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Students learn about Prop. 13

on October 14, 2010

Contra Costa Community College hosted a forum Wednesday to educate students about how 1978’s Proposition 13 affects them, and inspire them to get involved in politics.

A student club, Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Leaders, organized the event. Charity Edmondson, the club’s president, said today’s students need to know about the measure. “Prop. 13 failed our entire K-12 education system in California,” she said. “It’s a huge deal and nobody knows about it.”

The landmark measure capped the tax rate for residential real estate at 1 percent of a property’s cash value and limited inflation to a maximum of 2 percent a year. Public schools depended on local property taxes for funding, so when tax rates were drastically reduced, so were school budgets.

Having only learned about the measure last semester, Edmondson said she has become passionate about uniting students to try to change the public school funding system.

Charity Edmondson, 32, is on the Dean's List at CCC and plans on getting her master's degree in global economics.

At the start of the forum, more than 100 students, faculty, and community members settled in to hear from five local and state political figures. The speakers included Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin; Councilman and mayoral candidate Nat Bates; Bob Campbell, former House Assemblyman and former Richmond city councilman; Green Party candidate for governor Laura Wells, and Paul Morris, the vice mayor of San Pablo.

Albert Ambris, 21, is an ASU (Associated Student Union) senator and chair of the fundraising committee at CCC. He took the microphone and asked, “What is it that we can do and that I can do as a representative of the student body, to get action taken on this kind of issue?”

Getting involved in the political process, the panelists agreed, was the key to enacting real change. “Young people,” said Mayor McLaughlin, “are our future leaders. That they become civically involved is essential.”

“You wanna get on the ground floor,” said Councilman Bates. “Get involved when you’re part of the planning process. You do that by holding your elected officials accountable. Engage yourself and participate. That’s how you make an impact.”

The Green Party candidate for governor, Laura Wells, said that recent measures linking funding to test scores have hurt public schools. “Teachers have less and less of an ability to use their skills and their art of teaching.” Voting, she said, would bring about change. “Use all the power you have,” she urged.

Bob Campbell served on the Richmond City Council from 1975 to 1980, during the approval of Proposition 13. "It has probably been the worst proposition ever voted on by the public in California," he said.

Some students said, though, that tight budgets are the more immediate problem.

Alla Muhsin, a CCC freshman who has a young child, said that budget cuts have reduced the quality of education available to her.

Bob Campbell, a former House Assemblyman, served on the Richmond City Council when Prop. 13 was passed. He said the problem is the lack of money in the entire state budget. Schools, he said, are getting their share of funds. “There’s just not enough money in the pot to share,” he said.

Changing the way schools are funded, said Campbell, will take enough students coming together and demanding a better education.

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