Illustration by Leigh Douglas

State funding for education is shrinking — not just for public universities, but for the California school system as a whole. Tuition hikes toward higher education is one thing, but diminishing the quality of the state’s educational foundation for its youth through cuts to California K-12 funding is another.

As the June 5 local city elections approach, it is more important than ever for voters to renew the parcel tax that currently supplements dwindling state funds for Santa Cruz City Elementary and High School Districts.

The renewal of this parcel tax through a two-thirds vote for Measures I and J would not only bring in $2 million in supplemental funding towards maintaining the quality of education at Santa Cruz school districts, but also provide access to resources, supplies and instructors that schools would not be able to afford otherwise.

A parcel tax involves a special tax in which a parcel is defined as any unit of land in a given school district that receives separate real property tax bills from Santa Cruz County. All property that would be exempt from property taxes would also be exempt from the imposition of the parcel tax outlined in Measures I and J.

Measures I and J, which serve as District Protection of Quality Education acts for both Santa Cruz elementary and high school districts, were last renewed in 2006 by Santa Cruz voters. Renewal of the parcel tax has been voted on the ballot every eight years.

Measure I proposes a renewal of the parcel tax from $28 to $38 per parcel annually beginning July 1, 2013 for eight years. It is aimed at directing funds not only toward retaining highly qualified teachers and librarians in local schools, but preparing students for college and careers. Supplemental funding would also provide more opportunities for academic counseling for at-risk youth, in addition to ensuring the quality of classroom academics.

The parcel tax outlined in Measure I would combat state funding cuts which, according to the California State Senate, are projected to reach $8.3 billion for the 2012–13 budget. With California’s budget crisis making little progress toward recovery, further cuts toward educational funding can be expected to threaten both the quality of academics offered in public schools in addition to electives, libraries, counseling resources and teachers within Santa Cruz school districts.

Measure J, which proposes a renewal of the parcel tax from $70 to $85 per parcel annually beginning July 1, 2013 for eight years, will be allocated toward retaining high quality teachers in addition to art and music instruction — both subjects that have been quick to receive program cuts due to a lack of funding. Supplemental funding provided through the measure would also keep school libraries open longer and served by credentialed librarians.

As revenues collected through both measures would be prohibited from use towards administrators’ salaries and benefits, the tax would solely be aimed toward maintaining and protecting the quality of education in Santa Cruz County.

With increasing state funding cuts towards education, voter renewal of measures like I and J is vital to the quality of education offered at local schools. Investment in education starts with individual communities committed to positive change through voter action.

The parcel taxes outlined in Measures I and J are a small price to pay for the betterment of educational opportunities in Santa Cruz school districts. National politics may be moot on the June 5 ballot, but making sure you get to the polls and vote in support of these measures is necessary to preserve the quality of education in the city of Santa Cruz as a whole.