California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel addressed a group of teachers at the South Tahoe High School student union on Monday as part of his campaign to raise awareness of important educational issues on the November ballot.
Vogel addressed two main propositions that California voters will face on Nov. 6 - Proposition 30 and Proposition 32. The former would increase sales tax by one-quarter cent and personal income tax on annual earnings of more than $250,000 to raise revenue for both K-12 schools and community colleges.
Since California already boasts the country's highest sales tax rate, according to the Tax Foundation, many voters - about 40 percent according to a poll conducted by the PACE/USC Rossier School of Education - don't want to see another tax hike. David Wolfe of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said he thinks the government should make smarter cuts to solve the multi-billion dollar deficit.
But for Vogel, there aren't any more services the state can cut without infringing on the basic fabric of society.
"What a lot of people would like us to do is cut out all the waste. Lets cut out the Department of Motor Vehicles, lets cut out the Department of Education. We've lost $20 billion just to K-14 in the last four years. You can't make that up with cuts. Or you can, but the cuts you'd make are so drastic that the infrastructure that we depend on would be going away," Vogel said.
Vogel didn't tout Proposition 30 as a panacea to solve all of California's education woes. Rather, he called it a Band-Aid that would guarantee schools another $15 billion by 2017. It would staunch some bleeding, but a restructuring of the tax structure would still be in order, Vogel said.
The CTA president didn't mention Proposition 30's main competitor, the initiative forwarded by civil rights attorney Molly Munger that would increase state income tax rates for most Californians and generate about $10 billion a year for public schools and childhood development programs.
South Tahoe Educators Association Vice President Mike Patterson said Munger's Proposition 38 falls short in a few key ways.
"Only 30 is going to prevent $6 billion in mid-year education cuts this year. That amounts to about $1 million to out district. And the school funding in 30 is K-14. Thirty-eight is K-12. It's more rounded," Patterson said.
The other main issue Vogel raised on Monday, Proposition 32, would ban corporate and union contributions to state and local candidates as well as automatic payroll deductions for political ends.
That proposition is not what it seems, Vogel said. It's union busting of the highest order according to the CTA president.
"There's so much confusion about Prop 32. People really think that what Prop 32 is is the union can't take my money out of my check and use it to support some issue I don't like without my permission."
"If they tell the truth to the public what this really is, the voter is going to say, 'I don't think so.' What we do is stick up for them," he said.
According to Vogel, the bill directly targets organized labor. For STEA President Jodi Dayberry, it's an issue that could have large repercussions throughout the state, and not just in the education community.
"It's not just a local issue. The objective behind it is to silence labor's voice. It would take away the voice of labor in politics. As a teacher, it's not just about teaching. If that voice is silenced, we would see a drastically different education system," Dayberry said.