In Part One, I argue that the alternatives are threefold:
Behind door one, massive statewide Democrat tax hikes controlled by a one-party legislature for bloated unions and bloated social services and bloated bureaucracies. Behind door two, small, targeted voter approved education taxes as part of a Republican education strategy. Behind door three, No-tax purity and irrelevance as voters abandon the CA GOP.
1) The millennial argument. With massive tuition increases CA public college students are getting screwed. The average B.A debt burden is $28K, and rising. Those in masters and PhD programs, in law or medical school graduate with debt burdens well over $100K. Republicans could win substantial votes among the 3 million CA public post-secondary students as the education party working to control runaway costs and make the education investment worthwhile. Students, even those with long hair and beards, will begin to vote GOP if they see a plan that is in their interests. A new candidate for Bay Area Vice-chair recently published a piece on the vital importance of reaching out to millennials. Education is their issue.
2) The Latino and Asian immigrant argument. Immigrants are especially keen on education. They know the road to success is through schools. An angry Latina or Asian K-12 mother versus a unionized teacher or edu-bureacrat (both making over $100K with a Cadillac pension and healthcare) is a good issue for Republicans. A revitalized community college system that offers immigrants a solid chance of becoming middle class is a vote getter, especially since the CCs are an education bargain both to the state, to the student and the parent. But the CA GOP needs buy-in in the form of a comprehensive education plan and new funding, both large transfers from bloated programs and smaller, targeted, voter approved education taxes.
3) The anti-government populist argument. The Original Millionaires Tax (OMT) was written by progressives last spring as a lock-box tax hike. A locked percentage of the OMT went to K-12, the community colleges, the state colleges and the UCs. Brown opposed the OMT (then polling at 62%) and cut a deal with CFT union president Josh Peshault to add a sales tax and dump Prop 30 dollars into the general fund. Why? So Brown and the legislature would have a new piggy bank.
No one knows yet how much of the Proposition 30 “education tax” will make it to the schools. Conservative muckraker journalists need to keep a sharp eye on this. There has been speculation Prop 30 may be used instead to pay down CA general debt. Progressives (and union members) are furious Prop 30 taxes may go to Wall Street bankers.
This creates a gut anti-Democrat populist issue, especially if Republicans consider the advice in these pages of Joel Kotkin. Republicans should support only lock-box state-wide taxes or local measures that target taxes to specific schools and district passed by supermajorities. Republicans must not let a spendthrift one-party legislature get its hands on new tax money.
4) The business-economic argument. The California business community, especially its vital high tech sector has a very strong interest in education. Yet California businesses are abandoning the fractured Republican Party in droves.
California has a B.A. deficit of 1 million degrees which businesspeople fear will cause the CA economy to crater. The CA Master Plan of the 1960s built our powerful economy. Some histories say the Master Plan was developed by Republicans in earlier administrations and passed by Gov. Pat Brown with strong bipartisan support. The GOP did the spade work, the Dems got the credit.
High tech, the aerospace and defense industry, smart agriculture, etc. were the payoff of a world class education system, both K-12 and post-secondary. With a massive influx of immigrants poorly educated in our K-12s and then locked out of college, what will California look like if we do not fix education? How much will social services and jails cost without education that leads to jobs?
Education is a front burner issue for the CA business community and a road back to credibility, political juice and funding for the CA GOP. With statewide voter approved lock-box taxes on the table and with targeted, voter-approved local education parcel taxes on the table, Republicans gain enormous credibility with the electorate.
This makes control of teacher unions and edu-bureacrats more likely. This creates momentum for charter schools. This makes transfer of tax dollars from social services and bureaucratic bloat to schools a real possibility. On the other hand, if Republicans remain anti-education, the business community will go to the Democrats to get the job done, expanding teacher union power in a broken system that money alone can’t fix.
Republicans need new vision for education.
The CA GOP should raise high the banner of smart conservatism and work hard to restore the legendary Golden State public education system. A new education vision and hard work will win back substantial numbers of parents, students, immigrants and businesspeople and revitalize a floundering party.