Introduction by Workers Action
Below is the speech by Rodger Scott of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2121, at the Defense of Public Education and Social Services Rally in San Francisco, California, March 1, 2012. For more information on the campaign, please visit http://www.rescueeducationcalifornia.org
We’re here today to express our collective and reasoned outrage — and to go forward.
We know we must be united to prevail. We know also that the individuals and corporations that benefit most don’t pay their fair share of taxes to support essential human services like public education. We’d like to transplant a conscience into the minds of the super-rich, but a more realistic goal is to impose a just and reasonable tax on California millionaires and oil companies.
We’re outraged by the unequal distribution of wealth (and thanks to Occupy that anti-democratic reality of the top 1% controlling 40% if our country’s wealth is now part of the national discourse); also the absurd priorities that justify funding undeclared and immoral wars and subsidizing our richest citizens and largest corporations while cutting education, health care and other programs that the people need to survive.
Our response to this economic war on the people is to ensure that public education be supported by a stable, rational and democratic system of taxation and we believe a good way to accomplish that is to pass the Oil Extraction Tax To Fund Education (Prop 1522), which would impose a 15% tax on the extraction of oil and gas: finite resources that belong to the people. That tax would generate $3 to $3.5 billion a year for the 9-10 million students in K-12, Community Colleges, CSU and UC. California is the only major oil-producing state that has no oil extraction tax. Even Texas and Alaska have an oil extraction tax.
Spending $1 million a year to keep one soldier in Afghanistan, allocating more money to prisons than higher education, and having no oil extraction tax for more than 100 years in California all assault common sense and the common good.
In 2010, as wars raged, prison construction continued, and the rich got even richer, San Francisco City College had to cancel the entire summer program because there was no money — and drastic cuts continue this semester.
College and university students fortunate enough to get a 4-year degree now owe on average $23,000, the cumulative student loan debt is approaching $1 trillion and that debt is excluded from personal bankruptcy.
Chevron, which recently posted over $26 billion in profits, ran a half-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 18, 2011 that reads in large bold print: BIG OIL SHOULD SUPPORT LOCAL SCHOOLS. Chevron, however, paid lower taxes than middle class workers–and no oil extraction tax. We demand economic justice and a good public education system with stable funding that serves all the people of California. Public education is the foundation of democratic institutions and the enemy of the de facto oligarchy that tries to equate economic democracy with class warfare.
In San Francisco, for example, where 1 in 2 families studies at City College, the Oil Extraction Tax would generate $34 to $40 million a year to restore classes, rehire teachers, lower tuition, and never again have to cancel the entire summer program.
Public education, K-12 through UC [University of California], needs your help to get 504,760 signatures by April 15 to put the Oil Extraction Tax Initiative on the November ballot. Sign and circulate petitions or make a contribution if you believe in the cause.