The Munger Games: Saving Schools
Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy and hit feature film, fights for survival using her skills with a bow and arrow. Civil rights attorney Molly Munger visited Santa Clarita with a quiver full of arrows to target the lack of funding for California K through 12 education.
“Pushy and even relentless is really kind of what we need to be here. We really have to stand up for our children and right this situation that we’re in,” said Munger.
Munger addressed Parent Teacher Association (PTA) members, local school superintendents, board members and principals who were interested in hearing the differences between her initiative (which she is so passionate about she’s sunk a reported $3.4 million of her own money into it) versus Governor Jerry Brown’s alternative tax hiking initiative.
Munger (below) says both initiatives raise taxes and put the money in a special fund, but that’s where the paths divert.
“There is this very dramatic fork in the road where the governor’s initiative says in section 3(g), ‘Hey, by the way, that’s all just general fund money, that’s all part of the Sacramento slosh,” said Munger.
As Munger explains it Brown’s initiative, officially called the California Sales and Income Tax Increase Initiative (2012), would take funds raised by taxes and put it into a general pool of dollars, some of which would go to schools.
“Ours says in very strong language ‘and not one penny of this money is general fund money’. This is all special money. The Sacramento politicians can’t touch it. It’s not part of the budget. This is barricaded money,” Munger said.
Munger hopes the governor will be more honest about what his initiative addresses. She believes it’s in the public’s interest to have people choose whether they want to help schools specifically or help plug holes in the budget; however, voters should not be misled to believe Brown’s initiative will be the best choice for people wanting to support education.
“We can do a small thing and we can bail out the budget or we can do a bigger, bolder thing and really fix our schools. And that’s a good choice for people to have. I think it’s empowering to people to have a choice,” said Munger.
Munger also wants people to realize Brown’s initiative contains a tax shift.
“You realize that also in the governor’s initiative there’s a constitutional amendment that permanently shifts money out of schools by taking sales tax dollars and sending them to counties for public safety realignment,” said Munger.
Munger says the tax shift is one reason superintendents and business people are scratching their heads over the fact that there will be little new net funding for schools under the Brown initiative.
The Saugus Union School District recently sent 80+ pink slips to teachers. In the aftermath Board Member Paul De Le Cerda has been pursuing local measures such as general obligation bonds or parcel taxes to raise funding. Munger said she supports local initiatives but they aren’t sufficient.
She cited an example in the Los Angeles Unified School District which has a very large tax base. Parcel taxes raise approximately $200 per student, but their budgets have been cut $800 to $900 per student.
“With parcel taxes they’re good as far as they go. We should support them absolutely. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and, because we will not get well in our schools with parcel taxes alone. We need both things,” said Munger.
To earn a spot on the state's 2012 ballot, sponsors of the Our Children, Our Future initiative must collect 504,760 signatures. A recent USC-Times poll revealed that only 32 percent of California voters supported her initiative. Munger says disinformation about polling has confused supporters about how popular her initiative really is.
“You may live in a world where you think ‘Gee, I love Our Children, Our Future. I care about kids. I care about schools. I can see how important this is. But I keep reading in the paper that no one else does and Our Children, Our Future just isn’t very popular’. You really should not let those stories discourage you,” Munger said.
Munger admits that only 30 percent of Californian’s have children in public schools, but counters that 64 percent are willing to tax themselves to support schools. Historically, she says schools get higher ratings of voter support to tax themselves than higher education or health care.
Munger is the daughter of Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charles Munger, which is a company run by millionaire Warren Buffet. She believes that supporting schools is a bedrock value of American even among conservatives who don’t like taxes.
“My Republican father being presented with this idea said ‘You know Molly I’ve never voted against any school bond or any proposal to fund the schools in my life and I’m not going to oppose this either’. And that’s really how most people in California think,” said Munger.
The second novel in The Hunger Games trilogy is titled Catching Fire. Perhaps the Our Children, Our Future initiative will indeed catch fire and schools will no longer suffer the slings and arrow of outrageous fortune.
For a link to the Our Children, Our Future website, click here.
For an detailed look at the Our Children, Our Future click here.
For detailed look at the California Sales and Income Tax Increase Initiative (2012) click here.