By Louise Williams
Since the start of the semester, Pitzer students are organizing an extensive campaign to rally support for Proposition 30. The initiative, which calls for a taxes raise to support public schools and public educational support facilities, will be contested in the upcoming November elections .
In early September, tombstones were posted on dorm doors announcing the impending slow death of the California education system. The posters contained phrases such as “R.I.P. Going to College,” and “R.I.P. The American Dream.”
As leaders of the Claremont Colleges Students for Proposition 30 , Pitzer seniors Jared Calvert and Andres Peña have allotted time amongst their hectic schedules to organize campus political action in support of the proposition. Seniors Mayte Sanchez and Matt Wolf, orchestrated a phone banking campaign five days a week to inform potential voters on the details of the proposal. Calvert highlights that the Inland Empire has some of the lowest college graduation rates in the state and a very low voter turn out. The non-partisan group aims is to inform people on issues relating to Proposition 30 as well as getting them to the polls.
Proposition 30 is driving students to take action. The Proposition is a sales and income tax initiative led by Gov. Jerry Brown, Democrat of California.. The proposition is centered on accumulating funds for the fiscally jeopardized State public education system, which would raise sales tax from 7.25% to 7.5%, while also increasing the income tax of individuals earning more than $250,000. If passed, California, which already imposes the highest sales tax in the nation, will also have the highest income tax . Based on information from the California Franchise Tax Board, the additional tax will affect the top 3% of taxpayers. The Legislative Analysis Office estimates that the initiative will bring $6.8 billion in annual revenue. Because of the state’s budget issues, the Governor is planning to cut $6 billion from public schools if Proposition 30 fails.
Pitzer senior Andres Peña, a California native and Political Studies major, feels if this Proposition is not passed, “it will simply deny well-deserved students the opportunity for achieving a higher level education in the University of California and California State systems.” Furthermore, he points to the fact that California is amongst the lowest-ranked educational systems in the country. Pena himself endured the public school system and has friends who are facing increased tuition costs and class cuts at other schools. He feels motivated to garner support for Proposition 30, even though his own current education is not in jeopardy.
For Jared Calvert, a fervently political Sociology major who hails from Illinois, one of the important reasons for taking action stems from this being an opportunity to step out of the ‘bubble’ of academia. “A lot of the time we get caught up in trying to create what change should look like and get involved with these high flatulent ideas that will never exist. This is literally a question of six to nine billion dollars more for education. Are we really going to make these draconian cuts for next year? If you believe in education you should support this.”
Not everyone agrees with the strategy of this initiative, even though the State of California is tying to withstand a staggering budget deficit and public education is suffering.
“It doesn’t just tax the wealthy – it increases the cost of commerce- and has a negative impact on everyone,” argues Braden Holstege, a junior and California native majoring in Economics. “Furthermore, Proposition 30 does not address the actual problems with the public education, such as the need to abolish tenure for teachers outside Higher Education. The United States, and California in particular, get among the lowest return for investment on education spending of any Western democracy.”
For Junior Brian Winter, a Psychology major from San Jose, the emphasis lies in the lack of efficient government spending and the unequal allocation of tax revenues. He makes the comparison, “If your kid spends their lunch money every day on candy and keeps complaining they’re hungry, why would you give them more money?”
Even if not all students agree on the matter, the college environment serves as a platform for debate and mobilization. As Jared Calvert eloquently stated, “This school isn’t about what directly affects you, this school is about what kind of world you want to build.” With a substantial turnout of at least fifteen students per session, Claremont Colleges Students for Proposition 30 has combined forces with volunteers from a local retirement home to tackle the phone lines. They also have future plans for door-to-door campaigning and will be making calls down to the wire until Election Day.