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Teachers Back Calif. Funding Amendment

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The California Teachers Association announced last week that it will throw its support behind a proposed constitutional amendment that would alter provisions of the state's school-funding guarantee and relax a constitutional ceiling on state spending growth.

The c.t.a.'s support is considered a key factor in deciding the fate of the new amendment, known as Proposition 111, which will appear on the ballot in June. Early polls indicate that voters are evenly divided over the measure, which also contains gasoline-tax hikes and other provisions to raise needed transportation funding.

The union dropped threats to wage a campaign against the measure after Gov. George Deukmejian agreed to support changes in the way the measure would be implemented. Those changes are contained in a bill that has been approved by the state Assembly and was pending in the Senate last week.

The changes proposed in Proposi4tion 111 would amend the school-funding guarantee approved by voters in 1988, commonly known as Proposition 98, and the Gann spending limit, approved by voters in 1979.

Under existing law, the proportion of revenues that the state would be required to earmark for education could increase significantly in the coming years, depending on the performance of the state's economy.

If the state maintains moderate economic growth over the next five years, for example, K-14 spending would grow from roughly 40 percent of the state budget in 1989-90 to more than 43 percent by 1994-95, according to Elizabeth Hill, a legislative analyst.

Many lawmakers and other state officials have expressed concern that the constitutional provisions could force them to divert money needed for other programs to the schools during years when state revenues are growing slowly.

Proposition 111--which lawmakers placed on the ballot during last year's heated budget debate--would prevent such occurrences by allowing total state spending to grow at a fast8er rate and by amending Proposition 98 in a variety of ways. It would:

Place a cap on the maximum dollar amount that the education-funding requirement could grow in any one year.

Slow the required growth in education spending in lean budget years, although the initially required increase would be built into the base for future year's calculations.

Prohibit lawmakers from suspending Proposition 98.

Use growth in personal income, rather than inflation, to calculate school-aid increases, which would assure larger increases in some years.

The compromise reached last month contains technical language sought by the cta, including a provision guaranteeing that a portion of any future windfalls would be earmarked for reducing class sizes.

Educators could stand to receive more money in future years if Proposition 111 fails, but many are supporting its passage to prevent a backlash from lawmakers, who could vote to suspend Proposition 98, and from voters, who could decide to repeal it.

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