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Monday, December 17 , 2018, 11:32 am |

 
 
 
 

Bill Cirone: D is for Very, Very Difficult

Propositions 1D, 1E are misleading and deserve a "no" vote

The May 19 special election will present some very difficult decisions for voters.

Bill Cirone
Bill Cirone

Several of the propositions will be especially tough for educators and those who want to be supportive of public education and children in California. Proposition 1D is perhaps the most difficult of all. I am voting no.

As background, the state budget deal forged by the Legislature attempted to bridge a $40 billion deficit. The number is so staggering most of us cannot comprehend a shortfall so large. Because of the tanking economy, revenues from income taxes, sales taxes, fees and real estate taxes dropped more sharply than anyone could have anticipated. This happened as costs continued to rise.

Ever since Proposition 13 passed in the early 1970s, schools have been financed almost exclusively by the state, rather than from local property taxes whose growth had been restricted. Education has become the largest single state expenditure, and as a result, when California’s economy is in trouble, schools and students take the direct hit. This year has been devastating.

The deal forged by the legislature to pass a budget was considered the least terrible of all the truly awful choices. The agreement tried to protect public education as best it could, based on an intricate web of propositions that would need to be approved by voters in May.

That’s where we stand now. The state budget deal hinges on the approval of the propositions on the ballot, in particular Propositions 1A and 1B. If 1A does not pass, all the others become moot; if the package does not pass, it is likely that even more draconian reductions will be imposed on schools.

But what about 1D? Its title is “Protects Children’s Services Funding. Helps Balance State Budget.”

As is often the case with the titles of state propositions, this one is highly misleading. It will in fact take millions of dollars away from children and families in Santa Barbara County and does little to balance the budget. It takes away the monies generated from the cigarette tax, as approved by voters in 1998 to be used for services for children from birth to age 5, and uses that money instead to help balance other parts of the budget.

Voters at the time supported these important efforts, understanding that prevention and intervention early in a child’s life can head off a long list of challenges that are damaging to society and far more expensive to address in later years.

As president of the First 5 Commission that was formed to use the money wisely in our county, I have seen firsthand the tremendous benefit these services have provided to young children and families, and their clear impact on preventing higher costs to society that would accrue later if such services were not available.
In our county, passage of Proposition 1D will result in a loss of at least $12.6 million over the next five years, along with the additional loss of funds brought into the county through matching state, federal and private grants. The statewide loss will amount to $1.6 billion over five years.

Ironically, the current economic climate has brought a serious increase in needs of children ages 0-5 and their families. First 5 Santa Barbara County funds a range of safety net services that reach thousands of children and families. These would no longer be provided if the proposition passes. We all know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Similarly, passage of Proposition 1E, for mental health services approved by earlier voter initiative, is cut from the same cloth as 1D. It takes away voter-approved funding from our most vulnerable citizens. I cannot in good conscience support it.

So we find ourselves in a Catch-22. The propositions need to pass in order for schools and children to avoid a much more powerful “hit” in terms of budget reductions. Yet passage of Proposition 1D will eliminate critical services to children that will result in higher remedial costs down the line. Passage of Proposition 1E does the same for those who require mental health services.

Everyone will have to decide which of the bad choices to make. Clearly, it is vital to our public schools for Propositions 1A and 1B to pass, or the resulting cuts will be unimaginable.

I believe that passage of 1D would have such a damaging effect on children and families in our community, and will cause the need for such increased expenditures in the future, that the proportionally small generation of revenue and the further loss of local control are unjustified.

I plan to vote no on Propositions 1D and 1E.

— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools.

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