PD Editorial: Let's ensure school year starts, ends well

  • 8/17/2011: B4:

    PC: Middle School students stream out of gym class after the final bell of the first day of school at Comstock Middle School on Tuesday.

For thousands of children in Santa Rosa and other parts of Sonoma County, summer officially ends today with the beginning of the school year. Most students in Petaluma and other districts will head to class for the first time on Wednesday or in the days to come.

We offer here our traditional petitions for Sonoma County residents to be careful when driving and to be on the lookout for those backpack-laden children still shaking off the vestiges of vacation break. They're not likely to be at their best when it comes to being either alert or awake.

We also add one other appeal concerning the welfare of students: Let's ensure their school year ends as well as it begins.

At the moment, the educational calendar is shrouded in uncertainty.

Thanks to recent budget cuts, most districts in California have already cut their calendars to 175 instructional days from 180, which was the minimum allowed since the early 1980s. And more cuts are on the horizon.

Under a budget approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year, public schools would face roughly $5 billion in mid-year cuts if Proposition 30 — the governor's tax measure — is not approved on Nov. 6.

Proposition 30 calls for increasing personal income tax on annual earnings of more than $250,000 for seven years. It also would increase sales tax by a quarter cent for four years.

If it fails, schools would lose funding equivalent to three weeks of class. It's unlikely they would take it all out by reducing instructional days. But if so, it would be equivalent to ending Santa Rosa's school year on May 6, 2013, instead of the current May 27.

College students also will be beginning the year in a fog about how it will end up. The UC system and the state university systems would each face a $250 million reduction if Proposition 30 fails.

Another significant measure is Proposition 38, the Molly Munger tax initiative, which calls for increases in personal income tax rates for high-income Californians, with two-thirds of the revenue going to K-12 schools and 30 percent going to repay state debt.

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