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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Cash-Strapped L.A. Unified Awaits November Vote On Prop 30

Danny Lee |
October 9, 2012 | 3:40 p.m. PDT

Senior Staff Reporter

Voter rejection of tax increases in November could mean less instruction days for students, education leaders say. (Parker Michael Knight/Creative Commons)
Voter rejection of tax increases in November could mean less instruction days for students, education leaders say. (Parker Michael Knight/Creative Commons)
Teachers in Los Angeles could be bracing for more layoffs and loss of instruction days if California voters do not approve a quarter-cent tax increase to fund K-12 education at the ballot box on Nov. 6.

Gregg Solkovits, Secondary Vice President of United Teachers Los Angeles, said the estimated loss of $441 per student if Prop 30 fails could lead the Los Angeles Unified School District to follow suit with districts across the state by slashing 15 days off the school year. Such a reduction would result in school years of 160 days instead of 175 days.

Given the 10,000 layoffs that have resulted from past budget cuts, Solkovits offered a gloomy prediction of what voter rejection of this ballot measure would mean.

"I can't imagine it's going to get any better next year if Prop 30 fails," he said.

SEE ALSO: Prop 30 Vies For Attention Among Voters

In addition to the four-year increase in sales tax, Prop 30, supported by Gov. Jerry Brown, would raise the tax rate for incomes greater than $250,000 for seven years. The passage of this measure would stave off $6 billion in cuts that would force school districts to cut three weeks from the academic calendar. It would also help the state meet the minimum funding requirement for public schools set aside under Proposition 98. 

SEE ALSO: Prop 30 Vs. Prop 38: Why Parents And Teachers Are Divided

"Not only has the LAUSD had over a billion dollars cut the last couple of years, but it is actually owed billions of dollars by the state because the state has not been meeting its minimum spending requirements," Solkovits said.

Speaking to an audience of educators in Koreatown on Monday, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy warned of the "catastrophic" consequences of rejecting the measure, despite the district making gains such as producing its best-ever performance on state achievement tests.

"Because the class sizes have been relatively the same the last few years and we've taking paycuts every year to save those jobs, it's helped to maintain the continuity of instruction," Solkovits said.

One week ago, school district officials offered what was perhaps a glimpse into the future of California public schools if it fails to secure additional funding. The presentation suggested that failure to pass Prop 30 would raise the cuts to per student spending to $1,546 per pupil since 2008, which would rank California first nationally in cuts to school funding.

SEE ALSO: Prop 30 And Prop 38: Dueling Plans To Save California's Schools

That measure is running against Prop 38, which in contrast, would impose an income tax increase at a graduated rate on all except the lowest income earners and allocate about $10 billion annually on a per-pupil basis at local schools. Tax increases under Prop 38, backed by millionaire attorney Molly Munger, would be in effect for 12 years and range from 0.4 percent for the lowest earners to 2.2 percent for those making more than $2.5 million.

Prop 38 appears headed for defeat according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll revealing that only 34 percent of registered voters supported the measure, compared to 52 percent who oppose it.

Solkovits said Prop 30 is a "reasonable compromise" since it only targets the wealthy. To be sure, though Prop 38 raises taxes for anyone making more than about $7,300, standard deductions would likely keep them from having any additional taxes.

Support for Prop. 30 has dipped since March, but 54 percent of voters still side with the measure, while 37 percent are against it.

Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage on the LAUSD here.

Reach Senior Staff Reporter Danny Lee here; follow him on Twitter here.



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