It is undeniable that California Public Schools are suffering from budget cuts. With tight budgets and accumulating debt, it is difficult to find room to give schools a break from budget cuts. Even more cuts to school funding were proposed for this year, but Proposition 30 aimed to eliminate such cuts if passed.
Endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown, Proposition 30 was one of many measures on the ballot in the state of California this November. Luckily, it was also one of the ballot measures that passed. The measure will result in a temporary quarter-of-a-percent increase in sales tax for four years as well as an increase in taxes for families with an annual income over $250,000 for seven years.
Excitement and optimism, as well as nerves and fear, surrounded Prop 30 for educators and students in the months preceding the elections. If Prop 30 passed, it meant California voters were making education a priority, even if it entails paying a little extra money. If Prop 30 did not pass, the cuts would severely threaten the future of public education in California. In the weeks before the election, I received panicked messages from friends at UC schools saying things like, “Remember to vote yes on 30 for us UC kids,” and from my sister, a UCSF medical student, telling my family “Vote yes on 30! If it doesn’t pass, my tuition could raise as much as 20%!” But the truth is, EVERYONE in California, whether or not you are a student or teacher in a public education institution, should be worried about the future of education in California. Education benefits the entire population, and due to the fact that it is a positive externality, we do not produce as much of it as we should. Education promotes innovation, boosts the economy, and improves the well-being of a community. It is imperative that we prioritize education, and not just for those that can afford it through private institutions. But sadly, in hard economic times requiring a tighter budget, schools are usually one of the first to feel the effects.
While Prop 30 is definitely a strong victory for California Public Education, and prevents cuts that would severely damage the future of California it only replaces the money that the stricter budget cuts would have taken away. But our schools need more than that! Is Prop 30 a limited victory? How long can our schools sustain themselves with such tight budgets, even with the help from Prop 30? Governor Brown has warned UC and CalState Schools to continue to keep a tight budget, as despite the passage of Prop 30, there could still be a tuition increase in the upcoming years. He warned that requests for more state funding from UC and CalState schools could not be sustained while so many other state programs required funding as well. Among the suggestions were online classes to help keep costs low.
While I could not be happier that Prop 30 passed and the schools will not experience even more detrimental cuts, I am concerned about the longevity and expansiveness of the benefits of Prop 30. I understand that in order to balance the budget, cuts have to be made somewhere. However, I feel that education should be one of the last things to be cut, as education can help stimulate the economy and creates a more productive population. The bottom line is that schools still have to make cuts, class sizes will still grow, and education will still suffer. It will just suffer less than it would have if 30 had not passed.
I am proud of California voters for prioritizing education, but this is not the end. We must continue to take future steps to protect our schools and our future.