Forum, Campaign by Teachers Place Focus on Prop. 98

Times Staff Writer

Two local events this week reflect the belief by supporters that Orange County will be a major battleground for a statewide ballot measure designed to guarantee a minimum level of funding for education.

At issue is Proposition 98, a proposed guarantee to be written into the state Constitution that would establish that the education budget cannot be less than the previous year's. The initiative, on the November ballot, would also require more accountability of public schools by the issuance of annual "report cards" on the institutions.

Fountain Valley School District held a forum on Proposition 98 on Monday night at which representatives of all sides spoke. "We wanted to make sure the voters heard the pros and the cons," said Cheryl Norton, director of community services for the school district.

On Thursday, the West Orange County United Teachers, an umbrella union representing teachers in five school districts, will begin its county campaign for Proposition 98 with an open house at its headquarters, 8511 Heil Ave., Westminster, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. The public is invited, said Marty Kahn, executive director of the union.

"Orange County is important in this campaign because we're second only to Los Angeles County in the number of teachers who live in the county," he said.

"Many people moved to Orange County to get good schools, and this initiative is the sort of thing they'd support. On the other hand, this tends to be a conservative county, and voters might be influenced by opponents to this proposition who say it would cause taxes to be raised, which is not true."

While Proposition 98 does not call for raising taxes, it would earmark a portion of any surplus beyond the state's Gann spending limit for schools. Opponents, including the Sacramento-based California Taxpayers Assn., have said that would be unfair and unwise.

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