During the recession, Chancy Jones saw the impact of state budget cuts on employee workflow at Santa Monica High School. The campus security officer said staffing reductions led to longer cafeteria lines, dirtier classrooms and task backlogs, among other problems.
“Any special project — even just a light bulb changed — had to be put on the backburner,” she said.
Although state coffers have stabilized somewhat in recent years, Jones is hoping to avoid more cutbacks in the future by supporting Proposition 55.
She and other members of SEIU Local 99 praised the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education’s recent adoption of a resolution in support of the measure, which would extend higher temporary income taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year for a dozen more years to fund K-12 schools, state community colleges and healthcare programs. The taxes were previously approved by voters through Proposition 30 in 2012.
“I strongly support this proposition,” school board president Laurie Lieberman said in a statement. “We know that its passage is critical to maintaining adequate funding of school districts throughout California.”
Jones, Lieberman and the agencies they represent are among the many supporters of Prop 55 across the state.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents favored the measure in a poll released last month by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, while close to 35 percent opposed it. Support ranged from 78 percent among Democrats to 46.2 percent among Republicans, according to the poll.
Proponents say the measure would only affect the wealthiest Californians and could provide necessary funding that was lost during the recession. The San Jose Mercury News editorial board expressed support for the initiative, writing that it could soften the impact of a future economic downturn.
Opponents argue that Prop 55 would extend taxes that were meant to be temporary and could stifle small business owners. The San Francisco Chronicle, which endorsed Prop 30 four years ago, came out against the new measure, arguing that “California’s essential services, most notably education, deserve a more stable funding source” than wealthy citizens’ taxes.
The language in the resolution unanimously adopted by the SMMUSD board was suggested by the California School Boards Association. It mentions the cuts to education during the recession and cites the state’s low ranking in per-pupil spending.
And the recent reductions negatively affected members of SEIU Local 99, which represents close to 40,000 workers in public and private organizations across Southern California.
“SEIU Local 99 members had a front-row seat on the devastating impact of state budget cuts to our schools and community colleges,” union executive director Max Arias said in a statement.
Added Jones, the Samohi security officer: “We can’t go back to that. We’re only just starting to recover.”
The resolution also notes that the district’s plan to address longstanding achievement gaps depends on current funding levels. SMMUSD is in the process of working with education reformist Pedro Noguera to improve academic outcomes for minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students.