November ballot measures could have huge impact on LAUSD
Craig Clough | January 4, 2016
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California voters may face difficult decisions regarding the future of education in the state in November as the state ballot could feature several propositions that would have an enormous impact on the educational landscape.
So far only one ed-related measure has been cleared for voting, but there are several others in the works, each with a potential to affect the future of LA Unified and school districts across the state.
Already eligible for the ballot is the “Kindergarten Through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2016,” which would authorize $9 billion in general obligation bonds, including $3 billion for new construction and $3 billion for modernization of K-12 public school facilities, $1 billion for charter schools and vocational education facilities and $2 billion for California Community Colleges facilities.
As the largest district in the state, LA Unified would receive a significant portion of the bond funds and would have little trouble figuring out what to do with them, as it needs roughly $40 billion to fix and modernize its existing facilities with only $7.8 billion currently available in construction bond authority.
The measure received support today in a statement from the California Chamber of Commerce, which said, “The strength of our economy relies on the strength of our workforce. Strategic, accountable investment from the state, local districts, and the business community is required so that new schools are built to accommodate growth and aging facilities are revitalized to support a 21st Century education.”
Also of importance to LA Unified is a proposition that would make tax increases from Proposition 30 permanent. Prop 30 was a 2012 ballot initiative that raised income taxes on wealthy individuals for seven years and increased state sales taxes for four years. Much of the money has been going to support public education and it is largely responsible for the flush budgets of the last few years that have provided billions in extra dollars for education.
LA Unified is facing huge budget deficits in coming years, according to projections made by Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly and an outside financial review panel. The extension of Prop 30, known as “The Invest in California’s Children Act,” would not save the district from its financial troubles, according to the panel’s report, but “will only help keep a bad situation from becoming a catastrophe in three-to-five years.”
The measure is still in the signature-gathering stage but faces an uphill battle if it makes the ballot, as a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that only 37 percent of voters view extending Prop 30 as “very important.”
More bond money and more budget money are issues unlikely to cause many arguments among state education leaders, but there are other measures in the works that are likely to prove more controversial. One such measure still in the signature-gathering stage is the “Local Control and Accountability in Education Act,” which would increase the length of service required before a teacher may become a permanent employee to five consecutive school years from two.
The measure would also remove state authority over teacher employment laws and give the authority to local school boards, which would be empowered to make decisions over teacher transfers, reassignments, layoffs and re-employment. It would also ban the use of seniority in such decisions. A similar measure that only covers the extension of teacher tenure is also in the signature-gathering stage.
The measure echoes many of the controversial and polarizing issues that are part of the Vergara v. California court ruling of 2014, when a state superior court judge throw out California’s teacher employment laws, ruling them unconstitutional in helping keep subpar teachers working in poor schools. The decision is currently under appeal and if upheld would require the legislature to write new laws. The measure appears to be an effort to get ahead of the appellate court’s ruling.
Another measure also sure to cause controversy is the “The Public Education Restoration Act of 2016,” which would repeal the Charter Schools Act of 1992. With LA Unified having more charter schools than any district in the nation, the measure has enormous implications but faces an uphill battle as statewide polling has shown consistent support among voters for charter schools. The measure is currently under review by state officials.
Yet another controversial measure is referred to by backers as the “Voter Empowerment Act.” Orange County Register staff columnist Teri Sforza has this to say about it: “What it would actually do is a matter of blistering and contradictory rhetoric, which will grow more bombastic as the November 2016 election approaches. Backers say it would require voters to approve guaranteed pension benefits for new workers, as well as benefit increases for current ones. Opponents say it would eviscerate collective bargaining, gut public pensions and obliterate guaranteed retirements across the board.”
The measure is still in the signature-gathering stage.