The future of publicly funded schools in California will be decided through budget proposals this November by three different groups, including one endorsed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Late last month, the California Teachers Association, one of the largest education unions in California, officially announced its backing of Brown’s plan. The Service Employees International Union, another sizable education union, hasn’t formally chosen a side on this topic, but is expected to support Brown’s plan.
“No position, we’re withholding judgment at this time,” said Terry Brown, senior government relations advocate for the SEIU. “I think we are likely to support it.”
Terry Brown explained that cuts are necessary to balance the state budget, as education takes up roughly half of the expenses. He said that they have cut $20 billion over the last six years to education. Under Gov. Brown’s new tax plan there will be cuts either way, more so if his plan doesn’t pass.
“You tell me how to fund education without it? We can’t. You want to tax the wealthy, or raise tuition on students as we have been?” said Terry Brown. “If the revenues don’t pass, it’s going to be very gloomy — if you’re a student and don’t vote for this, your screwing yourself.”
In his proposal of the state budget Jan. 10, 2011, Gov. Brown forecast a $500 million budget reduction for both the UC and CSU systems. CalWORKs and Medi-Cal are also receiving heavy cuts.
“There were certain things that had to be met and Brown’s measure came closest,” said Frank Wells, CTA spokesman.
Wells said that one of the key things that the CTA was looking for was a plan that puts money into the Proposition 98 base, voted into the state constitution in 1988 to ensure that enough funding would be set aside for education. Its other interest was to pay down the state deficit.
“It would be ideal if all major players agree on one tax plan and get behind it,” Wells said.
Currently, there are two other major plans in the works that could dilute the one that Gov. Brown has proposed. The Munger initiative called their tax plan, Our Children, Our Future, and the California Federation of Teachers named theirs The Millionares Tax of 2012.
“It’s still early in the process, but if there are too many initiatives on the ballot, people tend to vote no to all of them,” Wells said.
Brown’s plan would draw funds from a temporary rise in sales tax of 1 – 2 percent and raising the income tax on single earners who make a minimum $250,000 a year and joint earners of $500,000.
“From a CTA position, we felt the governor’s plan is the strongest and hope more come on board so we can pass this and keep California’s schools from suffering more than they already are,” Wells said.
Advocates of the CFT said that if more than one, or all of the initiatives were to pass, then the matter would most likely end up being decided in court. The “millionaire tax plan” would raise the tax rate on those who make more than $1 million by 3 percent and those who make more than $5 million by 5 percent.
“Working class, middle class and poor people have suffered greatly during this economic crisis, and we don’t think that they can afford to pay more,” said Anthony Thigpenn, chairman of California Calls, a statewide alliance that works on tax, fiscal and budget reforms. “Those in the higher brackets have done very well, and we think that they can afford to pay more to absolve the state’s crisis.”
Our Children, Our Future highlights the fact that California statistically has one of the lowest ranks with regard to investment into the education of its citizens, and is dead last in class size. The plan will benefit K-12 and early childhood programs only, and doesn’t include higher education.