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Patch Poll: Will You Support One Or Both State School Tax Initiatives In November?

State schools superintendent Tom Torlakson spoke in Pleasant Hill on Tuesday in support of both initiatives.

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson was in Pleasant Hill Tuesday, speaking to a group of credit union workers, and explaining his support for two ballot initiatives in November that would, he said, return the tax rate to that of ten years ago and provide more money for primary and higher education in California.

Torlakson, who began his career as a teacher and track coach (including a stint at Pleasant Hill High), and went on to be an Antioch City Council member, county supervisor, state assemblyman and state senator before being elected two years ago to his current position, told the crowd that “it’s my job to keep a child’s natural curiosity alive, to have young people think about their future and then aim toward it.”

Calling himself an optimist, Torlakson said that despite the 25 percent cut to education California has seen over the past four years (ten percent more, he noted, than school budgets were cut at the height of the Great Depression), he said most of the 6 million school kids in California remain eager to learn, and the teachers eager to teach.

He said that career technical education, such as training in carpentry, plumbing and other skills, has begun to play a larger role in schools throughout the state.

“While we want every one of our children to go to college, we know the new economy demands higher levels of education all the way around,” Torlakson said. “When does your plumbing usually break down? Mine usually does on Saturday or Sunday. And I know they make a good living. This is one example of career technical education.”:

He said the schools continue to promote healthy eating and exercise to address the rising crisis of diabetes and obesity, and the dropout rate is beginning to turn around.

“But the schools are saying ‘we need help,’” Torlakson said. “So we as voters need to decide whether we want to invest more taxes in our schools in November.”

There will be two measures on the ballot in November. One, Measure 30, would raise taxes on those making $250,000 or more per year, for seven years. That measure is estimated to bring in up to $7.6 billion per year in revenue. The other initiative, Measure 38, would increase taxes on all those making at least $7,316 per year. The amount would grow depending on the annual salary of the taxpayer. That initiative would be in place for 12 years, and is estimated to raise $10 billion to $12 billion a year for 12 years, divided among K-12 and early childhood education.

“If these initiatives fail, we’re on deck to cut another ten percent,” he said. “That would be truly disasterous. The system is already strained to the limit.”

Torlakson pointed out that 35,000 teachers and 30,000 non-teaching personnel have been laid off in the past few years, increasing class size. But he said schools are doing all they can to save money, from joint purchasing agreements to turning off computers after 15 minutes of non-use.

He acknowledged that there was a lot of skepticism about the way the state handles its money.

“There is a lot of mistrust out there,” Torlakson said, “but I think there is also the realization that further cuts will not be to fat, but to the bone.”

Will you vote for one or both of the school tax initiatives in November? Tell us in the comments.  

Anne Mobley July 28, 2012 at 04:04 AM
Well said, Cindy. I couldn't agree with you more.
Anne Mobley July 28, 2012 at 04:09 AM
And those horrible people who make over $250,000 a year probably work hard for their money and some if not most, employ people. They should all be punished. The wage earners under $250,000 a year down to zero most likely employ ALL the other people, right?.
Anne Mobley July 28, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Why are the schools hurting so much? Didn't we vote on the lottery to help the schools? If they are not helping that much, maybe we should vote again and eliminate the lottery completely. Or, maybe we should require more money being given to the state than is being given now. Us folks who pay taxes, the 52%, have all the burden while the other 48% pay nothing. Does not sound fair to me. Voting for something that costs taxpayer dollars to those who own property by someone who does not own property and thereby does not pay the taxes for bonds, tax initiatives, etc., is also unfair. We need to get rid of these politicians who want to tax us to death. This is not the answer. They need to reel in the spending and practice good fiscal responsibility. Blame some of this on the liberals who are demanding that textbooks be changed at a huge cost to schools. It is time for us to say no -- Hell No!
Old Monnkey July 28, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Torkelson is a political hack, and was one of my sister's teachers. Since the late 60's when I started high school, teachers have been more interested in union activity than actually teaching. Part of this legitimate due to having their hands tied controlling discipline in the classroom, the other inflating their numbers, resulting in lower income. New teachers in general are less able than their predecessors, and are more likely to enforce their political and social sensibilities on their students. Unlike other professions, teaching hasn't benefited from technology. Presently the US still manufactures 80% of it own products, but now does so with 15% of the workers it used to; many like CNC machinists, earn considerably more money, as do some high school students learning IT skills. Just like doctors use nurse practitioners, and technologists to leverage their skills, the same needs to be done with teachers. When growing up overseas, Ling had 40 other students in her classroom. Using computer instruction, there is no reason a single teacher can't have 120 students with a couple trained certified assistants. Our military has successfully used this approach for its technical schools since the mid 1970's; graduates from its Nuclear Training programs are so successful legal obstacles were put in place to prevent them from competing with collage graduates
Anne Mobley July 29, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Teachers need to teach -- not indoctrinate their students politically. Nuns taught me for eight years -- one nun with 49 to 50 students throughout those eight years and we got a good education. Public school for me had good teachers and awful teachers. Some inspired us and some bored us. Frankly, they could not pay me enough to to teach some of the rude and unruly kids today who apparently do not have a good family upbringing and not only do not respect their elders but do not respect the system or others. We keep paying more for education and seemingly get nothing in return as our test scores prove. It is apparent by the poll that this tax initiate would not pass in Martinez. People are tired of being taxed for this or for anything especially by these lawmakers who seem to think they were elected to pass stupid laws and taxes. Don't you just hate career politicians? If some of these folks had to go out and work for a living without a guaranteed paycheck, they most likely would fail.

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