Proposition 30: The Elephant in the Room

On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to announce his proposed 2016-2017 California state budget. We anticipate that the Governor’s initial plan will continue to move us forward and reflect our growing economy.

However, the elephant in the room that the governor has not yet addressed is Proposition 30, the game-changing 2012 ballot initiative that is set to expire and must be renewed in order to continue to provide California’s students the best education possible.

Thanks to Proposition 30, California is moving in the right direction. Strong state revenues have provided Governor Brown and the state legislature the opportunity to increase access to education and improve the quality of life for millions of Californians over the past few years.

The Prop 30 revenue stream has enabled a partial restoration of education programs decimated by the Great Recession and years of budget cuts, and made it possible to give schools in the neediest communities additional dollars through the Local Control Funding Formula. In K-12 education, most of the thousands of certificated and classified employee positions lost to layoffs have been restored, and public higher education has been bolstered by a freeze in tuition increases and more classes offered to students.

There’s more to be done. Social services need a similar restoration. Students who come to school sick or hungry are unable to learn; these programs are often essential supports for education. These include California's childcare and development system, where the number of subsidized slots remains far lower than before the Great Recession; CalWORKS (including repeal of the maximum family grant policy); and SSI/SSP, which helps fund programs for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

But the simple restoration of programs that were dramatically underfunded to begin with is not enough to keep California on the path to a robust future. We hope that the governor will look beyond narrow fiscal calculations to a fully articulated vision of the state that we want our children and grandchildren to live in.

As the debate over the next state budget begins, what we must not forget is the need for an extension of Prop 30. The sales tax portion of Prop 30 sunsets at the end of this year, and the small income tax increase on the wealthy expires at the end of 2018. The CFT is working with a coalition of unions and community organizations to place a renewal of just the income tax portion of Prop 30 on the November ballot. The governor's budget proposal, and his state of the state message, represents the right moment for the governor to acknowledge that without a Prop 30 extension, the progress we have made over the past few years will be in jeopardy.

Prop 30 has demonstrated that asking California’s wealthiest individuals to pay a bit more in income taxes benefits everyone. Just as the Governor has recently led efforts around a sustainable, healthy environment, we need his support to extend Prop 30.

Joshua Pechthalt is the president of the California Federation of Teachers