School districts, teachers and parents across California breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday after voters threw a lifeline to the state's struggling education system by approving a $6 billion-a year tax initiative.

Proposition 30, a hallmark of Gov. Jerry Brown's administration, won by almost eight percentage points, despite a campaign fraught with ups and downs.

Challenges included a rival proposition bankrolled by attorney Molly Munger, daughter of Warren Buffet's business partner Charles Munger, and negative attacks financed with the help of $11 million in donations from a mysterious Arizona-based group.

The proposition raises income taxes on California's wealthiest citizens -- those earning over $250,000 a year -- and ups the sales tax temporarily by a quarter-cent. Most of the funds are slated for schools and colleges, although a small percentage will be used to fund other public services.

News of the proposition's passage soothed the nerves of educators throughout the state. At an elementary school in Southern California's Ojai Valley, where teachers faced 15 additional furlough days had the measure not passed, staff posted a hand-made "Thank you!" sign outside the school grounds.

"Everybody had a little spring in their step today," said Principal Katherine White. "The staff did not sleep well last night, but you wouldn't know that today. They're happy."

The tax increase will also provide funds for higher education. Following the results of Tuesday's vote, California State University announced it would rescind a $249 rise in tuition rates implemented earlier this year.

Meanwhile, campaign organizers for Proposition 37 -- a landmark initiative to require labeling of genetically modified food -- reacted with defiance to news of the measure's defeat. The proposition lost 47 to 53 percent despite a strong show of public support for the measure early in the campaign. Organizers blamed the downfall on a ferocious negative advertising campaign led by deep-pocketed biotech companies.

"Ultimately this was a loss that had to do with being outspent by the opponents," said Stacy Malkan, spokesman for the California Right to Know campaign. "A lot of misinformation got out to voters."

Activists vowed to keep up the fight for GMO labeling by applying pressure at both the federal and state level. Supporters are now gathering signatures to put a similar proposition on the ballot in the state of Washington next November.

A majority of Californians also rejected an attempt to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Supporters of the repeal had argued that, moral arguments aside, the death penalty is too costly for taxpayers. Seventeen states have already outlawed capital punishment.

State voters did agree to soften California's "three strikes" law. Third-time offenders can now only be sentenced to life in prison if their latest infraction is serious or violent.

As expected, an attempt by moneyed conservatives to curb union influence by restricting organized labor's ability to raise funds and contribute to political campaigns fell flat. Voters rejected the measure 56 to 44 percent.

"I'm ecstatic that it failed," said Stephen Blum, president of the teacher's union in Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles. "Our adversaries may have a lot of money, but we have a lot people and we were on the side of right ... This was a victory for the American way."

Now's a great time to subscribe to The Progressive magazine. You'll get a FREE copy of our 2013 "Hidden History of the United States" calendar when you subscribe for just $14.97 for the whole year. That's 75% off the newsstand price, and the calendar is yours for free. Just click here.

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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