Patterico's Pontifications


More on the Welcome Failure of “Let’s Raise Taxes for the Children”

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:02 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Three years ago this very week I chronicled the failure of the Los Angeles Unified School District to persuade its voters to pass a $500 million parcel tax measure designed to amp up funding for the district, which became a necessity when the district leadership foolishly caved to the striking teachers’ union and agreed to increases in wages and personnel despite not having the funding to back it. I suggested at the time that voters — even voters in decidedly left-leaning locales such as Los Angeles — were beginning to sour on the evergreen public employee union claim that more money is the answer to all community woes, and that perhaps this spirit would permeate throughout the state. Indeed, in fall 2020 as Joe Biden cruised to a massive victory in the Golden State, California voters rejected attempts to raise taxes on commercial properties even though the promise was that the lion’s share of the money would go to the schools.

On Tuesday, voters in the very tony and exclusive hamlet of Manhattan Beach (median home price: $3 million) went to the polls to determine if they would impose an annual $1,095 parcel tax on each home in order to raise an estimated $12 million per year for K-12 schools to plug a hole stemming from what proponents have deemed as underfunding from Sacramento (former Governor Jerry Brown pushed for a change in the state funding formula which now sends more money to needy school districts at the expense of well-off districts like Manhattan Beach). The clever, highly-educated, and dialed-in supporters of the tax increase pulled a controversial trick by having the parcel tax be proposed by local citizens rather than by the district, thereby routing the funds through the City of Manhattan Beach rather than the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. This difference allowed for the proposal to be passed with a bare majority of voters rather than by the state constitution-required two-thirds majority. This also had the benefit, supporters argued, of ensuring strict taxpayer oversight of the funds since MBUSD, which serves 6,500 students at eight public schools, would not control how this extra money was apportioned. The measure, which would be in place for twelve years before sunsetting, also included an automatic process for increasing the parcel tax to account for inflation (with a five percent annual cap on the increase) which naturally did not sit well in the current political climate.

Opponents of the parcel tax pointed out that the district, despite receiving from the state approximately $2,000 less per student than the mean, continues to maintains high ratings for the quality of education offered, and generally ranks somewhere in the top 5% to 7% of all California districts. Teachers still prize a job in the district, even though living in the community is all but unaffordable on a teaching salary, and open positions tend to attract a number of highly-qualified candidates. Opponents also point out that enrollment in the district has been slowly declining, mostly due to young families being priced out of homes in the district and very wealthy families choosing to send their children to fancy private schools. They questioned whether dumping $12 million more per year, especially without any detailed plans for how it was to be spent, was a particularly wise idea, and they resented the fact that proponents tried an end-run around the supermajority requirement. Debates were held, letters to the editor were exchanged in local media, allegations of dirty campaigning were hurled, but in the run-up to the vote the public consensus seemed to be that the wealthy residents of Manhattan Beach would open up their pocketbooks and give the schools all the money they could possibly desire.

Instead, the initiative failed miserably, by what may turn out to be a 70% to 30% margin by the time all votes are counted.

Clearly there was a quiet but pervasive groundswell against this idea, even if proponents were successful in steering the narrative as it appeared in the media. (At this point it should be mentioned that MBUSD and, more importantly, the teachers’ union were strong supporters of the parcel tax.) This is an unmistakable demonstration of Richard Nixon’s evocation of a “silent majority.” Needless to say, the local progressive chattering classes are stunned at the total repudiation of their plan. The opponents of the tax are relieved and thus far extending olive branches to the tax’s supporters, recognizing that residents need to do more to beef up district funding and proposing that both sides meet to hammer out a solution that all sides can accept. Manhattan Beach voters aren’t necessarily against more funding for the schools, but they won’t accept vague plans backed by clever tricks as the means of enacting it. (And don’t worry about the MBUSD being threadbare and broke this fall; they are backed by a parent-run educational foundation which just raised $1.3 million for the schools at their annual wine auction.)

Despite the current mania in Washington DC and Sacramento for throwing taxpayer money around like an NBA team at a strip club, Tuesday’s vote along with the aforementioned LAUSD vote in 2019 and citizens in several other school districts who have pointedly refused to raise taxes to increase district budgets suggests that at least at a local level there are Californians — even those who vote Democrat — who don’t like writing blank checks when it is clearly their own money behind it. Maybe someday the good citizens of this great state will extrapolate their local wisdom onto a larger scale. November might be a good time to try that out.


12 Responses to “More on the Welcome Failure of “Let’s Raise Taxes for the Children””

  1. I know this is nowhere near as satisfying as arguing about Trump, Pelosi, and January 6, but local events and trends are now far more interesting to me than anything going on in Washington DC.

    JVW (020d31)

  2. My first response to these issues is GTFO. But that is obviously easier said than done and selfishly I’d prefer people stop leaving CA.

    What happens when tax payers stop giving increases to public education? I know this is insane to think about but what happens when they cut funding?

    frosty (dcd693)

  3. How many Manhattan Beach kids go to public school anyway?

    Kevin M (eeb9e9)

  4. School funding like many other parts of our government is from a different era and it didn’t work all that well back then. I believe in the state of kansas they passed a law that you didn’t need a teaching certificate to be hired to baby sit class rooms as the pay was so low that their was a massive teacher shortage. Most states have education funding problems as tax breaks for the wealthy have a higher priority. Besides most of the kids in schools are illegals right?

    asset (ea05c0)

  5. Didn’t all these LA schools and kids get free IPads a few years ago? Sanctuary City is a sewer with zip codes. Abandon ship. When The Big One hits, the collapse will be complete.

    DCSCA (68679e)

  6. Things stupid Californians do:

    Police in a Colorado town are pleading with the public to “stop trying to take selfies” with a moose on the loose in the area.

    The Erie Police Department posted a short video to Facebook showing the moose that wandered into town walking down a road with a police escort.

    Police said Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are making plans to relocate the massive animal.

    “Please keep a safe distance (further than you would think is safe) if you encounter the moose,” the Facebook post said. “Please, please, please stop trying to take selfies with wildlife.”

    Kevin M (eeb9e9)

  7. School funding like many other parts of our government is from a different era

    In California, all property taxes go to the state, which then passes them through a huge bureaucracy. Any monies left unspent are sent back to the local schools systems where they pass through another large bureaucracy. Eventually the money gets to the classrooms.

    Money is sent to the poorer districts first, which follow the old maxim: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”

    Kevin M (eeb9e9)

  8. @frosty@2 “What happens when tax payers stop giving increases to public education? I know this is insane to think about but what happens when they cut funding?”

    In the 80s and 90s education requirements for teachers went up from a BA to a BA+1 or an MA. Requirements for school counselors went from BA + experience to BA+2/masters. Requirements for Administrators went from BA + experience to BA+ experience+ Admin credential/MA. Most school staff, however, had been hired in the 60s and 70s even up until the late 2010s, and a lot of people were able to get work experience credits or take classes slowly over time, which ameliorated the costs. A significantly lower percentage of school staff were hired in the late 80s/90s, at the beginning of this trend, so the consequences didn’t really start to come into effect until the mid-2000s and later. At this point is is quite expensive to get into education without much return and salaries have not really been keeping up with cost of living for 30 years, but most especially falling behind even more quickly in a number of states far more quickly in the last 5-7 years.

    Last week (I think) you had said something like it sounded like I worked in a war zone. I work in what is a solid crossover blue-collar-white collar school district, probably majority working class. We have slightly above average test scores and slightly below average discipline concerns. So, I would say that I probably work in a roughly average school district. We cannot fill open teaching positions with credentialed teachers. There just aren’t enough teachers. It costs too much and doesn’t offer enough of a salary to support a middle class (or even working class) lifestyle for a single person. I have almost 20 years in my district. I have a BA, 2 credentials, a Master’s degree + continuing education. My house is 1450 sq ft and I bought it at the dead bottom of the market 10/11 years ago. I could not buy my house today on my salary. When I started (at almost 30 yrs old) my dad had to co-sign for my 1.5 bdrm apartment because my salary wasn’t 3x what the apartment rent was. Today a new teacher cannot afford to rent a 1 bdrm apartment by themselves. They have to live at home or with a significant other.

    If funding for schools doesn’t increase or decreases, you will see an accelerating decrease in certified teachers, increased turnover in trained teachers who decide to move to other careers because no one will be able to afford to be a teacher. If my salary went down significantly, I would probably retire in a couple of yrs and go work for the data-base company that supplies schools with their technology as a trainer at roughly my current salary. I’m better at the program than most of the trainers (I do pretty heavy data analysis using a lot of the more esoteric features of the program) and am quite used to public speaking and they are always hiring (there’s a lot of travel and people get tired of it, but I could probably manage it for 10 or so years).

    If your teachers aren’t trained and your experienced teachers bail, your children/grandchildren will attend schools that don’t teacher very well in classes that are out of control and schools that are probably violent, which will lead to an increase in crime and drugs and prison costs and a reduction in trained workers and people who innovate or invent, and people who fill other rolls to support society as we currently know it.

    Nic (896fdf)

  9. How many Manhattan Beach kids go to public school anyway?

    About 72% of them, down from 90% just ten years ago. No one is quite sure the reason for this. Proponents for spending more money contend that the quality of education in Manhattan Beach is lagging, and the lower enrollment numbers are proof of that. Opponents of spending more money counter that it is just super-wealthy parents who are sending their little darlings to elite private schools like Loyola and Chadwick (and even Harvard-Westlake) so that they can hobnob with their fellow 0.1%ers.

    JVW (020d31)

  10. I should mention too that a not-insignificant number of Manhattan Beach kids are almost certainly homeschooling. During COVID, some education experts were forecasting that once schools reopened as much as 5% of the students nationally would leave the public school system and would instead remain at home and take an online curriculum offered by one of the various homeschooling groups. I would guess that number would be higher in a community like Manhattan Beach than it would in a community like, say, Cudahy.

    JVW (020d31)

  11. Notice conservatives never talk about school funding in states they run like mississippi.

    asset (e7b9f6)

  12. Nic (896fdf) — 6/9/2022 @ 5:55 pm

    If funding for schools doesn’t increase or decreases, you will see an accelerating decrease in certified teachers, increased turnover in trained teachers who decide to move to other careers because no one will be able to afford to be a teacher.

    If they reduced the education requirements, they could get a system that would be affordable. And everyone knows that teacher education makes people worse teachers and it takes four ir five year if experience for someone to slip back into natural teaching. But the whole system is geared toward maximizing union dues paid.

    Sammy Finkelman (84d1f0)

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