A state legislative analyst says California schools would more likely be better off if one of two education ballot proposals passes than if both do not.
Jason Sisney, deputy legislative analyst on state and local finance in the California Legislative Analyst's Office, discussed the propositions via video conferencing with about 65 people Wednesday night at Palisades Elementary School.
The competing funding initiatives, Proposition 30 and Proposition 38, will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
"Voters need to consider the effect these measures have on schools, and whether you’re comfortable and willing to raise sales and income taxes," said Sisney.
Sisney, along with Matt Hill, chief strategy officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District, and Betsy Butler and Richard Bloom, two Democrats vying for the 50th Assembly District seat, spoke about the proposals during a two-hour forum hosted by Parent Partnership for Public Education.
Online and television ads in recent weeks highlight the acrimony between supporters of the two measures.
Proposition 30 is backed by Gov. Jerry Brown and would raise the sales tax by one-quarter of one cent for four years while increasing personal income taxes for Californians who earn over $250,000 for seven years.
Proposition 38, financed by Pasadena attorney Molly Munger, raises personal income taxes over the next 12 years, while putting revenue toward debt payments, schools, child care and preschools. A Patch poll earlier this month indicates that out of 87 submitted votes, 49 percent support neither of the funding initiatives.
Sisney said the most common question he gets is: what if both propositions pass on Nov. 6? He said if two conflicting measures on the same ballot pass, the proposal that gets the most votes goes into effect, based on the state constitution and mainstream legal opinion.
"Both have language that basically acknowledges they conflict and help guide the courts if both measures pass," he said. "The courts would have to decide fairly quickly, since these [initiatives] put measures into place for 2013."
Sisney said the amount of revenues raised by each proposition would depend on the overall economy and legislative decisions.
"One may raise more than we expect, or less than we expect, but bottom line, the economy and choices elected officials make, we can’t predict," he added.
If Proposition 38 passes and Proposition 30 does not, Sisney said $6 billion in cuts could be made. He said Prop. 30 is designed to balance the state's budget while Prop. 38 is designed to help with debt service.
"If Prop. 38 passes, it would provide funding for next year," he said. "Some districts could borrow or find money to bridge the gap and some would have to cut funding in various ways, as I'm sure you'll hear."
In addition, 15 to 30 school days could be reduced on district calendars combined over the 2012-13 and 2013-14 years.
Palisadian Scott Denham said he senses people are frustrated that such vital funding is left to a vote on propositions.
"If you're a parent planning to keep your kids in public school, it's stacked against you," he said, adding the possibility of furlough days is unacceptable. "You have to vote."
Denham said he supports Proposition 30 because there's too much uncertainty for schools otherwise.
Effects on L.A. schools
Hill said the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to support both propositions. Since the 2007-2008 school year, education has been cut by approximately $20 billion, or roughly $200,000 per school or two teaching positions per school.
"We know that if both [propositions] fail, there will be cuts to education, and therefore, we need revenues to support education to continue locally," he said. "Our superintendent says he won't cut employees anymore. It's not good for the kids. We’ll have the same amount of support systems and programs, but less days."
Hill said if Proposition 30 fails, LAUSD will lose 15 school days, and if it passes, it will gain 2.5 days. If the proposition fails, he said LAUSD's deficit will be $255 million immediately and climb to between $650 million and $750 million during the 2013-2014 year.
Butler, Bloom weigh in
Assemblywoman Butler supports Proposition 30 and Santa Monica Mayor Bloom supports both initiatives, as they stated during a forum earlier this month in Brentwood.
"Prop. 38 does not fund higher education, which is just as imperative, but we also have to fund health and human services and corrections. We need to find short-term assistance and we need to invest in the future," Butler said.
Butler told the audience that children in Pacific Palisades will be fine, but it's the children in Compton who will be affected most by the Nov. 6 vote.
Bloom said his record in Santa Monica shows he would give education high priority.
"We need legislators who are willing to be the managers of the school districts on issues throughout the state," he said. "On the Santa Monica City Council, we negotiate with labor all year long on a variety of issues. Sometimes we agree and disagree, but we have to make decisions to move things along."
To see more information on the major propositions up for vote in November, go to the MapLight voter guide.
A correction was made to Sisney's estimate in cuts if Prop. 38 passes, but Prop. 30 does not, as well as a clarification to the amount of potential instructional days eliminated from the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. Patch apologizes for the errors.