Save Our Schools Initiative


Posted on 11 July 2012

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By Duane Campbell

The Sacramento Bee in both its editorial position on Sunday, July 8, and its news reporting name the fall initiative tax measure to preserve funding for our schools Governor Brown's Tax proposal. This naming, this framing, is selected to defeat the proposal. It is not Governor Brown's proposal- it is a proposal from all of us who worked on the Millionaires Tax, from teachers, union members, the majority in the California legislature and all of those who wish to save our schools from further devastation.

The legal title is the Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding Initiative Constitutional Amendment. It will be Proposition 30. We should insist that the press use the proper title for this tax initiative. If passed it would prevent $4.8 billion in cuts from our k-12 schools and $1.3 billion in cuts from our colleges and universities.

California voters are faced with a choice. Shall we raise taxes and fund the schools, or shall we continue the current practice of cut, cut, cut? In the fall election we will be faced with at least three choices. Continue the present austerity program or choose between two tax proposals. If the anti tax forces have their way and we do not pass new taxes the effects on the schools will be devastating – as will be effects on public safety, health clinics and local services.

What is in it? What is not?

The Schools and Public Safety proposal is the new combination of the Governor Brown’s tax proposal as merged with the Millionaires Tax proposal. The merger is a modest proposal. Sales tax would go up ¼ cent (as opposed to the ½ cent originally proposed by the governor) and the taxes of the very well off would be increased. In the Millionaires Tax this increase would have been starting at incomes of one million per year, in the merged proposal there would be higher taxes in steps for persons receiving $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for couples. Thus, it is no longer a millionaires tax, it is a tax increase for the well off. By the way, some 93% of all the recent wealth generated in the economy has gone to this top 4% of the wealthy. They are doing just fine.

On the ballot the merged proposal is called, The Schools and Local Public Safety Act.  It would prevent $ 4.8 billion cuts from our schools and 1.3 billion in further cuts to colleges and universities. The effort would not restore the schools to their 1980’s level of funding. It would only reduce the bleeding. Class room conditions would not get worse next year. California would still rank 47th out of the 50 states in per pupil spending.

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, a frequent voice of the anti tax crowd, calls this a “soak the rich” proposal. That is a slogan to mobilize the right wing. It is not an analysis. The Bee editorial board complains that this form of taxation will not end the volatility of tax collections – an accurate criticism. However, you can’t expect that emergency measures achieve all of your goals. The volatility issue is real and needs to be addressed in the tax code. For example, we could re-establish the vehicle license fee, or we could re-evaluate commercial property regularly for property taxes. Both would reduce the volatility of tax receipts.

In the meantime we need to pass The Schools and Local Public Safety Act to prevent $4.8 billion in cuts from our K-12 schools and $1.3 billion in cuts from our colleges and universities.

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Duane Campbell is a Professor of Bilingual/Multicultural Education at Calif. State University-Sacramento and the author of Choosing Democracy; a practical guide to multicultural education.

The article presumes, without proof, that K-12 and higher ed really need the $ 6 billion. All recipients of tax money should undergo a performance audit before they get any tax money. An independent audit could well show that a program needs more money; but, it could also indicate great waste, and thus should have a reduced budget. Examples of waste in education: 0ver $ 5 billion goes to support the archaic 58 offices of education; an unknown amount goes to support a huge state Department of Education) bureaucacy in Sacramento. On the local level there are myriads of levels of administration with no connection to the classroom. This is sometimes called the "three-headed monster" state, county, local.There is probably waste in all other program, usually in the area of high salaries and benefits.

Since 1970 the number of students in K-12 has gone up by about 9%. The number of employees in public k-12 has gone up by about 96%. Yet, the outcomes as measured by any test you can think of has not gone up. So, is money really the issue?

As far as I am concerned, California spends way too much. It needs to cut costs. If this is the only way, so be it.