School and college funding secured, bilingual instruction returned

PART 1: STATEWIDE PROPOSITIONS

In a crowded field of 17 propositions on the statewide ballot, voters clearly saw the value of publicly funded education and passed CFT’s top priority, Proposition 55, with an impressive 24-point margin.

Prop 55 will ensure continued funding for schools and community colleges at the rate of roughly $8 billion a year by maintaining the existing income tax on the wealthiest Californians through 2030. Victory on Prop 55 was critical, and now districts and unions will be able to determine spending without the fear of layoffs, program cuts or eliminations, or student fee increases.

Proposition 55 effectively extends Proposition 30, which started as the CFT’s Millionaires Tax and which voters passed in 2012. It maintains the current income tax rates established in Prop 30 for individuals earning more than $250,000 and couples earning more than $500,000 a year, and extends them for 12 more years.

Another CFT priority was returning effective bilingual education to schools. With an impressive margin of 45 points, voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 58 to repeal 1998’s Proposition 227, which mandated English-only language education for most California students. With Prop 58 in place, parents and school districts will be able to work together to choose how best to teach English learners.

In regards to criminal justice reform, the CFT’s priorities met with uneven results. The CFT viewed Proposition 57, which will reform criminal sentencing for juveniles and non-violent offenders, as a step in the right direction toward disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. Voters agreed, passing Prop 57 by a margin of 27 percent.

On the two death penalty measures, voters passed Proposition 66, opposed by the CFT, which will speed up sentencing and appeals for death penalty cases, although a lawsuit questioning the measure’s legality has already been filed. CFT supported repealing the death penalty; however, voters chose to keep it, rejecting Proposition 62.

Other CFT-endorsed measures fared well. Proposition 59, a non-binding advisory measure that called for overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court case decision, passed. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s measure aimed at curbing gun violence, Proposition 63, passed handily and will require background checks for ammunition and ban high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Proposition 53, which CFT opposed and which would have required voter approval for large bond projects, and cost union jobs in the process, failed.

Unfortunately, Proposition 54, a deceptive measure opposed by CFT and backed solely by billionaire Charles Munger, passed. It allows legislative proceedings to be used for political and commercial gain and for special interests to unravel legislative deals at the last minute. Legislating under Prop 54 will be a challenge for groups who lobby on behalf of the public good and working people.