Of course, we need more investment in public education. It is public education that structures our children to become skilled citizens. Education is the tool we use to integrate our children into the logic of the larger society. Education helps individuals to assess to either embrace the current realities or engage creatively or critically in transforming said reality into a better world. This is what is known as the practice of freedom in democratic societies.
In the 1940s and 1950s, California was the state to emulate, leaders from other states would come to California to see what California was doing. So they could replicate back home. California had political leaders who made decisions based on what was best for the next generation, not what was best for them in the next election. California led the nation when it came to investments to K-12 and gave the nation the best public universities on the planet.
Then came Proposition 13 in 1978. Property’s sale price was capped at 1% and capped increases at 2% annually. It also forced the legislature to have a two-thirds vote on any future tax hikes. Proposition 13 has had profound implications on the basic services provided by local governments. From public safety to housing to education, Proposition 13 regressive taxation have lessened the quality of life of many communities of color. Capping local property taxes forced public schools to heavily rely on the State Legislature for funding.
Funding for school districts in California comes from statewide tax revenues. They also receive money from the local and federal government. There has been a significant increase in public education in the last 5 years. It went from $66 billion in 2014 to $101 billion in 2019. Also, the number of children with special needs has exponentially increased. And there are the healthcare and pension benefits that many districts bargain locally that add additional financial constraints.
California, the richest state in the wealthiest nation on the planet, needs to invest more in public education. The state spends around $16,000.00 per pupil and ranks 41st in the nation. According to the Los Angeles Times, the State of New York spends $24,000.00 per pupil and schools in Boston spend around $22,000.00.
After the district cut a deal with the teachers’ union in January, the district decided to place Measure EE on the ballot. $400 million dollars are needed annually to pay for the agreement reached. This is a parcel tax that will increase L.A. school funding. The measure will raise about $500 million a year and the tax will be imposed on both residential and commercial property to all those communities within the LAUSD.
Gas tax for the infrastructure, sales tax for the homeless, and now Measure EE is another property tax that will also affect renters in LA. Cost of living and taxes keep rising up while wages have stagnated. Taxing people to death while the state is having record surpluses makes no sense. We are still paying the LAUSD’s $20.6 billion construction bond placed on the ballot back in 1997. LAUSD and UTLA should go to Sacramento and make the case to the legislature and the governor for more investment in our public education. This year, California has a $22 billion surplus and a $16 billion rainy day fund. Yes, our state’s economy is humming and there are projections that these surpluses will keep coming in.
We all know of the housing crisis and how many people in this city are just a paycheck away from going homeless. The high housing cost in this city has created many challenges for many people, there are real concerns that this Measure will affect renters since property owners owning rental units will pass this cost to them.
Furthermore, those who oppose this measure argue that it doesn’t matter what folks from UTLA and the district claim, the $500 million a year that this measure will raise will go to the district’s general fund. The limitations as to how money from this measure can be spent are unclear.
Clarity has also been a problem for the district, the language used in the measure confuses many people. Moreover, opponents argue, why should taxpayers trust the district, remember the I-Pad’s fiasco? They allude to the $500 million contracts awarded to Apple and its subcontractor, Pearson. Yes, that was an utter travesty.
There are interesting dynamics among those supporting the measure. UTLA, Local 99, and the so-called biggest enemy of public education: Eli
Measure EE was rushed onto the ballot, although the looming threat of insolvency will become real in about two or three years. In addition, a lawsuit has been filed because the language was radically changed after it was approved by the board. There have also been reports that seniors who don’t live within the district have gotten letters asking for personal documentation. Truly mind-bobbling incompetence was on full display here.
Whatever happens Tuesday, LAUSD’s people and UTLA need to form a broader coalition and go to Sacramento to force California to invest more in public education. LAUSD’s people and the teachers’ union leaders took the easiest path in confronting the future financial woes they might be facing. Putting Measure EE on the ballot was easy, going to Sacramento and persuading those conflicting democratic souls to invest more on public education requires strength. There is a need for a bold, and well-thought-out plan to force our leaders in this state to invest more in public education. Our children deserve no less.
Thank you for reading.