Prop 13 Repeal Best Bet for School Finances

Samuel Ganten, Editor

The California Budget and Policy Center has found that the state ranks 41st nationally in per pupil spending. In an effort to make up for this deficit, the Moraga Education Fund relentlessly pressures residents to donate money, bond measures are placed on the ballot, and various unions lobby for increases in federal and state funding.  But increasing educational funding requires that citizens agree to contributing more to their government.

The California Department of Education says $76.6 billion is spent annually on schools. Yet, some residents are looking at what’s going on in other states for strategies to increase educational funding.

In Oklahoma teachers fought for a $200 million dollar increase in education funding. Average salary increases of $10,00o for teachers, and $5,000 dollar increases for support staff were implemented.

In a state where $5.9 billion is spent on education every year, the question is, ‘Where’s the money coming from?’

In some states, education is funded by property taxes at the county level. Oklahoma is an exception however, with the majority of funding funneled through the state government.  According to Together Oklahoma, state funding makes up 51% of funding while local funding makes up 29%. At a first glance it is easy to say that funding from the state should be increased, but it is not so simple.

Land ownership has a strong correlation with wealth, because low-income brackets cannot afford to own property. The idea of making the wealthiest members of society pay for education should be applauded. But this is not how education funding is secured in both California and Oklahoma.

These states raise funding by placing taxes on income and on consumption, usually in the forms of sales taxes. Sometimes they use a lottery as is done in California. However, sales taxes and lotteries are forms of regressive taxation, disproportionately affecting the poorest members of society. Even if everyone spends the same amount on food, transportation, etc., a greater percentage of your income goes to pay for these necessities when you have less income.

As a result of the recent push by teachers in Oklahoma, the state has mandated that businesses that sell through online distributors pay sales taxes. The costs of this are pushed on to the consumer, meaning that prices increase for everyone, hurting low-income individuals. Even if one believes that education spending is a good thing, how Oklahoma is raising their funds is morally wrong.

Fact-checking site has found that California residents already pay the nation’s 4th highest state income taxes and the highest sales taxes.  California residents are being drained by their government. Instead of being able to draw on property taxes for revenue, Prop 13 freezes property tax increases greater than 2% and prohibits property value reassessment unless ownership changes. This means a plot of land bought in 1980, despite any change in value, cannot be reassessed, and by extension, a new property tax reflecting the actual value of the land cannot be claimed.

California and Oklahoma share these restrictions on property taxes.  To vote on state tax schemes and budget increases when there is a deliberately untapped source of revenue is absurd.

The debate in Oklahoma should provide some food for thought for the residents of California.  Whether you live in Tulsa or San Francisco, if you want more money to spend on education it is self-evident that you need to increase taxes to pay for it. To the point that the Legislative Analyst’s Office has found that California is already seeing a net migration of over a million people from the state, one must consider the virtues of the current system of educational funding.

Fiscal responsibility is moral responsibility. A society that pays its bills is a society based on the principles of order, justice, and rule of law. Spending without end and irresponsible taxation schemes are the way to bankrupt a nation and leave its people destitute.  Relying on the MEF to provide crucial services for our education is a gamble with our future. It is not as sustainable.

Oklahoma should be a warning for Californians. To fund education, to end reliance on institutions like the MEF, residents must support policies that increase property taxes and work towards repeals of legislation like Prop 13.

Say no to spending until responsible taxation policy is implemented.