Republican assembly leader Connie Conway announced recently two new education bills, AB 67 and AB 51 that are an important and exciting move in the right direction.
AB 67— co-authored with Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo freezes tuition at all California public colleges and universities over the next seven years while Proposition 30 tax increases are in effect. AB 67 is important because it forces the Democrats to keep their Prop 30 promises… to the students.
Brown’s Prop 30 was a major revision of the CFT sponsored Original Millionaires Tax (OMT) filed in December 2011. The OMT language created § 16429.51.:
“The California Funding Restoration Trust Fund, and within that Fund, the Public Education Funding Restoration Trust Fund…[etc.]”
In other words, Josh Pechthalt and the CFT didn’t trust Governor Brown and the Dems to actually spend the OMT money on schools, so the CFT created a “lock box” trust fund tax.
Brown said no. He wanted control of the money, and the political power and personal glory that it creates. Brown forced Pechthalt to drop the OMT and swallow Prop 30 with a sales tax tacked on. The progressives were furious. A sales tax is regressive!—they screamed.
Passage of AB 67 would insure that Prop 30 money is spent to benefit students. That’s huge. The unions fell into line behind Prop 30 and Brown owes them. He will be pressured to spend Prop 30 on salaries and pensions. But AB 67 pushes in the other direction, insuring tuition and fees don’t increase.
AB 67 creates a bright line between taxpayers who supported Prop 30 so their sons and daughters would be educated and unions who supported Prop 30 to fatten their already substantial bottom line. Naturally, the unions don’t see a difference—in their world, salaries and benefits always accrue to the advantage of students. Republicans and conservatives know better.
We need to shout from the rooftops, “Students First!” Having been defeated on a major tax increase, we must insist that the $50 billion new taxes goes to students whose graduation will boost the economy, not to teachers whose strangle-hold on education is a large part of the problem. To the extent we can make the case for the difference, we advance our goal of being: Republicans—The Education Party.
AB 51 authored by Assemblyman Dan Logue of Marysville creates a STEM education pilot program. High school students would sign on for a pathway through community college into a state university to get an all expense paid $10,000 degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
STEM education is exactly what the CA high tech economy needs. California has to import huge numbers of foreigners to fill STEM jobs that go begging.
The CalChamber website promotes “state and private investment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.”
Once the AB 51 pilot program gets going, high school students with an aptitude for STEM will compete vigorously for a $10,000 4-year education (including books!) that is a pathway to a great job. Qualified Hispanic, Asian and African-American candidates will flock to this low cost program. This bold legislation also says: Republicans- The Education Party.
I would go two steps farther on AB 51. Currently a pilot with 3 communities targeted (CSU Chico, CSU Long Beach and CSU Stanislaus), I would add 3 additional pilot communities, CSU San Jose State, CSU Sacramento, and—yes—even CSU San Francisco State and its broken City College of San Francisco feeder school. The additional pilot programs would allow Republicans statewide to get behind the bill and create real excitement at the grassroots. But how to pay for the program?
To bring realism we need to come up with a funding proposal. A $10,000 STEM education means subsidies to offset the actual cost. Republicans should try to fully fund programs like AB 51 out of existing programs that need to be cut. However—foul language alert— we might also ask the voters to selectively raise taxes.
If it is politically and/or fiscally impossible to pay for AB 51 and similar education programs 100% from cost cutting, Republicans can perhaps suggest we pay 80% from the bloat (prisons, high speed rail, regulatory bureacracies, etc. come to mind) and 20% from voter-approved new taxes.
This shows we’re serious, fiscally reponsible grown ups and rolls back a reputation for borrowing and kicking the debt down to future generations. AB 51 is a great idea. But until we put skin in the game by talking funding, it’s a shot across the bow likely to die in committee.
Republicans: The Education Party.
Let’s put real cannons, shot and powder behind that idea and commence firing.