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Schools at stake across U.S. in most education tax ballot measures in 20 years

Many schools across the country will be looking to voters to pass measures next month that fund public education.
Many schools across the country will be looking to voters to pass measures next month that fund public education.
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In a couple of weeks, Californians will be voting on Propositions 30 and 38, involving education funding, but they are hardly alone this election season: The Wall Street Journal reports that voters in several states will be deciding on measures affecting schools across the United States in the biggest such wave in about 20 years:

"Arizona, Missouri and South Dakota have tax-increase measures on ballots, while California is offering voters dueling proposals. Oregon has an initiative to redirect to schools some money that corporations receive as tax rebates. That is the largest number of education-tax initiatives to appear on state election ballots in two decades, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures."

The story cites information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that shows that per student funding for elementary and secondary schools is below the 2008 level in 35 states. California is currently 47th in the country in how much it spends per student.

California's Prop. 30 was written into the state budget, which presumes voters will pass it. If not, education will be hit with about $6 billion cuts. L.A. Unified, which has already cut a week of instruction because of a $557 million budget deficit this past year, would be hit with another $255 million in cuts, officials estimate.

The UC, CSU systems would be hit by $250 million in cuts, and California Community Colleges would see $338 million in cuts if the measure fails. California's public schools have responded to years of decreases in state funding by cutting staff and decreasing its offerings.

According to the WSJ, this is happening across the country, with some districts moving to a four-day school week: "U.S. public-school systems cut employee numbers by 264,200 between September 2008 and September 2012 to 7.87 million, according to Labor Department data."

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).