Brown's Tax Increase Proposition in Trouble

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's measure to temporarily raise state income and sales taxes may be in trouble before the proposal even qualifies for the November ballot.

According to the latest survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), 54 percent currently favor the proposal, compared with 39 percent in opposition.

That may sound positive, but most experts believe that unless a money-related proposition has the  support of 60 percent of the voters in advance of an election, the proposition is likely to fail.

If passed, the proposition would raise about $7 billion annually for five years, with almost all the money dedicated to public education.

The irony is that most voters--81 percent--believe that public education has been hurt by state budget cuts in recent years.

And 67 percent say that the quality of education is a major concern. They're right. California currently ranks 47th among the 50 states in per student spending, according to Education Week.

And they understand the impact of the cuts. Fifty-eight percent are concerned about teacher layoffs. They should be, inasmuch as California has the highest student-to-teacher ratio in the nation.

The desperate condition of California education is producing a generation of students doomed to fail. According to the 2009 findings of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), fourth gradeCalifornia students rank 44th among the 50 states in basic math; 8th grade students rank 46th.

The data are even worse in reading, with 4th grade students ranking 47th and 8th grade students ranking dead last, 50th.

The takeaway here is both sad and profound. Voters clearly understand that public schools are in a desperate state of financial starvation, yet are anything but enthused about raising taxes to alleviate some of the distress. 

The old saying goes, "You get what you pay for." When it comes to public education, Californians are paying little and getting less.

Judging from the results of the latest PPIC poll, it remains unclear whether the voters will be willing to do anything about it.

Larry Gerston is professor of political science at San Jose State University and serves as political analyst at NBC Bay Area.

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