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California’s schools are safe from another year of automatically triggered cuts after voters narrowly passed Proposition 30, the tax increase pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

For San Diego Unified School District, that means local students won’t see their school year cut by as much as three additional weeks.

But local education leaders cautioned Tuesday night that the estimated $6 billion in new tax revenue that will result from Prop. 30 won’t fix a state education funding system they say has been reduced to tatters in recent years.

“Some people will think this is a bright new day for school funding,” said San Diego Unified school board President John Lee Evans. “But I’d describe it as stopping the hemorrhaging.”

Prop. 30 introduces a quarter-cent sales tax and raises income taxes on Californians who earn more than $250,000 a year.

The proposition, which was leading with 53 percent of the vote early Wednesday, has been pushed by Brown and his supporters as a way to balance the state budget and prevent billions of dollars in cuts to education funding.

But while the new taxes avoid devastating cuts to school districts this year, they don’t guarantee districts will be fully funded moving forward.

We examined the proposition closely in this explainer, which shows much of the money will not be spent on education at all. And, though a proportion of the money is guaranteed for schools, much of it could go toward paying down the state’s debt to districts, rather than increasing districts’ bottom lines.

“This is not the be-all and the end-all,” said San Diego Education Association President Bill Freeman. “It’s a Band-aid.”

The new taxes will ease the pressure on California’s budget just as the state’s economy starts to recover slightly from years of recession and fallout from the housing bubble.

The new revenue will also avoid what could have been a nasty few weeks of political wrangling as California school districts scrambled to figure out how to absorb their new budget deficits.

Freeman and Evans acknowledged that good news, but both warned that next summer could bring the usual round of pink slips for teachers, combined with doom and gloom about budget deficits at the district.

Evans and Freeman both said the new taxes should be viewed more as a means to provide the state and local districts with some breathing room after five straight years of cuts.

They said further changes will be needed to ensure that California’s schools not only get their fair share of the new revenue, but that their future funding stabilizes.

“We need to better protect that funding, so the state can’t just keep borrowing it again and again,” said Freeman.

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

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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Will Carless

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

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