Last week in SJI I wrote about the criticality of strong leadership from our candidates running for governor to fix California’s public schools. It will not be the leaders that make the difference, but each of us who are willing to speak out and put our money where our mouth is. The assembly Democrats have a proposal that supports our children and schools, but it will not pass unless we become engaged in the debate right now.
Shortening school years, furloughs, reducing the numbers of counselors and librarians, increasing class sizes, eliminating visual and performing arts programs, cutting transportation and after-school sports programming—these are just some of the budget decisions that school boards are making in order to develop a balanced budget. Unfortunately, school board members have no choice but to continue to gut public education and with it our future.
These governing boards must make decisions without the luxury of knowing what in the hell the state budget will be. It’s almost August and once again the budget has not been agreed to by the deadline written into state law.
My board had an opportunity to speak up on this issue following a request on our agenda from our Superintendent Chuck Weis. Dr. Weis asked the County Board of Trustees to adopt a resolution in support of Assembly Speaker John A. Perez’s thoughtfully crafted bill titled California Jobs Budget.
Two of our local assembly members, Jim Beall and Joe Coto, had requested County Board support. The California Jobs Budget categorically rejects the Governor’s $4.3 billion in Proposition 98 cuts and then fully funds California’s constitutional requirement.
The California Jobs Budget, according to the legislative staff analysis, would retain 430,000 jobs, including tens of thousands of jobs for teachers, counselors, and teacher aides. The bill’s architecture is complicated, and includes a quarter-cent decrease of the state sales tax, and a quarter-cent increase on local sales tax. The state reduction would be offset by a new oil severance tax. In addition, one- time revenue would be raised through securitization of Beverage Recycling Fees to the Beverage Recycling Fund. Most of this plan does not require a two-thirds vote because it is revenue neutral.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for my Board colleagues for their wisdom and sense of purpose. I have learned a lot from them in my one-and-a-half years on the Board. Often we disagree about issues that come before us, however 90 percent of the time we vote with unanimity after considered discussion. Yet on Wednesday, I was very disappointed on our disagreement on this issue.
Once I moved to support the resolution, which was seconded by board member Leon Beauchman, and after considerable discussion, we could not agree with unanimity about something so vital to California’s future. Yes, it is only a temporary fix and not the permanent solution member T.N. Ho would like, it is still infinitely better than where we are today.
This California Jobs Budget is being put forward by the Democratic-controlled Assembly. If there is a Republican proposal to save school jobs and provide full Proposition 98 funding for schools, as is constitutionally required, that is revenue neutral, let’s see it. I don’t believe there is one that can gain the majority vote in both of our state houses.
I along with Members Beauchman and President Song voted to support the California Jobs Budget Resolution. Member Mann was absent for the vote. Members Grace Mah, Jane Howard, and T.N. Ho voted to abstain due to the partisan nature of the proposal.
Children can longer be held captive by partisanship; rather we must come to a negotiated compromise on how to move forward for public education in these bleak economic times. We must act and now is the time. If you support a solution to support jobs and public education funding I urge you to contact Speaker John Perez’s Office at (916) 319-2046 or contact him at asmdc.org/speaker.