Now is the season for change

HIGHER EDUCATION: With a likely 20.3 percent fee hike on the line, students must lead the effort to pass Gov. Brown’s November tax initiative.

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Now is the time to take action.

When the UC Board of Regents meets this week, the board will be discussing a likely 20.3 percent mid-year fee hike. The increase is contingent on Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative; if it fails in November, the UC system will likely see mandatory tuition and fees leap from $12,192 in 2011-12 to $14,670 in 2012-13.

We already knew tuition would increase provided the tax plan does not pass. Now that we have that concrete number, we know exactly what we are up against.

At their upcoming meeting, the regents should really listen to what the public has to say. Efforts to lessen the burden of a 20.3 percent increase must be made in case the initiative fails. But we have said it before and we say it again now: The regents need to endorse Brown’s tax plan.

An increase of $2,500 is a lot of money for a lot of people, especially when UC tuition has gone up roughly 71 percent — $5,066 — since 2008.

In an ideal world, everyone is able to go to college. As it stands, though, every time tuition rises, that window closes for some kid somewhere. The future is ours. If we neglect higher education, if we let it suffer, then we won’t stand a chance.

Students must lead the effort to pass Brown’s plan. We must use our right to vote. That 18-to-25 block of voters needs to be strongly behind Brown. Don’t let the fact that 2012 may be less exciting than 2008 and that California is already a solid blue state stop you from racing to the polls.

You may ask what’s at stake. Families making more than $500,000 a year and individuals making more than $250,000 a year surely wonder why they should pay a 3 percent higher income tax. The answer is the future. Brown’s tax initiative, the Schools and Safety Protection Act 2012, is investing in the future — of your children, your children’s children and all of California.

The act, which also raises the sales tax by one-fourth of 1 percent, aims to balance the budget and provide funding for public safety and public schools. The money does not go to some general fund at the discretion of some legislator; rather, the revenue is targeted and subject to a public audit.

Public schools, and elementary education in particular, are absolutely critical. Kids need to learn more things earlier on to better their chances of attending college and succeeding in a hostile job market.

Increasing taxes to keep from increasing tuition is a bad precedent but necessary given the current circumstances. The tax plan stimulates the system and higher education stimulates the economy. California public education has certainly benefited millions upon millions of people. Perhaps those making more than hundreds of thousands of dollars giving a little extra will help shorten that economic gap.

If you don’t think public education and public safety are worth supporting, then vote against the initiative in November. For everyone else, the time to act is now.