The Reporter Opinion: Dueling Ballot Measures: No easy choices when it comes to education funding

By John Niederkorn, Ph.D.

Make no mistake. California public schools — the programs, services and quality of service to students — are being diminished because of the continued reductions of state funding. This reduction began about three decades ago, but since 2008, with the advent of the California fiscal crisis, state funding of our schools has dropped precipitously. California is now among the five lowest states for per-pupil funding, and our student academic performance mirrors this level of support.

In the absence of effective state legislative leadership in support of public education, two tax initiatives have qualified for the November ballot. Proposition 30 is “The Schools and Local Public Safety and Protection Act of 2012,” or the governor’s tax initiative. This initiative provides for a 1/4 percent sales tax increase for four years, and a tiered income tax increase for high-income earners (above $250,000) for seven years.

The total tax revenues generated are projected to be $8.5 billion in 2012-13, and then $6.5 billion thereafter. Of these additional tax revenues, $2.9 billion is obligated to K-14 public education; the remaining funds to support other state General Fund obligations.

This “flat funding” proposal stabilizes public education funding for 2012-13. But it does not begin to rebuild the staffing, program or services that have been reduced or eliminated in recent years.

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