Education Advocates Press for Federal Help as CA Projects Huge Deficit

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
California spent about $57 billion on K-12 schools and community colleges last year but now could be forced to cut $18 billion. Photo Credit: Pixabay

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Education advocates are calling on the feds to step in and prevent huge cuts to K-12 schools and community colleges – as the state projects a $54 billion budget deficit.

The coronavirus has forced the state to spend more even as tax revenues are falling. Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, worries that schools could be faced with $18 billion in cuts.

“There is no way that we could provide the safety of the students returning,” says Freitas. “The cleaning supplies, the personal protective equipment, the social-distancing space that is going to be needed. ”

The union is calling on Congress to include $1 trillion for states, cities, counties, schools and colleges in the next coronavirus stimulus bill. However, direct aid to states has generated opposition among some conservatives in Congress who object to what they call a “bailout” for states.

Freitas says he hopes California voters pass the Schools and Communities First initiative this November, which will raise $12 billion a year for education and local governments by amending the tax rates for large commercial and industrial businesses.

“None of this money goes to the state,” says Freitas. “None of this money goes to the general fund at the state level. This all stays at the local level.”

The ballot initiative would require large commercial and business properties to begin paying taxes on the current market rate of their properties, instead of on the value the land held when Proposition 13 passed back in 1978.