The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce is frequently out of step with residents. Still, we were astonished to read in its weekly newsletter the day before the special election that its board of directors was recommending YES votes on all four of the governor’s propositions.
It prefaced its endorsements by saying, “The Board of Directors of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce has taken positions on the following initiatives in tomorrow’s election that they feel will effect (sic) the state and local business climate.”
What was most odd, verging on grotesque, given the continuing and mighty effort the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and its residents have made to maintain full academic programs in the face of continuing budget cuts, was the Chamber Board’s endorsement of Prop 76.
According to the board, “Live Within Our Means Act (budget reform) By limiting spending and providing funds for a prudent reserve, ensures the state has funds to sustain essential programs like education, transportation and necessary city and county services when the economy slows. It does NOT cut school funding; it simply allows the Governor to balance the state budget the way you balance your family finances. Part of the Governor’s reform package.”
The Chamber’s claim, however piquant, that Prop 76 would not have cut school funding was wishful thinking at its balmiest, and ran counter to the facts assembled by more knowledgeable authorities, ranging from state and local PTAs to the League of Women Voters and the legislative analyst. At the outset, for instance, it would have reduced school funding by $600 for every student in the state.
As virtually everyone knows, California schools once led the nation in academic achievement, but, owing to chronic under-funding, now rank near the bottom, despite the fact that California is the sixth richest economy in the world. In other words, though California is richer than all but six nations in the world, our schools bear a tragic resemblance to the schools in third world countries. Prop 76 would have made that dismal situation worse.
As it does every fall, the Chamber recently gave a party for the new teachers in the area. We need good teachers, and we have some great teachers in Santa Monica, but our teachers, our schools and our students need more than parties, they need adequate funding, too.Luckily, 62 percent of California voters disagreed with the Chamber’s panglossian interpretation of Prop 76 and rejected it. Still, we find it unfortunate that the Chamber Board is apparently unaware that the education “climate” is a major factor in the “local business climate.”