Headline: Educators march in favor of tax reform
Layercake: California Federation of Teachers optimistic about changes
By JANE TEIXEIRA
Aggie News Writer
A 365-mile journey came to an end at the capitol on April 21 for the six core marchers and their supporters in the March for California’s Future.
Along with raising awareness about California’s educational crisis, the marchers, organized by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), wanted the legislature reform the state’s tax system. Currently California is the only state that requires a two-thirds majority to pass a budget and to change tax rates. The marchers are looking to establish a simple majority vote for budget concerns as a means of ending gridlock in legislature.
“It’s great to be able to spread the message of unionism,” said Jim Miller, a University of San Diego professor and core marcher. “I think our message was well-received and I’m happy to think that we’ve been part of laying down the building blocks for change.”
Miller said about 10,000 people attended in Sacramento to support the march in spite of bad weather.
The marchers are also advocating higher taxes for higher incomes and re-establishment of commercial property taxes. They estimate that re-assessing the values of non-residential real estate could raise $3 billion. Returning the very top tax brackets to 1992 levels for incomes over $250,000 and $500,000 a year could raise an additional $4-6 billion.
CFT Secretary Treasurer Dennis Smith, joined the last leg of the march.
“Higher education is under attack and as the fees go up, the average person can no longer afford to go to college,” Smith said. “The cuts have also undermined access to kindergartens and preschools.”
Smith is an accounting professor at Sacramento City College and, like Miller, has seen increases in class sizes from 30 people to 40 or more per class. He estimates that approximately 200,000 people are currently barred from getting a higher education in California due to the fee increases just at the community college level.
“I see young teachers with terrified looks on their faces wondering whether they will have a job come next year,” Smith said.
School districts around the state have sent out over 23,000 pink slips to teachers notifying them that they may not have jobs next year.
Janet Bass, spokesperson for the American Federation of Teachers, said that it is time for the federal government to step in for California.
“The problem of education goes to the heart of democracy and economy,” Bass said. “We need an educated populace and the right resources for teachers and students to succeed.”
Bass said that there is not enough cooperation among the various levels in most education systems.
“It’s important for teachers, unions and school leaders to corroborate on decisions about instruction and the teachers definitely need to be part of the discussion,” Bass said. “We all know that we need solutions, we just don’t always agree on the best way to get there.”
Smith said he thought the march would have long term benefits.
“I don’t think I could have marched 365 miles,” Smith said. “The people doing it are very inspirational to me and to others.”
Allan Clark, President of the California School Employees Association, joined the marchers at the capitol.
“On April 21 an important march ended, but that date also marked the beginning of a movement,” Clark said in an official statement. “The movement to take California from the state with the lowest per pupil spending to one that values public education by elevating our funding to the top 10 in the nation.”
JANE TEIXEIRA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.