One of the greatest risks of this election is that voters will get confused and irritated by the infighting over the two education-funding measures on the state ballot and will reject them both.
This would be a mistake.
As we've stated before, there are benefits to both statewide school funding measures on Tuesday's ballot. But the one that's most deserving and in need of voter support is Proposition 30.
Proposition 30 is a temporary increase in income and sales taxes that would raise an estimated $6 billion, most of which would go to K-12 education as well as community colleges and state and UC colleges.
We say most because, as critics have pointed out, not all of the money will go to schools. Given how our state budget works, there is no true "lockbox" that can guarantee all of the funding will go to education. But by the same token it's not correct to argue that the money will be stolen for other purposes. In fact, education has the most to gain and the most to lose if Proposition 30 passes or fails.
This money has already been allocated because the budget for this fiscal year was built on the presumption that the tax would be approved. A false hope? Maybe, but the alternative would have been to force schools to scale back billions in hopes that these cuts would be restored later after voters approved them. Schools, teachers and school children have been jerked around enough over the past five years — as funding has dropped significantly — without needing to put them through that type of process.
That said, if Proposition 30 fails, the cuts will be significant. K-12 education alone would stand to lose $5 billion, which is the equivalent of 15 instructional days. As it is, California is already at or near the bottom among states in terms of per-pupil spending. And the Golden State is already well behind a number of countries in terms of the number of instructional days in public schools.
The sales tax, which would take effect next year, would increase one-quarter of 1 percent, generating $1 billion a year.
Meanwhile, Proposition 30 would also raise income taxes on single filers earning $250,000 or more, and for couples earning $500,000. For joint filers earning $1 million or more, the marginal tax rate would increase three points to 13.3 percent.
While significant, these increases would affect only roughly 1 percent of California's income tax filers, they would be in effect for seven years and they would still leave tax rates for the highest earners well below where they were just two years ago.
As we've noted before, Proposition 30 is imperfect. But it will keep the state's budget situation — and the state of our education system — from reaching abysmal levels. School children can't vote. They can't tax themselves, and they don't have the ability to apply the kind of political pressure that makes things happen in Sacramento. They can only do one thing: They can depend on voters to recognize that they are the best investment we can make in the future of California. We encourage voters to support Proposition 30.