Pro Prop 26


    I heard an anti-Proposition 26 radio ad that made me smile. And think of Spam. Two actors were portraying a misguided man and his PTA neighbor lady. The PTA neighbor lady was persuading the man to vote against Prop 26, the measure that says 51 percent of voters must vote for a school bond instead of the current two-thirds requirement. She told him that if he voted for the measure, his taxes could double. That’s when I smiled.

    I was reminded of my days in the D.A.’s office, when my trial opponent would regale the jury with something — anything! — other than the facts. “If you vote to acquit my client, loathsome Spam will finally be outlawed!” That’s when I knew I’d won the case. I simply pointed out the reason my opponent was concocting Spam: He knew if the jury focused on the facts, they’d see truth and justice were on my side, not his

    The argument that if Proposition 26 passes, taxes could double is classic Spam. Obviously, voters could choose to pass any number of laws by a simple majority. We could vote to wear underwear on our heads every day except Saturday. But would we? Would 51 percent of us vote to double our taxes? Would 2 percent of us?

    Anti-Proposition 26 forces do not trust the majority to vote responsibly. That is why they want their own power to remain undiluted. Right now, 35 percent of the people have a more powerful voice than a 65 percent majority who may believe in improving education. Moreover, anti-Proposition 26 forces view the two-thirds requirement as an effective way to silence the voice of renters. Since property taxes are paid by homeowners and not renters, the two-thirds requirement allows a small group of property owners to render null and void the wishes of the majority — a majority consisting of both renters and property owners. Now, there may be many good reasons to vote against a particular school bond (I have voted against several), but the majority should prevail on what those reasons are, not a minority.

    Personally, I want the children who grow up to be my doctor, the electrician wiring my house and the teller at my bank, to have the best education a majority of voters feel they can afford to provide. California spends on its students less than 42 other states and has earned itself the sad distinction of going from one of the best public education systems in the country to one of the absolute worst. We can now proudly say we’re down there with Mississippi and Louisiana. Except, that unlike those two states, we have a cornucopia of kids with different languages and cultures and a system with more kids in it than some states’ entire populations.

    With globalization and technological advances requiring a steep, upward spiral of knowledge and sophistication from our children, now is the time to re-examine whether we should make it easier to respond to children’s changing educational needs. It may be true that for 100 years we’ve had a two-thirds bond measure standard. It is also true that 100 years ago, most children never went to college, were destined to be farmers, factory workers or hold other jobs requiring only limited skills and most girls were going to end up full-time housewives. One hundred years ago, women still did not have the right to vote, schools were legally segregated and most colleges did not admit women or blacks. Looking backwards 100 years to set the standard for a new millennium’s education system is perhaps not the most prudent course of action.

    Changing the requirement for school bonds from two-thirds to simple majority merely brings education issues into line with every other voting issue. It is a question of justice for children; is it fair or right that they have to fight harder than anybody else to be heard in this democracy? It is a question of intelligently planning for the future of this country who should be allowed to make decisions about the wisest and best way to raise our leaders and citizens: the majority or minority of voters?

    If Proposition 26 passes, taxes will not double, any more than if Proposition 26 passes, Spam will be outlawed. The two simply have nothing to do with each other. Though the voting populace might be tempted to feel its intelligence insulted by the anti-Proposition 26 forces, the better way to look at it is to be thankful they have made it easier to us to know which way to vote. Instead of presenting voters with good reasons why the majority in a democracy should not rule, they wildly waved Spam in our faces. They are telling us that truth and justice are on the side of Proposition 26.

    By the way, the woman in the radio ad seemed to be an actress, paid to pretend to be a PTA neighbor lady and property owner against Proposition 26. In the real world, California’s state PTA Association endorses Proposition 26. I am one of those real PTA neighbor ladies, the PTA president of Webster Elementary School and a property owner. Twice in the three years I’ve been a PTA board member, with Santa Monica/Malibu’s Proposition X and now Proposition 26, I’ve diverted my attention from children’s education towards preventing a minority from imposing their apathy and/or antipathy towards public education upon the majority. I’d rather give all my volunteer time to making kids’ schools enriching places to learn and grow. And that’s no Spam.

    Deirdre Roney