Why Prop 30 Matters for California Schools

Sunday, October 28, 2012

 

 

If California's public schools were a hedge fund, losing $20 billion in four years would be a mere blip on the screen. But we're talking about public institutions that serve millions of students: your own kids, your neighbor's kids, and college grads who go on to become contributing members of society. The fallout from the recession has cut many of our educational programs to the bone, forcing teacher layoffs and putting many school districts on the brink of insolvency. Proposition 30 will shore up funding for public education; if it fails, then trigger cuts would wipe out almost $6 billion from K-12 schools, community colleges, and public four-year universities.

 

At City College of San Francisco, my older students remember when Cal State University cost hundreds of dollars a semester; now it's $3500 for a full-time student. Community college gives many students a chance to get an affordable education; they're our future nurses and firefighters, entrepreneurs and university grads. I’ll never forget one of my students who immigrated from Vietnam with a 3rd grade education and worked his way up to college-level English. At City College, my students in Child Development are primarily Asian and Latino women; they deserve medals for persistence, juggling full-time work and taking care of their families -- all the while attending school. Every day I hear about my student's challenges; they're trying to make ends meet, coping with illness or layoffs, and they’re learning towards attaining greater earning power. When you hear about skilled jobs in science and technology that need workers, our students are striving to fill those shoes.

 

None of us invested in our schools would want to see the consequences of a defeated Prop 30: thousands of teacher layoffs, a shortened school year, steep tuition increases for those who could least afford it. However, if Prop 30 succeeds, additional revenue could be $6 to 7.6 billion a year, funded in large part by tax increases on the state's top earners.

 

Public schools are the life force of the economy. What we put in the pipeline: adequate resources, teachers and programs that prepare us for 21st century jobs and challenges, will reward our communities many times over in the years to come. Instead, some believe we need to starve the beast -- they view resources for our children and grandchildren's future as another tax burden.

 

Prop 30 is designed to raise revenues from those who can afford to give back: nearly 80% will come from taxpayers with incomes of $533,000 and up. If you’re wondering about the 1/4% sales tax, it adds up annually to the cost of several pizzas for most of us. Prop 38, the competing measure, will not provide funds for community colleges and public four-year universities in the state. And if it trumps Prop 30, the severe trigger cuts would still go into effect -- billions in reductions can avoided only through the passage of Prop 30.

 

You may have seen the recent TV ads attacking Prop 30. Don't you wonder why billionaires are busy spending money to defeat measures that lift up millions of people --when a fraction of their wealth could easily eliminate the financial crises of entire cities or institutions? It’s time that we roll up our sleeves to save California's schools. Let’s invest in our future with Prop 30; the very fabric of our communities could depend on it.

 

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Li Miao Lovett is an academic counselor at City College of San Francisco, and a writer focused on environmental issues in the U.S. and China. She has advised thousands of Asian American students in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her debut novel, In the Lap of the Gods, portrays the lives of Chinese displaced by the Three Gorges dam.