Munger-PTA initiative hits the streets$10B for K-12, early childhood by raising income tax
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.”