School of Thought: Your vote can easily impact public education

Although none of the 11 propositions on California’s 2018 ballot explicitly deal with education, many of them affect student and teacher populations in the state. For this week’s column, I’ve laid out a voter guide for how you can vote on those measures.

Four of the initiatives on this year’s ballot aim to improve housing in California. Housing plays a large role in how schools function — property taxes provide the second largest share of California’s educational funding. This means that people who can afford to live in more expensive neighborhoods send their children to better schools;  because these high-income households are paying more property taxes, their respective school districts can spend more money on each student.

The disparities between school districts can be quite stark. For example, the Beverly Hills Unified School District spends $16,365 on each student. But just 50 miles north, the Mesa Union School District spends $9,421 on each student. There’s an easy fix to this issue: Money used for education from property taxes should be pooled at the state level and redistributed according to need.

Proposition 1 would authorize $4 billion to aid vulnerable populations such as veterans and low-income families in finding affordable housing in notoriously high-cost areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco. This would help level the playing field for children.

If Prop 1 passes, kids will be able to attend school in neighborhoods where more is spent on each student, without their parents having to pay high rent. While it doesn’t solve the root issue at the intersection of housing and education, it does alleviate it and address the housing crisis.

Proposition 2 focuses on aid to homeless individuals by using money currently allocated to general funding for mental health services to providing housing, specifically for homeless individuals with mental illnesses.

California is home to 23 percent of the nation’s homeless children — over 300,000 kids. It is well documented that children with insecure housing suffer in school, as they are focused on survival.

Furthermore, mental illnesses affect people of all ages, including children and teenagers, and experiencing homelessness can often only exacerbate that. Getting them into safe housing, as Prop 2 attempts to do, would allow them to focus on their education, and recieve aid for mental health treatment.

Let’s take a quick break from housing to talk about Proposition 4, the only ballot initiative that focuses specifically on children. If passed, Prop 4 would give $1.5 billion to California children’s hospitals and other pediatric medical services throughout the state.

The hospitals this bill would benefit are nonprofit institutions that provide affordable and highly specialized pediatric care. A major part of education goes beyond simply teaching in the classroom. Teachers can often be a child’s primary support system outside of their family, and maintaining healthy students in the classroom not only allows the children to put their full energy into learning but also ensures that they’re in the classroom on a daily basis. Prop 4 would keep children out of hospitals, and thereby help them in the classroom.

Proposition 5’s language suggests it would help the severely disabled and elderly people pay for housing by allowing them to maintain their home’s property tax rate. While this helps them marginally, it has larger implications for funding for local services, including public schools. Remember how property taxes determine how much a school district pays per student? Prop 5’s passage would lower the amount of property tax revenue schools receive, essentially moving funding from education to housing.

While housing is a pressing issue in California, we cannot take funding from education to solve it, especially because three other housing measures are already on this year’s ballot.

Finally, Proposition 10 aims to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, an outdated statewide law that prevents cities and local governments from enacting rent control measures for houses built after 1995 — or, in extreme cases, even earlier. In Los Angeles, rent control is prohibited on homes built after 1978 because of Costa-Hawkins. Prop 10 instead gives individual cities the opportunity to decide whether or not to implement rent control initiatives if they believe their city needs it rather than a blanket statewide measure like Costa-Hawkins.

While rent control is more of a Band-Aid solution to California’s housing crisis, it’s still a fix that many California cities need right now. In the context of education, Prop 10 allows cities like Los Angeles to make housing more affordable, so children can live in districts where their needs are better met, and homeless children can focus on their educations.

California must make a lot of progress in how it runs its public schools, and it’s disheartening that there are no education initiatives on this year’s ballot. Keep in mind your vote will also have major implications on the state of California’s public education system.

Karan Nevatia is a sophomore majoring in journalism. He is also a multimedia editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “School of Thought,” runs every other Thursday.