Santa Monica-Malibu PTA members and parents gathered at Clover Park Wednesday afternoon for a rally in support of Proposition 38, which supporters say will guarantee the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District more than $120 million over 12 years if it passes on Nov. 6.
Supporters say more than $10 million for Santa Monica-Malibu USD schools is guaranteed in 2013-14, increasing annually to about $24 million by 2023-24.
Santa Monica-Malibu PTA Council President Patti Braun said the rally’s purpose was to send a message to the local community that now was the time to invest in education and vote ‘yes’ for Proposition 38.
“It’s a very exciting and visionary solution I think to the deep, deep cuts we’ve been facing,” Braun said. “Instead of stopping the bleeding, we could really transform our schools and we could restore all those things that have been cut and bring back new programming, arts, and music, and full time PE, and College counselors, and many things that have been cut from California budgets and Santa Monica-Malibu budgets as well.”
Proposition 38, championed by millionaire civil rights attorney Molly Munger, will raise $10 billion a year for 12 years for public schools in California.
Every school will receive new money on a per student basis with the funds being controlled locally. The legislature and the governor are strictly prohibited from using the money for any other purposes.
Proposition 38 would increase personal income tax rates for 12 years for annual earnings over $7,316 using a sliding scale from 0.4 percent for the lowest individual earners to 2.2 percent for multimillionaires earning more than $2.5 million. “Yes On Prop 38” advocates claim that the average tax burden for incomes between $25,000 to $50,000 would be just $54.
During the first four years, 60 percent of revenues would go to schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, 30 percent to repaying state debt, and 10 percent to early childhood programs. Thereafter, 85 percent of revenues would go to schools from kindergarten through 12th grade and 15 percent to early childhood programs.
At Wednesday’s rally, SMMUSD School Board President Ben Allen, who is up for re-election on Nov. 6, said the district had been dealing with “devastating cuts” since the economy went into a tail spin in 2008.
“We’re now getting a little bit more than $20 million less every year from the state than we’re supposed to have under state law,” Allen said. “That has forced us to go through some really difficult decisions. I have friends on school boards all over the state and I have talked to them about the heart wrenching decisions they’ve had to make: rolling back libraries, rolling back on counseling programs, on nurses, derailing and entirely eliminating summer school programs that are so vital to addressing a lot of the achievement gap issues that exist in our state, increasing class sizes, and laying off teachers. These are devastating cuts that really don’t put us on the right track towards the California dream that we all know, that we all believe in, and that our kids deserve.”
Sally Miller, Will Rodgers Elementary School parent and legislative representative, spoke at the rally to remind the community of the state’s education woes.
“California ranks 47th nationally in what we invest to educate each student,” Miller said. “California has the largest class sizes in America. In the past three years, more than $20 billion has been cut from California schools, and over 40,000 educators have been laid off in California.”
Miller took a jab at “reluctant tax payers” who claim school budgets were bloated and wasteful.
“I say really, where’s the bloat?” Miller said. “Is it in the hundred year old gymnasium where ceiling tiles are falling on students? No. Is it in the elementary school with no art program? No. Is it in the classrooms stuffed with 35 children, one teacher, and not enough textbooks? No. Is in the district budget that has reduced hours or eliminated altogether administrators, nurses, PE teachers, and librarians? No. We have an opportunity on Nov. 6 to invest in education. PTA strongly supports Proposition 38 because it is a transformative long-term solution. I say it is never foolish to invest in public education and kids.”
Miller continued, saying PTA has always been a champion for schools, students, teachers, and parents.
“So yes, I’m riding on the Prop 38 train, and I’m also coupling to the Prop 30 car, and the Measure ES car, and we are riding together to support education up and down the ballot,” she said. “Yes, yes, and yes. What’s the alternative? Further cuts, stripped down programs, dilapidated buildings, and failing students. I ask you, is that a school you would want to go to? Is that a place you would want to send your children? Your neighbor’s children? Your niece or nephew? I don’t think so. So Californians, I urge you to vote yes on Prop 38, Prop 30, and Measure ES. We cannot afford the alternative.”
Governor Jerry Brown’s rival education tax initiative Proposition 30, would increase taxes on wealthy Californians (those who make over $250,000) for seven years. It would also increase the California sales taxes by 1/4 cent for four years. The taxes would bring in an estimated average of $6 billion a year, which would go straight into California’s budget and stave off $6 billion in automatic “trigger cuts” to education.
Only one of the two competing tax measures, Gov. Brown’s Proposition 30 or Munger’s Proposition 38, can become law. To pass, one measure must be approved by more than 50 percent of voters, as well as winning the most total votes.
Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, who is up against Betsy Butler for the 50th Assembly District seat on Nov. 6, said he is supporting both Prop 38 and Prop 30.
“Neither measure is 100 percent perfect, neither measure gets the entire job done,” Bloom said. “Prop 38 is critical to the future. It presents not only the money, but some of the reforms that is necessary for the future of education.”
Bloom said Santa Monica-Malibu schools were better off than most, but added “that was the problem.”
“Every child in the state of California deserves an excellent education. Every child, not just some children,” Bloom said. “And we can’t be 47th (in per student spending) and provide that excellent education. We are three from the bottom on that metric; we are three from the top in unemployment. We have the third highest unemployment rate in California in the country. And if you think for our future that those two stats are not connected, you are mistaken. We will continue to lag in the workforce if we aren’t able to provide the education to our children that they need to be productive members of the workforce.”
SMMUSD School Board candidate Craig Foster, who is Webster Elementary School PTA president and also a teacher, said there are five guarantees that come with Prop 38.
“The first one is our school district gets $10 million the first year, and that ramps up to $24 million over time,” Foster said. “That’s a huge amount of money.”
Secondly, Foster said money could only be used on district students.
“It can’t be used in bureaucracy, it can’t be used on pay raises, it can’t be used on pensions,” he said. “It goes right to the classroom. And if you say ‘but wait, how do we know that will happen?’ Because the third guarantee is a guarantee of auditing and felony penalties if it isn’t that way.”
Foster said the fourth guarantee was local control.
“Not only does the money come to the district, it is allocated school by school,” he said. “If you want to know how much your school gets, go to the ‘Yes on 38’ website and type in your school name, and there will be that amount of the $10 million that goes directly to your school. Parents, PTA, and community members will be part of deciding how that money is spent.”
Last but not least, Foster said there would be accountability.
“To get this money, you are required as a school district to define how that money is going to be used and set targets for achievement,” he said. “And these are the five reasons why 38 is different. It’s different because we can count on it, we can trust it, and we know where the money is going to, and we know what it’s going to be used for. It’s going to be used for our kids.”
Proposition 38 has been endorsed by the California State PTA, the California School Boards Association, and the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Monica-Malibu, and Pasadena school districts, among others.
Proposition 38 opponents call it the “Middle-Class Income Tax Hike,” saying it locks Californians into higher income tax rates for the next 12 years without placing any requirements on schools to improve performance. Opponents also say its passage would hurt small business and job creation, and that community colleges miss out.
For information supporting Prop 38, visit www.prop38forlocalschools.org. For information against Prop 38, visit stopthemiddleclasstaxhike.com.
• Increases personal income tax rates on annual earnings over $7,316 using sliding scale from .4 percent for lowest individual earners to 2.2 percent for individuals earning over $2.5 million, for twelve years.
• During first four years, allocates 60 percent of revenues to K–12 schools, 30 percent to repaying state debt, and 10 percent to early childhood programs. Thereafter, allocates 85 percent of revenues to K–12 schools, 15 percent to early childhood programs.
• Provides K–12 funds on school-specific, per-pupil basis, subject to local control, audits, and public input.
• Prohibits state from directing new funds.