Tuesday, September 25, 2012
By Misty Volaski
Last week, Ojai Unified School District board members formally gave their support to Proposition 30, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to maintain public school funding by temporarily increasing the sales tax (by a quarter of a cent) and income tax (for those making $250,000 or more per year).
Four board members voted yes, while board member Thayne Whipple abstained from the vote.
According to OUSD administrators, there’s a lot at stake this fall. The defeat of the proposition would trigger about $5.5 billion in spending cuts at the state level — most of which would come from education.
OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser said that, for Ojai, the trigger would translate into $1.2 million in mid-year cuts — which, he estimated, would mean 15 fewer days in the current school year. What’s more, the average Ojai teacher stands to lose about $905 per month (gross) on their paychecks from January to June 2013. That’s on top of the $290 they’re already losing from the eight furlough days they agreed to for this year, said assistant superintendent Dannielle Pusatere.
While the Ojai board members’ move to support Prop. 30 was largely symbolic, Bangser didn’t quite see it that way. “It sends a direct message to the school district constituents that the board does feel strongly that this proposition must pass.” The alternative, he added, “Is not fair to students. It’s not fair to staff … And that $1.2 million we wouldn’t get this year, it won’t be there next year, either. So you’d get a compounding effect. There’s absolutely no doubt that if the proposition fails, there will be more significant staff positions cut for the 2013-14 year.”
The OUSD Board could have also opted to support Proposition 38, a similar measure to Prop. 30, which would increase income tax for most Californians. However, “There was not a majority support for 38,” Bangser said.
After her vote, board member Kathi Smith said in an email, “While I wish Gov. Brown had written Prop. 30 to restore money taken from public education, he didn’t. So I’m in favor of Prop. 30 because closing school at Memorial Day is unthinkable. It deprives our students of vital school days, and it takes significant income from the paychecks our teachers and staff.”
Although he abstained from the vote at Tuesday’s meeting, Whipple said he wanted to make it clear that his abstention did not mean he was against Prop. 30. When actually broken down, he said via email, the tax increases “are not drastic and will probably not be noticed very much at all by most people. I do not, however, share the confidence my colleagues on the Board have that Governor Brown will either keep his word, or has any real interest in funding education. … Governors have regularly held education ransom and coerced school boards and educators to endorse and advocate for taxes and programs that, in the end, do nothing to increase the state’s investment in education. I am not willing to lend my credibility to what may likely be another scam in the name of education. I would prefer that our focus be on local issues that we can effectively control.”
Opponents to Prop 30, like the California Republican Party, argue that raising taxes on higher income earners is not a good strategy. A recent email blast, the CRP said Prop. 30 “will drastically increase the sales tax for everyone and the income tax on successful individuals — even though a recent study shows those taxes are driving away businesses and hurting our economy.”
Nicole Botti, parent of two Ojai students, said she was shocked that further cuts to education are even something being discussed. “I don’t know why they would even consider it. I’m concerned about how our kids in California are going to compete with kids on the East Coast. You see some kids already struggling. It’s almost a criminal act. We’re gonna have these kids suffer — why are we doing this to our kids? Why are we selling our kids short on education?”