board of Education are split on endorsing competing Propositions 30 and 38. The November ballot propositions would raise tax revenues to provide education funding.
The PTA and the board officially endorse Proposition 38, but only the board endorses both to ensure that at least one passes. The division of endorsement comes out of the confusion over which proposition best meets the needs of state education.
“It’s not clear which is better for education or not,” Camille Townsend, president of the PAUSD Board of Education said.
David Plank, Stanford professor and executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education, echoed Townsend’s sentiments, saying there is ambiguity over which proposition would provide the most direct and effective funds for education.
Proposition 30, created by Governor Jerry Brown, would generate $7 billion in tax revenues by raising the state sales tax by a quarter of a percent and increasing income tax rates over seven years for people making over $250,000 annually.
Under Proposition 30, 89 percent of these revenues would go toward K-12 education and 11 percent toward institutions of higher education, like the University of California system and community colleges.
Proposition 38, created by attorney Molly Munger and sponsored by the PTA of California, would raise $10 billion by increasing income taxes across the board on a progressive scale for 12 years, starting with earners slightly above the $7,000 line.
Unlike Proposition 30, the funds raised by 38 would first go to debt retirement and the general fund and then directly into the K-12 public school system, without having to go through Sacramento, Plank said.
According to both Plank and Townsend, there is a unique risk in these propositions because the California educational budget was signed with the assumption that Proposition 30 would pass and be enacted to avoid $5 billion in “trigger cuts.”
The trigger cuts could play out in various ways across the state, but Plank said that the currently discussed plan if the trigger cuts are implemented is to cut the school year from 180 days to 165, bringing negative consequences to teachers and students alike.
“If you assume that time is necessary to learning, it’s a pretty dramatic cut,” Plank said.
Plank argued that if Prop 30 were to fail, the revenue raised by Prop 38 would not be enough to buffer the effects of the trigger cuts.
However, Nancy Krop, vice president of advocacy for PAUSD’s PTA Council, argued that Prop 38 would raise enough funds both to buffer the effects of the trigger cuts and to provide for a long-term solution to the state’s poor educational performance.
She said that Prop 30 would ultimately only sustain the current status quo of education, since more cuts could happen after the seven years of tax increase.
“The PTA won’t endorse a proposition that will end up after seven years with a negative cut to education,” Krop said to explain why the PTA is endorsing only Proposition 38.
Given the confusion over which proposition best serves the needs of education, Townsend said the board endorses both because “if we start debating the two propositions, my fear is that they will both lose.”
Townsend added that in anticipation of the trigger cuts PAUSD has already incorporated the trigger cut effects into the 2012-13 school year budget. In the last couple of years, the board cut overtime and positions in the business office, and it cut five district office positions in the last several years.
The district has also steadily increased classroom sizes to prevent laying off teachers.
“We’re getting to the point where our class sizes are where we hate to raise them any more,” Townsend said.
However, Plank said that while PAUSD will be affected by the trigger cuts, “Where there’d be hurricanes in other parts of the state, there’d be a strong breeze in PAUSD.”
In 2010, 75 percent of Palo Alto voters approved a partial measure to help fund district teachers, an example of the strong support Plank says will help PAUSD handle the trigger cuts.
Though officially endorsing its own proposition, Krop said the PTA Council unofficially recognizes the need for either one to pass.
In light of this, Krop hosted a neutral public forum on both propositions on Oct. 10 to educate voters on the impact each will have on restoring the state’s education quality to its former glory.
“There was a time when California was at the top, so we can choose to be at the top again,” Krop said.
While the ambiguity over each proposition remains, endorsers of both agree that the state cannot afford for both to fail.
“If they both fail, it is a desperate day for the schoolchildren of California,” Townsend said.
An earlier verison of this article listed that proposition 38 would raise $1.7 billion in the first four years but it is the amount going into the general fund in the first year.