California Already Spends More Than 4 Times More Per Prisoner Than Per Public School Student—Prop 9 Would Make That Worse

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The November 4th general election is an important election for public education, even though none of the Propositions directly address schools. That’s because many of the propositions would have an impact on the conditions under which education takes place, and would have a deep impact on our students and their families.

Prop. 9, for example, could siphon hundreds of millions of dollars from public education. It takes money away from schools, children’s healthcare and other programs to incarcerate future criminals. Prop. 9 requires increased spending on corrections, but doesn’t provide one additional dollar. Thus, its passage means money would be taken from education and other programs to fund Prop. 9. That’s just what we don’t need.

California already has a 15 billion dollar budget deficit. California cannot afford to SPEND ANY LESS ON schools while spending even more on a prisons plan that does not address the real needs of victims.

Prop. 9 is a misleading proposition that exploits Californians’ concern for crime victims. It preys on our emotions in order to rewrite the State Constitution, and change the way California manages its prisons and jails, threatening to worsen our overcrowding crises, at both the state and local levels. Prop. 9 is a costly, unnecessary initiative. It does little to extend the current Victims’ Bill of Rights.

In addition, Prop. 9’s tremendously costly changes to existing parole policy are unjustified on either a cost or a value basis.

Prop. 9 would deepen California’s deficit, and would require the state to build more prisons throughout California. According to the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office, this would “amount to hundreds of millions of dollars annually”. This is an unnecessary burden on California taxpayers.

California is dealing with the worst budget crisis in its history, facing a record deficit. This is not the time for the passage of an unnecessary ballot measure that burdens taxpayers by pouring millions into a measure that does not adequately address the problems facing victims.

All Californians are understandably concerned about safety and are sympathetic to crime victims. However, while we share these concerns and have the utmost sympathy for crime victims and their families, Proposition 9 (Marsy’s Law) is not the answer.

The propositions are not the only items on the ballot that will impact public education. Those legislators make the decisions on state education funding. Electing legislators sympathetic to public education is also vital, especially in light of the just concluded budget battle. We need to elect people willing to establish a bottom line for state revenues so that we can deliver the quality public education and social services we need and deserve.

Marty Hittelman, a community college math professor from Los Angeles, is the President of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) which is a member of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The CFT represents faculty and other school employees in public and private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher education in California.

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