Wednesday, October 10, 2012

30 + 38: Compare+Contrast

Rift widens between backers of ed initiatives 30 and 38

By John Fensterwald and Kathryn Baron, EdSource Today |

Munger-funded “compare and contrast” ad criticizes Prop. 30

By John Fensterwald, EdSource today |

Update below: PTA issues a letter to California’s teachers explaining its support of Prop 38.

October 9th, 2012  ::  All pretense of goodwill is gone between backers of the two competing education tax measures on November’s ballot. 

State Board of Education President Mike Kirst and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg joined union leaders Monday in sending a strongly worded letter to Molly Munger, the primary backer of Proposition 38, asking her not to run TV ads criticizing Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s school funding measure. Kirst also emailed PTA district presidents, implying they should pressure Munger “to do all in your power to stop this destructive course of action.” The state PTA, bucking education groups representing school boards, unions, and administrators, is a co-sponsor, with Munger, of Prop 38.

View Munger’s latest ad >>

Munger highlights differences between Propositions 38 and 30 during a Los Angeles TV interview on Sunday.

Munger highlights differences between Propositions 38 and 30 during a Los Angeles TV interview on Sunday.

The letters to Munger and the PTA follow a TV interview in Los Angeles on Sunday in which Munger called Prop 30 TV ads featuring Brown “utterly deceptive,” marking a turning point that advocates for more education funding have feared: both campaigns going negative on each other, to the potential destruction of both.

In the latest polls, Prop 30, which would raise $6 billion annually for the General Fund by increasing the income tax for the wealthiest earners, along with a temporary sales tax increase, has a precarious majority barely breaking 50 percent.

Prop 38, which would raise $10 billion for K-12 schools and early childhood education by increasing the income tax on most earners, has backing of only 41 percent of voters in a recent Field Poll, although Munger insists internal polls indicate increasing support.

In their letter, 10 leaders, who include heads of the state’s largest unions, wrote Munger that a “positive campaign from both the Prop 30 and 38 campaigns will create the highest likelihood that students in California will benefit from the November election.” And they took a swipe at Munger’s brother, physicist Charles Munger Jr., who has donated $23 million into a campaign fund opposing Prop 30 and supporting Proposition 32, which would restrict the ability of unions to raise campaign money from their members. Munger has already spent $28 million promoting Prop 38.

“If you launch these Prop. 30 comparison attack ads you will be the second Munger spending millions against our students and schools. In the end, the Munger family could be known as the  millionaires who destroyed California’s schools and universities,” they wrote. The state budget passed in June assumes the passage of Prop 30. Its defeat would “trigger” $6 billion in cuts for K-12 schools and higher education.

Munger has been ambiguous about encouraging a “yes” vote for both Props 30 and 38, as some education groups, including the California School Boards Association and the parent activist group Educate Our State, are promoting. The state PTA has not taken a position for or against Prop 30. In an interview with EdSource Today, she called Prop 30 the governor’s “band-aid approach” and said that voters would prefer Prop 38 once they learned more about it.

In the interview Sunday on NBC4 in Los Angeles, Munger said the Yes On 38 campaign would not produce ads opposing Prop 30, but would do “compare and contrast” ads. “Part of the communication is to make the distinction between 30 and 38: “’Don’t be confused; you know 38 is the one you want.’ So absolutely, we will be trying to communicate that,” she said.

She acknowledged that proponents of Prop 30 have asked her not to do comparison ads, which they interpret as negative. But she said false claims in the Prop 30 campaign’s recent ads, that it “was all for schools, that it would send money directly to schools,” compel her to respond.

“Prop 30 is really a budget patch, is going around saying it’s the schools initiative when we, who are really the schools initiative, are being asked not to say anything,” said told newscaster Conan Nolan. “Well, no, if you are going to say you are something you are not, we do have to say that’s not actually the case.”

Under the state’s education funding formula, K-12 schools and community colleges would get about half of the $6 billion annually that Prop 30 would raise for the General Fund. Because the initiative would bring in new revenue, this would be a permanent increase in the funding guarantee under Proposition 98.

By not mentioning other uses for the new revenue, one of the latest Prop 30 ads, featuring Brown, could be seen as implying that all of the money would go to education.  Other ads accurately state that Prop 30 would restore money that has been cut from education, fix the state budget deficit and prevent further cuts for schools.

Munger and Prop 38 proponents take umbrage over claims in Prop 30 ads that Sacramento politicians could not tamper with Prop 30 revenue. Legislators technically would retain the power to reallocate money for schools by suspending Prop 98 if they chose. Prop 38 would funnel money into a special fund that would allocate money directly to school sites, outside of the state budget.

In an email Monday night, Paul Richman, executive director of the state PTA, said that PTA leaders had not viewed the upcoming TV ads and reaffirmed the organization’s strong support for Prop 38. He also called on Prop 30 supporters to stop criticizing Prop 38.

“As the campaign season heads into the final month, it’s important for the public and the media to stay focused on distinguishing the real and substantive policy choices voters will make,” he wrote.

Prop 30 backers would add that it’s also important to stay focused on the tax initiative that polls seem to indicate, with less than a month before the election, has the best and perhaps only chance of winning.

Update: On Tuesday, State PTA President Carol Kocivar released a three-page letter to teachers in California explaining why PTA supports Proposition 38.

It reads in part: “The idea is simple and straightforward:  Generate significant additional revenue to start to restore the programs and services that have been cut. Move California out of the basement in school funding. Make sure new dollars go directly to every single public school in California to support our children, help our teachers and improve our schools. And ensure the new money goes for things we know improve student achievement and readiness for college and careers,” she wrote.

“That’s the motive and passion behind our efforts, pure and simple. PTA supports Proposition 38 because it provides more money for every local school, guaranteed, for 12 years – a generation of kids. And it requires local parent and educator input into how the new dollars are spent at each school.”

October 9th, 2012 | It is what supporters of Proposition 30, Gov. Brown’s education funding initiative, suspected and feared would happen. In a new 30-second TV ad that circulated today, the rival campaign of Proposition 38 takes pot shots at Prop 30.

Prop. 38 funder Molly Munger  promised Sunday that the campaign would release “compare and contrast” ads to tell the truth about false statements in Prop. 30’s TV ads. With their first ad directly criticizing Prop. 30, Prop. 38 proponents have signalled a potentially costly  escalation of a battle for voters’ attention that has both sides sniping over alleged differences instead of emphasizing their common cause – raising more money for schools.

The ad, with a schoolgirl’s narration says, “Let’s see how two ballot measures measure up. Prop. 30 says they send new money to our schools. But fact checkers say that’s misleading. Prop. 30 sends money in here (imagine dollar bills flowing to schools) but lets the politicians take it out here (imagine dollar bills flowing to stick figures of politicians raising their arms). That’s why Sacramento’s behind it.

The fact checkers referred to in the ad are from the Sacramento Bee’s Ad Watch on Oct. 4 (cited in a headline in the Munger ad). They don’t dispute that Prop. 30 will raise new money for schools: $3 billion annually for K-12 schools and community colleges – money that will become the new base level spending required under Proposition 98.

The Bee’s fact checkers were criticizing a specific statement by state Controller John Chiang in one of the  Prop. 30 ads: “Sacramento politicians can’t touch the money (emphasis added), and Prop. 30 requires annual audits posted online for everyone to see.” Chiang  is correct only in a very narrow, technical sense. Because Prop. 30 will raise money for the General Fund, legislators could  decide to spend some of the additional  dollars required under Prop 98 for other purposes. It has happened before and could indeed happen if Prop. 38 passes and Prop. 30 fails. There are  only so many ways to tie legislators’ hands.

Prop. 30 was written to address to address a budget deficit that affects K-12 schools and other functions of state government, including police and prison services that are now counties’ responsibility. Although Prop 30 ads emphasize the money it will raise for schools  half of the $6 billion annual total – they have been pretty clear about what else  the initiative would do.

By paying off school construction bonds in its first four years, Prop. 38 frees up $3 billion annually in the General Fund for the Legislature to use. It does raise  raise substantial money for K-12 schools and early childhood programs – eventually as much as $10 billion per year for eight of its 12 year-life. And so it’s accurate for its ad to say, ” Prop 38 really does send new education dollars straight to our schools.” But Prop. 30 supporters say it is inaccurate and unfair for the ad to imply that  “Sacramento politicians” favor th initiative  because it makes it easy for them to siphon money intended for schools.

On Monday, before the latest Prop. 38 ad was circulated, State Board of Education President Mike Kirst, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and leaders of the state’s largest unions wrote Molly Munger asking her not to run TV ads attacking Prop. 38. They wrote, “We understand you prefer your competing measure. However, any actions to destroy Prop. 30 … fly in the face of stated goals to improve educational opportunities of our children.”

Indeed, they had cause for worry.

The Advancement Project, a civil rights organization that Munger and her husband fund, paid for the latest Prop. 38 ad – and not Yes On 38, the campaign organization that is backed by the California State PTA. Yesterday, California State PTA President Carol Kocivar defended the organization’s support of Prop. 38 in a three-page open letter to California teachers, whose union, the California Teachers Association, is a primary backer of Prop. 30. CTA President Dean Vogel was also one of the 10 signers of the blunt letter to Munger.

“We recognize there are differences of opinion about the ballot measures this November. We know Proposition 30, not 38, is the initiative supported by the two major state teachers’ associations, and we fully respect that,” Kocivar wrote. “Because PTAs have always been committed to a collaborative relationship with our teachers, we want you to understand our reasons for supporting Proposition 38 as well.”

“The idea is simple and straightforward: Generate significant additional revenue to start to restore the programs and services that have been cut. Move California out of the basement in school funding,” she wrote.

Going deeper

Letter to Molly Munger from State Board of Education President Mike Kirst and other education policy leaders, Oct. 8, 2012

Prop 38 sponsor says ed initiative will upset polls, EdSource Today, Sept. 6, 2012.

Brown struggling to sell Prop 30 to wary voters, EdSource Today, August 23, 2012

California Teachers Association endorses Brown tax initiative, EdSourceToday, Jan. 29, 2012.

How do Propositions 30 and 38 Compare? California Budget Project, Oct. 4, 2012.

Proposition 38 official website

Proposition 38:  Tax for Education and Early Childhood Programs, Overview from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, Aug. 13, 2012.

Proposition 30:  Temporary Taxes to Fund Education, Overview from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, July 18, 2012

What Would Proposition 30 Mean for California? California Budget Project, Sept. 2012


No comments: