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February 19, 2003

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SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) has formally requested Governor Gray Davis to withdraw the Administration’s proposal to take local property tax revenues from Basic Aid school districts.  Simitian, who chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, received bi-partisan support from members throughout the State for his February 18th letter to the Governor regarding school funding.

The letter, signed by 32 Assemblymembers, asked the Governor to withdraw the administration’s proposal based on the significant harm it would cause to more than 50 school districts throughout the State.

After delivering the letter to the Governor’s office, Simitian met with Kerry Mazzoni, the Governor’s Secretary for Education, to make his case and discuss alternatives to the Administration’s proposal.

“The proposed capture of local property taxes decimates the core instructional program in the 50-plus Basic Aid school districts with no tangible benefit to other kids or school districts around the State.  It simply tosses $126 million of somebody else’s money into the black hole that is the State budget deficit,” the letter stated. 

Simitian organized the effort over a two-week period, with assistance from Assemblymember Gene Mullin (D-San Mateo), who helped round up support and signatures from fellow freshman members.  “Gene was a particularly effective advocate on this issue, given his 32 years as a classroom teacher. He deserves a lot of credit,” said Simitian.

The letter was initially scheduled for delivery to the Governor last Friday, February 14, but Simitian wanted to include a few more members who had not yet had a chance to sign the letter.  “Besides,” said Simitian, “it isn’t exactly a Valentine.”

Basic Aid school districts stand to lose anywhere from 10 to 30 percent—or more—of their school budget, with almost no time to plan for alternatives.  “Unfortunately, Basic Aid school districts are misunderstood as being uniformly wealthier than all the other school districts.  This is simply not the case. Some of these districts rank in the 40th, 50th, or 60th percentile when total per-pupil spending is taken into account,” said Simitian.  “It’s a misguided proposal because it bases a policy decision on a stereotype rather than facts.”

“I’m particularly gratified to see legislators from both Basic Aid and non-Basic Aid school districts signing this letter.  Their combined support attests to the widespread damage it would cause as well as the inherent unfairness of the proposal.”



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