Jon Coupal- Columnist
is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers
Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with
offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website] [go
to Coupal index]
Money After Bad
The truth is coming out…
[Jon Coupal and Tim Bittle] 2/21/05
At a press
conference earlier this month, State Superintendent of Public
Instruction Jack O'Connell once again called for higher taxes
on parents as the putative remedy for California's lagging student
performance. In so doing, he attempts to perpetuate the myth
that more education dollars will mean a better education product
for California taxpayers. The bad news for Mr. O'Connell is that
taxpayers and voters are wising up. The education establishment
has, in the past, repeatedly asked for more money with promises
of better performance and they have been consistent only in disappointing
As to the current condition of California's educational product
there is little debate. A recent study by the Rand Corporation
analyzed national standardized testing and ranked California
public schools at the bottom of the 50 states. Asked for an explanation,
Superintendent O'Connell blamed Proposition 13, asserting that
if his agency had more money, schools would improve.
The Rand study found that the amount California spends on public
education falls in the top half of the 50 states. California
is one of the highest taxed states, and public education consumes
$50 billion of the state's $109 billion total budget. If there
were a correlation between government spending and student performance,
then California schools should at least score in the top half
of the nation, not last.
In his press conference,
Superintendent O'Connell announced his plan to improve California
school performance in response
to the Rand study. Does his plan have anything to do with the
curriculum, accountability, grading policies, student discipline,
or reducing state bureaucratic and union control over local schools?
No. Instead Mr. O'Connell said he "will focus on increasing
state money ... (by a) campaign to reduce the threshold necessary
to pass local parcel taxes."
In other words, he
wants to gut Proposition 13 by making it easier to raise property
taxes, and send the money to Sacramento.
What is so infuriating is the disingenuous spin he put on the
schools' budget picture and his parcel tax proposal. He said
Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed budget will cut school spending,
and he criticized the governor for framing the budget debate
as a choice between competing public programs such as health
care and education. Rather, said O'Connell, "It is a choice
between tax relief for the wealthiest Californians ... and funding
for health and schools."
First, the governor's budget does not shortchange schools. The
budget proposes a 7.1 percent increase in state spending on public
education. That is almost triple the 2.4 percent that the Consumer
Price Index increased for the year.
Second, how does Mr.
O'Connell figure that parcel taxes will impact only "the wealthiest Californians?" A
parcel tax is a flat dollar amount, say $400, that is added
to the annual
property tax of every parcel regardless of its size or value.
Parcel taxes are particularly regressive because they impose
the same tax on the poor that the wealthy are paying.
Mr. O'Connell should stop trying to increase the cost of education,
and turn his attention to the quality of education. Moreover,
Californians are rightly suspicious of the claims by the education
establishment that more money will solve the problem. That is
the claim they made in 1988 when they convinced voters to pass
Proposition 98, and the claim they made in 2000 when they convinced
voters to pass Proposition 39 -- lowering the two-thirds vote
for local school bonds. We won't be fooled a third time. CRO
column appeared in The Orange County Register
is an attorney and President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers
Bittle is the association's Director of Legal Affairs.
2005 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association