On Oct. 18, students and community members gathered at Merced College for an informational forum on Proposition 30.
The event, held by the campus club Students for Social Justice, featured Jack Mobley, the Republican candidate for 21th Assembly District, and his opponent, Democrat Adam Gray; and California Teachers Association head representative Paul Chambers.
Proposition 30 calls for a quarter cent hike in the sales tax, raising it to 7.5 percent for the next four years. Additionally, it would increase personal state income tax for the next seven years for annual earnings upward of $250,000.
The tax increases are projected to garner about $6 billion annually for the K-14 schools over the next few years, with 89 percent of these additional funds allocated to K-12 schools and 11 percent to community colleges.
The air was electric that evening as students packed the auditorium, a clear sign the campus community was invested in the conversation regarding the contentious proposition.
Students from various ends of the political spectrum were in attendance, probing the speakers about the possible ramifications they could expect should the proposition fail to pass.
The forum was intended to air out some of the debate circulating around the proposition by offering attendees perspectives from multiple sides of the issue.
"We as a club really thought this was an important event because there are so many questions that we as students on campus want answered," said Tiffany Brown, a social work major and president of Students for Social Justice. "We knew we had to present an unbiased approach, which is great because we want people to make an informed decision for themselves."
Supporters of the proposition, such as Gray and Chambers, spoke of the potentially dire consequences students and teachers will face if Proposition 30 fails.
A $10 tuition increase for Merced College students is looming, along with the possibility of more than 100 classes being cut from the curriculum starting next semester and laying off faculty.
"We are handicapping our ability to have a prosperous economy if we do not invest money in education," said Gray.
Mobley, like many of those opposed to the proposition, takes issue with the tax increase given the state's already high tax rate and subsequently poor business climate.
"We cannot continue to overtax people because they will leave and already are," he said.
In lieu of a temporary tax hike, Mobley proposed we streamline costs within the school system and look to the private sector for funding. He argued that a tax hike would not only result in businesses migrating to states with lower rates, but students will, as well -- forced to follow the trail of opportunity.
Chambers, however, disagreed, claiming that businesses are leaving because of the negative impact the state's poor educational system has had on the work force.
Though an avid supporter of the proposition, he noted that it will not be the medicine to cure the education system's ills.
"Proposition 30 is a bucket brigade," Chambers stated. "It's not a perfect solution, but it is a bridge to solve these issues. We need to pass Prop. 30 so we don't keep kicking the can down the road."
The forum made it evident that Merced College is only one of many schools feeling squeezed by a lack of funding. While there may not be clear-cut solutions to the issues plaguing our educational system, the student presence at the forum was a boost of confidence for the campus community.
"It was so impressive seeing the students all fired up about their education," Brown said.
"To some degree community college students get a bad rep, like we're lackadaisical about our education, or that we're not sincere about our education," she said.
"I think tonight was really a show against that," Brown said. "It demonstrated that no, these students are here, and we are working hard, and we want to get our education."
Montse Reyes is a sophomore at Merced College majoring in sociology.