Munger-funded "compare and contrast" ad criticizes Prop. 30

October 9, 2012

Updated Oct. 11, to correct mix-up of prop numbers in 8th paragraph.

It is what supporters of Proposition 30, Gov. Brown’s education funding initiative, suspected and feared would happen. In a new 30-second TV ad that circulated today, the rival campaign of Proposition 38 takes pot shots at Prop 30.

Prop. 38 funder Molly Munger  promised Sunday that the campaign would release “compare and contrast” ads to tell the truth about false statements in Prop. 30’s TV ads. With their first ad directly criticizing Prop. 30, Prop. 38 proponents have signalled a potentially costly  escalation of a battle for voters’ attention that has both sides sniping over alleged differences instead of emphasizing their common cause – raising more money for schools.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2vjdTl1nz4

The ad, with a schoolgirl’s narration says, “Let’s see how two ballot measures measure up. Prop. 30 says they send new money to our schools. But fact checkers say that’s misleading. Prop. 30 sends money in here (imagine dollar bills flowing to schools) but lets the politicians take it out here (imagine dollar bills flowing to stick figures of politicians raising their arms). That’s why Sacramento’s behind it.

The fact checkers referred to in the ad are from the Sacramento Bee’s Ad Watch on Oct. 4 (cited in a headline in the Munger ad). They don’t dispute that Prop. 30 will raise new money for schools: $3 billion annually for K-12 schools and community colleges – money that will become the new base level spending required under Proposition 98.

The Bee’s fact checkers were criticizing a specific statement by state Controller John Chiang in one of the  Prop. 30 ads: “Sacramento politicians can’t touch the money (emphasis added), and Prop. 30 requires annual audits posted online for everyone to see.” Chiang  is correct only in a very narrow, technical sense. Because Prop. 30 will raise money for the General Fund, legislators could  decide to spend some of the additional  dollars required under Prop 98 for other purposes. It has happened before and could indeed happen if Prop. 38 passes and Prop. 30 fails. There are  only so many ways to tie legislators’ hands.

Prop. 30 was written to address to address a budget deficit that affects K-12 schools and other functions of state government, including police and prison services that are now counties’ responsibility. Although Prop 30 ads emphasize the money it will raise for schools  half of the $6 billion annual total – they have been pretty clear about what else  the initiative would do.

By paying off school construction bonds in its first four years, Prop. 38 frees up $3 billion annually in the General Fund for the Legislature to use. It does raise  raise substantial money for K-12 schools and early childhood programs – eventually as much as $10 billion per year for eight of its 12 year-life. And so it’s accurate for its ad to say, ” Prop 38 really does send new education dollars straight to our schools.” But Prop. 30 supporters say it is inaccurate and unfair for the ad to imply that  “Sacramento politicians” favor th initiative  because it makes it easy for them to siphon money intended for schools.

On Monday, before the latest Prop. 38 ad was circulated, State Board of Education President Mike Kirst, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and leaders of the state’s largest unions wrote Molly Munger asking her not to run TV ads attacking Prop. 30. They wrote, “We understand you prefer your competing measure. However, any actions to destroy Prop. 30 … fly in the face of stated goals to improve educational opportunities of our children.”

Indeed, they had cause for worry.

The Advancement Project, a civil rights organization that Munger and her husband fund, paid for the latest Prop. 38 ad – and not Yes On 38, the campaign organization that is backed by the California State PTA. Yesterday, California State PTA President Carol Kocivar defended the organization’s support of Prop. 38 in a three-page open letter to California teachers, whose union, the California Teachers Association, is a primary backer of Prop. 30. CTA President Dean Vogel was also one of the 10 signers of the blunt letter to Munger.

“We recognize there are differences of opinion about the ballot measures this November. We know Proposition 30, not 38, is the initiative supported by the two major state teachers’ associations, and we fully respect that,” Kocivar wrote. “Because PTAs have always been committed to a collaborative relationship with our teachers, we want you to understand our reasons for supporting Proposition 38 as well.”

“The idea is simple and straightforward: Generate significant additional revenue to start to restore the programs and services that have been cut. Move California out of the basement in school funding,” she wrote.

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