Teachers throughout Turlock kicked off Thursday not by being in their classrooms, but off-site as they walked to campus together equipped with signs showing their support of Proposition 55 and bond measures N & O.
“This is part of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools’ ‘Walk-In’ movement to support public education,” explained Turlock Teachers Association President Julie Shipman-Norman.
Proposition 55, also known as the California Extension of the Proposition 30 Income Tax Increase Initiative, protects students and public schools from returning to the days of massive budget cuts, educator layoffs, larger classes and tuition hikes—all without raising taxes for anyone.
Rather, it maintains the current income tax rates on the wealthiest Californians to prevent $4 billion in funding cuts to public education and other vital services, such as children’s health care.
“Even in Turlock Unified, where we had a healthy reserve built up, class size increased, some programs were either cut or parents were asked to pay for them, transportation and athletics were affected as well,” said Shipman-Norman. “We can’t afford to let our children go back to those learning conditions.”
Proposition 55 would continue the tax rates instituted by Proposition 30 through 2030. The tax increase impacts the 1.5 percent of Californians with a single income filing of over $250,000 or a joint income filing over $500,000. These funds will go to K-12 schools and California Community Colleges, as well as healthcare programs in certain years.
“We will lose $8 billion in one year to school funding it we don’t continue the taxes currently in place,” said Shipman-Norman. “So we want to ensure we keep that funding.”
Local teachers were not alone in their support of Proposition 55 as educators and parents throughout the state also held their own “Walk-In” events to ask the public to vote yes on the initiative.
“We are joining hands with our education community stakeholders on this national day of action to underscore that strong public schools create strong communities,” said California Teachers Association President Eric Heins. “Building that strength requires resources and adequate funding. So we are also talking about the urgent need to vote for Proposition 55 in November to prevent deep new cuts and a return to the widespread layoffs and cuts to programs like music and art that we endured during the recession. Our students can’t afford to go back to those dark days.”
Turlock teachers also showed their support Thursday for bond measures N & O, which are school bonds that will provide much needed safety improvements, modernization of facilities, updated and improved facilities for Science Technology Engineering Mathematics programs and renovations to the Turlock High School science wing.
“Our children deserve the best, no matter what part of town they live in,” said Shipman-Norman. “Let’s keep them safe and show them we value education by making them proud of the environment they learn in.”
THS science teacher Laura Bettencourt, who was one of the teachers who participated in the “Walk-In” event Thursday, stressed the need for an improved science wing, saying that the building is a “big concern” for all teachers.
“My room smells of gas every day because it is coming out of the taps,” said Bettencourt. “And one of our biology teachers doesn’t even have running water in their classroom.”
In addition to these concerns, Bettencourt said that the current science wing lacks a safe storage space for chemicals, which has prompted teachers to store chemicals in an old classroom where they can’t access them safely.
“Teaching advanced technology and science classes are hard to do with outdated resources,” said Bettencourt. “It’s hard to keep our students competitive.”
Measures N & O, which are a $40.8 million elementary bond measure and a $48 million district wide bond measure, were prepared after substantial research from the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees, including surveys to see if the bonds would be approved by potential voters and the development of a bond advisory committee, which deliberated on what projects should be prioritized by the bonds, if passed.
Together, the measures will generate $88.8 million in local funds plus potential millions in state matching funds. Local taxpayers will repay the bonds over the next 25 years beginning in December 2017 at a combined projected rate of no more than $58.99 per $100,000 of assessed value. The district wide bond will raise $48 million with a projected rate of no more than $29.99 per $100,000 of assessed value, and the elementary bond will raise $40.8 million with a projected rate of no more than $29 per $100,000 of assessed value.