State schools chief challenger Marshall Tuck would be open to extending Proposition 30, the temporary school funding tax hike passed by California voters in 2012, but only if it’s tied to other changes to the state’s public education system.
“If you just do the money piece, it’s actually not a great use of taxpayer money,” he said following a speech to the Sacramento Press Club on Thursday.
The initiative has generated billions for education funding by imposing a quarter-cent sales tax increase through 2016 and raising the income tax rate for California’s highest earners through 2018. Tuck said that money was essential for schools coming out of the tremendous budget cuts of the recession, but would not be enough to improve the low national rankings of the state’s public schools.
“We need more funding,” he told the press club, but “we’ve got to prove that we can use that money well” before the state asks the public for more.
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“We’re not using the money well now,” he added, suggesting that California give school districts more flexibility on how they direct the funding into classrooms and increase accountability for how it is spent. He did not have a specific idea of changes he would want to tie to extending Proposition 30.
Incumbent Tom Torlakson has already called for an extension of the tax hikes and considers passage of the measure one of the signature accomplishments of his first term.
“Every option has to be on the table when it comes to providing the resources that our schools need, and that has been Tom's mantra since he took office,” Torlakson campaign spokesman Paul Hefner said.
“Marshall Tuck was missing in action when schools were in desperate financial straits,” Hefner added, referring to the Proposition 30 campaign. “When we need everyone working together to convey that the way our schools can improve is by investing in them, it’s a little disappointing” that Tuck is criticizing the work others did.
Editor’s note: This post was updated at 5:02 p.m. with Hefner’s comments.