On May 11, in front of Sacramento’s California Middle School, leaders and members of unions and community groups stood before a large group of reporters and announced that the coalition they belonged to had just turned in more than a million signatures to place the “California Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act” (now Proposition 55) on the November state ballot.

CFT Vice President Joanne Waddell said, “During the recession colleges and universities cut classes, laid off faculty and staff, and increased tuition and fees, pricing higher education out of the reach of many working families. We don’t want to go back to class cuts and skyrocketing tuition rates. Our children, our public schools and our community colleges cannot afford tax cuts on the wealthy.” Waddell is also president of the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, AFT Local 1521.   

This measure, now Prop 55, proposes to extend Proposition 30. Prop 30 has been a game changer for public education in California. The new ballot measure will ask to extend the top bracket income taxes for the wealthiest 2 percent of Californians, and drop the modest sales tax that had been part of the original Prop 30. The revenue will help ensure that California continues to move forward toward funding education for all students from preschool through university.

Prop 30, a temporary tax passed by California’s voters in 2012 by a 55–45 margin, saved the state’s public sector by pumping $7–8 billion per year into state coffers from two sources. About a billion dollars comes in from a one-quarter of 1 percent increase in the sales tax, and the other $6 billion or so originates in three tiers of 1, 2, and 3 percent bumps on taxpayers making $250,000, $300,000 and $500,000 per year. 

Thus Prop 30 is a mostly progressive tax, with the regressive portion—the sales tax—expiring at the end of this year. The final year of the tax on the wealthy will be 2018, unless it is extended.

“We cannot afford to let Prop 30 expire,” says CFT President Joshua Pechthalt. “Thanks to Prop 30, we have only just begun to restore the programs and positions lost to the Great Recession. Without this tax, which asks millionaires to pay a little more in taxes so that all of us can benefit, public education will return to the devastating years of budget cuts, layoffs, and skyrocketing class sizes and tuition increases.”

Proposition 55 will extend the tax on the wealthy for 12 years. You can help by contacting your local to find out how to help register voters, make presentations to community groups, and get resolutions of support passed by your school or college governing board. 

CFT is partnering with the CTA, SEIU, and other unions to pass the extension.