Thursday, November 08, 2012

More tax revenue for schools in California

There is of course zero guarantee that all or any of the money raised will actually go to schools.  Tax revenue is fungible

Overcoming decades of anti-tax sentiment in California, Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 -- billed as a tax hike to rescue the state's schools -- narrowly won Tuesday.

"I know a lot of people had some doubts and some questions: Can you really go to the people and ask them to vote for a tax?" Brown told supporters as the measure inched into the "yes" column just after 11 p.m. "Here we are ... We have a vote of the people, I think the only state in the country that says let's raise our taxes, for our kids for our schools, and for our California dream."

With most precincts reporting, results showed the Bay Area, Los Angeles and coastal areas supporting the measure while inland and rural areas were rejecting it.

Brown made Proposition 30 the hallmark of his administration, spending the year trying to convince voters that California schools have reached a breaking point and need taxpayers to come to the rescue. It will raise $6 billion annually for education and the state budget by increasing the sales tax by a quarter-cent for four years and raising income taxes on the wealthy by up to 3 percent for seven years.

"It sold itself," he said at a victory party in Sacramento.  "The core reason it brought people together was a belief in schools and universities and the capacity of government to make wise investments that benefit all of us."

The governor has repeatedly promised that rejecting Proposition 30 would have meant $6 billion in fresh cuts to schools starting Jan. 1 -- threatening to shorten the K-12 school year and raise tuition at public universities again.

Kevin Thompson, a teacher in Union School District in San Jose, who took time off from teaching to campaign for the measure. "The early returns look really good," he said earlier Tuesday night. "I think the message is out, that this is the way we're going to invest in our students and our schools."

Meanwhile, wealthy attorney Molly Munger's Proposition 38, a competing tax-for-schools measure, trailed badly, as expected, despite Munger providing most of the money for the $48 million campaign. Proposition 38 sought to raise $10 billion, mostly for K-12 schools, by raising the income tax on the wealthy and middle class, who bristled at the idea of hiking their own taxes by hundreds of dollars a year.

"Win or lose, Molly Munger put public education back on the front burner, where it belongs, during this election cycle," said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for Yes on 38.

However, a third tax measure, Proposition 39, passed as expected, closing a loophole that allowed big multistate businesses to pay fewer state taxes. The result could add $1 billion a year in new revenues to the state. Bay Area hedge fund manager Tom Steyer bankrolled nearly the entire $39 million campaign for Proposition 39, which voters approved overwhelmingly.

But deep into the night Tuesday and Wednesday morning, all eyes were on Proposition 30.

Supporters led by teachers, other employee unions, Democratic politicians and even some businesses waged a $40 million campaign. Brown personally campaigned around the state in recent weeks and has staked his political reputation on the measure as his top priority during his current term.

Principal Amy Caroza estimated that Coliseum College Prep Academy in Oakland would have lost $200,000 if Proposition 30 failed and said she didn't know how the school would offset that loss.

Voters have spent the last two decades rejecting one tax hike after another, and many voters either didn't believe Brown that the cuts would happen or thought the state should make due with the money it has. They also continue to be skeptical of state government and think new projects like the $69 billion high-speed rail line are a waste when the state needs more for schools and public safety.

In addition to anti-tax groups and conservatives, Munger briefly launched attack ads on Proposition 30 last month while a group with ties to the Koch brothers donated millions of dollars to defeat the measure.

"We are grateful for all the hard work from thousands of small business owners, taxpayers and many groups from around the state in helping us communicate our 'no on 30' messages to voters," the No on 30 campaign said in a statement.


Education reform law turned back in SD

Voters overwhelmingly rejected Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s education reform law, which sought to overhaul the way South Dakota public schools evaluate and reward their teachers.

Daugaard promised to hand out $15 million per year, giving $2,500 to all competent math and science teachers, college scholarships for those who take hard-to-fill teaching jobs, and bonuses for teachers who rate as the best in their district or take on leadership roles.

But half of every teacher’s rating was to be based on test scores or other quantifiable measures of student achievement, a major point of contention for the teachers union. The law also would have phased out job protections for veteran teachers.

When the law passed the Legislature by a single vote, the South Dakota Education Association organized a petition drive to put it on the ballot. About 68 percent of voters rejected it Tuesday.

“I think (voters) listened to the teachers,” SDEA President Sandy Arseneault said.

The vote-no campaign had a heavy TV presence, thanks to the National Education Association, which poured $683,000 into the campaign to defeat the measure. The state chapter chipped in $15,000.

A group backing the law reported contributions totaling $113,500, which came mostly from Sioux Falls business leaders and StudentsFirst, a national political action committee led by reform-minded Democrat Michelle Rhee.

Valerie Schonewill, a 29-year-old librarian from Sioux Falls, initially supported the law. She thinks teachers are underpaid and liked the notion of paying bonuses while holding them accountable. But teacher friends who objected to merit pay and special treatment for math and science teachers, as well as the official vote-no argument included in ballot materials, persuaded her to vote against.

Carol Blickstead, 58, a former public school teacher who now works as a private school librarian in Sioux Falls, voted against the law. She took offense to the possibility that schools would start paying merit-based bonuses, saying it implies many teachers aren’t doing a good job.


Idaho education reform laws headed for defeat

Leaders of a campaign to reform Idaho schools that would have weakened unions and put laptops in the hands of the state’s high schoolers all but conceded their loss late Tuesday night as voters appeared to reject the propositions.

“I thought it would be a little closer,” said Ken Burgess, manager for the campaign in support of the propositions that included one that awards bonuses to teachers based in part on student test scores.

“We feel great,” said Mike Lanza, chair of the campaign to defeat the so-called Luna laws. “The public doesn’t like these laws.”

The three propositions trailed throughout the early voting, with the closest running 12 percentage points behind with more than half of the state’s precincts reporting.

State schools chief Tom Luna spent much of the past two years pushing his plan through the Legislature and then seeking support from Idahoans, including parents.

Some of Idaho’s most powerful people, including Gov. Butch Otter and Frank VanderSloot, CEO of Melalueca, backed the plan. VanderSloot put $1.4 million toward supporting the so-called Luna laws. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has wrestled with teacher unions, put $200,000 toward bringing the three propositions to victory.

The three education laws, passed by the Legislature in 2011 and put on the November ballot after a successful petition drive, were at the top of many Treasure Valley voters’ minds Tuesday.

Kathie Corn, a retired teacher, expects she’ll hear from her colleagues about her vote in favor of Proposition 1, which limits bargaining rights and ends continuing contracts, or tenure.

“My friends are going to be mad when I say it, but that’s OK,” said Corn, 68, who taught in Idaho for 25 years. “There were too many teachers who shouldn’t be working forever and nothing was done.”

But Corn voted no on Prop 3, the laptop and online mandate for high school, reflecting the split ballots cast by many Idahoans on Luna’s Students Come First laws. Proposition 3 drew the most no votes of any of the measures.

Danton Killian, 52, a Meridian welder, voted no on Props 1 and 3 and yes on 2. He’s concerned about a $180 million, 8-year laptop contract with Hewlett-Packard and about machines becoming obsolete.

“It’s a little early to be making rules about what you can do with technology,” he said.

Stacey Van Kirk, 41, of Eagle, opposed all three proposition. She didn’t like Proposition 2, which hands out bonuses to teachers based in part on how students perform on achievement tests.

“I do not think teachers should be (incentivized) by teaching to the test. I think they already do that so much and I think kids are already losing,” she said.


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