Investing in a better future with Schools and Communities First

Voter Center

Article originally appeared on the San Jose Spotlight

Every day we have the privilege of serving our region’s children, families and communities, whether they are in our schools, seeking care in our community health clinics, learning in public libraries, or marching for civil rights. And it is based on our dedication to serving our community that we urge you to join us in voting “yes” on Proposition 15 (Schools & Communities First) in the upcoming election.

This year has been brutal. The COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and the systemic injustices we repeatedly see play out in our community all weigh heavily on our neighborhoods. Making strategic investments in the well-being of our communities has never been more crucial. Children need laptops and hotspots to complete their schoolwork, teachers and school personnel need personal protective equipment and resources for their classrooms, and nurses, firefighters and first responders need resources to serve those in dire need. Currently, our schools and public sector services simply do not have what they need to respond adequately. Just last month, the county approved a budget which shrunk funding for the Department of Family and Children’s Services by $750,000, eliminating social workers; and the schools in Santa Clara County need at least $10,000,000 to adapt to needs brought on by the pandemic.

With the pandemic as our reality, we can all see that investment in public services is imperative. But the need for it has been accumulating for decades. We would have been better prepared to address today’s challenges – and we wouldn’t be witnessing such significant social and racial injustice – if we had not systematically deprived our schools and communities of the resources they need starting in 1978.

A recent issue brief on state and local revenue published by the Urban Institute highlights that California currently collects only 14% of its revenue from property taxes. That’s well below the national average. And it means our schools and local governments have been denied critical funding to invest in long-term solutions and infrastructure and have become increasingly reliant on other taxes to make up the difference, but at a cost. California’s dependence on regressive taxes, like sales and excise taxes that are levied at flat rates, heavily impacts low-income families. And reliance on income taxes means more vulnerability during recessions. As one example, California’s per-student funding dropped from 23rd to 36th in the nation during the Great Recession. 

Policies reflect values. This November, by voting yes on Proposition 15 (Schools & Communities First), Californians can choose to prioritize our schools and communities – a value that most Californians hold dear.

Prop. 15 is a constitutional amendment that would raise an estimated $12 billion annually for California’s K-12 schools, community colleges and local services by closing a long-standing commercial property tax loophole that benefits a very small proportion of older corporations with large property holdings. This measure was developed by a broad-based coalition, the Million Voters Project, and we believe its passage is essential to California’s post-COVID-19 recovery. It is important to note that 92% of the revenue reclaimed by Prop. 15 would come from just 10% of the biggest and oldest corporations in our state.

It will provide much-needed revenue for local cities, counties and schools — which are now experiencing massive demands for increased services and facing deep budget cuts. And Prop 15 maintains current protections for homeowners and all residential property, and includes new tax incentives to support small businesses.

Our community is ready to invest in a better future. Prop. 15 officially qualified for the ballot on May 29, with over 1.7 million signatures, almost twice the required number. This is the most signatures ever submitted for any ballot initiative in California.

Let’s demonstrate our values. Let’s invest in our children, our families and our communities by passing Prop. 15 in November.

Mary Ann Dewan is the County Superintendent of Schools for Santa Clara County (for identification purposes only); Nicole Taylor is the President and CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation; Greta Hansen is the Chief Assistant County Counsel for the County of Santa Clara (for identification purposes only).