Munger-PTA initiative hits the streets

$10B for K-12, early childhood by raising income tax
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Unfazed by disparagement from Gov. Brown’s politicos, civil rights attorney Molly Munger and her chief ally, the state PTA, launched a drive Thursday to collect signatures for the November ballot for a $10 billion tax initiative to benefit K-12 and early childhood education.

“We would not do signatures if we did not feel confident,” Addisu Demissie, manager for the Our Children, Our Future Education Initiative campaign, said in a teleconference. “We know we are on the right track and are moving forward.” Unless someone blinks, the Munger-PTA initiative could vie on the ballot with the governor’s temporary tax initiative and perhaps a third plan, a tax on the income of millionaires, pushed by the California Federation of Teachers with help from the California Nurses Association.

Common wisdom in Sacramento is that multiple tax initiatives would doom all to fail, but Munger, the initiative’s creator and primary financier, and Demissie weren’t buying that talk. They can also count on the energy, time, and “pent-up frustration” of PTA parents, hundreds of whom have been trained in the past several weeks to collect signatures and make a pitch, said California PTA president Carol Kocivar. It’s unusual for the state PTA to put its weight behind an initiative so squarely and so early.

Repeated polling, Munger said, has shown that voters want to invest in schools. The initiative is “popular for good reason.” The campaign cites a USC Dornsife College poll which found that two-thirds of registered voters would pay more taxes to improve school funding, if they are confident the money would be spent in their own communities.

That’s not what Brown’s chief political aid has been saying. Last weekend, Steve Glazer let out a memo from Brown pollster Jim Moore, who concluded from a survey of 500 voters that “the Munger tax measure has virtually no chance of passage” and that “if multiple tax measures are on the ballot at the same time, voters will naturally choose one measure over another, which will make it extremely difficult for any one measure to receive over 50% of the vote.” Moore said that the Our Children, Our Future initiative came in last among the three tax proposals, with only 31 percent support. Munger dismissed the release of the poll, which she said was “an effort to fog the lens of the press.”

Brown is proposing to rescue the general fund with between $5.5 billion and $7 billion by raising the sales tax a half-cent and the income tax on families earning more than $250,00 through 2016. Between 40 percent and 50 percent would go to K-12 schools and community colleges.

The CFT’s permanent tax – 3 percentage points on those earning $1 million, 5 percent on those earning $2 million or more – would raise up to $6 billion, with 60 percent going to K-12 and higher education, and 40 percent to counties to shore up roads and social services.

Our Children, Our Future would raise the most money: $10 billion per year (and growing over its 12-year life), with nearly all dedicated to K-12 schools (85 percent), and the rest to early childhood education. The exception would be during the first four years, when, in a nod to the current state budget deficit, 30 percent (more than $3 billion) would go to pay off school construction bonds. That would free up money for non-education purposes in the General Fund.

The education money would go into a trust fund, outside of Proposition 98 and the Legislature’s control, distributed to schools on a per-pupil basis, with extra dollars to low-income children. (You can calculate how much would go to every school in the state using a calculator here.) None of the money can be used to increase salaries and benefits, and no more than 1 percent for administration. (You can’t accuse Munger of currying favor of teachers unions or the Association of California School Administrators.)

Munger said California now lags $2,580 behind the national average in per-student spending, the biggest gap in 40 years; the initiative would give schools a jolt of resources they need.

It would do so by raising the income tax 1 percent. Since the income tax is progressive, that would translate to, AFTER deductions:

  • 0.40 percent or $11 for a couple earning $17,500;
  • 1.10 percent or $428 for a couple earning 75,000;
  • 1.80 percent or $3,266 for a couple earning $250,000;
  • 2.00 percent or $27,266 for a couple earning $2 million;
  • 2.20 percent or $210,266 for a couple earning $10 million.

Kocivar said that in an annual PTA survey, nine out of 10 parents say that “adequate funding is the most important issue. No one leaves the room when I mention taxes.”

3 Comments

  1. The Molly Munger/PTA initiative is the only one that funnels money directly to school sites and mandates parent and community input re how the money should be spent.  Local control is the only way to go.  Any initiative that gets money to the schools directly and avoids the black hole that is Sacramento gets my vote.  PTA lobbying for our kids -  for free  — for 115 years.

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/24/4287226/poll-finds-majority-support-for.html#mi_rss=Top%20Stories#storylink=cpy

    Today, our state ranks 47th nationally in what we invest to educate each student. We have the largest class sizes in America. Over the last three years, more than $20 billion has been cut from California schools and over 40,000 educators have been laid off. We are shortchanging our early childhood development programs, which are some of the best educational investments we can make. Our underfunded public preschool programs serve only 40 percent of eligible 3 and 4 year olds, and only five percent of very low-income infants and toddlers have access to early childhood programs.
    We can and must do better. Our Children, Our Future asks Californians to join together to invest in our children and our schools because we all share in the benefits of better schools and a better-educated workforce. Our Children, Our Future will also reduce the cost of education bonds to help end the state deficit and protect our children and schools from further budget cuts.
    $10 Billion in New, Dedicated Funding for Our Children
    The measure will raise $10 to $11 billion annually in new revenue through a sliding scale income tax increase that varies with taxpayers’ ability to pay. For couples, the increases range from 4/10ths of 1% on incomes after all deductions under $35,000 to 2.2% for couples with income after all deductions over $5 million. Couples would pay nothing on the first $15,000 of their income after all deductions, and existing tax credits will offset increases for most couples with income after all deductions of $40,000 or less. A couple earning $75,000 in income after all deductions would pay an additional $428 each year, while a couple earning $1.5 million after all deductions would pay $27,266 more.
    The money will be placed in a separate trust fund that can only be spent as authorized by the provisions of the Act. The Governor and Legislature are prohibited from using the money.

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  2. I just wish it truly was local control, instead of insisting that the money – which as the article points out, is desperately needed in districts’ general funds – be spent in a way that makes sense to them. Not all districts made the same cuts or have the same needs. Ironically, they won’t allow the money to be spent on administrators even as they increase administrator workload by creating yet another special fund with strings attached. Better to let each (local) school board decide how it should be spent. As the years go by, the definition of “new teachers” and “new administrators” and exactly which funding stream is in use will only get more muddled. It’s a lot like hard coding that basic aid of $125 per district into the constitution.

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  3. Interesting the disparagement by the governor. Maybe this initiative would have been less likely to happen if  down hadn’t decided to hold education hostage with his trigger cuts. Whoops?

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