How Not to Pass a Split Roll

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Here are five steps to take if you don’t want to  pass an initiative to split the tax rolls in service of devoting more money to public schools.

That is, an initiative just like the one that educational interests are preparing to support next November.

  • 1. Divide you coalition of educational interests by attacking charter schools and their passionate supporters.
  • 2. Attack school districts as bloated with waste, that should be going to teacher salaries. Because telling people school districts are wasteful makes the case against more taxes for them.
  • 3. Develop a strategy of high-profile teacher strikes that amplifies your messages about district waste and charter school problems—and inconveniences parents of school-age kids, your natural allies, in the process.
  • 4. Go on media to attack rich people and corporations just as they are choosing whether or not to spend big money against your initiative. It helps convince them to oppose you.
  • 5. Oppose any real reforms to a dysfunctional school finance system that sees increases in education funding eaten up by rising retirement costs, and undercut by lower enrollment.

As it happens, these five strategies have been wholly embraced by teachers’ unions and other backers of next year’s ballot initiative.

Do you think they’re trying to lose?

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