Opinion piece submitted by WAYNE LUSVARDI, Pasadena
Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 | 8:33 AM
We all want our local schools in the Pasadena area to be adequately funded whether we are proponents or opponents of Measure CC – the Mail-In Ballot – Parcel Tax with a May 4 return deadline. That is not the issue with Measure CC.
This past year the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) acknowledges that it received $23 million in Federal Bailout monies to plug the state budget shortfall in funding for public schools. So PUSD did not suffer any loss in funding this year. It is next year’s allocation of state public school funds that is at issue.
The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) projects a 2% INCREASE in K-14 public school funds under Prop 98 for next year:
PROJECTED GENERAL FUND SPENDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
YEAR FUNDING CUMULATIVE PERCENT CHANGE
2008-09 – $34.15 billion
2009-10 – $35.98 billion (+5.4%)
2010-11 – $36.71 billion (+7.5%)
State Prop 98 funds for public schools increased 5.4% in 2010 and are forecasted to increase a total of 7.5% from 2009 to 2011 according to the LAO.
Part of the reason for this is that Prop 98 that was passed in 1988 and mandates an automatic annual increase in education spending in the California budget during stable economic years. In years of weak economic growth Prop 98 guarantees no less than the prior years spending plus adjustment for enrollment growth, increases for any changes in per capital general fund revenues, and an automatic increase by 0.5 percent in state general funds. If school districts statewide are willing to accept a decrease in funding for one year due to stress on the state budget, that decrease must eventually be paid back. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_98_(1988)
However, because of the precarious situation of the State budget, let’s assume for a moment that PUSD may actually suffer a hypothetical budget cut of its State school funds of about 3.5% (or $7 million) as they contend.
PUSD still will have received 5.4% more state funds from 2010 to carry over into 2011.
However, there are three other “killer” reasons why not to vote for Measure CC. One is that activities that can be funded on a bond issue can be switched after an election at the sole discretion of the PUSD Board. In other words there is no guarantee that PUSD will not “bait and switch” Measure CC funds from the classroom and instead divert funds to social service programs, health clinics, or crony consultants as it has recently.
For example in 1998 L.A County voters approved Prop A half cent sales tax increase for public transit projects with the promise to middle class taxpayers that the funds would be used to fund undercrossings that would relieve local traffic congestion caused by the Gold Line light rail. As soon as the bond was passed, Zev Yaroslavsky on the MTA Board unilaterally had the undercrossings provision removed without going back to the voters. Without that provision Prop A might not have passed.
Such sweetener provisions in a bond are called ”Ginger Bread” and are included just to get the voters to approve the bond then removed afterward. There is no LOCK-IN for Measure CC that guarantees that bond funds will not be used for undisclosed activities. This is crucial because, unlike a Property Tax, a Parcel Tax can legally be used “for anything.”
Another killer problem with Measure CC is that if the State of California does NOT cut Prop 98 school funds, PUSD will reap a windfall while Pasadena’s homeowners suffer through the Depression. There is no provision in Measure CC that if the state fully funds or increases funds for PUSD that the taxes from Measure CC will not be collected and that any tax overage will be credited on homeowner’s tax bills. Measure CC is a double dip of taxes unless the state reduces it share of taxes.
A third reason is that there is no guarantee that the state will not just reduce the amount of its funding to PUSD dollar-for-dollar for any monies gained from Measure CC. This would be a trick way for California to indirectly raise state taxes in a Depression and then shift those funds to state social services, etc.
The following list of deceptive past actions of PUSD do not give the voting public confidence that MeasureCC bond funds will all be spent in the classroom as PUSD contends: hiding the misuse of prior bond monies until an audit revealed it, failure to set up an accountability oversight board with teeth to oversee bond spending, constructing a new school building at Blair High School that is unneeded except to provide jobs for the well-connected, and renovating many excess school buildings which are not being used with prior bond funds.
PUSD erroneously contends that it has one of the largest classroom sizes in L.A. County. Actually, according to the California Department of Education website, Pasadena has one of the very lowest student teacher ratios as shown below:
Alhambra – 24.8
Glendora – 23.6
Arcadia – 23.5
La Canada – 23.5
South Pasadena – 23.2
Pomona – 22.7
Monrovia – 22.1
Burbank – 21.6
Malibu – 20.8
San Marino – 20.8
LAUSD – 20.5
PUSD – 20.4
(Source: Cal Dept. Education, ED-DATA)
There is no guarantee Measure CC funds will be spent in the classroom.
There is no guarantee in Measure CC that if the State fully funds or increases funds to PUSD in any year that no taxes will be collected.
PUSD has one of the very lowest classroom sizes in the County.
There is no guarantee the state won’t just reduce its share of school funding dollar-for-dollar for any monies from Measure CC.
PUSD’s management of past bond issues has not been responsible and PUSD cannot be trusted.
I urge you to VOTE NO ON MEASURE CC- THE GINGER BREAD PARCEL TAX – with a deadline of May 4.