California voters who are weary of ballot measures asking them to approve more debt and higher taxes for education will find no respite on the November ballot.

Proposition 15 would make changes to Proposition 13 that would raise taxes on commercial and industrial property and split the revenue between local governments and school districts.

Yet it turns out that this major tax increase would raise only a minor amount of the money that teachers’ unions say is needed to adequately fund public education.

California Teachers Association president E. Toby Boyd recently told Capitol Weekly’s John Howard in a podcast that Proposition 15 would put $4.5 billion “back into schools,” only enough to “bump us up a little bit more” in the national ranking of per-pupil spending. “If we were to truly get the funding that we need in order to truly be up in the top, we would need an additional $50 billion,” Boyd said.

The CTA has not been shy about proposing tax increases. In addition to seeking changes to Proposition 13, the CTA encouraged Gov. Gavin Newsom in a July 8 letter to “adopt additional revenues, such as suspending corporate tax credits and exemptions or imposing a tax on the wealthiest billionaires.”

A statement issued by Boyd on July 17, following the release of the governor’s guidelines on reopening schools, made the same request of state lawmakers, calling on them to return to the Capitol and “adopt additional revenues, including additional suspension of corporate tax credits and exemptions, capturing unrealized capital gains or imposing a tax on the wealthiest billionaires and millionaires.”

United Teachers Los Angeles was even more specific in a recent report titled, “The Same Storm, but Different Boats: The Safe and Equitable Conditions for Starting LAUSD in 2020-21.” The union proposed a 1 percent annual “wealth tax” on the unrealized capital gains of “billionaires” and another increase in the personal income tax rate — a 1 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million per year and 3 percent on incomes over $3 million.

The teachers’ unions are also calling on Congress to provide additional funding.

While the costs of responding to the pandemic are cited, in order to fully understand the public education establishment’s insatiable fiscal appetite, it is useful to consult state statistics on the cost of education.

The California Department of Education calculates expenditures for the “Current Expense of Education.” This includes certificated salaries, classified salaries, employee benefits, books and supplies, equipment replacement, and services/indirect costs, less the costs for non-agency activities, community services, food services, fringe benefits for retired persons and facilities acquisition/construction. The resulting number is the Current Expense of Education, or “EDP 365.”

For the Los Angeles Unified School District, the EDP 365 was $4.012 billion in 1998-99, an average cost per Average Daily Attendance (ADA) of $5,986. In 2018-2019, the EDP 365 for LAUSD was $7.213 billion, current expense per ADA, $15,919.

For Long Beach Unified, the EDP 365 was $461.7 million in 1998-99, average cost per ADA of $5,263. In 2018-19, the EDP 365 was $907.6 million, current expense per ADA of $13,154.

Santa Ana Unified’s EDP 365 jumped from $273.5 million in 1998-99 ($5,058 per ADA) to $625 million in 2018-19 ($13,911 per ADA).

The list goes on, with similar cost increases in school districts throughout the state. It’s no wonder taxpayers are exhausted. They’re paying quite enough.


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