As California public schools face another daunting year of state budget cuts, frustrated local parent groups are working to put a tax initiative on November’s ballot that would bypass Sacramento and send money directly to schools.
“It’s time to take this into our own hands,” said Michelle Parker, president of the San Francisco PTA, which is gathering signatures for the proposed ballot measure, called Our Children, Our Future.
Sponsored by the Advancement Project, an education advocacy group, and its founder, wealthy Pasadena lawyer Molly Munger, the ballot measure would raise at least $10 billion a year through a progressive income tax increase that would range from 0.4 percent for couples making less than $35,000 to 2.2 percent for couples making $5 million or more.
The money would be placed out of reach of the governor and the state Legislature in a trust fund that could only be spent in ways prescribed by the initiative. In the first four years, 30 percent of the money would be used at the state level to pay down education bonds, but most of the cash would be sent directly to schools on a per-pupil basis.
The way the funds would be distributed has a special appeal for some parents who are frustrated with Sacramento’s repeated deferrals of mandated education spending, an action that has had the effect of reducing the money available for districts to allot to schools.
“There’s a lot of distrust for government spending,” Parker said. “When you put it in the power of the people to say how it would impact the community, that’s very appealing.”
The California PTA is leading a petition drive for Our Children, Our Future, and members say they are optimistic they can gather the required half-million signatures.
But once on the ballot, the initiative will go head-to-head with another tax measure, the “Millionaire’s Tax,” which is backed by Gov. Jerry Brown and student and labor groups. That initiative’s supporters have decried Our Children, Our Future as endangering the likelihood that any tax measure will pass.
“Not surprisingly, there’s been some confusion between the governor’s initiative and this one,” said Todd David, a member of the San Francisco Parent Political Action Committee who said he had personally gathered 200 signatures for Our Children, Our Future.
“They’re two very different initiatives,” David said, adding that he hoped both taxes would pass. “We’ll have to agree to disagree on which is better.”
If Our Children, Our Future makes it to November’s ballot, it would have to be approved by a majority of voters. If it passes, it must be reauthorized after 12 years.
$428 Cost to a couple earning $75,000 after deductions
$27,266 Cost to a couple earning $1.5 million after all deductions
Money for San Francisco in 2013-14
San Francisco Unified: $55M
Lowell High: $2.6M
George Washington High: $2.5M
Presidio Middle School: $1.1M
Herbert Hoover Middle: $1.1M
Bessie Carmichael Elementary: $681,000
E.R. Taylor Elementary: $624,000
Claire Lilienthal Elementary: $547,903
Money for San Mateo County in 2013-14
Jefferson Elementary: $6.4M
Redwood City Elementary: $8.7M
San Mateo-Foster City: $9.2M
San Mateo Union High: $8.1M
Sequoia Union High: $9.1M
Sources: Our Children, Our Future Committee
Correction: This article has been corrected. An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated what it would take to pass the initiative. It would take a majority of voters statewide to pass the initiative.