Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why should CA Latinos support a tax extension?

Latino school children have a 50 percent dropout rate, which is unacceptable and a formula that will negatively impact California's economic future.
By Adrian Perez, Publisher

SACRAMENTO, CA - In 2006, then California Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante (the last Latino elected to a statewide office) with the Latino Journal conducted a series of workshops designed to root-out the issues and identify solutions to address the huge Latino public school dropout rate.  These workshops were in response to a thorough Harvard University Study, which found that unless the state made an effort to curb the Latino dropout rates, it would be facing a major economic disaster.   The result of the workshops was the introduction of legislation and adoption of policies by the California Department of Education to address the growing school dropout concern of Latinos.  Now state budget issues place these accomplishments at risk.

California’s education data shows nearly 1 of every 2 students in public schools to be Latino.  It also shows that Latinos have a 50 percent dropout rate, which is not only unacceptable, but a formula feeding the demise of the state’s future economic status.  

According to a 2009 study conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, the state needs to invest heavily into the education of Latino children or in-state companies will be forced to increase the importation of an educated workforce.  But, for some reason this stark fact has and continues to escape legislators, the Governor and even education unions because it isn’t event a point of discussion in budget negotiations.  Instead, Bustamante’s and the Latino Journal’s efforts are almost first on the budget chopping block.

During his campaign, Gov. Jerry Brown promised voters that they would have a say on tax extensions or increases.  Although many voters viewed this as a noble act, in reality, they also knew he would be running into a brick wall as did his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  That brick wall of course is the state’s dysfunctional legislature, of which many are beholden to the public employee unions that got them elected.  

To push Brown and the Democratically controlled legislature to move, the California Teacher’s Association has started running television ads that essentially tell voters to encourage their elected officials to extend taxes without voter approval.  

Is this a wise move?  It is if you look at the alternative of education facing deeper cuts and putting the state’s economic future at risk.  It is not if you recognize that the funding does not guarantee the continuance of programs and policies designed to address Latino school dropout rates.

In these tough economic times, taxpayers want to be assured that their investments will be paying off at a level where it is visible in the near future and tangible in the long term.  Latinos are nearly 40 percent of California’s taxpayers and the frustration of seeing their children failing in school will begin to wear.  To ensure Latino voter support for tax extensions, the Governor, Legislature, and the California Teacher’s Association will need to demonstrate that programs and policies designed to decrease Latino dropout rates and increase graduation rates will remain intact.

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