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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

W(H)ITHER PROP 30

Two recent polls, one by the Public Policy Institute of California and one by LAT/USC offer dispiriting news about the prospects for Proposition 30.  The PPIC poll still shows more support than opposition for Prop 30 but its support has fallen below 50% (48% in favor, 44% opposed, 8% undecided). (9)  According to the USC/LAT poll the numbers are similar (46% in favor, 42% opposed)  (4-5)  For a proposition to be trailing a week from an election bodes very, very badly for its passage.  Unless there is some turnaround or a more significant effort to get supporters to the polls, both K-12 and Higher Ed will be facing devastating cuts.

In significant ways, the polls reveal the divisions within California.  Both the PPIC and the LAT/USC polls suggest the effects of both the state's economic stratification and the political realities of an emerging majority/minority state.  As the LAT/USC poll makes clear, Latinos are more strongly committed to the Proposition (40% of Latino's strongly support as opposed to 33% of Whites) with the makeup of those strongly opposed almost reversed (40% of Whites strongly oppose as opposed to 22% of Latinos). (4)  PPIC focused on stratification of income.  Here the only voters whose support of Prop 30 exceeded 50% were those who earned less than $40,000 in annual income.  A plurality of those who earned between $40,000 and $80,000 supported Prop 30.  But once you cross the $80,000 a year category a plurality of voters oppose the proposition. (9)  While these racial and class splits likely reflect the population of the public school system in California it cannot only be that.  According to the PPIC slightly more "public school parents" will vote no than yes for the proposal--thereby ensuring deep cuts in the schools their children attend. (9)

Race and class set out fundamental parameters but politics and ideology more than play their part.  Some of
the politics is fairly blunt:  70% of Democrats support Prop 30 while only 20% of republicans do.  Independents pretty much split the difference:  they check in at 43% support.  (9)  But Proposition 30 is fighting against to the long-standing notion amongst Californians that the government is full of waste.  When the LAT/USC offered voters contrasting statements (one in support that argued that after years of cuts it was necessary to raise taxes to secure public safety and education and one in opposition insisting that there was more wasteful spending to be cut especially in light of the commitment to high speed rail) support for Prop 30 fell below its opposition (44% in favor, 45% opposed).  That core tenet of neo-liberal philosophy--that the state is intrinsically wasteful and needs to be diminished in favor of market mechanisms--retains its diffuse power.  As Chris and I have noted before, the failure of the Democrats to offer a positive alternative to austerity (Brown seems to be trying "austerity with a human face") has disabled them from any more positive case than "don't make us cut anymore."

Even that message of limited austerity hasn't gotten out.  Prop 30 counted on students playing a large role in its passage: and it is possible that they still will.  But according to a poll of UCLA students only 30% intended to vote in favor of the Prop 30.  Most seemed not to realize that the Proposition was important for Higher Ed and those who believed that their financial aid would cover tuition increases were fundamentally indifferent.   They have not been convinced that not only will tuition rise enormously but that operations and programs will be reduced even further.  Perhaps because the campaign for Prop 30 has been so focused on K-12 and the relationship to Higher Ed couched in terms of tuition and cuts rather than necessary funding, the importance of Proposition 30 to the future of Higher Ed in the state appears to have receded into the background.

There is, of course, still a week to go.  Molly Munger has pulled her ads attacking Proposition 30 and Jerry Brown has begun to campaign on campuses.   But without a greater mobilization of supporters of Higher Ed it looks like Proposition 30 will wither and fail.

If you want to prevent the enormous proposed cuts to K-12 and higher education make sure that you, your friends, and your networks get out and vote in favor of Proposition 30.

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