Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter to the Editor: A professor’s view: “No” on Prop. 30

A professor’s view: “No” on Prop. 30
I am a proud self-righteous left-wing liberal Jewish democrat. The first presidential election I voted in, I voted for George McGovern. I was one of four people who did so.

Tax hikes? I vote for them. Bond issues? Count me in. More social services? There can never be enough. Infrastructure? Build a bunch of it, and then build some more. Freeways, sewers and cell phone towers on every corner, perfect! Subsidized health care, food stamps, small business incentives, are we a great society or what! Education? It’s not just everyone’s right, it’s their obligation.

So, it will come as no surprise that, late in life, after a career in industry, I became a teacher, a professor in fact, at a Cal State University. Not just a professor, but also a substantial donor as well as a fundraiser for student scholarships. But what will surprise you – and has me as well – is the conclusion I reluctantly reached this week: I’m voting “no” on Proposition 30.

It isn’t that I mind paying a little extra sales tax. It isn’t that we don’t desperately need the money at my school to pay teachers and hold down tuition. No. The reason for my “no” on Prop. 30 is that too much of every new tax dollar would wind up paying salaries and bonuses to non-teaching administrators who negotiate with themselves for their three-year guaranteed recession-proof contracts, which they then re-up again.

Here’s the bottom line: If Prop. 30 passes, more than 60 cents of every dollar will go to pay administrators rather than teachers and the direct costs of education. The administrative costs have tripled during a decade of economic recession, enrollment cutbacks and teacher lay-offs.

The actual costs of teachers is down to only 20 cents of those new tax dollars you will pay if Prop. 30 were to pass.

So, if you mean to help education, vote “no” on Prop. 30. Force the CSU and other colleges to live within their means. It will be a painful two-step. At first, there will be more cutbacks of enrollment, layoffs of teachers and increases of tuition. But, then the tide will abruptly change.

As tuition goes up, students will go to private schools where they can get more loans and scholarships and alumni grants and tuition rebates, and, quite frankly, a better education.

As tuition revenues drop, the CSUs will finally start slimming down their bloated management structure and re-focus their mission on education rather than management’s job security.

When I first came to this school ten years ago, there was a single provost. Now there are three, costing more than 1.5 million dollars per year. That same amount would easily cover the cost of 22 full-time professors.

My idea is a new proposition for the next election: A small sales tax increase with the funds dedicated to education and allocated by an unpaid oversight board of successful retired business people charged with assigning the funds to maximize the CSU and streamline salaried management.

Prop. 30 fails to do this. It collects your money and hands it over to the CSU with no direction. If you trust the school managers to spend the money in your best interest, then give it to them.

My position is that they have proven to have failed your trust and mine.

If you want to help a teacher, take one to lunch and say, “Thank you.” That will be more than teachers will get from Prop. 30.

Brian Lane is a film and electronics professor at Cal State Long Beach.

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