Activist Jono Schaffer Leads Prop 30 Forum

Chris Rodd, El Vaquero Staff Writer

Labor and education activist Jono Schaffer forcefully advocated for California’s public education system in front of 200 students who gathered in the GCC auditorium Oct. 4 for a forum on Proposition 30.

Proposition 30 is Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax increase that would raise income taxes on high-income earners and the sales tax by a fourth of a percent.

The forum is the first in a series of events to educate the student body on the benefits of Proposition 30, which could bring $4.5 million to GCC and could prevent 400 to 500 classes from being cut spring semester if passed.

Schaffer spent most of his speech explaining what he calls a chronic and systematic disinvestment from public education in the past decade. According to the California Budget Project, $20 billion has been cut from education in the last three years. Public college and university costs have increased 80 percent in the past four years, and more than 20,000 courses have been cut since fall 2008.

“You can lose weight, you can get liposuction, but future cuts would represent amputation of significant parts of the body of our public services,” said Schaffer.

Proposition 30 consists of two tax increases: a sales tax increase of a quarter of a percent for five years, and a seven-year income tax increase on those who make more than $250,000 per year.

The non-partisan Legislative Analysts Office estimates $6.8 billion dollars in revenue to the state, if passed. The revenue will be used for K-12 schools and the public college and university system, as well as firefighters and police.

According to Schaffer, 90 percent of the revenue from Proposition 30 would come from the top one percent of income earners. Schaffer argued that the reason for this is due to the enormous increase in wealth of this income bracket. The top 1 percent of income earners has 49 percent of the wealth, and a number of major corporations and banks, including ExxonMobil, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo didn’t pay taxes last year.

While speaking before a packed audience, it was clear that most students were there for reasons other than civic participation.

“I’m here for the extra credit,” said Jesse Morales, a first-semester GCC student echoing a number of students receiving extra credit from their professors for attending the forum. “It’s pretty much the only reason I’m here.”

Parts of the speech exposed students to a sobering reality: students would not see lower costs for college for some time. The proposition is designed to fill a pre-existing hole in the education budget, which if allowed to continue would see whole programs and even entire campuses close. However, Schaffer urged students to think pragmatically about their choices this election season.

“Think about your own self-interest,” said Schaffer. “It’s about whether or not you want less classes and higher costs. If you want that, sit [this election] out.”

The speech seemed to win over a number of audience members. Twenty students gave their contact information to the campaign, and a number committed to spreading information on Proposition 30 through their online social networks.

Asked after the speech if the forum changed his mind on the proposal, Morales said it “didn’t change it, but it enhanced it. I’ll be voting for [Proposition 30] this year.”

As part of the series of events on the election, ASGCC had a Proposition 30 rally Thursday at Plaza Vaquero. Following weeks will see forums on Proposition 32, which would ban union and corporate contributions to state and local campaigns, and “Beyond Prop 30,” a discussion on education policy after the Nov. 6 election.