Faith and community leaders gathered at First Christian Church in San Jose this morning to announce their support for the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2018, an initiative to bring $11 billion back to education and local services statewide.
The act would restore an estimated $1 billion per year to Santa Clara County for educational facilities, emergency responder services, parks, health clinics and more, including addressing the affordable housing crisis, leaders with People Acting in Community Together said.
Representatives from organizations including PACT, the Council on American Islamic Relations, Working Partnerships USA and more spoke on the benefits that placing the initiative on the ballot could bring to the state, and specifically, Santa Clara County.
“We are here today, sandwiched between institutions of education and government, on the steps of a sacred space, to proclaim boldly that we all belong,” Reverend Nicole Lamarche of the Silicon Valley Progressive Faith Community said. “People of faith and conscience should not remain silent. This is a moment that urgently asks us to act.”
Many of the speakers said that they believed the proposition that the act would revise, Proposition 13, was funneling tax giveaways to billionaires and corporate landowners, calling it a “loophole.”
The proposed act, which the Schools & Communities First coalition is gathering signatures for in order to turn it into a measure on the November 2018 ballot, would allow California to receive more tax dollars from commercial properties by evaluating them at current market value, according to the coalition’s website.
“This initiative only affects under-valued commercial properties, creating a level playing field for those businesses that already pay their fair share,” the coalition states on its initiative-dedicated web page.
California Assemblymember Ash Kalra and Franklin McKinley School Board Trustee Omar Torres were also present to endorse the update on California’s Proposition 13.
Proposition 13 was first passed in 1978, the year that Kalra’s family moved to the state.
“We are taking on the burden of paying for our schools and our infrastructure, when we are letting those who have the most means among us benefit while our children suffer,” Kalra said.
Seventh grader Salma Aceves, who attends the Lairon College Preparatory Academy in the Franklin McKinley School District, gave a personal anecdote about how a lack of funding in county schools has caused her schoolwork to suffer.
Aceves said that the school’s computers were stolen in August of 2017 and they have not had the money to replace them. This means that many students have to share and wait their turn to work on projects and essays.
Torres reassured the student that he would personally work with the district to get iPads with whatever money they could spare.
Father Jon Pedigo of Catholic Charities and the Diocese of San Jose announced that faith leaders would be involved in signature gathering to make sure that “faith leaders are not simply just talking about their values, but putting them into action.”
Pedigo compared PACT and other community, faith and labor organizations fighting to get the measure added to the ballot and retrofit Proposition 13 to a story from Jewish tradition when Moses woke the people up about providing for the needs of the Pharaoh, but not being able to provide for themselves.
“Moses woke the people up and he said, ‘Is this okay?’ and they said ‘Hell no, this is not okay,'” Pedigo said. “We need to wake people up, and gathering signatures is a way to talk to them about what is important and what it means to be free.”
Pedigo asked the crowd why it was necessary to build “the temples of Google” and “the pyramids of Facebook” when many in the county suffer, not being able to pay their own rent and worry about feeding their children.
“We cannot even educate our children, because we are busy working three or four jobs, and that is not fair,” Pedigo said.