Responding to threats of deep cuts to education spending, the California Teachers Association has decided to ask voters to approve a one-cent sales tax to fund education.

The Public School Investment and Accountability Act would raise $5 billion to $6 billion a year that could not be diverted to other uses by California’s governor or the Legislature. The money could not be used for administrative expenses, only classroom expenditures such as teachers’ salaries.

The teachers union is trying to offset education funding cuts that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed as part of his plan to close a $41.5 billion budget gap over the next year and a half.

“California has now slipped to 47th in the country in per-pupil funding, and we will fall further behind under the governor’s latest state budget proposal to cut $10.8 billion from public education,” CTA president David A. Sanchez said in a statement. “If the governor and Legislature won’t take action, we must.”

The teachers will have to get the measure approved by Attorney General Jerry Brown and collect almost 700,000 signatures to put the measure before voters. The group has 340,000 members. It is unclear when the measure would go on the ballot, though state budget-balancing plans are likely to necessitate a special election sometime this year.

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