The California Teachers Association president said Friday the state's current approach to education funding is a "guarantee to keep us at awful."
"Even though everybody is talking about protecting public education, the reality is protecting public education at current levels basically is a guarantee to keep us at awful," said CTA President Dean Vogel speaking passionately about the issue Friday.
Gov. Jerry Brown's 2012 budget proposal, which was released Thursday, hinges on whether voters approve a tax increase he is trying to put on the November ballot. If not, it would cut a total of $5.2 billion in public education funds: $4.8 billion from K-12 and community colleges funding, and $200 million each from the Cal State University and University of California systems.
"It doesn't matter how you look at it, and it doesn't matter which budget you look at," Vogel said. "It underscores the very real, just dramatic affects that this loss of revenue has had, not only on public education, but all basic community infrastructure needs...That revenue has to be part of the solution. You can't balance the kind of deficits that we've been dealing with by continually cutting."
Though the CTA has not come out with a public stance on Brown's initiative to increase taxes, Vogel said he favored the governor's effort to bring more equity to the tax code by trying to temporarily raise taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year. Vogel said people need to have "reasonable, thoughtful conversations."
Over the last three years K-12 education and community colleges have lost about $18 billion in state funding because of declining tax revenues. Prop. 98 provides that roughly 40 percent of the state's general fund goes to public education and so education is often hit hard during tough economic times.
"If there was ever an indication that we have got to do something about the revenue stream in California, this budget is an exclamation point behind that sentence," Vogel said. "Think about it, California is the 8th largest economy in the world...what that means is we're not out of money. What that means is we have a tax structure that basically doesn't put the right amount of money into the general fund. We have an inequitable tax structure."
Brown is "doing the best he can with an absolutely unreal situation," Vogel said. "...Pretty soon folks are going to wake up, and part of waking them up is having people who are willing to engage and talk."
The proposed budget still needs to go through a lengthy political process that often includes many revisions and ultimately a vote before it is finalized.