Will Oakland’s teachers union stand against the tax extension?

UPDATE: Betty Olson-Jones, the Oakland teachers union president, said the OEA executive board’s anti-tax extension position has since been revised to a more neutral stance. The union’s official position will depend on how the representative council votes Monday evening.


The fate of a proposed ballot measure to extend temporary sales, vehicle and income taxes in California could mean the difference of $330 in state funding per public school student. In Oakland Unified, that amounts to about $12 million — or $15 million, if you include the city’s independently run charter schools. But it might not even make it onto the ballot.

The Republican lawmakers’ opposition to the tax extension is widely known, but it’s not only the right that’s against the idea. Some of the far-left members of the Oakland teachers union have taken the same position, saying the state should be taxing the rich instead.

The Oakland Education Association leadership voted (8-6) this month against the tax extension. In fact, it voted to oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s entire budget proposal, even though the governor is seeking to keep k-12 education funding relatively flat at the expense of social services, higher education and other state programs.

The anti-tax extension stance is not union policy yet, says union President Betty Olson-Jones. At a meeting on Monday, union representatives from each school will approve or overturn the executive board’s recommendation. (Olson-Jones told the Oakland school board last week that she did not support it. “I’m going to be really transparent. I voted against it,” she said.)

Here is the motion in question:

NBI # 2: I move that consistent with the position taken by the March 2nd coalition statewide—and OEA’s position taken unanimously by the Executive Board on February 2—the OEA opposes Jerry Brown’s proposed budget and regressive tax extensions. Brown’s proposal pits different social services and different parts of the education community against one another, and even were the regressive tax extensions to pass, there would still be $12.5 billion in cuts. We call instead for taking the revenues necessary to provide full social and educational services from corporate and bank profits, and from taxes on millionaires and billionaires, and that this is the message the OEA brings to Sacramento on March 2. (Mandel/Gordon)

MOTION PASSES 8-6. (In Favor: Neat, Airgood, Kappner, R. Brown, Mandel, Gordon, De Leeuw, K. Brown. Opposed: Olson-Jones, Lopez, Thomas, Green, Swensen, Apaydin. Members Not Present: Elmore. Not present for vote: Ellis)

Do you know how your school’s union rep will vote? What’s your take on the OEA executive board’s recommendation?

Katy Murphy

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

  • http://www.eastbayconservative.com The Boss

    Again –

    California is in competition with other states. Tax the rich, lose the rich, goodbye California.

    Silly short sighted liberals.

  • Fuzzyone

    First off, reality does not support The Boss’s silly position (https://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/06/research_desk_reports_do_milli.html)

    That being said this would be a stupid move by the OEA. I agree that the taxes are regressive and in an ideal world they are not what I would choose but in the reality of the political situation in California and the rules for passing taxes it is either extend these taxes or no revenue increase which means even more cuts to schools. As a parent of two kids in Oakland Public School that is something I would not want to see.

  • Max Allstadt

    OEA is making the perfect the enemy of the good for the third time in three years.

    Teachers deserve raises, schools deserve funding increases. In 2008, 2010, and 2011, OEA’s board has advocated against creating tax revenues that would directly benefit their rank and file members. When are the average classroom teachers going to push back and say “enough”!

    If they oppose this tax extension, I will have absolutely no sympathy fo them the next time they have to do layoffs.

  • livegreen

    Beyond the State politics, and the continuous tax vs. no tax discussion that all conversations here recently devolve to (I understand why, & appreciate both sides, so no need to re-explain to me), I would hope there will be some realistic discussion of what can be done right here in Oakland, and what the OEA can ACTUALLY DO about.

    Why isn’t the OEA mobilizing to save teachers by demanding Central HQ reduce it’s operations costs to a % that’s in line with State requirements and that keeps enough teachers to have effective teaching?

    I guess the OEA will continue yelling at Gov. Brown and Chief Batts, while Tony Smith calls for decimating site budgets and laying off teachers? Ya think you might want to say something about that?

  • J.R.


    They’re working on it, along with social justice and other vague and ambiguous targets. These people aren’t very good at dealing with well defined and measurable goals. They just love quixotic quests, and they know best.

  • Hills Parent

    OEA would be foolish to come out against the tax hikes. I mean, really?! What are you thinking? Are any of the voting members looking at the reality of the situation rather than trying to take a philosophical stance that they would rather have the rich pay?

    Guess what? The rich won’t pay (unless there is some new proposal that I’m not aware of) and by being against the tax ententions, maybe it won’t pass and then there will be NO money for schools. For crying out loud, can someone at OEA be practical and realistic about this situation?!

    And why would the teacher members not want to support something that will have a direct positive impact (in the form of preventing a disaster with more drastic cuts and larger class sizes)?

    People, we live in the real world not some liberal utopia.

  • http://www.eastbayconservative.com The Boss

    Fuzzy –

    The notion that people don’t react to taxes is just silly. Yes, across 3 or 5 year periods in the studies you cite, there’s no big difference. That’s because people don’t want to uproot their lives on that type of timescale.

    The damage takes longer to see and is more longlasting than that. It’s when people get it into their mind that a place is a high tax locale. So, if someone was considering taking a job in Seattle or SF, all things being equal, they might select Seattle because of the income tax climate.

    The real problem is that, once people get this notion about a place, it takes years and years for it to reverse. Sadly, it’s almost certainly too late for California.

    Here’s a study to compete with yours: http://www.texaspolicy.com/pdf/2010-10-CompetitiveStatesTXvsCA.pdf

    The other thing about the soak the rich mentality is that it makes the set of people who pay taxes so narrow that when that group catches a cold, the state catches pneumonia. And, when they do well, the state runs out and ramps up spending unsustainably.

    California needs a broader tax base so it can budget in a more rational an future-proof manner. And, that means taxing the middle class, not just the wealthy.

  • Gordon Danning

    Can someone from the OEA explain how income and car taxes are “regressive”? My understanding is that they are progressive, esp. in California.

  • Jim Mordecai


    “To help plug the budget hole, Brown proposed $12.5 billion in spending cuts and an extension on vehicle, sales and income taxes. The five-year tax extension would generate $12 billion under Brown’s plan.”

    You left off the regressive sales tax.

    The deal the business community is talking about in support of the tax extension would be a cap on future spending.

    But, your point is well made that of the three type of taxes that will be extended if sent to the voters and the voters pass that extension, sales is the only clearly regressive tax.

    Income tax is progressive. The car tax is hard to categorize. Car tax is also regressive in the sense that everyone pays the same tax based on the price of the car but that the rich could afford a more extensive car is true. But, because the rich have the capacity to buy an expensive car doesn’t mean that they will. And, with financing available to a range of incomes, it is not clear to me how to classify the car tax extension.

    I think it is fair to say that the three taxes being proposed for extension taken as a package is a mix of progressive and regressive taxes.

    This is my personal view and not representative of OEA or its Executive Board majority.

    Jim Mordecai
    Substitute Teacher
    Representative OEA Rep Council

  • Gordon Danning


    Thanks for the clarification. The sales tax is regresssive (though not as much as in many states, where food is taxed), but perhaps not terribly so at the bottom, since low income people probably pay a high percent of their income on items (food, housing, public transporation) that are not subject to sales tax.

    Re: the car tax, that is almost certainly progressive (which is why Repubicans were so eager to cut it a few years back).

    But, overall, how progressive/regressive it the tax extension? Does anyone knos how much is collected from each extension?

  • Jim Mordecai


    I took this off the internet:

    “Tax proposals
    Gov. Jerry Brown wants to extend for five years temporary tax increases that were part of the February 2009 budget deal. Two of those expired Jan. 1 and the other two would expire July 1. Brown also wants to change how corporations calculate the taxes they owe in the state and eliminate tax benefits in designated enterprise zones. The tax extensions include:

    Income: A 0.25 percent surcharge on each personal income tax rate, which would generate $3.2 billion in the next 18 months.

    Dependents: A reduction in the tax credit for dependents from $227 to $99, for $1.9 billion over 18 months.

    Sales tax: A 1 percentage point increase in the state sales tax – from 5 to 6 percent, bringing in $4.5 billion over 12 months.

    Licenses: An increase in vehicle license fees from 0.65 percent of a car’s value to 1.15 percent, bringing in $1.3 billion over 12 months.

    The above 5 listed taxes would bring in about $10.9 billion. About 41% of the tax extensions would be in a regressive sales tax that is the largest part of the extension. And, the reduction in tax credit for dependents is not progressive either. Nor is the surcharge on income tax rates.”

    I understand why some feeling they are taxed, while corporations and the individual rich don’t pay their fair share, see any regressive taxes as just plain wrong. And, in the current climate they may anticipate that food will be the next thing that is California taxes.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Oakland USD teacher

    The OEA represents teachers in name only. The Executive Board is comprised of a group of teachers with extreme views and many of us feel that they are pushing their political agenda at our expense. The OEA is not the powerhouse it thinks it is, just look at the poor turnout for the last strike vote. How we got to this place, where teachers who are radical and cynical represent Oakland teachers, is a mystery to me. If they do not support the tax extension and we remain the worst-paid teachers in the Bay Area, then they only have themselves to blame when they lose our support altogether.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Agree or disagree at least we can know see where people stand. Interesting that a motion about a March 2nd position is only being taken up by the membership AFTER March 2nd.

    Was that by design or . . . ?

    For those weeping and gnashing teeth, I thought OEA was a democratic organization. This ain’t Libya. Or is it?

  • Katy Murphy

    UPDATE: Betty Olson-Jones, the Oakland teachers union president, said the OEA executive board’s anti-tax extension position has since been revised to a more neutral stance. And as I’ve noted, the union’s official position will depend on how the representative council votes this evening.

  • Katy Murphy

    The Oakland Education Association’s representative council didn’t come out strongly one way or the other on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to close $12 billion of the state’s deficit through an extension of temporary sales, vehicle and income taxes. The council voted last night to support the following substitute motion by the union’s executive board (which was revised from an initial, anti-tax stance):

    “I move that the basic themes for the OEA’s mobilization to Sacramento be: (1) opposition to cuts in education, pre-K to college, and in social services, (2) the need for progressive means of taxation to fully fund education and social services.”

    The council also voted in favor of this motion:

    “I move that OEA Rep Council:
    1. States that all current budget proposals are inadequate
    2. Opposes the Brown budget cuts to education and social services
    3. Takes the position of “let the voters decide” on the proposed tax extensions
    4. Postpones a decision on the merits of any tax extension initiative until the April 4 Rep Council, after it is known whether or not there will be a special election and Reps have had discussions with their members.”