On the heels of one of the most divisive elections -- on local, state and national levels -- I would like to thank the people who exercised their right to choose how our society is governed.
I would also like to thank the massive support for the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012, more commonly known as Proposition 30. With another similar proposition on the ballot, a well-funded campaign against it and a general feeling of discontent toward the state legislature's overspending, it is remarkable the measure passed and education is not subject to the draconian budget cuts that would have been triggered.
These reductions would have become effective on Jan. 1 and the reduction to K-12 school district apportionments would have been about $457 per student for an average school district. Schools could not afford to take another cut.
There were many statements made during the campaign, even after the proposition passed. There is one aspect I would like to clarify: Approval of this proposition does not create new monies for schools; rather, it maintains the same level of funding to the K-12 education system as last year.
Over a period of years, the state has underpaid schools, funds guaranteed by the state Constitution, by $10 billion and still owes that money to schools. Gov. Brown calls it the "Wall of Debt."
At the same time, the state has deferred 40 percent of revenues allocated to schools to the next fiscal year. Schools have been operating on about 60 percent of their annual cash allocation with 40 percent paid in the next fiscal year. Annually, it has cost school districts in Merced County more than $500,000 in interest and fees to acquire short-term loans in order to make payroll. Proposition 30 funds will provide the state with enough cash to pay school districts on time and begin to pay schools the amount of the budget guaranteed by the state Constitution, or, one might say, give California a chance to get ahead of its bills.
The governor anticipates funding schools to their constitutionally mandated funding level as state revenues and the economy improve in future years after the state buys down the cash deferral debt.
Another aspect of this proposition is that the monies cannot be spent on school administration. Funds will be used specifically on school sites to enhance student learning.
We will continue to work diligently at being good stewards of your tax dollars.
As educators, it is our job to ensure the next generation of workers has access to a quality education. It is imperative that we make every moment of every day count for our students and make the most of our limited resources.
Gomes is Merced County's Superintendent of Schools.