During the course of California Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign for Proposition 30, the estimated $6 billion income and sales tax hike on the November ballot, school officials throughout the state have been warning students through letters, emails, rallies, and word of mouth that the passage of this ballot measure is essential and necessary for the continuation of the California educational system as it currently stands. While school officials are allowed to voice their personal opinion on an issue outside of their professional role, they are not allowed to lobby students or their parents on ballot measures using educational funds, as they appear to be doing.
Under Education Code Section 7054(a), “no school district or community college district funds, services, supplies, or equipment shall be used for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure or candidate, including, but not limited to, any candidate for election to the governing board of the district.” Violation of this section results in at most one year imprisonment, or a fine of up to one thousand dollars, or both. Currently, there have not been any education officials formally charged despite the growing number of infractions.
One of the numerous examples of violations of this law comes from Deborah Bettencourt, superintendent of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, who sent a letter to parents and district employees. In the letter she states, “if the governor’s Prop 30 doesn’t pass in November, we will again be faced with the reduction of the instructional year by up to six additional furlough days, a loss of learning time that will impact current students and their performance.”
Such scare tactics are not limited to K-12, as university officials have taken to lobbying prospective students. The California State University System has sent letters to potential applicants warning that because “enrollment capacity is tied to the amount of available state funding, the campuses will be able to admit more applicants if Prop 30 passes and fewer applicants if the proposition fails." See kids, if we don’t raise taxes, you might not get in to college. The letter continues, "the CSU budget would be less likely subject to cuts, and potentially could be increased in future years" if Prop 30 passes.
It’s bad enough that school officials, who should be focused on educating, are busy using scare tactics to influence the votes of their students, parents, faculty, and others, but it’s even more egregious when they are breaking the law in the process. California’s education officials should be more concerned with providing their current and future students with a quality education.