Proposition 38 Campaign: Pasadena Unified's Ed Honowitz Warns California Schools Could Fall Off 'Fiscal Cliff'

Pasadena Unified School District board member Ed Honowitz, who, like many other California public education officials, has been dealing with drastic state budget cuts, warns that if voters don't pass Proposition 30 or Proposition 38, California schools could fall off a "fiscal cliff."

"Failure of both initiatives triggers huge budget cuts reducing K-12 and community colleges by $5.4 billion," Honowitz writes in an opinion piece he sent to L.A. Weekly. "Districts statewide will have to shorten the school year by three to four weeks."

The Weekly wrote about the two ballot measures in the cover story "Molly Munger's Prop. 38 Is Spoiling Jerry Brown's Prop. 30. She's Not Sorry."

Honowitz goes on to write: "That lost teaching time is critical to producing college and career ready graduates and to remain economically competitive. We would wind up with the least days of schooling of any state and we already have a school year that is over a month shorter than most industrialized countries."

While propositions 30 and 38 are both on the November 6 ballot, only one can take effect. If they both receive over 50 percent of the vote, whichever one has the most votes will turn into law.

Proposition 30 is being pushed by Governor Jerry Brown, who's seeking to plug a multi-billion-dollar state budget deficit with an income tax increase for the most wealthy Californians and with a hike in the state sales tax. The initiative also prevents "trigger cuts" to public education from taking place.

Proposition 38 is the brainchild of wealthy Pasadena civil rights attorney Molly Munger. Her measure seeks to raise income taxes for all Californians on a progressive scale, with the rich contributing the most. Proposition 38 would then funnel those billions directly to local public school districts, bypassing the state legislature which would not be allowed to touch the money.

Brown and Munger have been sparring over which measure is best for California schools.

Honowitz, though, asks Californians to vote "yes" on both measures to ensure that at least one of them wins. Many public education experts are advocating that tactic. Otherwise, they say, local schools will face a dire economic situation.

"If neither 30 nor 38 pass," writes Honowitz, "Pasadena Unified's roughly $175 million budget will be slashed. Even if Prop 30 passes, due to previous years cuts, Pasadena faces $2 million in reductions this school year and $9 million next year. If both initiatives fail that skyrockets to $6 million in cuts this year and $18 million next year."

Honowitz continues, "Districts statewide have already had major staff reductions; most increased class size 50% in grades K-3 and drastically reduced counselors, administrators and librarians. If both props 30 and 38 fail, California would drop to about $1000 per student below funding levels five years ago; a deeper education cut than any other state."

Honowitz concludes, "The future of California is at stake in this election. Do we really aspire to provide less for children than any other state? The student achievement gains we've seen over the last years will not continue if we make cuts of this magnitude. California became the eighth largest economy in the world decades ago by investing in its infrastructure and future workforce. It is time to reinvest in the future of California."

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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