November's ballot will have two initiatives seeking higher taxes for education, but one would raise twice as much, for twice as long, and send it directly to schools.
The other would save districts from midyear cuts, but primarily stabilizes funding to cities and counties.
School workers vigorously support the second one -- Gov. Jerry Brown's constitutional amendment, Proposition 30 -- bracing against a potentially huge budget hit this year. PTAs stand behind the first -- attorney Molly Munger's measure, Proposition 38 -- hoping for better, brighter school days ahead.
Several Merced area administrators, trustees and union officials favor Proposition 30 over Proposition 38, saying Brown's initiative is the best option for restoring the funding schools need
Within the Proposition 38 language, it lays out what the money raised -- roughly $1,000 per student per year -- can be spent on. Art, music, nurses and counselors are there, as are longer school years, smaller classes, summer school, science programs, computers, physical education, after-school enrichment, tutoring and more.
What is not there are the day-in, day-out expenses that often get first dibs on new dollars, things like raises for existing staff, money for leaky roofs, district office jobs and janitorial service, which all have suffered cuts during the recession.
Proposition 30 has no such restrictions, but also would offer few new dollars. What it would do is give schools the same funding with fewer delays, with better days ahead as state finances improve.
If it fails, however, mid-year cuts would fall squarely on schools -- an estimated $441 per child this year in schools across California.
Dora Crane, president of the 470-member Merced City Teachers Association, said the group is talking to its members and making sure they understand the importance of Proposition 30 passing -- urging them to talk to friends, colleagues and parents.
Crane said Proposition 30 puts funds back in education that were taken away, putting money in a special fund the state Legislature cannot touch.
She hopes MCTA members will do some precinct walking and phone-banking about Oct. 20. If Proposition 30 doesn't pass, she expects the way children are educated will drastically change.
RoseMary Parga Duran, Merced city schools superintendent, said: "We need to get the vote out. We need one to pass or we will be in dire straits."
Gene Stamm, Merced City School District Board of Education member, also favors Proposition 30, saying it will help schools more than Proposition 38. Stamm's board recently endorsed both measures.
And Steve Gomes, Merced County superintendent of schools, said the Merced County Office of Education cannot advocate for any initiative or bond measure.
Personally, Gomes said, he favors Proposition 30. "Proposition 30 doesn't meet all the needs but at least it begins," Gomes said. "It's safe to say schools can't cut their budgets any more."
If Proposition 30 passes, it will provide $2.9 billion for schools in the first year, Gomes said.
Kurt Kollmann, president of the Merced Union High School District Board of Trustees, said the board hasn't taken a stand.
"I definitely think we've got to do something to alleviate the pressure on schools," Kollmann said, "or there will be more deficit spending and, or more cuts. It will affect students in the classroom."
While Scott Scambray, Merced high schools district superintendent, hopes Proposition 30 passes, he stressed that it's not the answer for school-funding woes.