Proposition 38 and the Undeclared War of 2012

By Kimberley Beatty / Special to San Diego Free Press

There is an openly secret war between Prop 38 and Prop 30 and it’s important to understand how this unnecessary conflict happened.  Both propositions increase taxes and that’s where the problem begins.  Any revenue increase requires a 2/3 vote of both the state senate and assembly.  All but two Republican legislators have signed the Grover Norquist Anti-Tax Pledge, vowing to never, under any circumstances raise taxes or even allow the citizens to be able to vote on the issue.

The only possible exception would be a revenue neutral bill, where a tax increase here would be used for a tax cut there.  With rare exception, all Republicans fall in line or suffer the retribution response of a vengeful party, including lost leadership positions on committees and recalls.

Given this undemocratic system, it was predictable that in the Spring of 2011 Governor Brown would fail to get enough votes in the state legislature to qualify an initiative to allow citizens to decide whether to extend his temporary taxes on vehicles, sales and income.

So, beginning in the summer of 2011, four different powerful groups started devising their own plans to raise revenue:

1. Think Long California, the brainchild of billionaire Nicholas Bergruen; 
2. Millionaires Tax, conceived by the Courage Campaign, SEIU and California Federation of Teachers (CFT);
3. The Governor’s Plan, joined by the California Teacher’s Association (CTA); and
4.  Molly Munger’s plan, joined by the Advancement Project and California State PTA.

There was no apparent coordination among these groups, which is the real tragedy and I blame the Governor for his lack of leadership on this.  Eventually, all of these proposals got whittled down to the two that remain, Propositions 38 and 30. (Eds. Note: Proposition 30 is covered here.)

Prop 38 is a 12 year temporary tax.  It will raise $10 to $11 billion annually in new revenue through a sliding scale income tax increase that varies with taxpayers’ ability to pay.   For couples, the increases range from 4/10ths of 1% on incomes, after all deductions, under $35,000 to 2.2% for couples with income, after all deductions, over $5 million. Existing tax credits will offset increases for most couples with taxable income of $40,000 or less. A couple earning $75,000 in income after all deductions would pay an additional $428 each year, while a couple earning $1.5 million after all deductions would pay $27,266 more.

The money is to be placed in a separate trust fund that can only be spent as authorized by the provisions of the Act. The Governor and Legislature are prohibited from using it.

In the first 4 years, 30% of the funds will be placed in a special education debt payment fund to reduce the cost of servicing education bonds to help end state deficits.  60% of the new funds will be allocated on a per pupil basis to all local public school sites – including charter schools, county schools and schools for children with special needs – to improve educational outcomes.  10% of the funds will be used to raise standards and expand access to public preschool and early childhood programs to help prepare children to succeed when they reach Kindergarten.

In the last 8 years, 85% of the new funds will be allocated per pupil to all local public school sites and 15% of the new funds will be used to expand access to public preschool and early childhood programs.

To help close the existing achievement and opportunity gaps, every local school will receive additional per pupil dollars based on the number of students who qualify for free lunches.  Proposition 38 gives local communities control of the new education dollars. It requires school boards to adopt procedures for each school to ensure parent, teacher and community input on how the new funds will be spent.

For the first time, school boards are required to provide clear, accurate budgets for each school site. They must explain how every expenditure will improve educational outcomes at the school site and how they will measure and publicly disclose whether those goals have been met.

The initiative will enable schools to provide a well-rounded education that supports college and career readiness for every student, including art, music, physical education, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), vocational and technical education courses, school libraries, school nurses, and counselors. It will make possible smaller class sizes, up-to-date teaching materials and technology, and better-trained teachers – all based on local needs and priorities.

This measure limits what schools can spend from these new funds on administrative costs to no more than 1% and says schools may not use these new funds to increase salaries and benefits.  The initiative contains tough, effective accountability provisions that require oversight, audits and public disclosure. For more information go to:

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  1. avatar says

    Re competition between Molly Munger’s Prop 38 — which is designed to focus solely on relief for K-12 public schools and Governor Brown’s Prop 30 — which is written to include pre-K through post-secondary education — I was told by a source from the California Teachers Association that whichever measure wins the most votes in November will prevail. And that there likely will be litigation following the vote-count.

    • avatarKimberley says

      Here is the section in Prop. 38 that mentions that:
      SECTION 11: Conflicting Initiatives.

      (a) In the event that this measure and another measure or measures amending the California personal income tax rate for any taxpayer or group of taxpayers, or amending the rate of tax imposed on retailers for the privilege of selling tangible personal property at retail, or amending the rate of excise tax imposed on the storage, use or other consumption in this state of tangible personal property purchased from any retailer for storage, use or other consumption in this state, shall appear on the same statewide election ballot, the rate-amending provisions of the other measure or measures and all provisions of that measure that are funded by its rate – amending provisions, shall be deemed to be in conflict with this measure. In the event that this measure receives a greater number of affirmative votes than any such other measure, the rate-amending provisions of the other measure, and all provisions of that measure that are funded by its rate – amending provisions, shall be null and void, and the provisions of this measure shall prevail instead.

  2. avatar says

    Personally, I don’t see how a voter can do anything but VOTE YES ON PROP 38.

    If Governor Brown had been interested in protecting only education, he would have made common cause with Molly Munger whose initiative qualified for the ballot earlier and was filed with the Secretary of State before Brown’s. Brown wanted Munger to step aside, which she refused to do, and so he exercised his political muscle and had her measure placed down-ballot rather than first. Munger has financed this measure with her own fortune.

    Munger has focused on K-12 only because that’s where we’re hurting most and the most damage is being done: 47th in per pupil spending among 50 states; bigger and bigger class sizes; fewer and fewer teachers; less materials and supplies; a pinched curriculum without much science, social studies or music and art. No six-figure salaries for presidents and chancellors, no fee hikes for students, no special interests waiting in the wings for a windfall — all problems with Brown’s Prop 30.

    Molly Munger has assured a “lock-box” on the funds Prop 38 will raise. Money will go directly to school sites and local controls will determine where the money will be spent. It cannot go to administration or anyone’s salary or to any other part of the “general fund,” which is often raided for wheeling and dealing by Sacramento’s legislators who are in thrall to special interests. It is pretty pristine as such measures go.

    Prop 38 is meant to improve the education of public school children. That’s why the California PTA is supporting it. Amazingly, Prop 38 really is Motherhood and Apple Pie, unless you have taken the Grover Norcross no-new-taxes-ever pledge. I like Prop 38, I admire Molly Munger and I like that her measure is free of the entangling complications that may well sink Governor Brown’s competing measure. I am hoping for the best and will vote for Prop 38.

  3. avatar says

    The slickery and unintelligible complexities of the Governor’s Prop 30 are obvious in the disparate estimates of revenue coming out of his office and the office of the independent Legislative Analyst. There are no such discrepancies in the Prop 38 Munger plan. Prop 38 is what it says it is and it does what it says it will do. Additionally, Munger’s Prop 38 does not hit the poor with a regressive sales tax, which Prop 30 calls for.
    I would hope all citizens voting in November will take this as an opportunity to do good for the California community of public school kids and vote YES on 38.

  4. avatarKimberley says

    As a side note here in the “War of 2012”, I just received the following email this evening at 7pm. I have gotten similar ones in the past and I don’t know where they are getting my email address.

    Dear parent leaders,
    You may know me as President of the California State Board of Education, but today I am writing you in my role as a fellow Californian and as a parent and I have an urgent plea on behalf of California’s students.

    While I have been a supporter of Prop. 30 since early in the campaign, I understand and respect the PTA’s support of Prop. 38. I know we come from the same place: wanting a better future for our children.

    But recent actions by the Prop. 38 campaign are leading us down a dangerous path and imperiling the education we all care about. What changed today is that Molly Munger, the author of Proposition 38, began attacking Governor Jerry Brown’s measure, Prop. 30. We understand that starting tomorrow her campaign’s advertising will focus exclusively on attacking Proposition 30.

    I’m writing today to ask you to do all in your power to stop this destructive course of action. Our kids and our schools cannot afford for both measures to fail. I personally support Proposition 30 as the only initiative that will stop $6 billion worth of cuts to schools this year and avoid steep tuition cuts for students of California’s public colleges and universities. But even if you prefer Proposition 38, we can all agree that negative campaigning is only going to result in one thing: a total loss for all of us who care about California’s schools.

    Here is a copy of a letter that I co-signed with other education leaders to Molly Munger today. Please consider taking action to influence the course we’re on. As the PTA, your support has been heavily touted by the Prop. 38 campaign and I know you will not want to be a part of a campaign that succeeds only in stripping $6 billion from our students this year should Prop. 30 fail. As parents, your voices matter and will be heard.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.


    Michael Kirst
    California State Board of Education

  5. avatarRichard Mason says

    Very compelling letter, Michael. It may help prevent the defeat of both props.
    Richard Mason, founder and past president, RBHS Friends of the Library

  6. avatarMilan Moravec says

    Einstein on Prop. 30, Prop. 38 – “Spending more money on doing what has been done in the past and hoping for a better outcome is insanity”.
    Have the innovative, thoughtful, insightful, creative teachers and faculty create methodologies to increase learning with significantly reduced resources $. Be American do more with less!
    No on 30, No on 38 and No on 32

    • avatarKimberley says

      From UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access:

      In the last weeks before the election, as well-funded campaigns pit one side against another, we mustn’t lose sight of a powerful third “side” in this education battle. If this third side “wins,” the whole state loses. Its strategy is to starve public schools in order to force them to become better. This has been a school finance philosophy for decades, and there is no evidence that it works.

    • avatardoug porter says

      Actually the “insanity quote” from Einstein is not found anywhere in his writings. It’s an internet legend