Prospect of funding losses cited in unanimous resolution

The Del Norte County Office of Education on Thursday declared its opposition to the current Jefferson state movement and gave its support to the Keep It California campaign.

The county Board of Education, which also represents the Del Norte County Unified School District, unanimously approved a resolution declaring their opposition to the county's Jefferson state advisory measure that will be on the June 3 primary election ballot.

"It occurred to us that no one ever asked the School Board, which is responsible for providing the educational programs in our community, whether there would be negative consequences to education if we withdraw from California," Kevin Hendrick, director of the Keep It California-No on Measure A campaign, told Board members. "Will this be good or bad for schools and education in Del Norte County? We encourage you to consider the financial risks and uncertainties of continuing down the path to Jefferson."

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors approved an advisory measure on Feb. 25 that asks voters their opinion on Jefferson state. Even if voters approved Measure A, supervisors would still have to vote on a declaration to withdraw from California for Del Norte to be counted among the other counties that support Jefferson.

The Keep It California campaign seeks to inform voters of the financial impacts on Del Norte County if it separates from California. The campaign submitted arguments and rebuttals opposing Measure A that will appear on the election's sample ballot.

Hendrick said he would take similar resolutions before the Crescent City Council and the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors.

Superintendent of Schools Don Olson, who endorsed the Keep It California argument opposing Measure A, said $32 million of the school district's funding comes from California while $3 million is generated through local property taxes. More than 80 percent of that funding goes to district and county employee salaries, he said.

"The current proposal provides no guarantee or any means of how we would be receiving those $32 million, which are vitally needed to educate the students in this community," Olson said. "From a fiscal and a personal point of view I oppose moving in the direction of the state of Jefferson."

Most of the School Board members echoed Olson's statement, including Board President Don McArthur, who also endorsed the Keep It California campaign opposing the advisory measure.

"My sense is bad ideas deserve proper burials," he said, referring to the efforts to form the state of Jefferson. "I just don't see any rational basis for doing something like this."

The school district is currently working on a number of projects funded by a bond local voters approved in 2008. According to McArthur, the district is also hoping to use funding from a statewide general obligation bond for those projects if it is approved.

Jim Brown, who was superintendent of schools in Glendale, Palo Alto, Lompoc and Cambria before he retired to Crescent City, said there is potentially a negative impact on employee pensions. Forming a new state would result in a major overhaul to the public pension system for school employees, many of whom have paid into the system for years, he said.

In addition to a financial impact, the current Jefferson state proposal could negatively affect instruction, Brown said.

"I can't think of anybody who would be more appalled by this proposal than Thomas Jefferson," he said, citing Jefferson's view that literacy is key to a successful democracy. "This proposal, which I characterize as basically thoughtless in nature, really has a larger purpose, which is to undo public education. No rational mind could even begin to fathom how this new system would be able to create the financial basis for public education."

At a February town hall meeting, Jefferson state advocates stated that counties would have control over their natural resources, which would add to their revenue. At a Board of Supervisors workshop on Feb. 27, Jefferson advocates said the combined total budgets for all counties that would possibly participate in the movement total more than $2 billion. Those counties include Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity and Yuba.

Yuba County is the latest county to approve a declaration to withdraw from California, its Board of Supervisors voting 3-1 last week in favor of the declaration. Other counties that have come out in support of Jefferson include Siskiyou, Modoc and Glenn.

Like Del Norte County, Tehama County chose to put the matter to a vote of the people but left the name of the state ambiguous on its advisory measure.

In order to be successful, the Jefferson state proposal must be approved by both the California Legislature and the U.S. Congress.

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