A sweeping tax overhaul unveiled this week by a billionaire-backed coalition of political leaders has drawn fire from the California Teachers Association, one of the most influential groups at the Capitol and on the campaign trail.
The Think Long Committee For California hopes to place initiatives on the November 2012 ballot to raise $10 billion in taxes each year, mostly by charging sales taxes on services. Half of that money would go to K-12 schools. But deep within the plan is a proposal to eliminate a constitutional requirement that California increase funding for schools in good years to compensate for prior cuts.
Education groups like CTA rely on that Proposition 98 requirement as leverage each year when negotiating school funding in the state budget.
The union's president, Dean E. Vogel, said in a statement, "The Think Long Committee Report was supposed to be a bipartisan path to rebuilding California's future, not a dangerous detour that would hurt students and the poor. Educators are alarmed by these recommendations to raise taxes on the poor, lower taxes for corporations, dismantle Proposition 98 - the state's minimum school funding law - and avoid repaying $10 billion already owed to public schools and students."
The Think Long group had engaged CTA as it crafted its proposals. In his introduction, billionaire and committee chairman Nicolas Berggruen thanked CTA lobbyist Joe Nunez and Proposition 98 author John Mockler among the many public policy experts who met with the panel.
CTA also took issue with wording in the report that appeared to make additional tax revenue for schools conditional on changes such as eliminating seniority-based tenure and rewarding effective charter school programs.
The report states, "We believe such new funding should not be automatically given to a system that is failing to educate millions of Californians. It instead should be tied to improving performance of K-12 schools, as a result of rigorous evaluation of teachers, as well as curbs on automatic teacher tenure and seniority."
Despite that language, Think Long Committee members said they do not intend to directly tie new funding to such changes in their 2012 tax initiative.