Question: What's at stake for education in November's election?
For years, the state has balanced its budget based on projections of higher revenues and cuts that never occurred. When those revenue projections did not materialize, the state resolved to cut education further than any other sector of state funding.
Because of those cuts, districts throughout the state, including Modesto City Schools, have increased class sizes and reduced the instructional year. When linking student achievement to a state's commitment to fund education, in California both are in the bottom 10 percent of national standings. California ranks 47th in per-pupil spending and dead last in student-to- teacher ratio.
California owes Modesto City Schools $175 million. Over the past five years, the state has reduced payments. It currently pays the district 78 cents on the dollar and defers other monies. The continuous lack of funding will force the district to use its reserves.
On Nov. 6, California voters will make or break California's public education system. The passage (or failure) of Propositions 30 and-or 38 will signal the public's willingness to fund education, now and in the future.
Gov. Jerry Brown's Schools and Public Safety Protection Act, Proposition 30, increases the state sales tax a ¼ cent and personal income taxes for individuals making more than $250,000 and families making more than $500,000. The increases are temporary, with the sales tax provision lasting four years and the income tax provision lasting seven years.
If Proposition 30 fails, the state will immediately implement "trigger cuts" and Modesto City Schools will lose an additional $13.2 million in the current year.
To help cover the funding gap created by the trigger cuts, the governor authorized school districts to cut an additional 15 days from the school year. The additional cuts would take Modesto City Schools from 175 instructional days (already below the optimal 180) to 160. Due to state budgeting, students will lose a full month of instructional days. Factor in the loss of one month of school over the life of a kindergarten student through their eighth grade graduation, and the result is one full year of instructional time gone.
If Proposition 30 passes, the trigger cuts will not occur and Modesto City Schools will not lose the $13.2 million; however, it will not receive any of the $175 million owed by the state, either. Revenues will fund the Education Protection Account and would offset state aid toward school district revenue limits.
Molly Munger's Our Children, Our Future: Local Schools and Early Education Investment Act, Proposition 38, increases personal income tax on all annual earnings over $7,316 using a sliding scale from 0.4 percent for the lowest individual earners to 2.2 percent for individuals earning more than $2.5 million. The increases will last for 12 years.
If Proposition 38 does not pass, there are no immediate trigger cuts.
If Proposition 38 passes, Modesto City Schools will suffer the immediate $13.2 million trigger cuts enacted with the failure of Proposition 30 and will not receive any revenue from Proposition 38 until January 2014.
If both measures pass, the state will implement the proposition with the most votes. If both fail, the governor will enact the $13.2 million trigger cut.
So what is at stake if the propositions fail? In a word: everything.
If Modesto City Schools loses $13.2 million, what will we cut? Nothing will be off limits athletics, music, art, class size, librarians, counselors, school days, jobs.
The impact on our students and the community will be massive. Modesto City Schools could no longer spend $13 million annually on local services and products. As the third largest employer in Stanislaus County, job losses in the district will translate to a loss of revenue in our community.
An educated work force helped to make California one of the most vibrant economies in the world. We will pay a high price if we continue to fail to invest in education.
Able is superintendent of Modesto City Schools.