Parcel Tax Falls Short of Solution

The Measure A Parcel Tax officially passed on May 4.  Mirador, one of many academic programs threatened by the recent year’s budget cuts, devoted our last three editorials urging people in the community to vote “Yes.”  Passage of the Emergency Education Act 2010,  “Measure A,” was a desperately needed win for Miramonte High School, as well as the Acalanes Union High School District. As a newspaper, we respectfully thank the taxpayers in our community.

However, while the parcel tax remains a much-needed emergency fix given the severe state budget cuts to California education, systemic problems in California’s public education need to be attacked at their roots.  Additionally, California students perform horribly compared to students in most every other state. This abysmal performance in the academic realm clearly stems from a lack of state funding.

Simply put: Measure A is a temporary band-aid for current budget restrictions; it did not fix the state’s fundamental problems, such as an existing 31.75% dropout rate, a steady increase in classroom size, a lack of qualified teachers in math and sciences and low test scores.

In the face of California’s virtual bankruptcy, the multi-billion dollar state budget deficit, the current budget for California’s public schools, including its renowned system of colleges and universities, has been slashed by $17 billion. California schools must struggle to somehow adapt to these crippling cuts. This is the single largest budget cut to public education since the Great Depression. K-12 schools across California are left having to dramatically increase class size, layoff approximately 70,000 teachers and make severe cuts to existing art, music, physical education and vocational programs.

The budget cuts to public education raise serious questions: is California prepared to undermine the success of the next generation’s work force by increasing the number of illiterate or semi-literate residents? Does California recognize that these shortsighted budget cuts will increase, rather than decrease, current high school drop-out rates? Are California’s taxpayers ready to accept the fact that this generation’s of students will not receive an education equivalent to that which they, or their parents, enjoyed?

These questions and a host of others have already been answered by Californians, yet the California State Legislature appears to have turned a deaf ear to the will of the people. The Public Policy Institute reports that 63% of Californians are strongly opposed to the cuts to public education, claiming that the state needs to find other ways to cut the budget. Similarly, 62% of California’s electorate believes that the state needs to increase the budget for public school education.

California’s legislators have a long history of outspending the state’s yearly revenue. This problem has escalated given the current recession which has lessened revenue from income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes. As corporate revenues tumbled over the past years, the state’s coffers continued to deplete. The repeated budget crisis over the past several years underscores the need of California’s taxpayers to address problems long overdue: to raise taxes or to cut services – there is not much latitude other than these two choices. Whatever the ultimate decision is, public schools need a long term, far reaching financial commitment and cannot routinely fall victim to dramatic legislative policy changes based upon a weak state economy. Teachers are professionals and deserve a state government that supports their ability to implement strategies for educational success over a five to ten year period, rather than routine abrupt reversal to educational goals based upon the legislature’s erratic financial commitment to public education.

The California State Legislature needs to seriously reconsider its downward spiraling public education policy. Educational reform that is not simply constrained to emergency local measures, like the parcel tax, is much needed. As concerned taxpayers, the Miramonte community needs to recognize the importance of education by supporting continual measures to aid California’s failing policy.

In other words, allow Measure A to be the first step in a long race toward improved California state-education.

The Editorial Board voted  12-0 in favor