California ApprovesTax Hikes for Education; Arizona Says No

Given a choice between cutting education funding and agreeing to higher taxes, California voters chose to open their wallets. On November 6th, CA residents were deciding between two competing proposals, Proposition 30 and Proposition 38, which called for tax increases in order to fund the state's struggling education system. When the votes were counted, Proposition 30 was passed with 54% of the vote, while Prop 38 was soundly defeated 72% to 28%.

By passing Proposition 30, voters said yes to to a .025% sales tax hike that will remain in place for the next four years, together with an income tax hike on people earning over $250,000 a year for the next seven years. Proposition 38 called for a broader income tax hike, starting from a .4% increase on those making more than $7,316 to 2.2% on those earning $2.5 million a year or more.

The increased revenues from Proposition 30 will result in an increase to the minimum guarantee for schools and community colleges under terms of Proposition 98, approved by voters in 1988. Revenue generated by Proposition 30 will be deposited into a newly created state account, the Education Protection Account. Of the funds in the account, 89 percent will be devoted to schools from kindergarten through 12th grade and the other 11 percent to community colleges.

Prior to the election day, the state's Legislative Analyst's Office found that Prop 30 would raise an additional $6 billion in state revenues between the years of 2012 and 2017, and then the amount collected will fall off for the final two years that the new tax regime remains in place.

After the passage of Prop 30 was assured, Governor Jerry Brown praised Californians for being the only state in the country to give their consent to a tax hike in order to fund the state's schools. A similar proposal on the ballot in Arizona, which would have raised sales taxes and used the money for education, human services and transportation went down in defeat the same night.

California and Arizona weren't the only two states with voters giving their voice on education-related issues. After three unsuccessful attempts, residents of Washington State appear to have approved a measure that would allow charter schools to open within the state, but ballots are still being counted. The plan put in front of the voters would permit 8 new charters to open their doors in each of the next five years.

There was another victory on the school choice front in Georgia, where residents agreed to vest some charter-approving authority with the state, rather than keeping it exclusively in the hands of the local districts.

In Idaho, voters have repealed unpopular reforms to tie teacher pay to test scores and limit the power of teachers' unions in collective bargaining with the state. They also repealed a law requiring laptops for all students, saying the requirement was only guaranteed funding for the first year.

Finally, in South Dakota, voters rejected an education package that would have given bonuses to top-performing teachers and afforded funding for recruiting teachers to high-needs areas.

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