Prop. 30: California deserves better

by CalWatchdog Staff | November 4, 2012 10:07 pm


Nov. 5, 2012

By Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D.

There comes a time in every parent’s life when she has to decide how much she is willing to sacrifice for the good of her children’s education. In our family, I have given up time, money, sleep and emotional tranquility to support the education not only of my own children, but also other children in California’s public schools.

Like many other parents, I began with basic school fundraisers to support various programs lost to budget cuts, such as art, music and field trips. Most recently, I have been promoting Proposition 38[2] as part of the California State PTA’s biggest fundraiser in history. Sponsored by attorney Molly Munger, Prop. 38 would raise $10 billion per year for the next 12 years and allocate those funds directly to schools, bypassing the black hole that is the California state general fund. I support Prop 38. wholeheartedly, without reservation.

The California State PTA is a major endorser of Prop. 38, but it has remained officially neutral on a competing tax-increase measure, Proposition 30[3], Gov. Jerry Brown’s initiative to raise taxes $6 billion a year. On Saturday, I resigned as the PTA’s Prop. 38 chairman in San Diego and Imperial counties. Now, I can speak as only myself, as a parent who cares about education funding in the long term, for at least the next 12 years, and not just the next 12 months.

In a word, Prop. 30 is dirty. It is a short-term, stop-gap measure that irreparably harms public education in California in the long term. As someone who hopes to live in California long enough to send her grandchildren to its public schools, I simply cannot support Prop. 30 at the ballot box, although I have come to this decision only after much, much reflection and soul searching.

California voters are being told that Prop. 30 must pass to prevent $6 billion in education trigger cuts this school year. That is true. But, it’s true only because the state Legislature and the governor have already taken those funds from education and used them for other stuff. Why? Because they figured that voters would raise taxes on themselves to fill a funding hole for education, but not necessarily for something else.

Next year?

But what about next school year? Prop. 30 essentially keeps K-12 education funding level[4], which means that we still would be 47th out of 50 states in per pupil funding. Regarding higher education, even Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has publicly said[5] that Brown is misleading college students to believe that passage of Prop. 30 will prevent 2013-2014 tuition increases at campuses of California State University and the University of California systems. (It won’t.)

And what about the school year after that? Most voters don’t seem to realize that Prop. 30 is a constitutional amendment that permanently moves[6] a portion of the state prison responsibilities (and its corresponding budget) down to the county level. This is called “realignment,” and it sounds great in theory. But, here is the dirty part: Realignment shrinks the state general fund. Oh, so what?

Well, education funding in California is determined each year[7] as a percentage of the state general fund. Basic math tells us that X percent of a smaller number will be smaller than X percent of a bigger number. So, Prop. 30’s realignment provision, by shrinking the state general fund, actually reduces the funds for public education in the long term.

Californians should know better than most Americans that ballot-box wins today often are societal losses tomorrow. Exhibit A: Proposition 13[8], which froze state property taxes. Prop. 13 was a win for tax-averse voters in 1978, but it is one fundamental cause for the chronic state funding shortages today.

Will Prop. 30 be the Prop. 13 of this generation? That nightmare is what compels me to write this piece for public consideration, rather than merely in my personal journal.

Going public is scary. I teach at San Diego State University, which will see part of $250 million in trigger cuts if Prop. 30 fails. My university president and my faculty union are public supporters of Prop. 30. My children attend San Diego public schools whose teachers are promoting Prop. 30. Most of my personal friends and colleagues in the education community support Prop. 30.

But, I have decided that I am willing to sacrifice not only time, money, sleep and emotional tranquility in the interest of public education. I am also willing to sacrifice peace at the office, popularity on the playground, and privacy in my life to say what needs to be said: The children of California deserve better than Prop 30. And so do all Californians.

Bey-Ling Sha is the mother of a 7th grader and a 5th grader. She lives in San Diego.

  1. [Image]:
  2. Proposition 38:,_State_Income_Tax_Increase_to_Support_Education_(2012)
  3. Proposition 30:,_Sales_and_Income_Tax_Increase_(2012)
  4. keeps K-12 education funding level:
  5. has publicly said:
  6. permanently moves:
  7. determined each year:
  8. Proposition 13:

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