The PTA Responds To Questions On Their Support Of CA Proposition 38

I’ve been a critic of the California PTA’s involvement with billionaire Molly Munger in sponsoring Proposition 38 on the California ballot instead of throwing their full support to Governor Brown’s Prop 30.

I still think it was and is a mistake, but it’s also clear to me that the wisest move now is for supporters of education in California to vote “yes” for both initiatives.

I have also invited the California PTA to respond to the criticisms that I and others have made about their involvement, and Carol Kocivar, CA PTA President, has been gracious enough to respond:

Can you explain the process the California PTA used to make its decision to emphasize its support of Proposition 38 — how involved were PTA members in drafting it, and were members involved in deciding not to abandon it in favor of the Governor’s initiative, as proponents of another initiative did?

Beginning in fall 2011, California State PTA researched a range of potential solutions to address the chronic underfunding of our public schools. Our leaders spoke with leaders from nearly every statewide education group, as well as with state elected leaders and school finance experts. We became aware of the exemplary work being done by the nonprofit Advancement Project.

This work aligned extremely closely with the 2011-13 Advocacy Goals set by our 120-member California State PTA Board of Managers, including: “Adequate funding for education to ensure every child has the opportunity to meet his or her full potential” and “Access to a full curriculum for every student that includes physical education, arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  These goals were established in part based on input from our annual survey of members, which showed adequate school funding as the highest priority.

California State PTA helped contribute to the final language of many aspects of Proposition 38, including sections related to what specific programs the new funding can be spent on; the process for engaging local parents, educators, communities and school boards in budget decision-making; and sections that provide $12 billion in general fund relief during the first four years to prevent deeper cuts to other programs.

In July 2012, our state Legislative Committee invited a presentation from the Proposition 30 campaign and, per our process, our state Board of Managers voted to take a position of “neutral” on that measure.

Given that Prop 38 has been losing in all public polls this year, and that a proposition in that position has never won, what is the PTA’s rationale for continuing to support it instead of changing its focus to Prop 30?

The one poll that truly matters is on Nov. 6.  We are confident, based on internal polling we have seen, that as more people learn about Proposition 38, support increases to achieve victory.

After $20 billion in education cuts, we strongly believe we need to start to restore funding for our schools and this is precisely what Prop. 38 does.

Much early polling related to Proposition 38 tested title or summary language that was different from the actual label that has been approved for the ballot.  In addition, most early polling focused almost exclusively on the taxing mechanism contained in the initiative, as opposed to how much funding it generated and what the funding can be used for. Many polls have shown that voters are willing to pay more in taxes when they are assured the money will go to help their local schools, which is exactly what Proposition 38 does.

Did the PTA support Ms. Munger’s decision to challenge in court the state’s decision to put Prop 30 on the ballot in the first position?  If so, why?

PTA did not take a position on the legal action.

What is the PTA doing to support Prop 38?

California State PTA is first and foremost sharing information with our members about the benefits of Proposition 38. We are also helping to talk with other state and local organizations in order to expand our growing coalition, which includes many education and children’s groups, school districts, and business and civil rights groups. Some of our leaders and members are also participating in local public forums and media shows to discuss the initiative.  We encourage everyone to learn more about Prop 38 and how it works.

Has Ms. Munger given money directly to the California PTA?  If so, how much and for what purpose?

We have received absolutely no money from Molly Munger. We commend her as a tremendous advocate for all children and we share her commitment to passing an initiative in November that will help transform our public schools and provide every student with the programs and services they need and deserve.

Does the PTA plan to publicly attack Prop. 30 during the campaign?

No. While we support a different measure this November, we understand that proponents of both Prop 30 and 38 have the best interests of California at heart. Similarly, we think voters understand that in a state as large as California, there is room for more than one idea about how best to fund our schools and help revive our economy.

California State PTA will continue to advocate on behalf of all children in a manner that is mutually respectful and aimed at educating voters in a constructive, fact-based manner about the vital policy issues and solutions presented by the initiatives. We ask all who are involved in these campaigns to make the same commitment.

Because of the significance of the decision voters face, they deserve straightforward and clear information about each of the initiatives without the distraction of negative campaigning.  It is worth noting that while California State PTA strongly supports Proposition 38 because we feel it is the best course for children and our state, our association has not taken a position in opposition to Proposition 30.

In contrast, some supporters of Proposition 30 are formally and actively engaged in opposing Proposition 38, including having formed a political committee, submitting ballot arguments against Proposition 38, and testifying publicly against Proposition 38.  To foster a more positive environment, we urge supporters on both sides to agree not to formally and actively oppose each other’s initiatives.

Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

We all agree our state needs to invest more in our public schools. The traumatic economic events of the past five years have resulted in unacceptable cuts to public education in the amount of $20 billion. We cannot wait any longer to reverse this.

Prop 38 offers a positive vision, one focused on what we can and must provide for every child. When Prop 38 passes, every school in the state is guaranteed additional dollars to restore programs and services that have been cut. Additional funding flows to serve low-income students.

Importantly, Prop 38 also makes a serious commitment to restoring early education programs and access to preschool — proven strategies to address the opportunity gap. Prop 38 provides substantially more funding – an average of $10 billion per year over the next 12 years for schools. It also provides substantial relief for the General Fund — $12 billion in the first four years, and millions more in future years, by paying down state bond debt.

Lastly, Proposition 38 establishes important reporting and transparency requirements that will ensure more meaningful input at the local level by parents and communities, and real accountability.  That’s why the California State PTA is supporting Prop 38.

Thanks, Carol!

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