MONEY TREE: Calif. Education Advocates Press Lawmakers For Vote on Taxes
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — With uncertainty looming over negotiations to close California’s huge budget deficit, a coalition of teachers, parents and public school employees descended on the capital to lobby lawmakers to approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan and let voters decide if tax increases should be extended.
The education advocates were followed by more than 4,000 college students from across the state to deliver the same message: “Let us vote.”
State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and others warned that schools already have lost billions of dollars due to recent years of budget cutbacks and that one-time federal stimulus aid is expiring.
“Why are we doing this to our children?” Dennis Smith, secretary-treasurer of the California Federation of Teachers said at a rally and news conference involving 300 education advocates. “The governor that we have elected has presented to us probably the most honest budget that we have seen in three years.”
Brown wants to close California’s $26.6 billion deficit by cutting $12.5 billion in spending and extending temporary increases in the sales, personal income and vehicle taxes for five years.
Republicans so far have refused to put the tax question before voters, saying that extending the tax increases enacted two years ago would cripple the state as it struggles to recover from the recession.
Brown continues to talk to legislators on both sides of the aisle, said Brown’s spokesman, Gil Duran.
Throughout the state, education advocates are bracing for another round of spending cuts to public schools.
Teachers said more cuts will result in larger class sizes and a shorter school year. Meanwhile, school employees said they already have accepted salary cuts and furloughs to help districts grapple with diminishing revenue.
“We already are working with over 19 percent less revenue than we’ve had in the last few years,” said Renee Hendrick of the California Association of School Business Officials. “Without the extension of the tax revenues, we’re looking at at least another $2 billion cut for education. What else can we cut?”
Allan Clark, president of the California School Employees Association, said custodians, secretaries, bus drivers and other support staff also have been affected by the cutbacks.
College students also rallied in front of the Capitol.
Harrison Wills, an international development major at Santa Monica College, a community college, said he felt compelled to act because so many students have to beg their way into full classes that professors lock doors or designate students to turn others away at the entrance.
“The quality of education is going down, while the price is going up,” he said.