Ezra Klein had a great piece in the Washington Post earlier this week, exploring why teachers are being fired. Here’s what he found out: Voters support schools. Voters want schools to be adequately funded. And voters would rather increase taxes than decrease school funding.
Wait, so why are teachers being fired? Oh. Politicians just aren’t listening.
So what’s a voter to do? Turns out, in 2012, voters are taking matters into their own hands and looking to direct citizen action to solve the education budget crisis that has hit every state across the nation. In fact, of the states that have the citizen initiative process, more than 25% are using the process to do what their leaders will not – find ways to adequately fund their schools.
These states range as diverse as Missouri to North Dakota to Nevada. And while the states have different and diverse plans for how to raise revenue (ideas range from taxing corporate income to sales to cigarettes), they share the same plan on how to use those raised funds: put money back into our schools.
Here in Oregon, we definitely fit the mold. Look around locally and you’ll see that our counties provided the clear message in May that we support schools. At the state level, parents, teachers, and advocates have united to begin finding solutions, beginning with qualifying the Corporate Kicker for K-12 initiative for the November ballot. (Haven’t signed yet? What are you waiting for?? Click here!)
So are politicians listening to Oregonians? It was just three years ago that Oregon legislators responded to voters by providing funds for schools and basic services through tax increases on corporations and rich households, with the bills that became Measures 66 & 67. But now, with Republicans sharing equal power in the Oregon House, we’re seeing school funding flatline, even while tax breaks soar.
There may be reason to be optimistic still, with Gov. Kitzhaber speaking recently about the need to reform Oregon’s revenue system. (Details on what that could look like, however, are still unknown.)
In California, too, politicians took note when voters spoke up. When citizen activists began circulating ideas for education funding measures, Governor Brown and top leaders met with the groups and individuals to determine a shared plan to place on the ballot.
Here’s the bottom line: Students deserve a good education. And parents, teachers, advocates, business leaders, and other voters agree: we want our leaders to fund our schools. Now that states are showing that, if need be, they’re ready to work around politicians, perhaps politicians will now start working with voters.
Arizona: Working to increase sales tax by 1 cent per dollar. Revenue would go directly to education funds.
California: There are two qualified measures in California. One would increase sales and upper-income tax and send revenue directly to K-12 school fund. The other would raise income taxes on a sliding scale and send revenue to schools and early childhood programs.
Missouri: Working to place an additional tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Would generate between $283 and $423 million annually, which would go directly to school funds. (Not yet qualified)
Nevada: Working to increase corporate tax rate by 2% on businesses that make more than $1 million a year. All revenue would go to K-12 education.
Oregon: Working to repeal corporate kicker tax break. Generated funds would go to K-12 education.
South Dakota: Working to increase sales tax. Revenue would go to K-12 education and Medicaid funding.