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The Schools vs. the 49ers

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Opinion: The Schools vs. the 49ers

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass against the New York Giants during the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park on January 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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The San Francisco 49ers are a storied National Football League franchise. They were an overtime field goal away from returning to the Super Bowl last season. Bay Area residents love them.

But are they more important than the schools?

That's the question raised by an effort by state lawmakers to give the 49ers $30 million for their new stadium project in Santa Clara -- at a time when the state budget is broken and cash is scarce (except in the state's special funds).

The $30 million was supposed to come from redevelopment funds that had been promised to help pay for the stadium projects. But the state, with the help of the California Supreme Court, ended redevelopment last year--a move that rightly returned money that had been going to redevelopment to the schools.

You might think that the 49ers would applaud such a move, and not sweat $30 million in a $1.2 billion project. Heck, you might notice that the 49ers's contract with just one player, Michael Crabtree, a very mediocre wide receiver, is $32 million.

But you would think wrong.

The football team is insisting on its money. And so a state lawmaker is gutting an existing bill and amending it to give the $30 million back to the stadium project. The legislation is defended on the argument that the commitment of the redevelopment money was made before redevelopment was ended.

Of course, schools have seen other cuts. And the state in recent years has not paid schools the money they are owed -- preferring to defer the cash.

Are promises made to football teams more important than promises made to schools?

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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