While Governor Jerry Brown’s school funding plan doesn’t include provisions to increase local school revenue with new taxation, the proposal to make it easier to raise parcel taxes for schools is seen by some connected to the plan.
Brown has called for dividing state generated school dollars on a needs basis. While all schools across the state will get a base amount of funding, additional funding will go to students in low-income areas, or to those students with English learning problems. The result of the plan likely would mean that suburban schools receive less from the state government while some urban schools take in more.
School districts that feel shortchanged on state funding might turn to their local taxpayers – and that’s where the legislative move to lower vote totals to pass parcel taxes comes in.
State Senator Mark Leno’s SCA 3 would lower the vote requirement for parcel taxes to schools from the current two-thirds standard to 55-percent. Leno has championed his measure as a way for local school districts to even out funding under the governor’s plan.
However, the voters don’t seem to be buying the parcel tax approach.
The USC Dornsife/LA Times poll found only 41-percent support the parcel tax for schools measure, while 49-percent opposed the idea.
David Kanevsky, research director of Republican polling firm American Viewpoint, part of the team of Republican and Democratic firms that conducted the poll, noted that the typical coalition to raise school funds “just isn’t there.” Parents, minorities and Democrats did not coalesce around the parcel tax plan.
Latinos were more opposed than all voters when first asked about lowering the vote for school parcel taxes. While all voters opposed the tax plan 41%-49%, Latinos opposed the parcel taxes 36%-52%. The Latino numbers changed when specific questions with more information were asked of the respondents, but the results were still negative.
Respondents were given two arguments. In support of lowering the vote, the argument said funding would directly help local students, with California schools still next to last in per-student funding. The argument against the tax plan emphasized that schools received new funding in November’s election and this proposal would be throwing more money at the problem with no accountability.
While the overall vote remained relatively the same after the additional information was provided at 41% Yes to 48% No; the Latino vote closed to 43% Yes, 47% No.
That November tax increase may make it tougher to get support for the parcel tax proposal. The Prop 30 tax was targeted at the “rich.” Parcel taxes would fall on many more voters.
In the same USC Dornsife/LA Times poll, the governor’s plan received support by a 50 percent to 39 percent margin.
The state involvement with school funding goes back at least 40 years with the Serrano vs. Priest decision that said the state must equalize school funding. Poorer communities could not keep up with wealthier communities in per-pupil spending without the use of extraordinary tax rates. The California Supreme Court stepped in saying the school tax system violated equal protection.
Jerry Brown is using the same argument of equality in offering more state aide to poorer districts. Brown says, “treating unequals equally is not justice.”
Wonder what the Supreme Court would say about his plan in light of the Serrano case?