Parcel Taxes Could Widen Gap between Wealthy and Poor Neighborhoods, Schools
By UCLA IDEA Staff
Themes in the News for the week of June 1-4, 2010
Many, perhaps most, California schools are facing further cuts in their already-inadequate budgets. Next week, residents of a handful of districts will vote on parcel taxes that could generate additional money for their local schools. If the special taxes pass, schools will be able to keep teachers on staff and keep crucial programs alive (Huffington Post). A key issue for fair and just public policy, however, is that wealthier neighborhoods are much more likely to pass these taxes than poorer neighborhoods.
For example, a preliminary survey by the Las Virgenes Unified School District, serving higher-wealth suburban LA County communities including Calabasas, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village, found that enough of its residents would support a parcel tax to restore some programs at the schools (The Acorn).
Similarly, voters in several Northern California districts passed parcel taxes earlier this year, including affluent Palo Alto Unified’s $589 initiative, which will raise an annual $11.2 million for six years. Less than 10 percent of Palo Alto’s student population qualifies for free- or reduced-price lunches.
By contrast, Los Angeles Unified, with more than 75 percent of its students in the lunch program, is struggling to find the two-thirds support needed to pass its parcel tax. If passed, Measure E would raise $92.5 million annually over four years by collecting a flat $100 per parcel. The funds would go toward restoring music and arts programs; keeping class sizes from swelling further and maintaining clean and safe campuses.
Even though most people agree that LA schools desperately need more money, the campaign for the measure was, until recently, “practically invisible” (Los Angeles Times) and news coverage and public enthusiasm are not widespread. Some of that could be attributed to a mix of reluctant opposition and tepid support.
Both Los Angeles metro daily newspapers have voiced their opposition to Measure E, even as they acknowledge the disastrous state of school funding in Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News). The district and the teacher’s union favor the measure; however, neither has invested substantial political capital to make the campaign for Measure E competitive.
Next week, our Themes in the News will analyze the results of the June 8 elections, including the measures from Los Angeles and others across the state and discuss what options remain for those districts which failed to pass them.