Election Day is fast--and finally--approaching. So much is on the table in California this year, including school funding from kindergarten through all levels of higher and continuing education. With monumental automatic budget cuts hanging over our heads, California voters are considering two different revenue related propositions that each propose to address our anemic education-related budgets. Only one of them, though, will avoid those cuts, and that is Proposition 30.

Much has been written about the details of and differences between Governor Brown’s Proposition 30 and attorney Molly Munger’s Proposition 38. The EdSource and California Budget Project comparisons are especially clear about what each offers and what each puts at risk.

Both propositions substantially increase funding for K-12, but Proposition 30 distinguishes itself by also funding community colleges and guaranteeing financial resources for public safety and health services that are now (thanks to the Governor) the responsibility of counties. Both propositions also raise income taxes. Proposition 38 taxes everyone, even very low-income earners in our state. Proposition 30 taxes only those making over $250,000 per year, but it also imposes a sales tax increase for the next four years. Both propositions are also short term, with Brown’s expiring in seven years and Munger’s in twelve.

Most critically, each is, at least in its official text and according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, mutually exclusive. That mutual exclusivity is central to the concerns around the automatic cuts. A strict reading of these propositions makes it clear that should Proposition 30 fail, schools will feel tremendous pain, with the loss of $5.4 billion from K-12 schools and community colleges, and $250 million each from the California State University (CSU) system and the University of California (UC). School districts around the state are anticipating the elimination of more days from the school year and at the UC level, the funding that prevented the latest round of tuition increases would be lost. In such a scenario, tuition increases seem only too likely. CSU students would not be spared either, as leaders in that institution also fear the need of tuition increases without Proposition 30.

Some posit that should both initiatives pass, or if 38 passes and 30 fails, Sacramento could balk at making such severe cuts and will work out some agreement. Anything is possible, but the annual tortured and prolonged budget approval process makes believing in any such quick deal cutting a bit hard. Yet another possibility floating around is that the passage of both initiatives could result in the courts deciding on a resolution, although what that resolution might be is also unclear.

Speculation is just speculation--there is nothing to rely on in these projections. All we have to go on are the rules as they are now and the text of each initiative. What we know from both of those sources is that only Proposition 30 is sure to prevent the automatic cuts.

During the rein of Arnold Schwarzenegger, California public education supporters successfully pushed back against several energetic financial assaults on our schools. We know we have the capacity to mobilize voters, to get them to the polls and make the choices the best serve our kids. It’s time once again to flex that muscle.

Lisa Schiff is the parent of two children in the San Francisco Unified School District and is a member of Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco.