By Gerald Tan
On Feb. 24, the Orange County President’s Council, ASUCI along with Young Democrats is going to hold a forum with candidates of the 68th, 69th, and 70th Assembly races and the 35th District seat. Among the issues, and perhaps the most significant issue, to be discussed at the forum is Proposition 55. For those who may not be familiar with Proposition 55, which is also known as the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2004, the proposition proposes to provide to California public schools and universities $12.3 billion for repairs and renovations. The Bond Act will allocate $690 million to the University of California system for the construction of new facilities, renovations and upgrades of existing facilities. UCI alone will receive over $100 million, which will be directed to, among other projects, design and construction projects in the biological science, engineering, social ecology and social science departments as well as toward new equipment for the computer sciences. This funding for the UC system is crucial for the expansion of an ever-growing student body and to ensure the continuation of academic excellence of the UC system.
Despite the obvious benefits, some critics claim Proposition 55 will only worsen California’s declining economy. Opponents of Proposition 55 argue that the funding will be wasted on unrelated expenses because most of the bond money will not go to the schools that deserve it. First of all, the proposition includes provisions to prevent and eliminate bureaucratic waste, ensuring that the money invested will go directly to the repair and renovation of existing school facilities as well as the construction of new schools throughout the state. The language of the proposition makes this clear by specifying what the money is to be spent on. Critics of Proposition 55 also claim that this bond issue will raise taxes and put us in deeper debt. The truth is that this proposition will not, I repeat, will not raise taxes. This argument is, in fact, a scare tactic meant to influence voters. To begin with, the proposition is not a new tax and it will not raise current taxes. Proposition 55 explicitly states that the bonds are not ‘proceeds of taxes.’
Secondly, this bond may actually create more revenue for the state. By investing in our education system, more businesses will be attracted to the consequently greater pool of educated workers and will more likely move into California. Proposition 55 does more to create jobs in California by providing an incentive for companies to stay in California. In addition, the opposition argues that Proposition 55 will supposedly allocate a disproportionate amount of the available funds to public schools in the Los Angeles district, leaving other school districts at a disadvantage. This is simply not true.
Under Proposition 55, all school districts in California are eligible for an equal share of the funds. There is nowhere in the language of the proposition that explicitly or implicitly states such a distribution system of the funds.
The benefits of the bond issue will greatly outweigh the potential cost, both for the students of UCI and for the state as a whole. Proposition 55 will be a benefit to all students by ensuring academic quality and excellence. Proposition 55 will help construct new facilities for programs in engineering, environmental health and safety and the sciences. These fields have been targeted by the UC for expansion in order to meet growing state workforce needs.
I feel that people of all backgrounds, political or otherwise, should support Proposition 55 for their own benefit and for the future of California. By improving school facilities, we can be better prepared for a modern workforce. By investing money now in our education, we are investing for our future.
Gerald Tan is a first-year political science and economics major.