California News Service
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Supporters of public education say they’re thrilled that voters passed both Propositions 55 and 58 by overwhelming margins.
Prop 55 extended a tax on the wealthy for 12 years in order to send about $8 billion to public education annually, while lowering sales taxes. Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said voters in California took a strong stand for education even as the national election trended the other direction.
“When the rest of the country is looking at tax cuts, California’s voters are saying, no, the way to fund public education is to ask the wealthy to pay a bit more,” Pechthalt said.
Prop 55 means schools won’t see a return of the massive cuts they suffered during the recession. Nonetheless, at current funding levels, California remains near the bottom of the nation in per-pupil spending and class size average.
Proposition 58 also passed, making it much easier for schools to offer bilingual education, by repealing parts of a 1998 law that mandated all children be taught in English-only classes unless their parents requested a waiver each year.
Lita Blanc, president of the United Educators of San Francisco and a bilingual teacher herself, said very few schools offer bilingual education right now, but she hopes that will soon change.
“It sends a really important message to our children, and to the parents of the children of our classrooms that their culture is valued, their language is valued, and that their children bring something to school that’s important, which is their first language,” Blanc said.
Under Proposition 58, all students will still be required to become proficient in English.