Letter to Prop 2 Proponents

TO: Messrs. Brown, Pérez, Zaremburg, and Kirst

FROM: Educate Our State on behalf of the concerned parents, children and citizens of California 

DATE: July 2014

SUBJECT: Response to the Arguments in Favor and Rebuttal to Opposition of Proposition 2

We’ve read your argument and rebuttal many times.  As engaged, committed parents in our local public school communities, we’re a little surprised.  How exactly did our ‘kind of thinking’ lead to a $26 Billion budget deficit and devastating cuts to our schools?

Speaking frankly – as committed, involved California parents – our kind of thinking sees political history repeating itself and we are stepping up – this time before it is too late – to try and stop it.

In 2004, a popular governor[1] got a broad bipartisan agreement[2] to put a ‘Rainy Day’ Fund on the ballot -- Proposition 58.  It featured, “a RESERVE to protect California from future economic downturns” and pay off deficit financing bonds early. And it passed. 

A few months later, in the summer of 2004, the Legislature passed an urgency statute: budgetary trailer bill SB 1096.  It transferred $4.1 Billion of local school property taxes AWAY from education -- depending on various permutations of propositions on the November ballot, one already qualified (Proposition 65) and one that the Legislature was debating (eventually Proposition 1A).  And Proposition 1A passed … protecting EVERY local property tax...EXCEPT that allocated to education.

And what was the immediate result? Schools were left with $4.1 Billion less in reliable, local revenue that year.  And the next year … and every year thereafter. Now, this year, $6.8 Billion is taken from local school-allocated property taxes to satisfy the State’s debts … incidentally, $2.5 Billion MORE than the underlying debt it’s satisfying. And, to add to this violation of the public trust, only a handful of counties even report that they are diverting these funds; to the average taxpayer, it looks like their property taxes are still going to their local schools.

The State PROMISED it would ‘hold schools harmless.’  Which it did when it could, but then – when $26 billion in deficit spending loomed (due perhaps to a $19.8 billion drop in revenues?) – it didn’t. 

Now, once again, we see a popular governor, a bipartisan ‘rainy day’ proposition, $4+ billion of LOCAL stable, reliable funds that will be SHATTERINGLY HARD to rebuild, and the State promising to take care of schools if voters will just go quietly along with a group of politicians promising, as usual, to save us from politics as usual. 

And we have to ask … is it OUR kind of thinking got us all into this mess?  Really?  Not state hubris in putting kids last and political budget maneuvers first?

If this is true, perhaps we should all rethink both the local control emphasis in the Local Control Funding Formula – and the parent involvement emphasis in the Local Control Accountability Plan.  None of you would appear to either trust local school boards to spend responsibly or local parents to think intelligently. 

And our surprise doesn’t stop there.

While the current budget provides $10 billion more funding, it isn’t ‘new’ funding[3] … is it? 

In fact, $5 billion of that funding is money the State owed and promised to schools in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 – money that the State told schools they had to spend.  The actual cash was deferred – forcing schools to be the State’s interest-free lender.  (And drawing heavily on just those local reserves that Proposition 2 would decimate.)

In fact, we’re still playing catch-up with per-student funding from 2007 – the high point to date, rather than 2011, three years ago, a local low.  Maybe someday we’ll get there.

And, if you want to analyze the other $6 billion of the horrendous deficit, perhaps you should take a quick look at the NEA National Statistics for government spending to see where California is over-committing its resources.  

Start with revenues, where you will find California ranked 12th for state and local taxes per capita – about $4,900 per person.

Then notice that California is ranked 31st in per capita spending on education – much lower than the state’s tax draw would suggest.  And worse yet, California has an unusually large proportion of school-aged children.  California has been disinvesting in education. 

Meanwhile, you will find California ranked 3rd in Corrections (after DC and Alaska).  And 7th in fire and safety.  And 8th in debt interest.  And 12th in public welfare.  Those are the areas where we’ve over-committed resources.

We strongly believe that California should not be ‘saving money’ on the back of public education funding in good times – thus perpetuating the need for and cost of prisons, fire, safety, and public welfare all the time.

For the children and the future of California, please stop this madness.

[1] Yes, then-Governor Schwarzenegger put a "Rainy Day Fund" on the ballot, along incidentally with the then-Speaker of the California State Assembly, and the head of the California Chamber of Commerce (yes, Mr. Zaremburg – you may remember signing that one, too) – history DOES repeat itself!  Go to http://primary2004.sos.ca.gov/propositions/prop58-arguments.html .

[2] Then, as now, all members of the Assembly and Senate voted aye except five.  Last time the five voted no, apparently, while this time two were absent while the other three had been suspended after indictments for voter fraud, gunrunning and corruption. 

[3] Actually, taxpayers provided the new funding under Proposition 30 (2012) “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education…” or did we misunderstand that Proposition? The California Budget Project certainly thinks someone did – as is clear from its slides “Prop 30 Promises to Students Not Kept” and “Prop 30 Revenue Used to Build Reserves & Non-Education Spending Growth” from its March budget presentation at www.cbp.org/pdfs/2014/.../CBP_Conf_2014_Taylor_presentation.pdf

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commented 2014-10-29 11:11:11 -0700 · Flag
commented 2014-10-29 11:10:32 -0700 · Flag
Oh okay. This makes a lot of sense. Thank you guys.
posted about this on Facebook 2014-07-26 20:47:32 -0700
Response Letter to CA Prop 44's Proponents-- fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice-- NO WAY!!

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