Over the past few decades, we have watched California’s education system crumble; our basic services, counselors, and teachers have experienced significant cuts and our music, art, and STEM classes have gradually vanished. Over the past few months, we have watched our communities struggle in wake of Covid-19; our neighbors’ businesses have closed their doors indefinitely and our healthcare services have staggered under the strain of the never-ending stream of cases. And despite the massive strides the Black Lives Matter movement has made in fighting for social justice for all, social and racial disparities continue to harm our BIPOC populations, increasing their susceptibility to discrimination, violence, and even Covid-19. In an increasingly chaotic world, it seems that control is spiraling out of our hands; however, not all hope is lost. This November, Californian voters will have the opportunity to spur the lengthy recovery process from our current situation and to lay the foundations for a brighter, more equitable tomorrow by voting yes on Proposition 15.
Proposition 15, also known as Schools and Communities First, seeks to reclaim up to $11.5 billion, as estimated by California’s Legislative Analyst Office, for those who are most in need. As a split-roll tax, Proposition 15 would require reassessing commercial and industrial property every three years at market value, while preserving Proposition 13’s protections by exempting all residential and agricultural lands as well as corporations worth less than $3 million from these reassessments. In other words, the top 10% largest corporations like Chevron, IBM, and Disney, who currently own massive tracts of land yet still pay property taxes based on assessments from the 1960s, would finally pay their fair share of taxes, relieving struggling businesses and homeowners of the tax burdens they have shouldered for decades.
40% of the reclaimed $11.5 billion would go to a statewide K-12 education and community college fund, to be distributed according to Local Control Funding Formulas that promote equity by allocating more funding for schools with low-income, foster care and English language learner students. San Jose Unified School District alone would receive $20 million from the tax increases and per-pupil spending would increase by as much as $689, effectively reducing class sizes, raising teacher wages, increasing mental and physical health resources, and so much more. The most diverse districts within our state–Fresno Unified, Elk Grove Unified, San Diego Unified, etc.–would receive even more in order to close existing funding gaps and empower BIPOC communities. Only through passing Proposition 15 can we even begin to repair our broken education system, create a California that places all of our students on a level playing field, and provide equal opportunities to anyone who seeks them.
Meanwhile, the remaining 60% of the reclaimed $11.5 billion would return to our local communities and services. The county of Santa Clara would receive $269 million that would fund our most essential services: fire department, hospitals, the municipal water system, public infrastructure, etc. I strongly believe that raising local living standards is a crucial step in the fight for social and racial equality.
Furthermore, it is crucial to consider Proposition 15’s ability to help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does the ballot measure preserve existing tax protections for corporations worth less than $3 million and businesses that are operated within homes, it also eliminates the business personal property tax on their capital and resources, further alleviating the financial stress Covid-19 has overwhelmed them with.
Because of Proposition 15’s potential to build a future in which everyone’s interests are justly represented, I work with a dedicated and passionate team to organize and mobilize youth like me around the ballot initiative. People often overlook the impact of youth civic engagement and underestimate how much a difference it makes in the adult-dominated political realm, but if there is one thing I have learned from my experiences over the past year, it is that students really do enact change. We can and do sway the opinions of voters through fervent demonstrations and simple conversations.
The call for racial, social, and economic equity has never rung more clear, and we must answer it now. Harker, I urge you to join me in supporting Proposition 15 this November.