Community Editorial: Why a Vote for Prop. 30 Can Help Save Education

Prop 30
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I’m voting yes on Proposition 30 because our state’s economic future hangs in the balance.

I grew up in Orange County in the 1960s and ’70s when California’s public schools were the envy of the world. I proudly remember that our leaders — from local school board members to state legislators to our governors — understood that investing in public education would have a big payoff for all of us.

And they were right.

Millions of us prospered, we had good paying jobs and we ignited the Golden State’s economic engine. California’s economy grew to become the eighth largest economy in the world. Orange County, if it were an independent country, would have ranked 34th.

If Proposition 30 fails, our economy will slide off a cliff.

Today, California ranks 47th in per-pupil investment, 50th in librarians, and 50th in class size. In the last four years, more than $20 billion has been cut from kindergarten through college spending. More than 30,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers have lost their jobs. In higher education, our community colleges, the California State University system, and the University of California have made massive cuts in staffing coupled with double digit increases in tuition year after year. Last year alone, more than 150,000 students were denied access to community colleges because of all the layoffs and funding cuts.

In the past couple of years, I have spoken to a few of our Assembly members and state senators about the need to stem the cuts. They have told me that in a recession we can’t do anything about it. Some of these folks are Democrats, and they should be ashamed.

Let’s be clear: No one wants to raise taxes even in good times. Yet it seems that some of our state elected officials are treating education as a luxury, as if it were like fixing a jacuzzi or getting a fancier watch.

Over the last few years, California’s spending on education has fallen to more than $2,000 dollars below the national average — on par with economic powerhouse states like Mississippi and Louisiana. Yet some states like New York and Massachusetts spend more than $6,000 more per pupil than we do because they understand that it’s an investment in their collective future. The fact of the matter is that during this recession nearly all states have treated education like fixing the leaky roof; it has to be done.

Let’s take a second to look at the main opponents of Proposition 30. Actually, more than 50 percent of the anti-Proposition 30 money comes from one man, Charles Munger Jr., a lucky guy who inherited his money from his billionaire father, Charles Munger Sr., the partner of Warren Buffet, the hedge fund manager.

Charles Munger Jr. has never had to work in his life and has presumably benefited immensely from paying just capital gains taxes (rather than income taxes). He has put in $20 million to defeat this initiative, which if passed would raise his taxes 3% over seven years. The rest of us would pay 0.25 percent in increased sales taxes — $25 a year if you spent $10,000 on taxable goods.

The anti-Proposition 30 commercials are fraught with innuendos that somehow the money will be siphoned off by Sacramento politicians. To quote the vice president, that is a bunch of malarkey.

The state budget is premised on Proposition 30 passing, meaning that local schools and higher education institutions have built their budgets assuming that per-pupil spending will remain neutral. (Remember, we are more than $2,000 below the national average.)

If Proposition 30 fails, there will be automatically triggered cuts of about $6 billion, which will likely translate into additional weeks of furlough days for kindergarten through 12th grade and increased tuition for higher education. As a comparison, students in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere attend school for 220 days of the year. California students currently attend school for 180 days. For many districts, the furloughs could mean cutting the school year to 160 days, that’s a whole month.

Would Mr. Munger please tell me how we will compete with the rest of the developed world if our kids go to school for three months less than their global peers?

With hundreds of thousands of white-collar workers retiring in the next five to 10 years, economists project a shortage of more than 1 million college graduates to fill the void. Where will they come from? China, India or will they be homegrown Californians? Let’s hope that 50 percent plus one of us see the big picture on Nov. 6th.

It’s time to fix our leaky roof and invest in our future. Please vote yes on Proposition 30.

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