On Tuesday, Los Angeles voters will decide on a new parcel tax expected to raise revenue for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Measure EE, on the June 4 ballot, has the support of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, School Board members Jackie Goldberg and Mónica García, and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the union representing LAUSD teachers. It is largely opposed by large corporations and big property owners –although some individual property owners oppose it as well.
The measure would require all property owners within district boundaries to pay an additional yearly tax of 16 cents per square foot of property, for the next 12 years. Property owners over 65 would be exempted. It is expected to raise an estimated $500 million for the school district. The new revenue would be used to support all LAUSD schools, including charter schools. The amount distributed to schools would be determined by their average daily attendance.
Supporters say the money would go towards lowering class sizes, providing the necessary services needed by student –such as nurses, counselors or librarians– and overall improvement of schools. Improving the quality of education was one of the major reasons why LAUSD teachers went on strike earlier this year.
“The strike victories back in January require someone to pay for them and if we don’t have a funding source to pay for them, then I wonder if those victories were actual victories, instead of empty promises”, said Raphael Rodríguez, an English teacher at Francisco Bravo High School who supports Measure EE.
Not all teachers at the Boyle Heights school agree.
“This is not a tax on just the property owners,” said Brandon Nakama, a social studies teacher and the UTLA chapter chair at Bravo., who opposes the measure. “The property owners, if they have to pay $1,500 more on property tax, they are going to pass that on onto their renters, and so we are going to see a rent increase in Los Angeles and there is no protection for the low-income families and no protection for the elderly,”
“Measure EE is a massive property tax that will negatively impact homeowners, renters and small business owners,” said Matt Klink, campaign spokesperson for the No on Measure EE campaign. “This tax hike was rushed onto the June 4th ballot and provides no guarantee that our children or classrooms will see more funding. Instead, our hard-earned tax dollars will likely go toward funding more LAUSD bureaucrats.”
Opponents of Measure EE argue that LAUSD already spends more than a estimated $7.5 billion a year, and this tax will lead to an increase in annual expenses for supermarkets, offices, warehouses, and all sorts of businesses, increasing the cost of living in Los Angeles.
But UTLA claims that big corporations oppose Measure EE because they don’t want to pay their “fair share”.
“Corporate interest is spreading lies,” the union said in a Twitter post. “The truth is that the No on EE campaign is led by those who simply don’t want to pay their fair share to support our kids. “It’s time to fund the schools our kids deserve and vote #YesOnEE”.
Nakama, the social studies teacher at Bravo said he opposes Measure EE because of its possible outcome on the community. He said Measure EE represents a loss for teachers, since a portion of the revenue will go towards charter schools, something teachers fought against during the January strike. He also said that whether the measure passes or not, it represents a win for LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner.
“If this thing passes, [Beutner] is going to get over $500 million for the schools, but 20 percent of that is going to go to the charter schools. He was brought in to destroy public education and if it loses, he still wins, because now he can cry poverty. The district has no money, so we won’t reduce the class sizes, we won’t hire librarians, we won’t hire nurses because he’s going to say we have no money. So he wins either way, he is either going to destroy public education, crying that there is poverty or he’s going to destroy public education by pumping hundreds and millions of dollars into the charter schools to develop more charter schools”
According to a statement on the Yes on Measure EE campaign website, the additional funding will help LAUSD students obtain “the quality education they’ll need for college and a career in a competitive economy.” Rodríguez, the Bravo English teacher, said he supports Measure E because of the impact it could have in the future.
“We have more taxes in this state maybe than any other state,” said Rodríguez, “but we also have a lot more services for our people here in this state, and those services don’t come for free. People have to make a decision: [am I] willing to tighten my belt a little bit in order to have a better educated population going forward. Not tomorrow but in the next 20 years.
“If we have a more educated population and if we have a population… that is convinced that education can change their lives, if they go to college, if they get degrees, if they start careers as opposed to just having jobs, then we’re creating a population that not only is better educated, but also is better employed,” Rodríguez added. “If they have better jobs going forward, then that means that there is going to be more income tax that the state is going to collect from them going forward, so these are the types of things we have we really have to think about.”