Posted on Sep 24, 2012
San Diego Union Tribune - Prop 30 Invests in Education 9/23/12
By Bill Freeman
California once had a public school system that was second to none. Its community colleges, California State University and UC campuses were the envy of other nations, which rushed to send their students to study here. Our elementary, middle and high schools were doing an outstanding job in preparing students for what was then called “the computer age.” Students had new textbooks, entered their experiments in science fairs, sang in the chorus, played musical instruments, took classes in shop, studied in the school library, went on field trips, met with school counselors, and had a well-rounded education that prepared them for new jobs, careers and to be responsible citizens.
Now, without the enrichment programs, up-to-date textbooks, tech-prep courses, libraries, counseling, and classroom aides, our schools are struggling to produce students who are well-prepared for college and work in the 21st century. Why? Somewhere along the line, California stopped investing in education, and it has hurt us all.
Over the past four years, $20 billion has been cut from California schools while 30,000 educators have been laid off. California ranks 48th in teacher-to-student ratio, and 50th in the ratio of librarians, counselors and nurse-to-students. Whereas once California ranked in the top 10 states in per-pupil spending, it now ranks 47th in the nation, eight states below Mississippi. The San Diego Unified School District has had $400 million in cuts in the past four years, which has resulted in a loss of counselors, nurses, and support services. Our class sizes have increased in grades K-3 and our students have five fewer instruction days in their school year. Our teachers are struggling to help students meet the high standards required of schools in California. Instead of the California Dream, we face the Impossible Dream.
The California Dream is still attainable, but we must start by reinvesting in our schools. A sound, well-funded education system is required to keep our economy strong for the next generation. That’s why teachers are backing Gov. Jerry Brown’s funding initiative, Proposition 30. The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act invests in our children and in a strong economy. It’s the only measure that stops the cuts, avoids the steep tuition hikes, and invests in our schools and colleges starting this year so we can prepare the next generation for the jobs of the future.
Prop. 30 asks California’s wealthiest to pay a little more for seven years so that the middle class doesn’t have to bear the burden. Under Prop. 30, families making below $500,000 a year will pay no additional income taxes. Yes, the measure calls for a temporary one-quarter of one percent increase for four years, but even with the increase, our sales taxes will be lower than they were last year.
Prop. 30 is not a panacea and, sorry to say, it will not provide all the funding our schools desperately need. But it will protect our schools from an additional $6 billion in midyear cuts. More importantly, it will prevent an additional $42 million in cuts to San Diego Unified schools this year, and end the possibility of shortening the school year by 14 more days. Instead, that money will keep class sizes from growing larger, prevent more tuition hikes, and retain educators in our classrooms.
Prop. 30 is worth our investment.
Freeman is president of the 7,000-member San Diego Education Association. He is a third-grade teacher and was San Diego City Teacher of the Year in 2009-10.