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School-Related Measures on the Ballot in Three States

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While most attention in next week's off-year elections has been focused on California's controversial school-voucher initiative, other measures with important implications for education are on the ballot in at least three states.

In California, in addition to the voucher initiative, voters will decide whether to make it easier to pass school-construction bond issues, and whether to extend a state sales-tax increase.

Proposition 170 would allow local voters to approve school-construction bond issues by a simple majority, rather than the two-thirds vote that has long been required.

Backers of the measure, including most state education and building-industry groups, say the two-thirds requirement has been a difficult hurdle for school districts to overcome to meet their construction needs.

Tom DeLapp, the communications director for the Association of California School Administrators, said an additional $3.5 billion in school-construction bonds would have been approved in the state between 1986 and 1993 if only a majority vote had been required.

But opponents of Proposition 170 say the measure would undermine the strong restrictions imposed by Proposition 13, the state's landmark 1978 tax-limitation amendment.

"This is the opening salvo in the hidden agenda here to reduce the two-thirds-vote requirement for all bond issues and Proposition 13 tax increases,'' said Joel Fox, the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation, an anti-tax group.

The other proposal, Proposition 172, would make permanent a temporary half-cent sales tax for use by city and county governments. Defeat of the measure would further strap local governments and make it more difficult to balance the next state budget, Mr. DeLapp said.

Meanwhile, evidence mounted last week that Golden State voters would reject Proposition 174, which would give parents vouchers to use to send their children to any public or private school. (See Education Week, Oct. 20, 1993.)

A Los Angeles Times poll showed 66 percent of likely voters opposing the plan, with 27 percent in favor.

In the same poll, the school-construction measure was faring poorly, while the sales-tax extension was slightly favored by likely voters.

Other Tax Measures

In Texas, which has no state income tax, voters are being asked to approve a constitutional amendment that would require their approval for any such tax, with the added condition that all revenues from an income tax would be dedicated to public education.

Proposition 4 was proposed by Lieut. Gov. Bob Bullock and is being supported by most education groups, even though it does not guarantee a net increase in funding for schools.

Washington State voters face tax-rollback and -limitation measures that opponents argue could seriously reduce state K-12 funding.

Initiative 601 would limit increases in state expenditures to the rates of inflation and population growth, while Initiative 602 would limit state spending and roll back about $1 billion in taxes and fees.

"The most conservative estimates we've looked at show that, at a bare minimum, $150 million would be cut just from K-12 education'' if both measures pass, said Teresa Moore, a spokeswoman for the Washington Education Assocation.

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