Educators, parents and students can still vividly recall the pain of the Great Recession.
Students felt the impact in every aspect of their education. School districts were forced to increase class sizes to numbers not seen in years due to pink slips for teachers. They had to try to maintain a healthy and safe learning environment despite maintenance and custodial staff being stretched thin. They had to cut school bus routes, shutter libraries and slash art and music programs.
In all, more than $50 billion in state funding was cut from public education. That’s money our schools will never get back. We can’t afford to go back to those days of cuts that hurt our students and our communities.
That’s why educators, parents, students and so many others across the state are supporting Proposition 55. It is aimed at preventing future education budget cuts by maintaining the current top income tax rate on the wealthiest Californians.
Without Prop. 55, these tax rates will expire soon and the state’s budget would immediately be thrown back into chaos, threatening nearly $4 billion in funding for education in the first year alone.
Most of our local schools and colleges are just starting to come back from years of cuts. The funding that has been restored has allowed us to undo some of the massive damage suffered during the recession. Class sizes are beginning to come down; art and music programs are back; critical support staff have been restored; and community college tuition rates have stabilized.
Yet, while progress is being made, we are still near the bottom of per-pupil spending in the nation and still have some of the largest class sizes. Furthermore, California is facing a severe teacher shortage, with an estimated 22,000 needing to be hired this year. Schools also need more library aides, bus drivers and custodians.
Our students deserve better. They don’t deserve to feel the pain of cuts again. By passing Proposition 55 – which simply asks the wealthiest to temporarily continue paying the same amount they are now – we can protect our schools and vital services from another round of deep cuts. It does not raise taxes on anyone.
And, we know the money from Proposition 55 will go to the classrooms, because there are strict accountability and transparency requirements.
For the sake of the students we work with each day and all students statewide, we must protect the necessary resources for our schools to continue their progress. California’s children are depending on all of us.
Jamee Gardner is a site maintenance technician with the Roseville Joint Union High School District and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Laura Shirley is a math teacher at Rosa Parks Middle School in Sacramento and can be contacted at email@example.com. They wrote this viewpoint on behalf of the Yes on Proposition 55 campaign.