By Steven Harmon and Katy Murphy
Posted: 09/14/2012 05:05:04 PM PDT
Updated: 09/14/2012 05:56:31 PM PDT
SACRAMENTO — As Gov. Jerry Brown and wealthy civil-rights attorney Molly Munger brace for a fall showdown over their initiatives to raise taxes for schools, educators are agonizing over picking sides.
The state’s two largest teachers unions — the California Teachers’ Association and the California Federation of Teachers — are putting their muscle behind Brown’s ballot measure, Proposition 30, while the less powerful state PTA supports Proposition 38, bankrolled almost entirely by Munger.
But across the Bay Area and throughout the state, teachers and school boards are torn. Some like Proposition 38 better because they believe it’ll pump a greater and more stable stream of revenue into the state’s K-12 school system, but also believe it will most likely be defeated at the polls. Many educators are walking on egg shells to avoid a bitter ballot war, fearful it could doom both initiatives.
“It’s in our best interest to support both initiatives in hopes that one of them passes,” said Frank Biehl, president of the East Side Union High School District board in San Jose, which recently voted to support Proposition 30 but would not back his motion to support Proposition 38.
“I’m just worried that we may not get anything passed,” Biehl said.
If both initiatives pass, the one with the most votes will take effect.
But if neither does, districts face severe reductions in the length of the school year — perhaps by as much as three weeks. Brown in June signed a budget that would trigger $5.9 billion in cuts — mostly to schools — if his measure fails.
Some school districts, including Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego, have hedged their bets, endorsing both measures, as has the California School Boards Association. Also supporting both propositions are the Palo Alto school board, the San Francisco school board, the Santa Clara County Board of Education and the San Mateo County Board of Education.
Though Munger has touted Proposition 38 as the superior measure, she supports a “yes-yes” voting strategy. But she also welcomes voters who prefer to vote yes on 38 and no on 30.
Both sides have made peace offerings to each other to avoid a campaign bloodletting that could turn off voters, but grenades continue to get lobbed between the two campaigns.
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