Viewpoints

Viewpoints: Proposition 2 will hurt local school districts

Vote “no” on Proposition 2 – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Well-informed voters say this hypocritical rainy day fund takes away the power of our communities to save or control our revenues. “Let’s save mine and spend yours,” is not fiscal responsibility.

Philosophically and financially, I oppose Proposition 2. The governor can continue to use the existing rainy day fund and pay down debts, as he did this year. He can return in 2016 with a real rainy day ballot measure – one that doesn’t pile risk on our schools.

Too often, the state’s priority turns from educating our youngest citizens to sloshing billions of educational dollars around to balance its fiscal circus. It was a sad move in March to have Proposition 2 take money out of the state’s minimum constitutional school funding guarantee during good years. Taking money from our underfunded public schools is not the way to save for a rainy day. It is certainly not the way to fund our future.

The state promises to repay schools in downturns – but what’s the state’s history with schools?

It diverted $5 billion in school property taxes in 2004 ($8 billion this year), which it has failed to promptly pay back every year since 2008. In fact, the state has been unable to fully certify that it met the constitutional school funding guarantee since 2007. The 2012 school year ended with $8 billion owed to local school districts; even by June 30, $4 billion was owed. Why should schoolchildren trust the state’s promises this time?

Worse yet, the Legislature in June decided to also require local school districts to spend down their savings whenever the state puts a penny in its “school fund.” Having no local reserves puts our kids – and our teachers – at risk. It means that the Sacramento City, Elk Grove, San Juan, Stockton, Fresno and Clovis Unified districts would be left with just two weeks of operating expenses. Schools can’t wait a few weeks until they have resources to pay their teachers and other expenses. Also, rating agencies have warned that California’s credit rating may also take a hit if this proposition goes into effect.

Across the state, schools have saved in line with government financial guidelines, while Sacramento saved nothing. Why are children in our struggling public school system being asked to pay for the fiscal irresponsibility of Sacramento? This is political power at its worst.

Who are “we” – brave enough to go up against a powerful political machine and tell the truth? We are well-educated parents who read the fine print. We are Educate Our State – nonpartisan volunteers with tens of thousands of supporters across California who are demanding a voice for children in Sacramento.

A “no” vote on Proposition 2 will keep fiscal responsibility with locally elected officials. Don’t hand it to a political machine clamoring for a constitutional amendment to create it. As a parent and a grandparent, and as a lifelong Californian, I know that when Sacramento gets it right, it is a key ingredient to the solution to fixing our challenges with public education. But this is another example of asking children in the largest classrooms in the country, and their communities, to pay for the mistakes of the state.

Proposition 2 is just too great a risk. Too bad for kids. Too bad for schools. Too bad for California.

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