Two measures on the statewide ballot are critical to the future of our public schools and to the strength of our working community. As educators who believe in the promise of our students, we are fighting for Proposition 30 – the governor’s Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act – and against Proposition 32, the Special Exemptions Act that would take away the political voice of California’s middle class. We’re proud to stand with the California Teachers Association, and the many other organizations asking you to cast your votes this way as well. Here’s why.
It’s time to get California back on the road to recovery, and Prop 30 is the best way to do that by asking the wealthiest in California to pay their fair share to keep our classrooms open and essential public services running.
In the past four years alone, our schools and colleges have been cut by more than $20 billion, and more than 40,000 educators and support professionals have been laid off. We rank 47th in the country in per pupil spending. Our class sizes are among the largest in the nation. School libraries are closing. As a result, millions of students aren’t getting the resources they deserve.
Without Prop 30, our schools and colleges face another $6 billion in immediate new cuts this fiscal year, and schools could close for three weeks over the next two years. That’s unthinkable.
There is a lot at stake. Here is why a yes vote on Prop 30 is so vital:
It’s the only initiative on the November ballot that prevents deeper budget cuts to our schools and colleges. It provides billions in new funding for smaller class sizes, up-to-date textbooks, rehiring educators and preventing tuition hikes.
After years of devastating cuts, it asks the wealthiest Californians to temporarily pay a little more in income taxes. No couple making less than $500,000 a year will see an income tax hike. The quarter-cent sales tax increase expires in four years.
It’s part of a balanced approach to eliminating the state’s chronic budget deficit and wall of debt, and will repair cuts to our cities. Our students don’t live in our schools, they live here in our community, where restoring education, public safety and health services funding is also important to our neighborhoods.
All of the new revenues go into a special fund that the Legislature can’t touch and contains strict accountability measures.
In addition to the funding crisis, the middle class of California is facing a new threat. The advocates of the middle class, members of our local unions, like the two of us, would have our political voices silenced by another measure on the ballot, Proposition 32.
Don’t be fooled by what the proponents claim is political reform. The real agenda of Prop 32 is to weaken California’s unions and silence the political voices of teachers, firefighters, nurses and other workers so that billionaire businessmen can grab even more power over government.
Proponents call Prop 32 the “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act”, but we call it the “Special Exemptions Act” because of the loopholes it creates that benefit powerful corporate special interests and billionaires. They could still give unlimited millions to the secretive “Super PACs” that threaten our democracy and influence elections, but teachers, nurses and firefighters would lose our ability to advocate for our students, our patients and the safety of our communities.
Prop 32 would ban unions and corporations from using payroll-deducted money for political purposes, but companies rarely use payroll deductions. Instead they use profits to lobby, while unions depend on member contributions to defend our schools, hospitals, and police and fire response times. Big corporations know Prop. 32 won’t solve Sacramento’s problems, because it exempts many kinds of companies, which can continue to influence elections with cash, while unions would be banned from making donations directly to candidates. And union members already have the right to opt out of having dues money spent on politics.
The Wall Street executives, real estate developers, venture capitalists and former insurance company bosses who are bankrolling Prop 32 don’t want to hear from teachers, firefighters and nurses anymore – at least not about protecting our collective bargaining rights, our wages, and our secure retirement, all of which help raise the standard of living for the middle class.
But we’ve got their number. It’s 32 and it’s a sham. It’s opposed by good government groups like the League of Women Voters and California Common Cause. Big businesses nationwide already outspend unions by a ratio of more the $15 for every $1 that unions spend. In California, now they want to take away the $1. You can’t level the playing field when billionaires own all of the turf.
Please get involved. Go to the CTA website to get the real story at CTA.org. Vote yes on Prop 30 to protect our schools. Vote no on Prop 32. It’s not what it seems.
Let’s vote together in November for our students, our communities, and for a better future for California.
Diane Brown, President of the United Teachers of Richmond, and Bea Lieberman of El Cerrito are long-time educators in the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
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