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Opinion: Prop. 15 Invests in the State’s Workforce via Community Colleges



By Linda Wah and Uduak-Joe Ntuk

Oct. 18, 2020


California’s community colleges are among our state’s most important public resources, providing higher education for 2.1 million students annually. The system is the largest provider of workforce training in country. Nearly one in four community colleges students in the country is a California Community College student. It’s the equity epicenter of California’s world leading higher education system. The majority of students of color in our state’s higher education system are enrolled in one of our 114 community colleges.


Standing in the way of this tremendous success is the greatest fiscal crisis facing our colleges since The Great Depression. COVID-19 has already decimated state revenues, and unfortunately the pandemic’s harm to students is being exacerbated by an antiquated tax system that for decades has rewarded large, older corporations while siphoning off billions of dollars from public education. Fortunately, this November, Californians can help prevent disaster by passing Proposition 15, which will close corporate tax loopholes so we can reclaim $12 billion annually for community colleges, K-12 schools, and local public services – all while protecting homeowners and renters, small businesses, and agriculture.


Prop. 15 invests in our community colleges by ending unfair tax loopholes benefitting California’s wealthiest corporations, while at the same time cutting small business taxes to help rebalance the scales for those hit hardest by this crisis.


Prop. 15 is a unique opportunity for Californians to help reshape the way our community colleges, K-12 schools, and vital community services are funded, and to continue to deliver not only on the promise of a quality education made to our students, but on the outcomes those students provide that benefit all Californians.


State taxpayers receive $4.50 in benefit for every $1 invested in students who earn a degree or certificate from a community college, and the system’s graduates double their own earnings within three years. California community colleges train most of the state’s first responders, firefighters, nurses, early childhood educators and essential workers.


In the wake of this pandemic and with the support of more funding through Prop. 15, California’s community colleges will play a vital in the economy recovery of the state by training and educating the workforce of the future.


Prop. 15 will not only reclaim billions in badly needed revenue, but it will restore fairness to a tax system that currently favors some of the state’s largest, oldest, and wealthiest corporations. An analysis of Prop. 15 showed that only the top 10% would generate 92% of the revenue, illustrating the fact that only a handful of top corporations have been benefitting from these loopholes in the first place. This unfair advantage comes not only at the expense of these other businesses and property owners, but at the expense of millions of California students.


Investing in community colleges by voting yes on Prop. 15 will pay off for many Californians now more than ever. As large numbers of the young and older adults who make up our student population struggle with severely impacted incomes because of the pandemic, community colleges providing affordable, yet top quality education can offer a very attractive alternative to more expensive higher learning institutions. For many, two years at one of our excellent community colleges may be a far more equitable and viable way to begin the path to a four-year degree or to complete job-launching technical career training. In this unforeseen time of economic uncertainty, for some it will be the only alternative, the only way to continue with their education.


The ask of Prop. 15 is small, and the benefit to all Californians will be great. In addition to the support for our community colleges and the investment in smaller class sizes and resources for K-12 schools, Prop. 15 will invest in essential workers and local services that include the health care workers and other first responders who have helped so many continue on through this pandemic.

Linda Wah is the Immediate Past President of the California Community College Trustee Board and serves as a Trustee at Pasadena City College.


Uduak-Joe Ntuk is the Vice President of the Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees and is the first African American male to serve on the college’s board of trustees since 1927.