The crowd protesting at San Francisco's Civic Center March 4 had a different demographic than we're used to. There were families, moms and dads with their kids. A lot of the people there don't demonstrate and protest on a regular basis; they have jobs and families and can barely keep up with their day-to-day responsibilities. I know the drill.
But they were out in the streets because they're furious at what's happening to public education in California and they should be. It's criminal. The state is headed for the very bottom, and at this rate we'll soon have the worst-funded public schools in America. And a gem of a state higher education system is on its way to becoming a set of overpriced, second-rate institutions.
And now everyone who stood up to be counted last week needs to take the next step and support the only solution that will actually work. It's called raising taxes.
California's more than $20 billion in the hole. There's money going to waste, plenty of it. We could release every prisoner doing time on drug charges and save a few billion. But even that wouldn't be enough to save the education system.
We all knew, or should have known, back in 1978, when Proposition 13 passed, that this day was coming. When you cut off the main source of revenue for schools local property taxes and rely on state funding, and the state Legislature can't raise new revenue without a two-thirds vote, which means a handful of troglodyte Republicans can prevent it, this kind of crisis is inevitable.
So some intense, ongoing political action has to come out of the exciting and wonderful Day of Action. And if it's going to make a difference, the action has to take place on three fronts.
1. We've got to get rid of the two-thirds majority requirement. There's a ballot initiative circulating now that would do that.
2. We've got to amend Prop. 13. Assembly Member Tom Ammiano is pushing for a split-roll, to tax commercial property at a higher rate. That's an excellent start.
3. We've got to push local government to raise taxes right here at home to help fund schools and public services. That means pushing Mayor Gavin Newsom, who loves to crow about education, to work with the supervisors on some major new revenue measures.
Either that or we let the politicians point fingers and blame each other. And the schools fall apart.