UPDATE, March 9, 2012: Testifying before a state Senate budget subcommittee hearing yesterday on Governor Brown's budget proposal for education, Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, at left, said that while he supports Gov. Brown's tax increase ballot measure, he considers Brown is being "blatantly unfair" in targeting schools for spending cuts should voters reject new taxes, reports Dan Walters for the Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert. (See below for explanation of Brown's proposal for education funding).
The either-or nature of the budget is seen in political circles as a way of selling the tax package because schools, polls say, are the single most popular areas of government spending. But it still must be enacted by the Legislature, which is already balking at many of Brown's budget proposals.
[Torlakson] said he agrees with Brown that a first priority should be to beginning pay down the state's multi-billion-dollar debt to schools from aid deferrals. And he likes Brown's notion of recasting school finance to put more emphasis on schools and students who are performing poorly.
But Torlakson was critical of Brown's plans to move away from academic testing and flatly opposed the governor's proposals to overhaul childcare, calling them "misguided" because they would neglect early childhood development while reducing state support.
Meanwhile, results of a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California released yesterday, found only 52% of voters supported Brown's tax initiative when read the ballot title and summary; 70% opposed the so-called trigger cuts to schools if the measure fails. The findings, the lowest numbers yet, were based on a telephone survey of 2,001 California adult residents interviewed on landlines and cell phones from February 21–28, 2012.
Writing January 11 in the Silicon Valley Education Foundation's thoughts on Public Education's "Educated Guess," John Fensterwald says, "...what [Brown] is proposing in the event voters reject his tax increase in November is unprecedented in terms of impact on K-12 schools and community colleges -- and brazenness."
In the proposed '12-'13 Brown budget, the threat if the requested sales and income tax increases fail is a cut in K-14 education by $4.9 billion. Half of that, Fensterwald explains, would "reflect the drop in Prop 98 obligation...but the other $2.4 billion would come from saddling Prop 98 with the responsibility for repaying general obligation education bonds -- a burden that until now was handled through the General Fund. The effect would be to cut school funding by $2.4 billion without going through the formal process of suspending Prop 98."
In his piece Fensterwald writes one of the clearer explanations of Prop 98:
Proposition 98 was passed  to create a minimum funding level for K-12 and community colleges of about 40 percent of the General Fund, though the amount will vary yearly based on various “tests.” Whenever the Legislature moves items in and out of Prop 98, it goes through an adjustment process to weigh the impact on the Prop 98 obligation. It’s called rebenching, but Rick Simpson, deputy chief of staff for Assembly Speaker John Perez and key adviser to the Legislature for decades, reminds me that it’s a term of art, not found in Prop 98. The courts have not yet ruled on the legality and methods for rebenching, although the California School Boards Association is suing the state over a related move by Brown and the Legislature this year...(in the current budget, Brown and the Legislature moved some state services to counties and cities. To pay for this realignment, they diverted revenue from 1.06 percent of the state sales tax, worth $5 billion, from the General Fund. Doing so also subtracted $2 billion that would have gone to Prop 98. CSBA has sued over this point.)