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Accountability and high expectations

On Nov. 6, California voters took a courageous and hopeful step toward a healthier fiscal outlook for our state and a more stable financial environment for our schools both today and into the future. I believe the voters also sent a message to Sacramento and to all of us at the local level who are responsible for safeguarding taxpayer dollars, that they have high expectations for their investment. How do we meet these expectations? Locally, we can do the following: * Our schools must continue to identify and implement methods of efficiency and effectiveness that maximize every dollar. We need to continue to explore shared and consolidated services among our school districts. Much progress has already been made in this area and more will follow. * Our schools must continue to safeguard their funds. Proposition 30 eliminated $6 billion in deep cuts, but it is not a windfall of new revenues for education. We must continue to budget and plan as if we are in a period of financial challenge, because that remains the reality. * Local agencies must collaborate regarding state programs and services that have been realigned to local government. In passing Proposition 30, the voters approved transition funding. We must establish efficient, sustainable systems that will remain viable once the funding from Proposition 30 ends. At the state level, our legislators must work with the governor to oversee the implementation of this proposition, heeding the voters' wishes and planning carefully for the years after the revenue increases expire. As stewards of a portion of Proposition 30 funding, they must control spending and establish funding priorities based on the needs of our state and not the desires of special interests. In this critical period, the effectiveness of our legislators should be judged on their ability to unravel political gridlock and work in the best interest of all the people of California. I believe the voters studied the issues very carefully. They looked at our schools in their own communities and throughout the state and realized that our children's future depended on a vote preventing further devastating cuts. I saw this in the many questions and comments received during the campaign. Whether it was parents, taxpayer advocates, seniors or business leaders, people were thinking deeply about the issues and asking probing questions about the need for revenue increases, accountability and assurances that the funds would be used for the expressed purposes in the initiative. The voters knew that people across the economic spectrum will be paying higher taxes with each purchase they make for the next four years. Voters also heard the argument that when we tax the very wealthiest in our state, there is a possible price to be paid in reduced philanthropy. Still, they approved Proposition 30 with a margin of electoral approval that was surprising and noteworthy. Our schools are grateful to all those voters who supported Proposition 30 and believe that the education of our children is essential to a successful and prosperous future for our state. Now, those of us locally and in Sacramento who are entrusted with the voters' confidence — and tax dollars — will continue to work hard on their behalf and on behalf of future generations of our state. Stan Mantooth is Ventura County Superintendent of Schools.

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