Educators, community pushing for passage of Prop. 55

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Photo/Anthony Victoria: California Teachers Association representative Robert Rodriguez, center, speaking to supporters during a Prop. 55 rally at the San Bernardino City Unified School District on September 17.
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A coalition of community organizers, educators, and students convened at the San Bernardino City Unified School District on Saturday to launch the Yes on 55 campaign.

Proposition 55 is aiming to extend the Proposition 30 Income Tax Increase Initiative that was passed by voters in 2012 to 12 years to help fund education and health care. According to the state’s Department of Finance, Prop. 30 has generated approximately $31.2 billion since 2013 by increasing the tax on personal incomes greater than $250,000 a year.

California saw a 25 percent budget shortfall in a four year span, according to a statement made by State Superintendent Tom Torlakson in 2012.

The coalition, comprised of the Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC), the San Bernardino Teachers Association (SBTA), and SBCUSD board members, are all hoping to prevent what they say might be a $4 billion setback if Prop. 55 fails.

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“We don’t want to go back to those days,”  SBTA President Ashley Bettas Alcala.

According to the California Secretary of State’s Official Voter Information guide, an estimated 89 percent of revenue generated from the tax increase would go towards K-12 schools and 11 percent to community colleges. About $2 billion would be allocated to Medi-Cal and other health programs.

Fairfax Elementary Teacher Christine Marquez explained that before 2013 many resources–computer technology and up to date books–were a luxury. She also said classrooms were overcrowded and curriculum was outdated.

“Some schools were lucky to have computer labs,” she said. “It was a great economic hardship for us.”

SBCUSD officials said the Board of Education adopted a resolution to support Propositions 51, 55, and 58 to continue to have “great things” happen with students.

“What do we expect from our system if we’re not doing the right thing,” Medina exclaimed. “These children are in need of services.”

ICUC Parent Organizer Elizabeth Romero is urging the community to speak to parents about the proposition and its impact.

“This is a great opportunity for us to receive further funding” Romero explained. “It’s a great opportunity for us to continue to learn about our educational system to help our children.”

Opponent argues tax may hinder business community

David Kersten, a professor of public policy at San Francisco University, explained why the passage of Prop. 55 may be bad for business.

“It will be a big hit on small business,” he said. “There’s little accountability. It’s not smart.”

Kersten claims that Prop. 30’s passage led to approximately 40 percent of business owners to leave the state in 2013. He believes Prop. 55 represents a 23 percent tax increase on small business.

“For many small business owners this may mean cutting of hours, laying off employees, and cutting back on benefits,” Kersten said. “This is a good deal for special interests, but a bad deal for everyone else.”

Kersten also said the state needs to ensure the money going towards education and health care demonstrates adequate results. “They should have the ability to reduce [taxes],” he said. “We need to save money for fiscal emergencies.”

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