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Thousands of public school teachers in Los Angeles went on strike in February, demanding basic services for their students: smaller class sizes (many classes have more than 40 students), classes in the arts and music, a librarian and nurse and other support staff in every school. The strike won broad public support. The teachers won an agreement from the school board.
Now comes the hard part: Paying for the agreement.
On Tuesday June 4, voters in Los Angeles will go to the polls and vote on Measure EE.
It is a parcel tax that would raise $500 million additional dollars every year for the public schools for the next twelve years.
Please show up and vote for Measure EE.
The money is desperately needed to provide the students of Los Angeles the schools they need and deserve. Why should they attend schools that are deteriorating, where the library is open only on occasion or not at all, where a nurse is available once a week, a guidance counselor has hundreds of students, and a school psychologist is available never?
Please show up and vote for Measure EE.
California is one of the richest states in the nation, with a roaring and dynamic economy.
But California spends less on education than most other states. Shockingly, it is on par with Kansas, Louisiana, and South Carolina.
Los Angeles spends far less than other big cities on its students.
Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez met with Superintendent Austin Beutner and UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl at an elementary school in the school library, which is closed two or three days a week.
“The two most powerful people in Los Angeles public education are like a tag team now, practically completing each other’s sentences.”
California, he wrote, “ranks at the top in wealth and near the bottom in funding per pupil.”
What would EE cost the taxpayer? The owner of a 1,500 square foot home would pay an additional $240, twice as much for a house twice as large. About 82% of the revenue would come from commercial, industrial and apartment building owners, while senior homeowners (over 65) and disabled homeowners are exempted from the tax.
Who is fighting EE? The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, which opposes taxes and apparently opts for an undereducated workforce; the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is also opposed, that being the organization responsible for Proposition 13, which undermined school funding in 1978 by setting strict limits on property taxes. The Chamber prefers a regressive flat tax, one that is the same for the owner of a small house and the owner of a skyscraper.
Beutner and Caputo-Pearl pointed to business leaders who understand that the future success of Los Angeles depends on the success today of the students in the city’s public schools and who support EE.
Measure EE includes strict accountability requirements, meaning an independent financial audit to assure that every dollar goes to the schools for the intended purposes of reducing class size and providing needed services, such as nurses, counselors, and librarians.
Measure EE needs a two-thirds majority to pass, and that’s a high bar, but other cities in California have met it. Beutner listed them: Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Torrance.
The people of Los Angeles cheered the teachers when they struck and marched in the rain. They honked their horns and gave them thumbs-up because they were doing what was best for their students.
Now comes the voters’ turn.
Will they too stand up for the children who are the future of Los Angeles?
Will they agree that every school should have a working library, a school nurse, a psychologist, and reasonable class sizes?
Will they agree that all children deserve equality of educational opportunity?
Tuesday June 4 will be a decisive day for the children of Los Angeles.
They are OUR children.
If you live in Los Angeles, please vote and urge your friends, family, and neighbors to vote.
Vote as if your future depends upon it.