By Kelly Puente, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/26/2012 09:58:23 PM PDT

When Elizabeth Zamora received a letter from Cal State Dominguez Hills stating that her application for the fall semester was on hold pending the outcome of Proposition 30, the prospective student said she was shocked.

“It’s scary to think I won’t be able to get into a four-year university next year,” said Zamora, who is currently attending Cerritos College. “I felt like I wanted to vote for Prop. 30, but seeing that letter made me want to vote for it even more.”

From sending letters to prospective college students to using automated phone calls reminding parents to vote, education officials are pushing harder than ever for the passage of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative.

With less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 elections, officials have been stressing the potentially devastating impacts on public education if the measure fails.

But some critics call these methods scare tactics and in at least one case say the educators’ efforts violated election laws.

This month, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, an anti-tax group and major opponent of Prop. 30, filed a lawsuit against Cal State Monterey Bay over an email sent by a professor urging students to support the measure.

The email urged recipients to support Prop.30 and push others to vote for it, while warning of dire consequences if it fails. It also noted that students would receive a $498 tuition reimbursement if the initiative passes.

Because the email was sent using university-issued equipment, it violates California campaign law that prohibits the use of public resources for mass political mailings, the lawsuit states.

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal said the issue of using taxpayer dollars to push for Prop. 30 is a problem throughout the K-12 and university systems.

“In our view this is a systemic campaign of public resources being used for political advocacy, which violates California law,” he said.

Education officials, however, say it’s their duty to make voters aware of the impacts on public education if Prop. 30 fails.

On the campuses of universities, community colleges and K-12 schools, education leaders have held numerous press conferences and rallies in recent months to promote their message.

At the latest such event Friday, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson and nearly two dozen Southland superintendents gathered at Gonsalves Elementary in Cerritos to reach out to voters.

“What we face is the biggest challenge to public education since the state of California was founded,” Torlakson said. “We’re here united in the hope that voters will realize what’s at stake. We’re here to say Prop. 30 is essential for public education to get back on its feet.”

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