"What does a piece of property have to do with schools?" asks a La Crescenta letter writer on this Fourth of July. What an appropriate day for a response.
This government "of the people, by the people and for the people" requires an informed and educated electorate to survive. Although our founding fathers did not establish a federal public school system, "we the people" have recognized over the past 200 years that free public schools are essential in our democracy and that "equal rights" include equal access to education, job opportunities and housing.
We, the citizens of California, have voted for and against state constitutional amendments concerning property taxes, but the best known was Prop. 13. It established what has become the most unequal property tax measure in recent years. Those who bought their homes or businesses since Prop. 13 passed bear the burden for those of us who retained ownership of our property.
Although Prop. 13 strictly limited the revenues available for property-related government services, the courts shifted the major responsibility for financing the California public schools to the state General Fund in order to extend equal educational opportunities to all students regardless of where they live.
The courts also ruled that local voters could approve property tax measures by the two-thirds vote Prop. 13 specified. The irony was that Prop. 13 only required a majority for passage. I hope the courts will decide that majority vote is all that is required for passage of local tax measures, which will benefit all regardless of whether we choose to use those public services and facilities, such as schools, libraries, police, fire and paramedics.
To limit access to education to those who can afford to pay for it--a users tax, as he suggested--would surely result in higher taxes to build more prisons and pay more for welfare support. Good public schools are a positive investment in people and property.