Endorsements - Page 4

Obama for president. No on 94-97. Yes on A. Our complete endorsements for the Feb. 5 election
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92 is another example of how desperate California educators are and how utterly dysfunctional the state's budget process has become.

The measure is complicated, but it amounts to a plan to guarantee community colleges more money — a total of about $300 million a year — and includes provisions to cut the cost of attending the two-year schools. Those are good things: community colleges serve a huge number of students — about 10 times as many as the University of California system — many of whom come from lower-income families who can't afford even a small fee increase. And, of course, as the state budget has gotten tighter, community college fees have gone up in the past few years — and as a result, attendance has dropped.

Part of the way Prop. 92 cuts fees is by divorcing community college funding from K–12 funding — and that's created some controversy among teachers. Current state law requires a set percentage of California spending (about 40 percent) to go to K–12 and community college education, but there's no provision to give more money to the community colleges when enrollment at those institutions grows faster than K–12 enrollment.

Some teachers fear that Prop. 92 could lead to decreased funds for K–12, and that's a real concern. In essence, this measure would add $300 million to the state budget, and it includes no specific funding source. This worries us. In theory, the legislature and the governor ought to agree that education funding matters and find the money by raising taxes; in practice, this could set up more competition for money between different (and entirely worthy) branches of the state's public education system — not to mention other critical social services.

But many of the same concerns were voiced when Prop. 98 was on the ballot, and that measure probably saved public education in California. The progressives on the San Francisco Board of Education all support Prop. 92, and so do we. Vote yes.

Proposition 93 (term limits)

YES

This is pathetic, really. The term-limits law that voters passed in 1990 has been bad news, shifting more power to the governor and ensuring that the State Assembly and the State Senate will be filled with people who lack the experience and institutional history to fight the Sacramento lobbyists (who, of course, have no term limits). But the legislature isn't a terribly popular institution, and the polls all show that it would be almost impossible to simply repeal term limits. So the legislature — led by State Assembly speaker Fabian Núñez, who really, really wants to keep his job — has proposed a modification instead.

Under the current law, a politician can serve six years — three terms — in the assembly and eight years — two terms — in the senate. Since most senators are former assembly members, that's a total of 14 years any one person can serve in the legislature.

Prop. 93 would cut that to 12 years — but allow members to serve them in either house. So Núñez, who will be termed out this year, could serve six more years in the assembly (but would then be barred from running for the senate). Senators who never served in the assembly could stick around for three terms.

That's fine. It's a bit better than what we have now — it might bring more long-term focus to the legislature and eliminate some of the musical-chairs mess that's brought us the Mark Leno versus Carole Migden bloodbath.

But it's sad that the California State Legislature, once a model for the nation, has been so stymied by corruption that the voters don't trust it and the best we can hope for is a modest improvement in a bad law.