OEA President Challenges CTA Bureaucracy On Props 1A & 1B-Supporting A "A Bad Marriage To A Poison Pill"
California's education community split on Prop. 1BBy Dana Hull
Mercury NewsPosted: 05/09/2009 08:20:27 PM PDTUpdated: 05/10/2009 03:43:52 AM PDT
ElectionsNews and archived election resultsProposition 1B, a school funding plan, is married — some say unwisely — to Proposition 1A on the May 19 special election ballot, a union that educators worry may doom chances of schools getting back the money they have lost during the state's recent economic crisis.The link between the propositions has caused widespread confusion among voters and created an unusual split within California's education community, which typically coalesces around statewide initiatives.Proposition 98, passed by voters in 1988, requires the state to provide a minimum level of funding each year for K—12 schools and community colleges. But the "minimum guarantee" was shelved in recent years, leading to disputes about how much the state owes education. Advocates say Proposition 1B begins to repay $9.3 billion that the state has borrowed from education to balance the budget.But Proposition 1B hinges on voters approving Proposition
1A, which would impose state spending limits and extend temporary increases on personal income tax, the vehicle license fee and the sales tax. The tax extensions in Proposition 1A are what would fund the money for education in Proposition 1B.The powerful California Teachers Association, the Association of California School Administrators and the California State PTA are backing both propositions.But the California Federation of Teachers, the California School Boards Association and the California FacultyAdvertisementAssociation, which represents many faculty and staff at California State University campuses, oppose 1A, even while reluctantly supporting 1B.
Local teachers unions are actively supporting both measures and are planning a rally Wednesday at Eastridge mall. They say passage of both measures is critical if local schools are to avoid yet another round of cuts to the classroom."If we don't pass 1A, we won't get the money from 1B," said Janice Allen, president of the San Jose Teachers' Association, which is phoning its members and urging support for both measures. "If the initiatives fail, the state will fall into an even bigger budget hole and there could be August layoffs of teachers."But the Oakland Education Association, one of the CTA's largest affiliates with 2,700 members, has taken the rare step of breaking with the statewide union to oppose both 1A and 1B."You don't need a proposition to give schools the money that is already owed to us," said OEA President Betty Olson-Jones. "This whole thing is a mess of a package. Why support something that is attached like a bad marriage to a poison
pill?"Olson-Jones and others say Proposition 98 requires the state to pay the money back anyway. But there's no consensus on how much schools are owed given the state's fluctuating financial health or when payments would begin. The ballot initiative is widely seen as an attempt to avoid future lawsuits between education groups and the governor's office by outlining a repayment schedule, to begin in 2011-12, when the economy will have improved, presumably.The California Federation of Teachers, the smaller of the two statewide teachers' unions, is opposed to Proposition 1A because it fears it gives Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unilateral power to cut individual program budgets without the approval of the Legislature.It is asking its members to vote for 1B because it is seen as a less costly mechanism than suing the state."We're urging our members to vote for 1B as a symbolic statement," said the federation's legislative director, Kenneth Burt. "But 1B isn't
anything great. It delays payment to schools and stretches it out over seven years."In February, after months of wrangling, California's lawmakers finally agreed on a state budget through June 2010. But their plans hinge on voter approval of the six measures on the May 19 ballot. If Proposition 1A doesn't pass, California will face a $16 billion budget hole, and local school leaders say they will be forced to go back and cut more from their own budgets."These are not great propositions. They are not solidly thought out, and they are temporary solutions" said Johanna VanderMolen, superintendent of the Campbell Union School District, which recently froze administrative positions and increased class size. "But I really want them to pass. If we don't get 1A and 1B, then our children will have to bear a lot more cuts."Recent polls suggest the measures are in trouble. According to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week, Proposition
1B is trailing by seven points: 47 percent of likely voters are opposed, 40 percent support it.Contact Dana Hull at dhull@...
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