Education Matters: Education propositions on the ballot


As a socially-liberal fiscal conservative (or a fiscally-conservative social liberal), I find myself in a bind at each election cycle. The Republican Party is too extreme on social issues, and the Democrats are too free with our hard-earned cash.

So where does that leave us registered Independents (or No-Party-Preference people, as we’re officially called)?

This newspaper’s policy prohibits opinion writers from publicly endorsing or opposing any candidate running for office, but we are permitted to opine about ballot propositions. And there are several education-related propositions on the ballot this year worth discussing.

Given how I’ve defined myself in the first paragraph, readers would be correct to assume I oppose Proposition 51.

Another gigantic General Obligation bond to build and modernize schools, Prop. 51 totals $9 billion and is financed primarily by the construction industry.

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times opposed to Prop. 51 reasons: “Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t had anything good to say about Proposition 51. ‘I am opposed to the developers’ $9-billion bond,’ he told The Times in February, referring archly to the construction industry’s role as the proposition’s main financier.”

Brown also argued, the LA Times said, that it would “continue an inequitable system based on which school districts get to the application line fastest, not which ones need it the most.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, according to the LA Times piece, stated that a bond such as this one “allows disparities based on school district property wealth, fails to target funding according to greatest need, results in excessive administrative complexity, and lacks adequate accountability mechanisms.”

Proposition 51 deserves a “no” vote.

No on Measure MM

With Measure MM, local voters are faced with yet another General Obligation bond that affects them directly, through increased taxes based on property values.

Measure MM asks voters to approve a $455 million bond for the Mira Costa Community College District, to upgrade facilities that those opposed to the measure say is unnecessary for a community college district that has healthy reserves and a robust income stream.

Estimates are that the 40-year bond would cost about $15 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Don’t be fooled by the existence of an independent citizens’ oversight committee. Once voters approve a measure like this, oversight committees have little power.

One strong argument against Measure MM is the cumulative effect of another layer of taxpayer-funded bonds for schools.

How many more of these GO bonds are voters willing to support?

Taxpayers are already paying up to $30 per $100,000 of property value for San Dieguito Union High School District’s GO bond.

School districts in Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe and Carlsbad also have GO bonds that homeowners are paying for. The Solana Beach School District, which historically has had one of the heftiest reserves of all school districts in the county, will have its own school bond on the ballot next week, as will the Cardiff School District.

General Obligation bonds require a 55-percent passage instead of two-thirds. So everyone is jumping on the “free money” bandwagon.

What’s disturbing about these measures is that much of the campaign financing comes from builders and construction-related industries, as well as school district employees and vendors, many of whom contribute money to campaign war chests but don’t live in the districts and would not be subject to the tax.

No on Proposition 55

Proposition 55 represents a broken promise.

Prop. 55 seeks to extend until 2030 what was promised under Proposition 30 in 2012 to be a temporary tax on individuals earning over $250,000 per year or couples filing jointly who make more than $500,000 per year.

Prop. 30’s purpose was to help the state recover from years of recession. The tax was to last six years only, ending in 2018.

The bulk of the Prop. 30 money was for education, resulting in significant increases in school district budgets in recent years.

If you think districts are still struggling, consider the 12.5 percent salary raise that San Dieguito recently gave each of its employees.

The justification for this was that the district has plenty of money now and into the foreseeable future. San Dieguito recently boasted of a $4 million surplus.

To be clear, I am not in the higher-taxation category – nor do I know many people who are. It’s the unfairness and the deception that drive me to oppose this measure.

The “facts” that proponents push are cunningly worded. To say Prop. 55 “does not raise taxes on anyone” is technically true – because the tax on the wealthy is already in place.

And when supporters say it would prevent $4 billion in cuts to education, that’s just twisting the truth.

A “no” vote doesn’t cut funding – it ends extra funding that was intended to be temporary under Prop. 30.

Furthermore, not all of this money would go to schools, as advertised.

As if there’s even another good reason to oppose Prop. 55, consider an Oct. 26 Wall Street Journal op-ed by Joel Fox, former president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

“California’s public-pension problem is what really drives many of these campaigns,” Fox wrote. “State and local pensions are deeply in debt because of the generous giveaways elected officials have offered government workers. While the money for the taxes isn’t directly dedicated for pensions, new tax revenue can free up funds to cover local governments’ obligations to the state retirement system.”

Millions of dollars from the Calif. Teachers Association are helping to fund Prop. 55.

Backers also include Calif. State Controller Betty Yee, who issued a letter in support – mailed to Calif. voters on her official state letterhead.

The wealthy made their sacrifices in 2012 and did their part to help the state through hard times. The state’s budget is now back on solid ground. This is just another money grab by special interests who don’t want to turn off the spigot.

As Gov. Jerry Brown said about Prop. 30 in 2014, “That’s a temporary tax and, to the extent I have anything to do with it, it will remain temporary.”

Yes on Proposition 58

Under Proposition 58, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, “schools would no longer be required to teach English learners in English-only programs. Instead, schools could teach their English learners using a variety of programs, including bilingual programs.”

The ballot states that Prop. 58 “authorizes school districts to establish dual-language immersion programs for both native and non-native English speakers.”

While providing schools with flexibility, Prop. 58 preserves the requirement that public schools work to ensure that students have proficiency in English.

English learners are defined as those students who are not fluent in English, and they represent about 20 percent of California’s student population. Of that 20 percent, the vast majority are native Spanish speakers.

Supporters say Prop. 58 gives options to schools, parents and children, and lifts restrictions that have been in place since Proposition 227 passed in 1998.

Prop. 227, according to the LAO, “generally requires English learners to be taught in English and restricts the use of bilingual programs.”

Many education experts say English language immersion programs have been ineffective.

In a Huffington Post piece co-authored by local UCSD professor Ana Celia Zentella, she and her associates say that dismantling bilingual education in 1998 under Proposition 227 did not result in significant improvement in English language development.

“Bilingual education provides the most effective way to learn English while students strengthen their home language,” say the authors.

Zentella, who is Professor Emerita in UCSD’s Department of Ethnic Studies, states in the op-ed, “The bill would authorize parents or legal guardians of all pupils enrolled in the school ‘to choose a language acquisition program that best suits their child’ from among many well-established educational methods.”

A “no” vote, the authors say, “confines children to a single language.”

Sr. Education Writer Marsha Sutton can be reached at