For many parents, the last few weeks have meant the beginning of a new school year — taking kids to the bus stop, packing lunches and buying school supplies. For educators, it has meant getting back to the classroom to set them up, planning lessons and meeting a new group of students.
Those of us worried about the future of our schools should be concerned about one particular ballot question — Proposition 87 — which not only will impose an oil tax, but would hurt education too. According to California’s independent legislative analyst, Prop. 87 would decrease state and local tax revenues available for schools and other vital services. In addition, the initiative skirts pre-existing education funding requirements contained in the state Constitution, passed nearly two decades ago through Proposition 98.
The principal author of Prop. 98, who also served as California’s secretary of education, estimates that the oil tax initiative could deny K-12 education up to $1.9 billion in the next 10 years. The lost revenue has caught the attention of Larry Reider, superintendent of education for Kern County, who is one of many education leaders to oppose Prop. 87.
“We are concerned about the cycle of statewide ballot initiatives which constitutionally lock away funding in protected accounts, keeping education’s fair share out of reach,” Reider said.
Just as troubling is the impact of Prop. 87 on local revenues. A report by the Legislative Analyst Office also found that it would reduce local property tax revenues. The California State Association of Counties and organizations representing firefighters and police officers have come out against this measure because of the reductions in state and local revenue. Those revenue losses will be especially devastating for our schools.
On top of the revenue impact of this initiative, the higher fuel prices that come as a result of taxing California produced oil will place an additional strain on school district transportation budgets.
California’s educators certainly do not deny the need for alternative energy research, we simply believe that Prop. 87 is simply the wrong means of doing so. Despite ads trying to convince us that we have an opportunity to stick it to the oil companies, we’ll be sticking it to our kids.
While proponents ofProp. 87 have trotted out Hollywood celebrities and out of state politicians, it’s average Californians who will pay the price for their pet cause. Californians realize that Prop. 87’s negative consequences — for taxpayers, schools, and public services — extend beyond an emblematic gesture for clean energy. Ultimately this initiative will hurt California businesses, hurt our local governments, and our schools.
As we look around our classrooms, plan our lessons and think about what we need to give our students the education they deserve, we need to give Prop. 87 a serious look. When the facts are in and we see the effects on our schools, teachers and parents will see that Prop. 87 is an ill-conceived measure on all fronts, with particularly grim consequences for California’s pupils. Prop. 87 gets a well-deserving “F.”
Marian Bergeson is past president of the California School Boards Association.