RANDY PENCH / rpench@sacbee.com

Students and adults participate in a walk-to-school event on Oct. 3. Proposition 30's win this week keeps California schools from having to shorten their calendars by up to 15 days.

Voters made it clear with Prop. 30: No more education cuts

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Saturday, Jul. 13, 2013 - 2:28 pm

Sacramento voters went to the polls Tuesday and made it clear: they would not accept any more cuts to education.

Sacramento and Yolo county voters joined the majority of state voters in approving Prop. 30 – agreeing to pay more taxes to keep budget cuts away from the classroom.

"It is exhilarating," said Jonathan Raymond, superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District. "The people of California have spoken loudly about how important education is, and I couldn't be more proud of our community."

Sacramento City Unified – like many other districts throughout the state – had planned to cut the school year by as many as 10 days if the tax increases had not passed.

Raymond said the reality of a shortened school year made the cuts more tangible to parents.

"I think it really enabled parents to sort out all the noise," he said.

While the measure was approved statewide, parents in the more conservative foothill counties – Placer and El Dorado – voted overwhelmingly against the tax hike.

Proposition 30 increases the state sales tax by a quarter-cent on the dollar for four years and hikes income taxes of the state's highest earners for seven years.

But Proposition 30 wasn't the only school-funding measure that received winning support on Election Day.

Residents in the state's school districts approved 85 of 106 school bond issues , according to Michael Coleman, an adviser to the League of California Cities.

Sacramento County voters passed every school bond measure on the ballot, opting to increase property taxes to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to update schools and technology.

Bonds require at least 55 percent voter approval.

Sacramento City Unified passed with more than 67 percent approval two bond measures – Q and R – for a total of $414 million. The bonds will modernize classrooms, fix leaky roofs, replace heating and air-conditioning systems, fix playgrounds and build a central kitchen. The bonds will cost taxpayers $54 per $100,000 of the assessed value of their property.

Another big local winner was Measure P, a $68 million bond measure that will benefit schools in the Rancho Cordova area of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District. With a vote of 69 percent approval, property owners agreed to increase their property taxes by $60 per $100,000 of assessed valuation to complete upgrades that will include the modernization of Cordova High School, as well as new technology at all schools.

San Juan Unified's Measure N, a $350 million bond, passed with 58 percent approval. The bond will fix leaky windows, replace aging portable classrooms and make schools more energy-efficient. The cost to property owners: $60 for every $100,000 of assessed value.

In Sacramento County, 55 percent of voters approved Proposition 30.

Few thought both the state tax initiative and local bonds would pass.

Failure of Proposition 30 would have triggered legislation allowing the school year to be shortened by up to 15 days – bringing the year to as few as 160 days.

San Juan Unified was looking at shortening its school year by 11 days. Folsom Cordova Unified was prepared to cut the school year six days this year and six next year to make up the difference.

Folsom Cordova Unified officials also were prepared to close libraries – already open only one or two days a week, eliminate all but mandatory busing and reducing the number of instructional aides for special education students. The schools would have gotten messier too, as custodians would be instructed to clean schools only once a week, said Stephen Nichols, district spokesman.

Twin Rivers Unified and its unions hadn't managed to come to an agreement about possible furlough days if the bond failed, but the district is still looking at cuts because of deficit spending, said Rob Ball, associate superintendent of Twin Rivers Unified.

Catherine Goddard, a member of Educate Our State, a grass-roots parents organization that pushed for the ballot measures, said parents were the motivating force behind the passage of the tax initiative.

"They finally saw what was happening," she said. "They are finally waking up."

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