What Happened to Public Education on Election Night?
Continued from previous page
Arizona: Voters defeated Proposition 204 (58 to 42 percent), which would have made permanent a 2010 one-cent sales tax to fund education, vocational training, and college scholarships.
Voters approved Proposition 118 (54.9 to 45.1 percent), which creates a more stable source of revenue for public education by changing the formula for distributing the earnings of a state trust fund until 2021. The money in the trust fund comes from the sale and lease of state lands. The Arizona Education Association, the state’s main teachers union, supported the proposition.
California: Voters approved Proposition 30 (54.7 to 45.3 percent), a constitutional amendment to raise income taxes by 1 to 3 percent on incomes over $250,000 for the next seven years and the sales tax by a quarter cent for four years to fund public schools and universities. Overcoming public aversion to tax increases in favor of public education marks a milestone in recent California history; higher taxes are also the only way to deal with the crisis in state education funding.
Voters defeated Proposition 32 (56.4 to 43.6 percent), which would have prevented unions from deducting political contributions from employee paychecks. This is a crucial win for the labor movement.
Voters defeated Proposition 38 (72.2 to 27.8 percent), a second tax increase for funding public schools and early childhood programs that competed with Proposition 30. Prop. 38, a state statute, would have raised everyone’s income taxes on a sliding scale for twelve years and allocated 30 percent of the revenue to repaying state debt for four years. Molly Munger—a wealthy Los Angeles lawyer and public education advocate—provided the impetus for the measure and more than $44 million of the nearly $48 million raised for the campaign. Munger came under strong pressure to withdraw Prop. 38 because both polls and conventional wisdom held that two tax increase propositions for education would split the yes vote, and both would lose. The California State Parent Teacher Association supported Prop. 38. Prop. 30 had much broader support, including Governor Jerry Brown, the Democratic Party, and the major unions.
Colorado: Denver voters approved Ballot Issue 3A (69 to 31 percent), a property tax increase that will raise $49 million for early childhood education and “enrichment programs” such as art, music, and physical education (these were once considered an integral part of a standard curriculum). Voters also approved Ballot Issue 3B (63.5 to 36.5 percent), a bond issue to raise $466 million for facility maintenance, renovations, and four new schools. Jeannie Kaplan, a Denver Board of Education member who opposes the in-vogue reform agenda, endorsed the ballot issues only after ensuring there would be public accountability and due consideration for opening new district-run schools and not just charters. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association contributed $13,000 to support the ballot issues. Michael Bloomberg—New York City mayor, multibillionaire, and nationwide ed-reform financier—gave $75,000. This was a rare instance when Bloomberg and a teachers union found themselves on the same side.
Connecticut: Voters in Bridgeport defeated a charter revision (53.3 to 46.7 percent) that would have replaced the elected Board of Education with one appointed by the mayor. The Democrats, including the mayor, supported the charter revision. Michael Bloomberg, who exercises “mayoral control” over NYC’s schools, contributed $20,000 to the charter revision. The pro-labor, left-liberal Working Families Party led the campaign against it and also won three seats on the board.
Florida: Voters defeated Amendment 8 (55.5 to 44.5 percent), which would have repealed the constitutional ban on public funding for a religion or religious institution. The amendment would have cleared the way for a statewide voucher system. Under a statewide voucher system, every child receives the same sum and can apply to any school; schools compete for the money. In a 1955 article called “The Role of Government in Education,” free-market proselytizer Milton Friedman proposed vouchers as the best way to provide K-12 education in a democracy. Only the private market, he argued, can provide quality goods efficiently at the best price for consumers, but there might not be a market incentive to educate every child; since the state has an interest in a literate citizenry, the government would provide a voucher to every child to be used at any accredited school. Such a system unavoidably exacerbates inequalities: the price of sought-after schools rises above the value of the voucher; wealthy parents don’t need vouchers but get them anyway; middle-class parents supplement the voucher with whatever they can afford, driving up prices. As Friedman admitted, there might not be an incentive for “sellers” to provide enough voucher-priced schools. In that case, the government would run schools for whomever couldn’t afford to shop in the market. The goal of many conservative ed-reformers is a system like Friedman’s.