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Op/Ed: Tax Hike Won't Raise Revenue for Schools

MUSD Superintendent Linda Wagner writes that the district stands to lose more funding if the Governor's Tax Initiative fails, but gains no additional revenue if it passes.

The Governor's May Revision is out, and the buzz that surrounds it indicates there is additional money for schools. This is absolutely not the case. If the Governor's Tax Initiative passes, schools receive no additional revenue. If the Governor's tax initiative fails, however, Monrovia Schools will face a $441 reduction per student attending public school.

The Governor's May Revise authorizes 15 furlough days over two years (which, in one scenario could be taken at the rate of 7.5 per year). Districts have the option to take these days over the next two years on top of the allowable days presently an option for schools.

In Monrovia, we already have 6 furlough days per year. These six current furlough days plus the additional new 7.5 days would reduce the school year by a possible total of 13.5 days per year. This is just under 3 weeks of a student's school month. This further reduction of school days would also impose an additional 3% salary reduction for employees, on top of their current reduction of 3%. This change to the school year and concommitant salary reduction is negotiable in every school District. Other school districts may or may not decide to reduce the school year. This "flexibility" has the potential of inequities if district offerings in the San Gabriel Valley and even in the entire state.                                                                                                            

Even if we we're to take all allowable days (to the detriment of our students) we would only be half way to solving the budget nightmare we face if the tax initiative does not pass.

The shadow schools find themselves in is large. We are required by those who provide fiscal oversight to plan for the worst. Having experienced cuts year after year, public schools have cut to the bone, increased class sizes and significantly reduced programs. Now faced with an additional cut in the range of ten percent, we have run out of things to cut.

You may have heard that schools were guaranteed minimum funding under Proposition 98. While it is true that some form of protection theoretically exists, Proposition 98 is subject to such manipulation at the State level as to not be a guarantee of funding at all. Items from the State budget are shifted in and out of the Proposition 98 calculation as is convenient to make State budgets work in Sacramento; often to the detriment of schools.

Deferrals continue in the May Revision. A deferral is a late payment from the State. If money is due to in May, for example, schools might not receive it until October. We learned recently that deferrals will result in schools not receiving the monthly apportionment dollars in June, July or August, despite financial obligations districts face. This forces districts to borrow in order to make payroll, and to buy basic school supplies. Schools also must pay the fees associated with borrowing.

Public education faces its most difficult year in a series of very challenging economic years. We urge you to pay close attention to these challenges and advocate for students and their educations whenever possible.

--Linda Wagner

Jeanine Thomas Scott May 28, 2012 at 11:55 PM
FYI- Richard. It was board member Rob Hammond who wanted to put a stop to the fundraiser, not Linda Wagner.
Chris Ziegler May 29, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Here's something I picked-up on CNBC: 'If everyone had a living will and documented their end-of-life care, we may very likely be able to balance the budget'. We have gained the ability to keep people alive much longer than would be otherwise but we have never discussed the details of the matter. Each month of ICU can run in the ballpark of a million dollars and ironically, most of us don't want to have our life extended when there isn't a reasonable likelihood of restored quality-of-life. Obviously, this is a very personal and difficult subject for elected leaders to broach but it is reality we will all one day die and we should plan so we don't waste public funds - it is incumbent on us to pass this information around. To add context, I believe the budget of the subject was the federal HHS budget - which is a huge budget, larger than defense! As most electeds have pointed out loudly, our fiscal crisis is one of the upper-government not letting money trickle down. So, we if better address the issues down here that hurt the upper governments, we may see better days ahead.
Kim Petulla May 30, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Yes. Jeanine is correct. Mr. Hammond began all the fuss.
mark h. May 30, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Very Negative and misleading headline. How about: Tax Hike Protects Revenue for Schools - it's the same point count (more or less) would take the same space and is much more accurate and positive.
Kim Petulla May 30, 2012 at 10:18 PM
You are exactly right Mark. Everyone really needs to understand that if the tax initiative does in fact pass, this does not mean we are in the clear, it just means our budget cuts will be smaller. I, for one, would love nothing more than to pay LESS taxes but not at the expense of our students. I hope all will realize the severity of the situation. One of the two tax initiatives MUST pass. Things will get much, much worse. Remember these kids are our futures. Let's not deny them any opportunities regardless of what the government does or does not deliver.

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