By T.A. Hendrickson
When teachers in Los Angeles went on strike in January, polls showed widespread public support for their demands for smaller class sizes and more teaching assistants, counselors and school nurses.
An early test of the public’s support will come during the Municipal and Special Election on June 4, when a tax proposal to help meet those demands will be on the ballot.
Known as Measure EE, the proposal is for a 16-cents per-square-foot parcel tax on “habitable structures” within the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD), including houses, storefronts and commercial buildings. The tax would fall most heavily on businesses and corporate landlords with large buildings and high-rise properties, who would pay more than 70% of the tax. Homeowners would pay 18% of the tax, with over half of them paying less than $240 per year. Senior citizens and disabled people would be exempt.
In all, the tax would raise an estimated $500 million annually. It requires a two-thirds majority to pass and would last for 12 years.
Supporters of Measure EE include LAUSD, the teachers union (United Teachers of L.A.) and the Service Employees International Union, which represents cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other support-services workers at schools. Mayor Eric Garcetti also strongly supports Measure EE.
Opponents of Measure EE include the region’s building and real estate groups, including BizFeed, a large coalition of business groups, and the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Greater Los Angeles.
According to the business groups’ websites, the opponents would prefer a flat tax over a per-square foot tax. A flat tax would fall more heavily on homeowners than would be the case under Measure EE.
Business opponents of Measure EE have also said that the money from the tax would not go to pay for smaller classes and other stated purposes, but rather to shore up LAUSD’s finances more generally.
LAUSD countered this objection on April 23, when it announced that the Board of Education would establish an independent committee to oversee Measure EE funds. Measure EE also requires an annual independent audit to make sure that money is spent as promised.
Both sides acknowledge that the financial problems of LAUSD go beyond what a parcel tax could raise. But any agreement ends there.
The supporters of Measure EE see it as valuable bridge to longer lasting, progressive solutions to the district’s funding shortfall. Opponents see it as a false start.
Early voting for the special election that includes Measure EE begins on May 6. Visit lavote.net to find more information on voting and polling locations on June 4.
T.A. Hendrickson, a native of Eagle Rock, is the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel and a former member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times.