Ed Coalition calls for united front behind one tax measure for November

Members of the state's influential Education Coalition said Wednesday school advocates need to unite behind a single tax measure well in advance of the November election or risk losing a rare opportunity to raise new revenues.

The internally directed warning comes a day after Gov. Jerry Brown triggered less than $1 billion in mid-year cuts - only some of which were imposed on K-12 schools largely because of an optimistic economic outlook for the coming year.

But the governor said his January budget will include an additional $1 billion in cuts and the picture could get much worse if voters turn down new revenue measures in November.

Prospects for success next fall were also buoyed this week by a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found a healthy majority of voters saying they would support Brown's ballot measure for November that would temporarily raise sales taxes and personal income taxes on the state's highest earners.

Yet, there are as many as four other major political coalitions with formal tax measures either already before the state's Attorney General in preparation of signature gathering - or expected soon to be.

There needs to be an effort to narrow it down," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, in a conference call with reporters sponsored by the Ed Coalition, of which the California Department of Education is a member. "We don't want to be offering a smorgasbord of choices that would blunt the vote so that no measure passes."

The 11-member coalition, which represents both labor and management as well as parent groups and local school boards, has not taken a position itself on any of the tax measures - although individual members expressed support for specific initiatives.

Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association - also part of the coalition - said that education supporters have less than two months to decide as state election officials prepare and approve the petition paperwork that will eventually be taken to the streets.

"We have about a 60-day window, as we are waiting for title and summary to have those kinds of substantive conversations that are necessary to actually operationalize the idea of coalescing around one thing," he said.

"I have every reason to believe we are going to do that because ultimately we all have the same goal," he said. "And that is to get a funding initiative passed and we know that if we have more than one on the ballot, it is going to be difficult."

Gov. Brown, who has clearly staked his own turf in the debate, signaled Tuesday during his press briefing on the trigger cuts - that while he might be open to compromise, he thinks his tax measure is the one schools should rally behind.

Brown said that having more than one tax measure would be more than problematic.

"It will be difficult," he said. "We are in conversations with proponents; we hope to have a clear field to run on - we are not there yet.

"To the extent that it creates chaos and confusions - I would certainly like to avoid doubling the cuts, which would happen if my measure fails," he said.