Parcel tax to benefit LA schools defeated at polls
The Associated Press
Posted: 06/09/2010 09:31:11 AM PDT -- LOS ANGELES—A parcel tax that would have funneled about $380 million to the financially strapped Los Angeles Unified School District has been defeated at the polls.
Nearly 53 percent of voters approved the $100-a-year tax on Tuesday, but it needed a two-thirds majority to pass.
The measure would have reaped about $95 million a year for four years for the nation's second-largest school district, which is facing a projected budget shortfall of $640 million.
Voters Say No To Paying More Taxes For L.A. Public Schools
By Clarissa Wei | LA Weekly Blogs
Wednesday, Jun. 9 2010 @ 1:54PM -- County voters shot down a proposed tax that could have raised roughly $92.5 million for the struggling Los Angeles Unified School District. According to the Daily News, ballot Measure E would have added $100 per parcel to property owners' tax bills, saving the jobs of hundreds of teachers, administrators, librarians, campus security officers, and custodians. The $100-a-year levy would have been imposed on each piece of taxable real property within the LAUSD boundaries, regardless of value.
Although 52.95 percent of voters said yes and 47.05 percent turned the measure down, it still failed because passage would have required a two-thirds majority to pass.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the initiative's windfall for the first year would have included funds to restore elementary school music and art programs and cash to prevent further class-size growth in core subjects in high schools.
Even if the measure was passed, however, board member Richard Vladovic admitted that the tax would not be a long-term solution to the school district's fiscal problems, according to the Daily Breeze.
"What we're trying to do right now, as they taught me in the Army, stop the bleeding first," he said. "That's all it's going to do. It's not going to make the person well. It's going to stop the bleeding so we don't have the chaos of a county takeover or a state takeover."
The school district is expected to be facing a $640 million budget deficit in the next fiscal year. Over the past two years, the state Legislature has cut $1.3 billion from local schools and is expected to cut several hundred million dollars more.
According to LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines and four other education officials, the "unprecedented cuts" will force schools to lose more than 8,000 essential school employees, including 4,000 teachers.
Twenty-nine school districts in California placed parcel taxes on the ballot last year. Twenty passed.
L.A. Unified fails to turn out its population base to pass parcel tax
In a district with nearly 618,000 students, Measure E could have swept to victory with about 204,000 yes votes from parents, employees and others. But with 53% of the vote, it went down to defeat.
By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
June 10, 2010 - If the nation's second-largest school system had turned out its parents, employees, their relatives and close friends, a parcel tax on Tuesday's ballot could have swept to victory.
Instead, support was lukewarm; too many stayed home, and others voted no. The Los Angeles Unified School District claimed 53% of the vote on Measure E, far short of the required two-thirds majority.
And now district officials and parents face other unwelcome numbers. To deal with a $640-million deficit, officials are cutting in half arts programs in elementary schools and eliminating library aides. Already crowded high school classrooms will get more tight. And anticipated layoffs will increase by hundreds.
Measure E sought a $100-per-parcel tax that would have provided $92.5 million annually for four years, easing at least some of the pain from next year's budget crisis.
In Tuesday's election, about 305,000 voters — a 16% turnout — cast ballots on the parcel tax. Achieving a two-thirds majority required about 204,000 yes votes.
To reach that threshold, the district hoped to rely on the parents of nearly 618,000 students.
In addition, the district has about 100,000 full and part-time employees. And allied unions, including those representing district employees, account for well over 100,000 voters living within L.A. Unified — and that's not including spouses, said Joshua Pechthalt, a vice president with United Teachers Los Angeles.
But a lackluster campaign with little advertising could not bring out the desired numbers. And while district officials knew this week's ballot might be tough, they could not forestall cuts if they waited until the more liberal electorate predicted for the November election.
Past stumbles soured the trust of voter Rafael Pimentel, even though his daughter left another school district to attend Garfield High on the Eastside.
"None of that money trickles down to the schools," he said.
Unions ultimately raised about $200,000 for a late-starting effort, but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa typified the campaign's uninspired performance.
The mayor had worked hard in 2008 for Measure Q, a school construction bond. This time, he didn't so much as issue a news release heralding his endorsement, even though the funding could have prevented layoffs at schools managed by his education nonprofit.
His tepidness had partly to do with the school district's decision not to share proceeds from Measure E with independently operated charter schools, said spokeswoman Casey Hernandez.
Besides, she said, there was no bandwagon to jump on: "It didn't seem as though there was strong support" from anyone involved in the campaign; nor were there "events for him to attend."
Supporters of Measure E are pondering a stronger bid in the November election. They also vow to push for increased state and federal funding — which could prove to be another political long shot.