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Submission: Prop 13 reform is best option for higher education funding

By Nathan Glovinsky

Feb. 2, 2017 10:20 p.m.

If you read Abhishek Shetty’s Jan. 26 expose on Proposition 13 reform, remember to file it as dishonest media.

The Daily Bruin’s resident muckraker makes an astute observation regarding the allocation of commercial tax revenue – he argues Proposition 13 reform would only benefit local governments and not the state. Sure, when looking at Proposition 13’s technical detailing, Shetty is right.

However, his failure to acknowledge the historical context and potential of Proposition 13 is journalistic negligence. When it was passed in 1978, local governments lost tremendous amounts of tax revenue and the state was pressured to provide the necessary funds for operations such as K-12 education. Many local governments didn’t like this: They wanted power over their own expenditures so they could decide how their public schools specifically operated.

The presumption by many proponents of Proposition 13 reform is that it would revert the comparative allocation of state and local spending to how it was before. Thus, state funds would be freed up to better provide for budgetary line items such as the University of California. In fact, this is one reason why so many local governments are in support of such an endeavor. In California, the state pays a larger share of local government costs than other states. Why? Proposition 13’s passage reduced property tax revenue, which previously funded local governments and their school districts in a sustainable manner. Instead of funding its tripartite higher education model, the state offset its deficit by allocating billions of dollars to local governments instead of public higher education. This was the implication in Ralph Washington Jr.’s quote from Shetty’s column.


In his column, Shetty recommends the University of California Student Association instead focus on Proposition 98 reform. The Undergraduate Students Association Council Office of the External Vice President is hesitant to propose such changes to the statewide #FundTheUC campaign because it would mean undermining other public education projects. Proposition 98, which affixes a certain percentage of general fund allocations to K-12 public education and the community college system, is indeed an obstacle to higher education funding; but, alterations to this fiscal policy would hurt K-12 and community college students and potentially limit their potential to succeed once they reach the university level.

While there may be uncertainties surrounding the Proposition 13 reform proposal and plan, there are not a whole lot of other options that have not already been tested and tried. The External Vice President’s Office believes in the #FundTheUC campaign and will continue to stand by its creativity and preventative approach.

Proposition 13 reform continues to be one of the most promising options for increased higher education funding because it has the potential to preempt future tuition issues. For far too long, students have taken a reactionary approach to the constant iterations of tuition hikes. By striving to solve the funding conflict at its source, the UCSA #FundTheUC campaign presents students with an opportunity to participate in an innovative strategy.

Students have rallied on their campuses and demonstrated in front of the UC Board of Regents for years against the proposed tuition hikes. But it is clear the UC Board of Regents is desensitized to these reactionary measures, or else it would actually stop to listen to students and take their requests seriously. It is for this reason that Proposition 13 reform holds potential for solving the funding crisis: The campaign presents students with a preventative approach to engage stakeholders in a concentrated effort against an outdated tax policy. The reform proposal has not yet been written as it may be adopted, so Shetty merely stated the obvious in his latest column.

Last year, Shetty criticized the USAC Office of the External Vice President for not working closely with the UCSA. In his last piece, he now criticizes the office for supporting their work. The USAC Office of the External Vice President has committed a significant amount of time and effort to repairing its relationships with its statewide counterparts, as Shetty recommended we do last year. Now, it seems like the statewide initiatives – the same ones the office was shamed for not supporting last year – are not good enough for him. Prop 13 has been an integral part of the #FundTheUC campaign for years, and the Office of the External Vice President cannot work with UCSA in a productive manner if it does not support the campaign.

At a time when the UC thrives on the exploitation of student divisions, the External Vice President’s Office hopes that all Associated Students UCLA entities – including the Daily Bruin – will see the benefits of working together to make the university system more affordable for all students. Lawmakers have recognized the UC needs more funding, but they just don’t have the money to do it right now.

Perhaps Proposition 13 reform is not the easiest solution to the funding crisis, but at this time it looks like our best shot at a more accessible and equitable university system for the long term. If student associations from every UC campus also believe this, then maybe it is an effort we should all be supporting.

Glovinsky is a second-year history student, legislative director for the Undergraduate Students Association Council and board member of UCSA.

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