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Bill Would Lower Threshold for Parcel Taxes to 55 Percent

Drive Launched to Amend California Constitution to Help Cash-Strapped K-12 School Districts

December 13, 2012

The California School Boards Association (CSBA) announced last week that it has co-sponsored Senate Constitutional Amendment 3 (SCA 3) to lower the vote requirement on parcel taxes from two-thirds to 55 percent. The bill is authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). The principal co-authors include Sens. Jerry Hill (D-South San Francisco) and Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). CSBA Executive Director Vernon M. Billy noted that the measure is substantially similar to one introduced by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) in the last legislative session. If approved by a two-thirds vote of the Assembly and Senate and by voters on a statewide ballot, it would give local school boards the flexibility to pursue additional funding solutions to help restore educational programs and services eliminated or reduced through the last five years of deep funding cuts and deferrals.

“While the passage of Proposition 30 stopped the excessive cuts and deferrals to schools, the state’s public education system is still grossly underfunded, ranking 47th out of the 50 states in per-pupil funding. As CSBA works with the Legislature and governor on a long-term funding solution to ensure public education is adequately funded, additional solutions are needed now to help restore educational programs,” Billy said.

“The passage of Proposition 30 by a 54 percent margin is evidence that the public wants to stop the budget cuts to schools. While the passage of the proposition enabled schools to stave off billions of dollars in additional cuts this fiscal year, school funding levels still fall nine percent below pre-recession funding levels. Our state invests $2,850 less per pupil and roughly $70,000 less per classroom than the national average. Local parcel tax measures would provide supplemental funding to sustain and restore educational programs, and enable districts to buy needed curriculum materials and classroom technology,” Billy added.

An amendment to the state constitution would make it easier for communities to support their local schools. “Strong schools are an important economic driver for the fiscal recovery of the state,” Billy added. “If we invest in public education and give school districts the ability to seek supplemental funding from their local communities, our students will graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to be competitive and gainfully employed.” Many districts use parcel tax funds for educational program enhancement, the purchase of technology and curriculum materials, and to restore teaching and student support positions, such as counselors, librarians and classroom instructional aides. “Some of the most valuable programs for students, including career technical educational programs in robotics, engineering, architecture and the like are not adequately funded through the state’s General Fund. The local supplemental funds provided through the passage of parcel tax measures are one of the few funding solutions available to sustain these unique learning opportunities for students”.

“We appreciate the leadership of Senators Leno, Hill and Pavley in introducing and advancing this measure. We look forward to working with them and the other co-sponsors of SCA 3, including the California Federation of Teachers and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, to get the amendment on the ballot,” Billy said.

Source:  California School Boards Association