Prop 55: A Big Deal for California Students
by Shanthi Gonzales
On November 8, California voters will be asked to extend a tax on our state's wealthiest residents (those making over $250K), with the funds generated being used to continue funding education. Prop 55 will extend Prop 30, which was passed in 2012, for another 12 years. It is different from Prop 30, however, in that funds generated by Prop 55 will be used for health care as well as education, and will also build up the state's Rainy Day Fund.
We at Oakland Rising endorsed Prop 55 with two main considerations. The first is that our students in California cannot afford to lose this critical funding source. $9,595 is the average amount spent per student in California, which still puts California in the bottom third of per-student spending across the country.
Prop 55 also represents the kind of progressive taxation that we support as the most equitable strategy for generating the revenue our state needs to provide services. This proposition requires that those who earn more, pay more as a percentage of their income, and will not include the sales tax that was part of Prop 30, making it more progressive than Prop 30 was.
Without Prop 55, California schools would lose $4 billion in funding annually, which will lead to increases in class size and layoffs of school staff. As a School Board member in Oakland, I know that while we have made great strides in the last few years as funding increased under Prop 30, I also know that we still aren't where we need to be in terms of staffing.
We need more counselors, more interpreters, smaller class sizes, especially for special education students, and more staff in general to support students and ensure that they get what they need to be successful. Because each student is different, the supports they need are different, but what all students need is to be known, seen and loved in their schools. This can only happen when schools are adequately staffed, and we will never get there without the renewal of Prop 55.