Quality Public Education is Costly…It’s Time to Invest in Our Children

Quality Public Education is Costly…It’s Time to Invest in Our Children

Every day, in 100 small ways, our children ask, ‘Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do I matter?’” wrote author L.R. Knost.

This year California Governor Gavin Newsom appeared to answer these questions with a series of resounding, Yes! Yes! Yes! 

The governor’s commitment to the state’s students and teachers was clearly reflected in his recently released 2020-21 budget proposal. It represents the state’s largest per pupil expenditure in history and reflects the kind of investment in public education many like me, believe is long overdue. 

The nonprofit organization The Education Trust West recently reminded us, “In 1965, California was fifth in the nation in per student funding. Now California Ranks 38th.” 

It is passed time for the state to make smart, forward thinking decisions and investments to improve public education outcomes particularly in low income communities.  

Over the previous year California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has demonstrated his commitment to improving educational outcomes by working with partners all over the state to establish and validate areas of focus and priority initiatives for education. Governor Newsom’s 2020-21 budget proposal appears to support Thurmond’s goals. 

This year, we as voters will also have an opportunity to weigh-in on assuring the state can continue making the kind of fiscal commitment to adequately support our students and teachers in ways they deserve. 

During the March primary California voters will be asked to pass the California Public Preschool, Kindergarten and College Health and Safety Bond totaling $15 billion to be applied at all levels of public education from preschool to public universities. Monies from this bond proposal will be used to modernize and/or make safety improvements to buildings. Some of the funds will be used for new construction.

“The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.”
– Maria Montessori

Beyond the March bond measure a more controversial education-focused initiative will appear on the November 3, 2020 General Election ballot. This initiative, ““Schools and Communities First”” is highly controversial and millions of dollars in advertising will be spent in an all-out effort to defeat it. At least one civil rights organization has already weighed in with a confusing message about how the initiative will hurt homeowners because it touches on California’s “sacred cow” tax initiative—Proposition 13–passed by California voters in June 1978. The initiative will not hurt homeowners as it only applies to big businesses.

Proposition 13 set the maximum amount of any tax on real property not to exceed one percent of the full cash value of the property. It  decreased property taxes by assessing real property at their 1976 value and it also limited annual increases to an inflation factor not to exceed 2 percent per year. 

Proposition 13 also prohibited the reassessment of a new base year value except when a property changes ownership or when a new construction is completed.  Currently, the mandates of Proposition 13 apply equally to all real estate, both residential and commercial regardless of whether it is owned by individuals or corporations.

When we cast our ballots on November 3, 2020 Californians will finally have an opportunity to close the loopholes in Proposition 13 that keep large companies from paying their fair share of property taxes. This initiative—which will only apply to big businesses—will require them to pay property taxes at market rate, while maintaining Prop 13 property tax protections for homeowners and small businesses. 

This change will generate about $12 billion in additional revenue to the state including nearly $4.8 billion for education. It is important for voters to understand the change will not impact homeowners or small businesses regardless of what opponents to the legislation may advertise and profess. 

It is also important for voters to remember Proposition 13 was initially intended to protect elderly homeowners on fixed incomes—not to shield corporations from their full property tax obligations. 

It’s been more than 40 years since the passage of Proposition 13 began robbing public schools in California of the fiscal support they deserve. With voter approval on November 3, the “Schools and Communities First” initiative will finally hold corporations accountable for paying their fair share of property taxes so that the state’s schools will have access to the funding they need to help improve the quality of public education in the state. 

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

S.E. Williams

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