Oakland’s schools are underfunded and need a permanent fix. While it’s great to see local tax measures on property and developers moving forward, we really need to look hard at the statewide funding system if we are going to get to real equity. The elephant in the room is Proposition 13 which capped all property tax rates, that needs to be reformed if we are really going to try to live up to the promises of equitable education.
Public support for the District and its administration are at historic levels, and I applaud Oakland’s new parcel tax proposal as well as its increasing developer fees, but our kids will never reach parity in funding with richer districts until we have a statewide structural approach to school funding. Right now Piedmont, that little island in Oakland, gets 5K more per student than Oakland kids do.
If you want a recipe to increase inequality, you have it. Richer districts structurally get more because they can tax themselves more, and poorer districts where student needs are higher get less, even with temporary additional state funding to support high needs students.
The math on local property taxes and facts on CA funding
Average home value in Piedmont is $1.7 million almost three times higher than Oakland’s at $616,000, so we would have to tax ourselves at almost 3 times the rate of Piedmont to generate the same revenue. And really children with more challenges should get more resources, there is no way this will happen with school funding tied so closely to property taxes.
And as I have described before, it’s just not like this in other states. New York basically funds schools in a way that is sufficient to meet student needs. Let’s review the adjusted education funding data from Edweek, California was 41st overall, paying approximately $8,339 per student in 2013. In NY, the per-pupil was $17,548. And CA puts 2.6% of its total taxable resources into education, NY puts in 4.2%.
So yes, pass the parcel tax, make developers pay their fair share, but we also need to structurally invest more in the public sector. There are plenty of individuals and corporations that can pay more, we could keep current caps for properties under $1 million, and/or split the rolls and have businesses pay market rates while preserving the cap for residences. But we need to do something structurally Close The Loophole is one campaign.
So by all measures we need to take these small steps forward, but we need to actually change the tilt of the field if we are really going to move towards sufficient and equitable funding in California, and that means reforming Prop. 13.