GOING UP: A construction work scales the structure of a future science and technology building on the Santa Monica High School campus on Wednesday. The project is funded by money raised through Measure BB, a school bond that was approved by voters in 2006. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

SMMUSD HDQTRS — Things did not look great for public education measures early on Tuesday night.

Proposition 30, a measure supported by Gov. Jerry Brown that raised income taxes on wealthy Californians and the sales tax on everyone, was limping along below the 50 percent margin.

Proposition 38, a rival measure by education advocate Molly Munger that raised taxes on Californians across the board, was looking much worse, and almost no results were available for Measure ES, a $385 million bond measure that would bring technology and safety measures to aging schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

By Wednesday morning, however, it became clear that California voters and the Santa Monica-Malibu community had stepped up in support of public education, passing both Prop. 30 and Measure ES by comfortable margins.

According to the Secretary of State, Prop. 30 passed with almost 54 percent of the vote statewide, and Measure ES passed by over two-thirds of the vote.

“It was such a relief to wake up to the good results, and hearing about how well-supported Measure ES was,” said Patti Braun, president of the PTA Council.

The only measure that failed was Munger’s Prop. 38, which had been losing support in the weeks leading up to the election as it and Prop. 30 competed against one another for voters’ hearts.

The California PTA backed Proposition 38 and local PTAs were told to keep a neutral message on Prop. 30, but education watchers knew it would mean disaster for local schools if the neither funding measure passed.

A $5 million structural deficit in the district would balloon to $10 million almost overnight, paving the way for deep mid-year cuts.

That, at least, will be avoided, said Santa Monica-Malibu Superintendent Sandra Lyon.

“The next task is to look at where we are with deficit spending, which will be on the agenda for the next board meeting,” Lyon said. “We’re not in crisis mode, but we want to be talking about alignment and efficiency and continuing to look at how we look at our budget.”

The success of Measure ES will also lighten the load on the district’s coffers. Officials plan to use the cash to bring much needed safety requirements like fire sprinklers to the 100-year-old campus at Santa Monica High School, and purchase new technologies to assist in the next generation of standardized testing recently adopted statewide.

“I just want to thank everyone for voting for (Measure) ES and supporting (Prop.) 30 as well,” Lyon said. “It’s a statement that there’s great support for what we’re doing in public education.”

The success of the two measures has at least delayed a push for another parcel tax to further fund the school district. That had been a topic of discussion earlier this year, and voter fatigue was one of the strongest arguments against putting the bond measure on the ballot.

“It’s early days yet,” Braun said of the potential parcel tax. “The needs of our schools don’t go away. My hope is we don’t have to go back immediately to our citizens and ask for more funding. We have such supportive cities, hopefully we will be able to make it through the initial crisis and rely on more traditional funding measures.”

SMMUSD schools were not the only ones to benefit from Tuesday’s election.

Unlike Prop. 38, the governor’s measure reserved funds for higher education, and its passage not only staved off cuts but caused the California State University system to start cutting checks to students to refund tuition increases that are no longer needed, according to the Associated Press.

Both the University of California and CSU systems were slated to lose $250 million each this year, and the 112 community college campuses stood to lose $338 million, according to the AP.

Voters across the state embraced the need to fund California’s public schools. Almost 80 percent of school bonds passed, according to the AP.

 

 

ashley@smdp.com

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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