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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yes on Both of California's Education Propositions

Both of the education propositions on the California ballot may lose today.  The higher ed communities have focused on Gov Jerry Brown's Proposition 30, whose passage will avoid "trigger cuts" that will reduce Cal State and UC state funds by another $250 million beyond the cuts that Gov. Brown has already delivered to them. (Failure for Prop 30 will also mean another $338 million cut to the community college system.)  Prop 30 "buys out" any tuition increase this year for UC students. Prop 30's failure will result in a mid-year tuition increase for UC students: the number I keep hearing is a tuition increase of 20%. Given UC's ongoing structural deficit, this would put in-state tuition on track to rise to $20,000 by around 2015-2016, if not sooner

If Molly Munger's competition Prop 38 gets more votes than Prop 30, it nullifies Prop 30 even if Prop 30 has majority support.  Both propositions have quite a bit of money for K-12 but Prop 38 has more.  Prop 30 mixes seven years of income tax increases for the top brackets (starting at $500,000 for joint filers) with four years of a quarter-percent increase in the sales tax.  Prop 30 is also linked to the state budget, and is to provide $6 billion to balance the budget we are already in.  Hence its failure would require cutting $6 billion mid-year, and 98% of the cuts will come out of all levels of education.

Prop 38 offers more thoughtful support for schools, and funds quite a bit of early education (see the LAO analysis). There are also requirements that local school boards consult with their community over budgetary decisions and that they put their budgets on line, presumably so that parents can monitor the share of school funds that goes to instruction and related programs as opposed to administration and so on.  The duration of the income tax supplement is nearly twice as long, and it is a general tax on the population.  I find that politically and philosophically preferably to soaking the rich (all should pay for all). I would prefer a much more progressive income tax structure than California has, but this is beyond Prop 38's control.

I have disliked Prop 38 partly because it does nothing directly for higher education--which the Schwarenegger-Brown Axis of Mediocrity has been slowly strangling--and also because I am revolted by the plutocracy politics that has enabled two children of Warren Buffet's business partner Charlie Munger to saddle us with two propositions (Prop 32 and Prop 38) that they can fund with tens of millions of their personal dollars, and in general manipulate the political process as though they were landed aristocrats of ancient times.  I was also worried that Prop 38 would beat Prop 30 and cancel it.

I've changed my mind.  Prop 38 addresses a range of real problems with primary, secondary, and preschool education--now funded 47th out of the 50 states-- and does so relatively well.  It's polling well behind Prop 30, so I am less worried that it will trigger the shotgun that Jerry Brown has kindly trained at higher ed's head. On Warren Olney's show that covered the two propostions, Munger noted that Prop 38 sets aside around $3 billion for contributions to the state General Fund, which the legislature could freely use to reverse cuts to the three higher education systems it has been gouging for years.   There is of course no guarantee.  So I'm swallowing my irritation will both of these propositions and with the asinine education politics that has completely destroyed California's educational advantage and am voting yes on both.

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