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Today’s homework: School funding report, Pgs 1-8

Do you know how much of California’s property tax revenue was wiped out after voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978? Or which laws radically changed who controls this major source of revenue? Or how many California school districts have successfully passed a parcel tax?

Even if you consider yourself an expert on school finance, you might learn a thing or two from an short EdSource primer about the twists and turns of school funding in California, and proposals that have been — or might be — floated in response to this budget crisis.

It’s dense, but pretty easy to read, considering the topic. Plus, it’s only eight pages. You can find it here.

Class Discussion: Would you push for a county-level sales tax to benefit school districts in Alameda County? Should lawmakers give individual school districts the authority to take an add-on income tax to the voters? What about adjusting the property tax rate limits on Proposition 13, or creating a “split-roll” tax that would require businesses to pay more than they do? None of the above?

Tell us what you think lawmakers — and voters — should do or not do.

file photo by Ray Chavez/Tribune Staff

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Ultimately, I think we should abolish prop 13 altogether as it is not an equitable system. My next door neighbors (MD and attorney), who have far more income and a much larger house, pay about $4000 less yearly for property tax than do I – a school teacher. Their children benefited from the great public K-12 education system that was in place and then from attending tuition-free UC’s. I do not believe that any amends can be made to the current system; it needs to be dismantled. My children have not had any of those benefits and will be in debt for many years after finishing California colleges.

    I would not have a problem with adjusting the rates for businesses though.

    The idea of adding on an income tax would never pass with the voters and I am afraid that with sales tax so high already, poorer counties would refuse to pass any additional tax. There is also the remote possibility that people would actually leave the county for big ticket items, worsening the situation.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Thanks Katy. It’s probably “past due” that we all get educated on this. I’m embarrassed to live in a state that spends so little on education and seeks to lead the world in high technology.

    We’re probably the H1B capital as well for the same reason.

  • Nextset

    Oakland Teacher: Prop 13 will result in greater and greater warping of the property tax scheme in this state as time goes on. Remember, the artificially low tax rate can be handed down inside a family. Family homes that stay in the family will be taxed at a fraction of the rate for the same house on the same block. If inflation remains constant the difference grows with time.

    However we do have a deflation in real estate prices for the time being.

    I don’t think the CA voters will upset Prop 13 anytime soon. Baby Boomers like it. As far as it being “unfair” – so what. Life, and tax law, is really unfair. That is just not a problem. We make our plans with “unfair” in mind. “Unfair” tends to favor those who plan ahead. Voters don’t have a problem with that concept and the legislature doesn’t either. Lawyers, Lobbyists and Accounts work with “unfair” to their client’s advantage and to the disadvantage of their adversaries.

    And as far as the public schools go – the middle class and up which is where the votes and money are have abandoned the public schools (except the public Ivys such as Piedmont which can raise all the money they want). The only way to change this is to run at least some of the public schools in such a way that the middle/upper classes can identify with them.

    If the public schools systems allow themselves to be devoid of whites – such as Los Angeles Unified with 6% white students (and falling?) the schools will get all the political support enjoyed by the cities of Detroit, Gary In, Compton, Baltimore and other such Garden Spots. The reason we are seing apartheid in school systems is that the schools honestly think they can run themselves like a 3rd world nation while keeping respect and funding from that part of the society that makes money and employs people.

    The white participation is merely a marker. This is a social class thing. If the urban public schools don’t maintain respect and participation of the higher (at least the higher half of society) classes they are done for.

    So no, you will never be able to upset Prop 13 in this State the way things are going.

    Brave New World.

  • http://www.growpublic.blogspot.com Ann

    I’m a tax and spend democrat but absolutely would not trust the Alameda County Board of Supervisors with any sales tax funds.

    I work at the county hospital and I worked on the sales tax Measure to fund the county hospital Measure “A”. Ten minutes after the Measure past the county claimed that the “public hospital” owed them millions and that your tax dollars would have to go back to them.

    Measure “A” tax dollars go to the hospital but then get sent back to the county to pay “debt” to the county.

    The county supervisors are neither honest nor ethical about how they use and abuse these types of funds.

  • Nextset

    Ann, things are rough all over. The County Supervisors are doing what is expected of them. If they all agree on something it can only be so controversial. The City Councils and the County Boards nowadays are all trying to keep the lights on and avoid shutting down staffing. Things are projected to get much worse.

    My complaint is how all the government agencies refuse to triage their work or modify their operations to conserve funds. They all want to continue business as usual in a world where their business models need to change. That will result is more pain later that might have been avoided.

  • Nancy

    I think we should abolish all State tax totally. Despite claims by economists that capital tax erodes the tax base among other fears, we should apply a flat square footage tax to all corporate capital which is put into a single plan. I corporations moved out of the US, then all shipping containers entering any port in the US would be assessed square footage tax on all of the containers. Next, need-based allocations would be made to Districts who would be required to provide line item school accounting system object codes for each charge for “high” needs claimed. There would also be cost adjustments of per-pupil expenditures based on regional variations or value of the dollar in different parts as well as wage index differences. Local communities could still pass parcel tax measures to up their per-pupil expenditure or to add programs as they see fit. Just a thought.

  • Heatman

    Thank you Teacher, Truth and Ann for your thoughtful and heartfelt comments. And thank you Katy for this ongoing blog. The EdSource document is a good addition. I think that the document over emphasizes local control. The Serrano-Priest issues were and continue to be valid issues. The failure of the California courts to fully resolve the matter has contributed to the virtual destruction of our once very fine education system. Adequate funding and funding that is equitable to all of our students is essential for the health of our economy and the public life of our state.

    I lived and voted thru the 70′s and a lot of the actions take by the public and public legislators toward public education seemed to be in reaction to Brown vs. Board of Education. It played a role in redistributing certain populations from urban centers to suburban districts and gave a huge boost to private education.

    I do not believe that the public had a good grasp of what was in the Prop. 13 at the time of its passage. They simply hoped that Grandma would not have to pay all of her social security or pension check to keep up with sky rocketing property taxes that went up with the sky rocketing market values for residential property at that time. The public mood around public education in the post Brown era was not open to the pleas from the education community that it would damage public education in California. It is time that these injustices were reversed. I hope that we are good enough as a people to do so.

  • Nancy

    P.S. If the corporations abandoned their capital assets, then the US Government would take on a “squatter” role…and take the human capital and their expertise to a new task of cooperative ownership and decision-making…