California is among the wealthiest states in the nation, in fact we are the sixth largest economy in the world. We are a center of tourism and home to the entertainment industry and countless tech companies and startups. Despite this vast wealth, our educational system is ranked 46th out of 50 states in terms of per-student funding for public education. This drop to the bottom is due in large part to the unintended consequences of ballot measures that stripped tax benefits for our communities over the last several decades.
On November 8, California voters have the power to reinvest in public education with Proposition 55: The California Children’s Education and Healthcare Protection Act of 2016. Proposition 55 would provide an estimated $4-9 billion dollars annually for schools and community colleges for the next 14 years (according to the nonpartisan independent Legislative Analyst’s Office).
Voting Yes on Proposition 55 does not create a new tax; it would simply keep the current income tax rates on the wealthiest 1.5% of Californians established by the voters in 2012 with the passage of Proposition 30. That ballot measure was set to expire in 2018, and Proposition 55 would extend it to 2030.
Given our troubling financial picture, Proposition 55 is a tactical solution to extend the tax on the ultra-wealthy who have the ability to invest a little more in our state’s education.
Since the passage of Proposition 30, these additional tax dollars have allowed California's public schools to receive funding they desperately need to support students — we used to be ranked 50th among all states for per-student funding. The small group of taxpayers who would be contributing are those whose annual income is so high that it won’t make a difference in their bottom line. People earning more than $250,000 and couples earning more than $500,000 per year would continue to pay between 1-3% higher taxes on income over those amounts. That is not going to make a dent in the pocketbook for these wealthy Californians.
Opponents of Proposition 55 may argue that school funding should not fluctuate based on additional taxes and that we need more stable funding sources, however that's the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in as our state budget continues to recover from the 2008 financial crisis.
Given our troubling financial picture, Proposition 55 is a tactical solution to extend the tax on the ultra-wealthy who have the ability to invest a little more in our state’s education. Only a fraction of Californians will actually pay this tax, yet all of the state's 6,226,737 public school students will benefit.
Furthermore, these tax dollars will reach the students who need them. There are strict requirements and annual audits in place to ensure that education funds go to local school districts — not bureaucratic or administrative costs.
If we do not support Proposition 55, California's schools will suffer — just like they did during the recession. Thousands of teachers will face pink slips and layoffs, class sizes will increase, resources will be cut for crucial personnel including school nurses and counselors, and funding for art and music classes will shrink. We cannot let this happen.
It is in all of our best interests to support a strong public school system statewide — we want to have well-educated graduates who go on to good jobs that strengthen our state's economy. Please join me and my organization, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) to vote Yes on Proposition 55 on November 8.
To do our part locally to support students, LAANE has joined Reclaim Our Schools LA — a coalition of parents, educators, students, and community members working to improve access and advance opportunities in public education. This coalition will soon be launching a campaign to strengthen LA's public schools. Please stay tuned for more information.
Executive Director, LAANE (Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy)