San Francisco Chronicle: Dolores Huerta
Civil rights icon Dolores Huerta wrote the opinion piece below in the San Francisco Chronicle in support of the Schools & Communities First initiative.
The crisis caused by coronavirus threatens the livelihoods of each and every one of us, testing the strength and resolve of our community — and we may not know the full extent of its damage for years to come. We know that this crisis has further exposed inequalities in communities throughout California, and we know that big solutions will be needed to recover from this and reinvest in the future. The Schools and Communities First ballot initiative in November will be key to this.
In the face of this unprecedented hardship, we Californians have proven to be strong, caring, compassionate and, above all, resilient. From Gov. Gavin Newsom on down, folks throughout the state have been faced with impossible decisions, and stepping up in ways we never thought we’d have to.
Right now, California is facing its biggest budget shortfall in history, and the same is true for our school districts and local governments. These shortfalls threaten the schools, essential workers and critical local services on which our communities depend.
There’s no denying that it has taken a toll, especially on the Latino community and other communities of color.
The pandemic has exposed what we’ve all known to be true for a long time: None of our communities in the state was prepared for a crisis like this. The Latino community, which makes up a large proportion of essential workers, has been especially affected by this crisis.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Latinos are “becoming infected and dying at disproportionately high rates relative to their share of the population. Health experts say one of the main reasons Latinos are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 is because many work in low-paying jobs that require them to leave home and interact with the public.” We’re seeing the same thing among the younger generations, as “younger blacks and Latinos are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates in California.”
Latinos and other communities of color have suffered most from decades of disinvestment, and such inequities — in terms of access to fully funded schools and critical local services — leave our communities at a serious disadvantage, with serious consequences.
This is something we cannot ignore as California looks to recover from this crisis and reinvest in our communities, all in an equitable fashion. Schools and Communities First will be key.
Schools and Communities First, which just qualified for the November ballot after having received a historic 1.7 million signatures of support, would reclaim $12 billion every year for our schools, essential workers and critical local services — such as public hospitals and community health centers — by closing corporate tax loopholes (in Proposition 13’s treatment of commercial property) benefiting those at the very top. Importantly, this initiative would protect homeowners and renters, small businesses, and seniors. In fact, a recent analysis showed that 94% of the revenue would be generated by only 10% of commercial and industrial property owners — showing that a fraction of top corporations benefit, at the expense of the rest of us.
Most important, Schools and Communities First is designed specifically to help address inequities that poorer school districts face, which has significant implications for communities of color. Every single student in California will benefit from this measure, but particular importance is paid to underserved communities — additional funding will go toward low-income students, English-learners and foster youth. This, on top of the increased investments that local governments can make in their communities, will go a long way toward supporting our communities most in need.
I’ve fought my entire life for what I know is right. I began my journey by speaking up for farm workers who had been mistreated and taken advantage of for decades. Now I’m speaking up for the good of all Californians and encouraging you to vote for Schools and Communities First in November.
Dolores Huerta is founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association (now United Farm Workers), and part of the alliance for Schools & Communities First.