A new tax increase initiative is circulating now led by “California Now,” an Oakland based organization that claims it is “the leading, nonpartisan, multi-issue research, policy development, and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health and education…” While helping children is always a lofty goal the idea of doing so by simply raising taxes and starting a new bureauracy program has a dubious history in California.
Proposition 10, passed in 1998 imposed taxes for early childhood development. It was narrowly passed and had the backing of Hollywood liberal Rob Reiner. It has collected about $5 billion in tax revenue since it was passed. What has it accomplished? Very little. Fresno County issued a report in 2009 that said the program accomplished basically nothing. In fact, a nonpartisan study of the Fresno expenditures of these tax dollars showed that of more than 400 families receiving services paid for under this “tax for the kids”, the parents receiving the most services showed the least improvement in their “nurturing” skills.
The larger issue is the fundamental question of what is wrong with education in California. Liberals say that with all the tax dollars pulled out of citizens wallets already, that it is not enough. They want more taxpayer money. They say this despite the fact that many bond measures have passed to fund public education in California; they almost always pass.
They say they need more tax dollars even though the state lottery was sold to voters as a way to fund schooling, and since 1985 has “contributed” $20 billion (in mandates) to public education in California.
Even though education is the biggest ticket item in the state budget, liberals and public employee unions still generate press releases about education funding in California being among the lowest in the nation.
But who is paying attention to how all the tax dollars education already has, is being spent?
Union teachers here are among the highest paid in the nation. Is it any wonder California’s test scores are so low? The problem isn’t a funding problem. It is a spending problem. We are spending top dollar for a statewide network of overpaid teachers who are under-performing, given the test results.
Nonpartisan studies show the average teacher salary in California is always higher than the national average. In 2009, the average teacher salary here was $60,583, much higher than the national average of $49,720. The national average was $48,353 in 2008, while California paid a premium to its teachers, an average of $60,250.
California teacher salaries increased by a total of 4.1 percent from 2007 to 2009. Teaching salaries in this state have remained fairly consistent in terms of national ranking. From 2007 to 2008, the average teacher salary here ranked at 5th. Then, from 2008 to 2009, California teacher salaries dropped slightly to 6th place nationally.
This high average salary does not fully take into account the salaries of school district administrators, which reach into the $100,000s and beyond. The Superintendent of the highly dysfunctional Los Angeles school system is paid $330,000 per year.
Yet the California Faculty Association issued a report in 2009, the same year that California teacher’s salaries ranked 6th in the nation, stating that the state has a “deteriorating educational status” in recent decades and that the state ranks 49th out of 50 states in quality of education delivered.
California needs reforms in education, that is for sure. Those reforms should be aimed at raising school tests scores and lowering the abnormally high cost of overhead in California in delivering education – and the place to start is with our overpaid teachers and administrators themselves. We don’t need an initiative to raise taxes to improve education, rather, we need an initiative to reduce the power of special interest groups in education like the teachers’ union, and start spending the money we have properly, and not on big salaries that the statistics prove our teachers and their administrators do not deserve.