Published on 9/24/2020.
I would not normally use this forum to advocate for one legislative action over another in this politically charged time; however, I realize that College of the Redwoods can serve an important role in forming the public discourse in a rational, informed, and thoughtful way on important matters. It is for that reason that I want to use this Education Matters article to advocate for two propositions on the November ballot that will determine the future of community college funding and faculty and staff hiring.
In thirty-nine days, we will be asked to cast our votes for or against Propositions 15 and 16. Proposition 15, also known as the Schools and Communities First Initiative, would, if passed, require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their current market value instead of the price at the time of purchase. Homeowners and businesses with under $3 million in California property would not be affected and farmland would be exempt.
According to a state fiscal analysis, this ballot initiative would, when fully implemented, generate between $8 billion and $12.5 billion in revenue per year. The revenue would be distributed to the state to supplement decreases in revenue from the state's personal income tax and corporation tax due to increased tax deductions and to counties to cover the costs of implementing the measure. Sixty percent of the remaining funds will go to local governments and special districts and 40 percent to school districts and community colleges. Revenue appropriated for education would be divided as follows: 11% for community colleges and 89% for public schools, charter schools, and county education offices. There would also be a requirement that schools and colleges receive an annual minimum of $100 (adjusted each year) per full-time student.
Especially in light of the budget shortfalls arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the money that could be generated from Proposition 15 would be decisive in helping College of the Redwoods and our local K-12 partners continue to provide educational opportunities to our community. We need this funding to help support the state’s economic recovery and I urge community members to vote yes on Prop 15.
Additionally, a few months ago, the College of the Redwoods Board of Trustees joined the Community College League of California in voicing their support for Proposition 16. By supporting this ballot measure, the Board affirmed its commitment to create an inclusive higher education system that reflects the diversity of California.
According to a recent EdSource article, over half of the two million students in the California Community College system - by far the largest system of higher education in the United States - are minorities (Black, Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander), while only one in four tenured faculty at the 116 community colleges are from those groups. This faculty-student diversity gap is, in my view, unacceptably large. Proposition 16 would help alleviate this problem by reversing Proposition 209.
Proposition 209, passed in 1996, prohibits public entities from making decisions on awarding contracts, hiring, or admissions to higher education institutions based on race, ethnicity, gender or other demographic information. Over time we have seen that one of the consequences of Proposition 209 was that it has made it more difficult, increased the length of the time, and as well as the cost it takes to hire a diverse pool of faculty and staff.
California is one of only nine states that bans affirmative action as a tool to fight discrimination. I know firsthand how divisive a discussion about affirmative action can be. However, it’s important to show that Californians are willing to take a stand against racism and sexism and allow public entities to promote equal opportunity for women and people of color. Today, women and people of color are paid less, given fewer chances to access higher education, and are denied job opportunities. Affirmative action works to level the playing field by allowing policymakers to consider race and gender–without quotas–when making decisions about contracts, hiring and education. A “yes” vote on Proposition 16 will give California voters a chance to repeal the provisions of Proposition 209 that make it more challenging for us to hire diverse faculty and staff at CR.
Take a close look at all sides of these two propositions. Question the assumptions and the arguments for and against the propositions. But whatever you decide, I urge you to vote and make your voice heard on November 3.