by KAREN LU
Although not as widely publicized as the Presidential election, the outcome of propositions on the California ballot Nov.8 are still of utmost importance, as the topics they address can greatly impact life in the state.
In the midst of the heated Presidential race, it is easy to see how voters’ attention could be fixated on that election. However, it is important that California residents are also aware of the many propositions they will decide.
Issues addressed by the propositions include: marijuana legalization, gun control, healthcare and drug prices, plastic bag usage, repealing or altering the death penalty, tobacco taxes, and perhaps most important to students, education reform.
Proposition 51 authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds for new construction and improvement of K-12 public schools, charter schools, vocational education facilities and community colleges.
Proponents of Prop.51 argue that it would help provide a safer environment for students and would rebuild some schools in dire need of renovation. Many schools and community colleges do not meet the minimum health and safety standards as a result of outdated earthquake and fire safety systems, as well as use of lead paints and pipes.
Besides architectural improvements, Prop.51 would also increase educational opportunity for all. By upgrading vocational facilities, the measure would guarantee that students are able to receive training to prepare for lucrative careers and that veterans are better equipped with the resources needed to reintegrate back into the work force after returning from duty.
Opponents contend that the proposition would take advantage of taxpayers for profit and would not benefit disadvantaged schools. The proposition is supported by businesses and politicians who would gain more from state spending. Additionally, the larger, wealthier districts would likely be the first to reap the benefits, thus acquiring the majority of funds as they have the means to fill out the necessary paperwork, as opposed to poorer districts that do not have such resources.
Another topic that deals with education, Prop. 55 would extend the temporary income tax placed on individuals who make more than $250,000 a year for an additional 12 years.
The proposition would decrease the number of teacher layoffs, thus aiding in the restoration of jobs in education and addressing the problem of teacher shortages. Due to the additional funding that Prop.55 would bring, schools would not only be able to hire more teachers but also bring back art and music programs that were cut during the recession.
Along with an improvement in the variety of classes, class sizes would be reduced. One important aspect of proposition is that it only taxes those who are well off and can afford it the most; residents of California who make less than $250,000 annually are not required to pay the increase in income tax and so would not experience any changes. To ensure that the money goes strictly to schools, the proposition dictates that school districts post their spendings online for the public to see, and that there be mandatory audits.
Critics argue that the proposition would break the promise made five years ago that the increased income tax would only be temporary. Residents agreed on Prop. 30 in 2012 because they were under the impression that it was provisional and would eventually end. However, if the proposition is passed, wealthy California residents would be forced to pay the extra tax for 12 more years. Opponents state that California does not need the funds that would be generated by the proposition because the economy has recovered and the budget has balanced.
Proposition 58 is the last to address issues in education and deals with English proficiency and multilingual schooling.
Rather than using only English to teach non-native speakers of this language, Prop. 58 would allow public schools to choose the way they teach the language to learners, whether that be with the conventional method or with bilingual programs. Supporters believe this would ensure that students reach English proficiency as soon as possible and would decrease the number of students who are not being taught effectively.
Not all residents view the proposition as beneficial to English learners. Opponents argue that the measure is deceptive and would nullify the requirement that children be taught English in California public schools. Passed in 1998, Prop. 227 an “English for the Children” initiative is supported by many California parents, including those from immigrant and non-immigrant backgrounds, who believe that teaching English only in schools is the most practical way for students to learn the language.
The November election is not only the time for voters to make decisions about the country’s future leader but also a time when California residents can decide on the various propositions.