The Encino Chamber recently honored its 25th Annual Teacher of the Year. I’ve chaired this event, and you know what our teachers of the year “win”? A cart of classroom supplies like markers, paper and paper towels. Things they pay for from their own pockets because of the funding crisis in our local schools.
I am a businessman. Specifically, I am an analyst who assesses the value of organizations and forecasts trends. I’ve analyzed Measure EE. And I am voting yes because it will deliver value for every community within the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Decades of underinvestment have made it so our state, the fifth-largest economy in the world, is 44th in the United States in per-pupil funding. This gap is at the heart of Measure EE. Either we correct this imbalance by adding resources to our neighborhood schools or this imbalance will correct itself through economic decline.
By law, Measure EE funds would be used to lower class sizes and help neighborhood schools retain and attract quality teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians, support staff and principals. It will invest in quality academic programs in math, science, career education and vocational education. It’s about preparing students for college and a career in a competitive economy. That’s good for all of us.
Measure EE has strict accountability. By law, all Measure EE funds would be deposited into a separate account and used only for voter-approved purposes. Every dollar is for local schools — funds cannot be taken by the state or federal government. State law requires annual public reports and Measure EE additionally requires annual audits by an independent firm.
Measure EE was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the LAUSD Board. The measure earned a unanimous vote from the Los Angeles City Council. It’s endorsed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Controller Wendy Greuel, a lifelong Valley resident and advocate. It’s endorsed by LAUSD teachers and support staff. Advocates of both charter and regular LAUSD schools support Measure EE.
That says something.
This consensus exists because there is no way around the need for Measure EE. LAUSD is being reformed, and Superintendent Austin Beutner, a career business executive, is a big part of that (he also supports Measure EE). Graduation rates are up. The district is working collaboratively, for example partnering with the city and the Community College District to increase college enrollment.
But the funding status quo is simply unsustainable.
I was a student at Robert Frost Middle School in Granada Hills when our class sizes were around 25. Today, middle-school classes at LAUSD are crammed with up to 46 students. I know a middle school teacher now who moonlights as an Uber driver to afford being a teacher. Asking our teachers to work second jobs because we refuse to fund education is not a strategy for the long haul.
Measure EE is fair and equitable. Homeowners will pay less than one quarter of the costs. How it works is straight-forward (something rare in ballot measures): property owners – residential, commercial and industrial – would pay 16 cents per square foot on buildings within Los Angeles Unified boundaries. The tax only applies to buildings already considered taxable by the county and does not apply to land. The homeowner of a median-sized house would pay about $238 annually.
Measure EE will not affect existing or new rent stabilization ordinances and it includes exemptions for property owners over 65 and certain disability recipients. It expires in 12 years.
We all know how essential our schools are to our property values. We know an educated workforce is essential to our economy. Measure EE is a wise investment. And it’s one we need to make now. The sharing economy and the growth of Amazon and its impact on retail stores came quick. Now is the time we must prepare the next generations for autonomous vehicles and a new technological change. We can all agree we can’t do that with student to teacher ratios above 30.
Vote yes on Measure EE on June 4. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Vahid Khorsand is an analyst with BWS Financial Inc. in Woodland Hills and is vice president of the Los Angeles Citywide Planning Commission. He is the former vice chair of the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley.