There are two propositions on this November’s ballot that could each have a significant effect on how much money gets sent to California’s schools.

For our third parents’ guide to the election, we’ve identified five key questions to help you understand the main differences between the two and how each would work.

First, some background: Proposition 30 is a tax initiative pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Proposition 38 is a separate tax increase, sponsored by education advocate Molly Munger.

It’s important to understand that these are entirely separate efforts. Only one of these, the one that wins the most votes, can pass. That’s led to animosity between the two camps, which have started to duke it out in television ad campaigns.

The core takeaway: Both propositions would raise taxes and use that money for local schools.

1. Who pays higher taxes, how much and for how long?

• Proposition 30: Everyone, but wealthy people pay a lot more. The proposition would increase California’s sales tax by a quarter-cent for every dollar, and would increase income tax rates on Californians who earn more than $250,000 a year. The taxes would drop off after seven years.

• Proposition 38: Everyone, but wealthy people still pay more. Anyone making more than $7,316 a year would pay more in taxes, and the tax rate would increase on a sliding scale. The bottom earners would pay an extra 0.4 percent tax, while those earning more than $2.5 million a year would pay 2.2 percent more. These taxes would last 12 years.

2. How much money would it raise?

• Proposition 30: Depends who you ask. Brown’s camp estimates the tax will bring in about $9 billion extra a year. But the independent state legislative analyst’s office pegs the amount closer to $6 billion.

• Proposition 38: A few billion this year, $10 billion next year and likely more after that. This proposal, with its broader tax base, raises significantly more money, but that money wouldn’t really start flowing until the 2013–2014 school year.

3. What can the money be spent on?

• Proposition 30: Education (mostly) and public safety. Here’s the big difference between the two propositions when it comes to funding schools: Proposition 30 only guarantees that funding from the new taxes will go to schools this school year. After that, the California Legislature is required by law to spend at least 40 percent of it on education under Proposition 98, though opponents worry that the state could try and direct the money elsewhere in its archaic budget.

A key element of Proposition 30 is that Brown has threatened to cut state education funding by about $6 billion if it doesn’t pass. If that happens, school districts will suddenly see their funding slashed by about 10 percent, and will have to bring in measures to deal with that loss of revenue.

The San Diego Unified school board recently approved a deal with the local teachers union that would cut the school year by three weeks in the event that Proposition 30 fails.

• Proposition 38: Education and paying down debt: This proposal would create a separate fund of money fed by the new taxes. That fund would be walled off from the rest of the budget controlled by the legislature and a proportion of the funds would be sent directly to schools to spend on educational programs. A chunk of the money would also be spent on preschool and child care.

For the first five years, about 30 percent of the new revenue would also be used to pay down existing state debt from education spending. After those five years, that money would be redirected to schools.

It’s unclear whether the governor’s threatened education cuts would go through if Proposition 38 passes. San Diego Unified has pledged to sit down with the teachers union if this happens and thrash out a new deal.

4. Who supports it?

• Proposition 30 is supported by Brown, the California Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters and the two major teachers unions, the California Teachers Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

• Proposition 38: Has a less broad base of support. The main proponents are Munger herself and the California State Parent Teachers Association.

5. Who opposes it?

• Proposition 30 is opposed by the head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Republican Party.

• Proposition 38 is opposed by the president of the California Chamber of Commerce.

• The supporters of Proposition 30 and 38 have taken an increasingly combative stance against the competing tax measure in recent weeks.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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