California Teachers: Textbooks, Not Tax Breaks

Image: Courtesy <a href=""></a>

“We are not here to lobby. We’re here to raise some hell,” Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, told The Sacramento Bee this morning, as California Highway Patrol officers arrested 65 protesters in Sacramento today. Olson was there along with about 1,000 teachers, parents, and students to urge California lawmakers to pass a tax extension to avoid deeper cuts to education budgets around the state. California, which educates one in eight public school children in America, is staring down a $28 billion budgetary hole.

The protest in Sacramento—along with hundreds of other protests throughout the Golden State—was organized by the California Teachers Association as part of a weeklong “State of Emergency” campaign to stave off a third round of cuts to California’s schools. Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, argued earlier this year that there’s no more meat on the bone. According to the non-partisan Legislative Analysts Office, per-student spending for California schools has dropped by 6.6 percent, or about $540 per student, over the past three years. California ranks close to the bottom when it comes to funding per student. Many of the state’s school districts have already cut teaching materials, increased class size, and cut teachers, nurses, counselors, and psychologists. Some teachers buy supplies with their own money, share tips for donation websites, and clip coupons together in staff rooms.

In San Francisco, more than 100 teachers marched by City Hall, chanting “close tax loopholes, not schools,” and “textbooks, not taxbreaks.” The San Francisco Unified School District sent out preliminary pink slips to 400 teachers, and other staff, including Steven Hankle, the choir director at Mission High. “We’ve made great progress in the last few years,” Mission High principal Eric Guthertz told me earlier this year. “I worry what the cuts will do to that.”

What will it take to stave off these cuts? California Teachers Association says that first, state legislators should extend some existing taxes immediately. And after that, Jerry Brown will continue to push legislators to agree to a special election that will ask voters for an additional tax hike on their purchases, cars, and income. A CBS poll in March found that the majority of Californians support a special election to let voters decide whether to extend tax increases to help close California’s massive budget deficit.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.