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Summerville board says ‘no’ to Prop. 30

Summerville Union High School District’s Board of Education declined Wednesday to support a tax increase proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown that would generate funding for education, with some members citing doubt that the money would benefit schools. 

Three of the five Summerville High board members voted down a resolution to back Proposition 30, an initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot that would help prevent further cuts to public education in California. 

 

Though the board approved a resolution in favor of Proposition 30 and the competing Proposition 38 at a June meeting, a few members expressed skepticism about the new resolution on the table Wednesday from the California Federation of Teachers. 

Initial discussion about the resolution at the board’s Sept. 12 meeting centered around safeguards to keep legislators from appropriating money generated by Proposition 30 — titled the Schools & Local Public Safety Protection Act.

Board member Dennis Spisak acknowledged that he didn’t feel “dumping more money into Sacramento” was a good solution to education funding shortfalls. Fellow board member David Marquez commented that Proposition 30 “wasn’t going to do anything” for education. 

The ballot measure would implement a temporary quarter-cent increase in sales tax, in addition to an income tax hike for top earners — those making $250,000 a year or more — that would last seven years. 

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that Proposition 30 would raise about $6 billion annually between 2012 and 2017.

Revenues would be funneled into an “Education Protection Account,” with 89 percent going to kindergarten through 12th-grade schools and 11 percent to community colleges. 

The text of Proposition 30 guarantees that the legislature, governor or state agencies can’t use the money for other purposes.

Even so, Marquez has said he read the initiative and saw no evidence of safeguards to prevent misspending. 

The resolution in support of Proposition 30 was presented to the board by the California Federation of Teachers Summerville High chapter, whose negotiator Lynn Culver voiced his own misgivings about its language.

Statewide, the Federation of Teachers is campaigning for the ballot measure. 

If the resolution had been approved, the Federation of Teachers and Brown’s office would’ve added Summerville High to the list of Proposition 30 supporters on their websites, according to Summerville Union High School District Superintendent John Keiter.

After Spisak pointed out that California already ranks 47th out of 50 states in spending per student, there was no further discussion about Proposition 30 at Wednesday’s meeting. 

Marquez and board members Randy Richter and Bret Taylor voted against the resolution supporting the tax initiative, while only Spisak and board President Cheri Farrell voted for it. 

“I don’t think the state of California is responsible in its spending, so I don’t think we should raise taxes,” Marquez reiterated. 

Now it’s up to California voters to decide. Brown has made it clear that the defeat of the ballot measure will lead to steep funding cuts for education.

That would include a midyear loss of about $450 in funding per student, described by educators in the Mother Lode as a major threat to their schools’ fiscal health and ability to educate students. 

The competing Proposition 38, advocated by Pasadena attorney Molly Munger, is titled “Our Children, Our Future: Local Schools and Early Education Investment and Bond Debt Reduction Act.”

Proposition 38 would raise income taxes for most Californians for 12 years, generating roughly $10 billion a year during that time.

Proponents say it would create new funding for schools rather than simply prevent further cuts. A slogan for Proposition 38 promises “Money for schools, not Sacramento.”

Critics, including Brown, say the promised money for schools wouldn’t be available until the 2013-14 fiscal year. 

If voters pass both Proposition 30 and Proposition 38, the ballot measure with the most votes will pass. Brown has said that even if Proposition 38 passes, the failure of Proposition 30 will still lead to more than $5 billion in budget cuts this year.

In addition to cuts in K-12 public education, that would include a $250 million loss for both California State University and the University of California.

Spisak alluded to the funding shortfalls and the prospect of further cuts at Wednesday’s Summerville High board meeting. 

“It’s a pretty sad commentary on our state,” he said. “If this state doesn’t wake up, I don’t know where we’re going to be in the next 10 years.” 

But other parts of Wednesday’s board meeting dealt with the immediate future of Summerville High, with Keiter and new principal David Johnstone describing goals for the school year. 

 English teachers met earlier this month and decided they will develop a single rubric for assessing student papers and observe other teachers to “foster an atmosphere of collaboration.”

All Summerville High teachers have submitted what Johnstone calls “Smart Goals” for their classrooms this year, designed to guide their teaching strategies. 

The school’s administrators would like to see 50 percent of its students complete entrance requirements for the University of California and California State University. 

Currently, the number stands at about 43 percent, Johnstone said. 

Keiter has also been meeting with teachers and administrators to set goals for instruction. The administrators decided they must follow a range of indicators to gauge the school’s success more effectively. 

Those indicators include the number of sophomores passing the California High School Exit Exam, the percentage of seniors who take the college entrance SAT test, and graduation rates. 

 “We’re trying to get data-focused and goal-oriented with our staff to get everybody kind of harnessed to work in a unified direction,” Keiter said. 


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