CA Education Policy Update

Mar 28th, 2011

CA Education Policy Update

By: Mona Vakilifathi | 04:03 PM

During the past two weeks, the Brown administration has made some progress in achieving its budget plan. On Friday, as reported by the L.A. Times, The Sacramento Bee, The San Francisco Chronicle, the Contra Costa Times and Capitol Weekly, Governor Brown signed into law billions of cuts to state services as a part of his budget proposal. Regarding  education, the signed bills would cut funds to higher education, including the state’s community colleges as well as the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems. (More news regarding further cuts to the CSU system, regardless of the passage of the tax extensions, can be found in articles from The Sacramento Bee, The Tribune/SanLuisObispo.com, and the L.A. Times.) Signing of these bills would also affect early childhood programs and state-subsidized child care.
 
As for the progress of the tax extensions, the other component of the budget proposal, there has not been much progress in placing the tax extensions on the June special election ballot while Brown continues the current strategy of attempting to have a two-thirds vote of approval from both houses of the state legislature. In fact, state Republicans and The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association have pursued their own agenda in filing initiatives for a special election in November 2011 to reduce public employee pension spending and capping state spending respectively, as mentioned by the L.A. Times and The Sacramento Bee.
 
As a result of Republican opposition and the impending deadline to call a special election, The Sacramento Bee and the L.A. Times report that Brown and Democrat leaders are starting to consider alternate means to placing the tax extensions on the ballot this year, regardless of Republican support. As mentioned in an earlier PACE blog post, Brown and state Democrats have the option to initiate a special election in June regarding these extensions with a majority vote rather than a two-thirds vote. In addition, according to The Sacramento Bee, another idea is to place the tax extensions on the ballot as an initiative in November 2011 through the initiative process. While the initiative option would serve as a legitimate alternative to the special election, the initiative process would require a lot of time and money from Democrats to collect signatures and to encourage voters to approve the ballot at the polls. (There is much research on the topic of the California initiative process and particular initiatives, but basic information about the initiative process can be found on the Secretary of State’s Elections page here.) With these changes, the deadline for placing the tax extensions would only be slightly later than the current option. Currently, the Democrats have three options to pursue in order to place these tax extensions on the ballot, but it is unclear as to which option will be pursued and when the overall budget proposal will be passed.
 
This week’s news also reports that labor unions are taking a greater involvement in supporting Brown’s budget plan and placement and passage of the tax extensions on the June special election ballot. The Sacramento Bee in two articles, here and here, and the L.A. Times PolitiCal blog report the California Teachers Association’s launch of radio advertisements as a move to pressure state leaders to come to a decision soon regarding the budget. It will be interesting to see whether other labor groups or coalitions with a large investment in the success of the passage of the tax extensions will participate through similar means as the California Teachers Association in the following weeks.
 
Within the past week, two significant reports related to California school principals’ accounts of the effects of state budget cuts to education, as well as the state voters’ views on state finances and taxes were released by the UCLA’s Institute of Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) and the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) respectively. On Monday, as reported by the L.A. Times and VoiceofSanDiego.org, the UCLA IDEA released the results of a survey, which can be found here, regarding the feedback from a sample of California’s high school principals in regards to effects of the state’s budget cuts on education services. On Wednesday, The Sacramento Bee, California Watch, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Orange County Register, the L.A. Times, the Ventura County Star, The Oakland Tribune, report the latest PPIC survey, which can be found here, that illustrates that voters are less supportive of Brown’s budget proposal and the June special election since support decreased from approximately two-third to approximately half of likely California voters. The Fox & Hounds Daily blog also reports that two-thirds of California voters are in support of Proposition 13, a controversial voter initiative passed in 1978 that limits property tax rates.
 
The Press Enterprise reports that, as of now, we await the response from the state Republicans as to whether they will take part in the budget negotiations with Democrats.