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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.

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

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

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