Click photo to enlarge
First Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church minister Damita Howard, right, gives instructions to volunteer Joe Nuni, of Oakland, before making phone calls to voters in support of Gov. Jerry Brown's Prop. 30 at Oakland Community Organizations on Aug. 28, 2012. Proposition 30 would raise $60 billion a year for school and public safety.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (publ. 9/17/2012, page A2)
A chart accompanying a story on Propositions 30 and 38, two statewide November ballot measures that would raise taxes, failed to note that Californians who earn more than $1 million annually pay a surcharge of 1 percent to help fund mental health services. So the highest tax rate is 10.3 percent, not 9.3 percent.


SACRAMENTO -- As Gov. Jerry Brown and wealthy civil-rights attorney Molly Munger brace for a fall showdown over their initiatives to raise taxes for schools, educators are agonizing over picking sides.

The state's two largest teachers unions -- the California Teachers' Association and the California Federation of Teachers -- are putting their muscle behind Brown's ballot measure, Proposition 30, while the less powerful state PTA supports Proposition 38, bankrolled almost entirely by Munger.

But across the Bay Area and throughout the state, teachers and school boards are torn. Some like Proposition 38 better because they believe it'll pump a greater and more stable stream of revenue into the state's K-12 school system, but also believe it will most likely be defeated at the polls. Many educators are walking on egg shells to avoid a bitter ballot war, fearful it could doom both initiatives.


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"It's in our best interest to support both initiatives in hopes that one of them passes," said Frank Biehl, president of the East Side Union High School District board in San Jose, which recently voted to support Proposition 30 but would not back his motion to support Proposition 38.

"I'm just worried that we may not get anything passed," Biehl said.

If both initiatives pass, the one with the most votes will take effect.

But if neither does, districts face severe reductions in the length of the school year -- perhaps by as much as three weeks. Brown in June signed a budget that would trigger $5.9 billion in cuts -- mostly to schools -- if his measure fails.

Some school districts, including Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego, have hedged their bets, endorsing both measures, as has the California School Boards Association. Also supporting both propositions are the Palo Alto school board, the San Francisco school board, the Santa Clara County Board of Education and the San Mateo County Board of Education.

Though Munger has touted Proposition 38 as the superior measure, she supports a "yes-yes" voting strategy. But she also welcomes voters who prefer to vote yes on 38 and no on 30.

Both sides have made peace offerings to each other to avoid a campaign bloodletting that could turn off voters, but grenades continue to get lobbed between the two campaigns.

Last month, supporters of Brown's measure, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, asked Munger's campaign to stop criticizing Proposition 30, proposing that the two campaigns pledge to refrain from attacking each other. But the idea went nowhere.

PTA President Carol Kocivar complained that allies of Proposition 30 had written ballot arguments against Proposition 38. And now both campaigns are ramping up for a televised air war.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, is delighted. "When your adversaries are engaged in a battle, the best thing to do is step out of the way," Coupal said. "We've seen some pretty aggressive posturing between the two, and I don't see that letting up between now and November."

The association this week began running a statewide radio ad targeting Brown's measure. Coupal said his group is less worried about Proposition 38, which he views as less viable.

The governor argues that Proposition 30 is the better because, at least in the short term, it fends off billions in devastating cuts to schools. But Munger argues that her initiative provides an unprecedented infusion of money into a moribund school system for 12 years.

"What else can we do?'' she asked this newspaper's editorial board this week. "Let's make it happen for our kids."

The full effect of her measure won't be felt for the first four years, when schools would get about 60 percent of the $10 billion in yearly taxes through 2016-17 -- with the rest going to early-childhood care and paying off state debt.

Proposition 30 has consistently had higher popular support in polls, probably because most of the tax hikes would fall on the wealthy.

Munger's measure tests voters' willingness to dig into their own pockets because the tax burden would be distributed among almost all income groups.

Hoi-Yung Poon, a Cupertino parent and activist, said she's supporting Proposition 30 and hasn't decided whether she'll also vote for Proposition 38.

"Everyone seems to be confused about the two propositions," said Poon, executive director of the education-advocacy group Parents for Great Education.

Tom Lynch, who serves on the executive board of Alameda County's Peralta District PTA, has been -- along with his organization -- campaigning for Munger's "Our Children, Our Future" initiative. But Lynch knows Munger's measure is the underdog. "I, myself, favor Prop. 38, but I'm also realistic that we can't afford for both of them to lose," he said. "When people ask me, I say, 'Vote for both.'"

Dan Reynolds, an English and film studies teacher at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, said it was important to him that Proposition 30 would raise income taxes on only the wealthiest Californians, "those who can most afford to pay."

Sam Davis, an Oakland parent, is worried sick about more potential cuts. A former adult education teacher who lost his job when the school district closed all of its adult schools in 2010, he said he's hoping to dispel a sense of complacency among parents at the high-performing language immersion school, Manzanita SEED.

"I think there's this feeling that things are going great," Davis said. But "a big cut could totally destroy our program."

Like Reynolds, Davis prefers Proposition 30 because "that's where the excitement is." And that's the only measure he discusses with the voters he's called.

Still, a competing tax measure on the November ballot is the least of his concerns.

Said Davis: "I'm more worried about the anti-tax campaign that'll twist the language and try to pit the propositions against each other."

Staff writers Theresa Harrington and Sharon Noguchi contributed to this report. Contact Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101. Follow him at Twitter.com/ssharmon. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.

COMPARISON OF PROPS. 30 AND 38

Taxes
Prop. 30:
Raises income taxes by 1 percentage point on individual income exceeding $250,000, 2 percentage points on income between $300,000 and $500,000, and 3 points on income of more than $500,000. Extra tax would be in effect from 2012 to 2018.
Raises state sales tax by a quarter cent from 2013 to 2016.

Prop. 38
Raises income tax, progressively, starting with a 0.4 percentage point hike on those with taxable income of more than $7,316, with the highest boost -- 2.2 percentage points -- on those making more than $2.5 million. Tax hike would be in effect from 2013 to 2024.

Revenues raised
Prop. 30
An average of $6 billion annually when both the sales and income tax are in effect through 2016, with revenues dropping slightly in the final two years.
Prop. 38
An average of $10 billion annually.

Incidentals
Prop. 30
Revenues would raise the Proposition 98 guarantee, which means more money for schools, but revenues would also be used to balance the budget.
Prop. 38
For the first four years, $6 billion would be used for schools, $1 billion for child care and preschool and $3 billion for debt payments. From 2018 to 2025, larger shares go to schools, child care and preschool -- and debt payments would decline.

If both initiatives pass, the one with the most votes will take effect.

Source: Legislative Analyst's Office