By Kevin Yamamura
Published: Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 – 11:00 pm | Page 1A
Last Modified: Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 – 8:15 am

Gov. Jerry Brown has framed it as a simple choice for voters: Pass Proposition 30 or schools will suffer early shutdowns and college students will pay higher tuition.

But education leaders privately have discussed fallback efforts to spare schools from some of the worst consequences, especially after the initiative fell below 50 percent in recent polls.

School groups are expected to lobby hard to reverse or ease budget reductions headed their way if voters reject Proposition 30. They have two main paths: the Capitol or the courts.

“The education community will use every tool at its disposal to fight the cuts,” said Kevin Gordon, a longtime K-12 lobbyist.

Brown insists the budget is a closed book. He says he will not revisit the prescribed cuts to education, so schools must deal with less funding this year if voters reject Proposition 30. He promises to be a stubborn gatekeeper, no matter how hard education forces lobby.

“The cuts are in the budget, the law of California,” Brown said Thursday in San Francisco. “They cannot be changed unless the Legislature wants to reverse it and the governor signs the bill, and I won’t sign the bill. You can take that to the bank.”

His stance has political benefits heading into the election, since he wants voters to know their decision on Proposition 30 has serious consequences, what critics consider a “gun to the head.” California also has assured lenders the state will cut school funding to balance its books if the initiative fails; a reversal could hurt the state’s credit position.

A major problem with reversing school trigger cuts is finding money or savings elsewhere to fill the gap. Brown and lawmakers are uncomfortable with reopening a budget that already involved cuts to health and social service programs, and the governor has said he does not want to use more accounting gimmicks.

A Field Poll released Thursday showed Proposition 30 with support below 50 percent but maintaining a 48-38 percent lead, with 14 percent undecided. Backers believe the initiative stands a chance if Brown can reach enough undecided voters, especially a wave of last-minute online registrants. Opponents take heart in the measure’s final-month dip below 50 percent.

Big cuts for schools if measure fails

Under the budget the governor signed in June, K-12 schools and community colleges would face a combined $3.1 billion program cut if the measure fails, while the University of California and California State University would lose a combined $500 million, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

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