As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mimi Walters Doesn't Understand State Education Funding Policy

Here's an article showing kind of a silly trumped-up sanctimony on behalf of the Yacht Party.

California voters said no, but Democratic lawmakers are pushing to do it anyhow.

The issue involves billions of dollars and a ballot measure so important to schools that the California Teachers Association spent more than $7 million in a failed attempt to pass Proposition 1B.

One month after the initiative died, Democrats are proposing to pay schools the same $7.9 billion that was the heart of the measure and to begin payments the same year, 2011-2012.

The funding commitment is part of a massive budget-balancing plan crafted by a joint legislative conference committee and scheduled to be voted upon this week by the Senate and Assembly.

Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, said the proposal to commit $7.9 billion to schools directly contradicts the people's will.

"The voters have spoken and we need to listen," Walters said. "Unfortunately, the majority party in Sacramento isn't listening."

Would that the Republicans always listen precisely to what the voters want - say, when they put 63% majorities into both houses of the Leigslature, for example. The Republican Governor has asked for a $4.5 billion reserve at a time of economic crisis, when voters "rejected" a rainy-day fund in Prop. 1A. You can argue the economics of a reserve fund that large on the basis that the economy still has some rough patches, but you can just as easily argue that the Governor is somehow upending the voter's will.

The SacBee does offer the contextual reality of the Democrats' effort here. Before the May 19 special election, the California Federation of Teachers and associated groups sued the state for that $7.9 billion, which they feel is owed to them. The dispute comes over how mandatory Prop. 98 funding gets calculated, and the CFT feels they have a solid argument that they actually deserved more money under the law than the state provided. You can say that you don't like mandates in funding generally, but the courts will eventually decide this dispute regardless of what the legislature does. And Democrats can see the possibility - some would say probability - of CFT being able to win that lawsuit and receive payment immediately, rather than two years out (although "immediately" would probably not happen for a year or so, until the case worked its way through the courts).

Prop. 1B was essentially an attempted out-of-court settlement. That having failed, the participants are going to court. Incidentally, every subsequent budget cut adds to the money owed to schools under Prop. 98, which has ballooned to around $11 billion. So the options are: either set up a future payment schedule, hope the courts rule in a way that would break with precedent, or dismantle Prop. 98 (which wouldn't get the state off the hook for funds owed). So when Mimi Walters argues that "the people have spoken," she's saying that they've spoken on cutting school funding to dead-last in the nation, all the while not answering the still-thorny problem of a current lawsuit.

Someone should tell her constituents that.

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