From Joel Shapiro, originally posted on the South Pasadena Unified School District's website:
The concept of a free and public education is one of our nation’s most enduring values, and it is the reason why our country has excelled in so many arenas. Education is a fundamental right of every child. California’s Constitution requires a school system that prepares students to become informed citizens and productive members of society.
Over the last several years, because of a serious economic recession, most states throughout the U.S. have steadily reduced funding for public schools. Although this is a national problem, it is a crisis of extreme gravity in California. Fifty years ago, California was able to boast a public education system that was second to none. More than 30 years ago, after the passage of Proposition 13, per-pupil funding in California slowly began to erode. When Proposition 98 was enacted, public school districts were given a guarantee that K-12 public education would receive a minimum of 40% of the state’s general fund budget. However, over the past decade various manipulations of Proposition 98 guarantees have resulted in public education receiving a disproportionate share of funding cuts when state revenues have experienced a shortfall. The manipulation and suspension of Proposition 98, along with California’s shrinking revenues over the past four years, have brought about an untenable situation. California’s per-pupil funding is now 47 out of the 50 states. Per-pupil funding in California is now more than two thousand, five hundred dollars below the national average, and this disparity continues to grow each year. In fact, if Proposition 30 does not pass in November, this gap will grow by about an additional $460.
School districts in California have worked tirelessly to serve the needs of all pupils despite the staggering loss of resources that they have faced. However, with many years of reduced funding, California now has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest average class sizes in the nation. Similarly, California schools rank last in the nation in the number of librarians per student and close to last in the number of counselors and administrators per student.
The State’s unsound, unstable and insufficient school finance system is not aligned with mandated educational requirements or with the State’s rigorous program of standards and accountability. The amount of funding provided to education is not enough to prepare students to meet the State’s required standards, or to prepare them to meet the demands of 21 st century jobs.
The State has failed in its obligation to provide the resources necessary to enable our students to compete on national or international levels. Measures of academic achievement have shown that California’s inadequate system of educational funding has resulted in an achievement gap between California students and those throughout the nation. Furthermore, the current funding system causes unequal learning opportunities within our state.
California’s broken system of educational funding has far-reaching consequences. Inadequate funding for education is clearly related to higher rates of crime and poverty, as well as a greater need for a variety of social services. Money that is not spent to educate today’s children will be spent at a much higher rate in the future on job training programs, social welfare programs, and prisons. It is not only practical for our state to spend the money needed for high-quality education for all students; it is also a moral imperative.
It is absolutely essential that our elected officials solve the problem of a public education system that is disastrously underfunded. Revenue enhancement measures will undoubtedly be necessary. It is inexcusable to hand this problem to the citizens of California, asking them to determine whether they will choose to make education funding a priority by passing a ballot initiative – especially since 70% of the voters do not currently have students in our K-12 public schools. It is also inexcusable to leave the solution to communities through local revenue measures. In the absence of leadership by elected officials, voters will have to step in; however, this is not an acceptable long-term solution.
It is not an option for schools to continue to cut services to our students. Teachers and administrators have already been stretched beyond a reasonable limit. Students have already been the victims of a dysfunctional funding system, and this cannot continue. The future of our state, nation and the entire global community is at stake.
Given the unwillingness of our elected officials to address this funding crisis, voters will have the opportunity to vote for two funding measures on the November 6th ballot. Both Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 provide funding for public schools. They do so through different types of taxes and different funding mechanisms. The South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education has passed a resolution to support both of these tax initiatives. The threshold for passing is a simple majority. If both propositions pass, the one that receives the most votes will prevail.
Proposition 30 will maintain the current level of per-pupil state funding, with money going into the State’s general fund and distributed to school districts in the current manner. If Proposition 30 does not pass, the mid-year cut to our school district will be about $2,000,000, and the District will lose that funding in future years as well. In the current year, employees would take four furlough days, and the school year for students would be reduced by two days. Furlough days beyond the current year have not been negotiated with employee groups.
Proposition 38 would provide funding to each school outside of the current State allocation formula. If Proposition 38 does not pass, it would not decrease funding in the current year or future years, and it would not result in furlough days or a shortened year for students. If Proposition 38 passes, it will add funds to schools for several years.
Voters have been put in a difficult position, being asked to choose between competing ballot measures to support California’s public schools. For this reason, and because our schools are in desperate need of funds, the Board of Education has chosen to support Propositions 30 and 38. California voters will determine the future of our schools.