There is no doubt in my mind that, as a citizen of the United States, voting is my most important civic duty. I know that when I turn 18, I will fulfill that duty by being an educated voter. Knowing which candidates I support and my general position on most issues will help me make most of my decisions, but additional extensive research is necessary to decipher the complexities that surround each issue. I know that I want to increase education spending, enact universal healthcare, and legalize gay marriage.
But in many cases, especially with the current initiative system in California, knowing one’s opinion on a general issue is not enough to decide between propositions. On this year’s ballot, pro-education voters in California are caught between two looming, propaganda throwing, confusingly-worded ballot measures: Proposition 30 and 38.
Our ballot initiative system is flawed. This is not the first time that we have had conflicting ballot measures, and will probably not be the last. In 1988, Propositions 68 and 73 were both purported to limit corporate funding but didn’t approach the issue in the same manner. When 73 was passed it was immediately enacted, and 68 was disregarded.
When I started to research the difference between Propositions 30 and 38, I found that there was an abundance of outside information that validated and invalidated certain arguments, as well as ideas I had never considered when reading only the exact wording of the bill in the voter guide. I now understand the contrast between the two methods to provide the solution our education system desperately needs.
The education system in the state of California is nothing short of dreadful. Cuts in aid to lower income households in this year’s budget eliminated childcare subsidies for 14,000 children and preschool openings for 12,500. In March of this year, 9,500 educators received layoff notices at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Spending per student has decreased $1,000 since five years ago, and the future is bleak. According to Nancy Krop, attorney and VP Advocacy, PTA Council, if there aren’t major education budget reforms, “there will be a whole generation of workers who won’t be competent to work in our economy.”
We can all agree that our education system is in need of financial support from taxpayers and politicians alike. But what we can’t seem to agree on is how to fix the problem, and I don’t believe that should be the responsibility of a regular voter. In terms of propositions, we should vote whether or not to raise taxes, to fund certain projects or to change the legality of an issue, but not on details that Joe the Plumber is unfamiliar with.
The first proposition that regards educational spending is Proposition 30. It is designed to raise taxes in order to bridge the gap between this year’s and next year’s state wide budget. Without this proposition, the gap in the budget would lead to $6 billion in automatic cuts towards education. Only the higher income earners of the population- those making over a $250,000 salary- will be taxed, in addition to a 1/4 cent increase in sales tax. On the other hand, Proposition 38 is designed to raise $10 billion exclusively for schools and early childhood programs by using a sliding tax, beginning at a 0.4% increase starting at $7,316 of income, and topping out at a 2.2% increase for those making above $2.5 million annually. The money raised would fund K-12 programs and early childhood education, but would exclude the UC, CSU and community college systems. Backed up by the California State PTA, Proposition 38 promotes the idea that Sacramento politicians will not be able to withhold the revenue, enabling local school boards to collaborate with the PTA and school administration to put the money towards restoring important programs, activities, and buying necessary supplies. Krop claims that we need to “take the money outside of the general fund, so 100 percent will go to schools and [politicians]can’t touch it.”
The conflict between Propositions 30 and 38 perpetuates the issue of contradicting ballot measures, and must be thoroughly recognized by politicians and voters alike.