by Duane Campbell
A new Field Poll says that if the election were held today 48 % would vote Yes on Prop. 30 to fund schools, colleges and public services, 38 % would vote no, and 14 % are undecided. That is too close. This vote is our best opportunity to reverse the austerity cycle of budgeting used in California for the last 4 years since the economic crisis.
My experience in tabling for Proposition 30 in on the Sac State campus for the last 6 weeks has reminded me of a major problem – we are not communicating with and educating the vast majority of people of the need to support public education and other public services.
In one recent experience a beyond middle age African American woman stopped by the table to discuss California Prop. 30, an effort to fund schools, universities, and public services. I will use her case as an example. Her experience as a college student was that her fees went up. Over the last 4 years university fees went up over $ 2,400. Her experience was that her fees were pushing her out of the university. Her question, why do my fees go up ? Doesn’t the federal government pay for our education ? Why should I have to vote on this ?
Well, no, the federal government does not pay much for public education. Public education at the k-12 level is 88% paid for by state taxes, and at the university level it is 50% paid for by state taxes. But, she doesn’t know this and as a result, she has no context for making this important decision on Prop.30. – and she, and 14 % of California undecided voters- may well vote wrong.
K-12 education makes up 42.8% of the entire the state budget. The economic crisis since 2007 has caused a crippling decline in state revenues to the schools. In 2006/2007, California spend $ 8,801 per student. In 2011/2012, the state will spend $ 7,229 per pupil. California ranks 47 out of the 50 states in per pupil expenditure, and 50th in class size. Our students are suffering.
California has been systematically reducing its higher education investments by 40% since 1980. The result is that public colleges and universities have raised tuitions (often called fees) to offset losses in state support. Since 2007-08, CSU tuition has increased 97%, and UC tuition and fees have increased about 75%. Leaders of both the CSU and UC have indicated that additional tuition hikes will be necessary if Proposition 30 fails.
If Proposition 30 fails, CSU and UC will each face another $250 million cut, and the community colleges will face another $338 million reduction which would total nearly $1 billion more cut from higher education this year. State support for UC and CSU has already declined by about one-third since 2007-08, and funding for the Community Colleges has been cut by 12 percent over the same time period.
The state legislature is shifting a major part of the costs of operating public universities from the taxpayers to the students and their families.
Although the Yes on Prop. 30 campaign does an good job of making ads many potential voters know that campaign ads and slogans –even from our side as deceptive and manipulative. For example my union (CFA) has a voter card that says Prop. 36 will “Keep Dangerous and Violent Criminals Behind Bars,” that is the modification of the 3 Strikes Law. And, the campaign slogans against Prop.32 for the public rarely mention that Prop 32 is an assault on organized labor – I assume because unions do not poll well.
I believe that the basic lack of comprehension of the state budget issues adds to the No vote on Prop. 30 and the important efforts to reverse austerity budgets.
Politicians, advocates, and ads repeat stories that contain a kernel of truth, and they urge voting as a response. But, if voters do not understand the broader budget ( for example Prop. 98), these campaign efforts only reach a small portion of potential voters. Social media does not resolve this problem. The central problem of social media is talking to people in your network. People in some networks have the background information, but people in most networks are completely uninformed with basic economic data on schools.
Beyond campaign work, we need build long range and active educational efforts to help all people understand the public services they use and depend upon. Who funds (most) schools ? Why are those schools open? Who funds (most ) colleges and universities ? Who pays for police protection, fire protection, and emergency responses? Who are all those workers cleaning up the mess in the East, repairing electric lines, pumping out water ?
As I drive out of Sacramento toward Rocklin or toward Placerville I find massive, extensive new highway construction and free way off ramps in these bastions of anti tax voters. We should put us freeway billboards that say, brought to your neighborhood by the tax payers of California. And, every public school , community college and university should have ad a sign to their name- brought to you by the tax payers of California. We of course need an educational campaign more sophisticated than this.
For this week we have an urgent task. We need to contact each and every neighbor, friend, aunt, and facebook and Google + friend and get them to vote on the urgent issues of Prop. 30. Then, after November 6, we need to develop a public awareness public education campaign on the nature of state and local taxes and services.
I welcome other ideas. Some of this work can be done by the Institute for Democracy and Education.