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CSBA Endorses Both November Revenue Initiatives

May 31, 2012

In an unprecedented move, the California School Board Association’s Delegate Assembly – the association’s governing body – voted on May 20 to endorse both of the revenue initiatives that will appear on the November ballot to help fund public schools and other needed statewide services. The Delegate Assembly, CSBA’s primary policy-making body and the foundation of the organization’s governance structure, consists of nearly 300 locally-elected board members from 21 regions across the state.

The two initiatives are sponsored by Governor Brown and the California State PTA respectively. Brown’s initiative has drawn support from the California Teachers Association, Association of California School Administrators, several elected officials, and others. The California State PTA’s initiative was brought forward in large part by Southern California lawyer and activist Molly Munger.

“With the release of the May Revision, it’s clear that school-age children stand to lose significantly without new revenue. The school funding crisis is at historic proportions,” explained Jill Wynns, president of CSBA. “Public schools have sustained more than $20 billion dollars in revenue reductions and deferrals since 2008.  Without new revenue, our schools will sustain another $5.5 billion reduction, which may translate into the shortening of the school year by another three weeks.  This will severely impact student learning and success. We simply cannot continue to meet state and federal mandates, and provide a quality education to the nation’s most diverse student population without adequate funding and resources,” she added.

This endorsement is unique. “CSBA is the only statewide educational association to endorse both initiatives. While each initiative presents a different funding scenario for our schools, the bottom line is that both will generate billions of dollars in much-needed revenue for public education,” said Vernon M. Billy, CSBA executive director. He added, “The initiatives are stop-gap measures that minimize the hemorrhaging.  Ultimately, we need the Legislature to commit to sustained adequate yearly funding.”  According to Billy, CSBA opted for the dual endorsement because schools desperately need funding. Yet, he and the CSBA leadership want to make it clear to the public that the governor’s initiative does not provide new funding for schools. Instead, it bolsters the General Fund with new revenue. “Under the governor’s plan, schools would get back some of the billions of dollars that were redirected away from them and used to shore up the state’s funding gap in the last budgetary cycle. The governor’s initiative only restores some of the funds already owed to schools,” Billy said.

Since the decline in the economy and state revenues in 2008, California public schools have sustained a disproportionate share of statewide cuts even though the state’s constitution guarantees base funding under Proposition 98.  The $20 billion reduction in school funding to date has forced school boards and district leaders to take drastic actions to continue to provide educational programs and services.  Students at every grade level have been severely impacted by the revenue reductions.  Many school districts have eliminated: class-size reduction (which has been in place for decades to help students in the early primary grades get the support needed for a strong foundation in English Language Arts, reading and math), sports, the arts, educational field trips, speech/debate, Mock Trial, other enrichment activities (such as student council - which helps students to develop into contributing adults and civic leaders), summer school, after-school enrichment activities, and busing. Schools have reduced library and computer lab hours, which has been especially detrimental for the state’s growing number of students who live at or near the poverty level and have limited access to learning resources in their local communities or at home.

Moreover, many districts have been forced to shorten the instructional year, which has deprived students of valuable learning time that can never be recovered. Districts have also laid off administrators, teachers, and staff, suspended hiring, reduced and/or frozen salaries, and initiated other cost saving measures to sustain the educational program and services to students. While public schools are supposed to receive 40 percent of the state’s General Fund revenue each year as part of the Proposition 98 guarantee, the funding for California’s public schools ranks 47th out of the 50 states.

“We are urging local school board leaders to consider this important statewide endorsement and to adopt similar resolutions in their local communities.  As we approach Election Day in November, voters will be bombarded with conflicting messages. We are hopeful that this endorsement by CSBA and local school boards will help to validate for voters the intent behind each initiative – to provide much-needed funding for our schools,” Wynns added.

CSBA is the nonprofit trade association representing the elected officials who govern school districts, county offices of education, and regional educational agencies. With a membership of nearly 1,000 educational agencies statewide, CSBA brings together school governing boards and district and county office administrators to advocate for effective policies that advance the education and well being of the state’s more than 6 million school-age children. Learn more at www.csba.org.

Source:  California School Boards Association