Frequently Asked Questions
- What is School Choice?
- What are the key features of your proposal?
- What is the process for ballot qualification?
- How many K-12 students are there in California?
- Is it true that this initiative would destroy public schools?
- Will public school teachers lose their jobs?
- How will this affect local control of education?
- Will home-schooling families be eligible for this scholarship?
- Does this proposal mean that parents can send their child to any school?
- What impact will this have on charter schools?
- To what extent, if any, will the state be able to regulate the curriculum of private schools?
- Won't the public schools end up with all of the poor students, the disciplinary problems and those with learning disabilities?
- Why isn't the amount allocated for each student income qualified?
- I keep hearing that competition and profit in education is bad for kids and does not work.
- Doesn't this kind of direct support of religious schools violate the Constitution?
- Will this proposal reduce per pupil spending?
Under current law, parents can choose where to send their children to school. If they choose to send their children to a private or religious school, however, they must do so at their own expense. If they cannot afford private education, they must send the children to the local public school where the government will pay. Under compulsory attendance laws, parents who cannot afford private schools have no choice but to send their children to the Government schools.
Under the Educational Freedom Act, an individual scholarship account (Educational Savings Account) will be created for each school-age K-12 child in the State of California who choose to exit public education and opt-in into this program. The State will regularly deposit an amount approximately equal to the average per pupil education expenditure in the State of California under Proposition 98. At the initiation of the bill the amount will be $14,000 per year. Parents can then use that money to send their child to a accredited private, religious or parochial school of their choice. Any amount left over can be accumulated and used for an in-state college degree program or any other qualified educational expense (e.g. vocational schools). Students who home school and are not part of an accredited school are eligible to the savings account but funds in their account can only be used for college or vocational education.
To summarize, under the status quo as well as under the proposed new law, parents can choose where to educate their children. The key differences are that in the future the State will fund private schools whose students who opt in rather than public schools only. Because the parents will now control how and where the scholarship money is spent, they will have a real choice.
- An Education Savings Account(ESA) will be created for every school age (K-12) child in California who opt into the program.
- Each year the State of California will deposit into that account 9 equal payments a sum approximately equal to the average amount spent by the state on each school age child under Proposition 98.
- This money can be used to attend a private accredited school chosen by the parents. The child can remain at the current public school and not participate in the savings program.
- Any money not used for tuition can be accumulated and used for other qualified educational expenses and/or saved and used for in-state college or vocational training.
- Proposition 98 directs that 38% of the California State budget be directed to be used for K-12 education.
The number of signatures required for a ballot measure amending the California State Constitution is equal to 8% of the total votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election. Therefore, a minimum of 997,139 valid signatures are required to qualify the Education Freedom Act (working title) initiative for the November 2022 Statewide Ballot. Because it’s typical for many signatures to be invalidated and thrown out, our goal is to obtain 1.5 million signatures to ensure a safe margin.
Signature gathering will not begin until early September 2021. The initiative will be submitted to the State Attorney General in July 2021 and 45 days later he will issue “Title and Summary”. At that point, the clock starts and we have 180 days to collect 1.5 million signatures.
Currently, there are an estimated 5,935,229 K-12 students enrolled in California public schools and approximately 500,000 enrolled in private schools. Most of the 500,000 students will be found in Catholic schools which together constitute the largest number of private schools in the State. This amount is fluid. Recently we have seen an exit form public schools as well as from the State of California.
No. The Educational Freedom Act merely introduces competition into K-12 education just as it exists in higher education, medicine, professional schools, technology and retail. As Americans, we understand that competition makes everyone and everything better. If the number and quality of public schools decline it will only be because they failed to compete, failed to meet the needs of their customers and failed to improve the quality of their product. The most likely effect of the introduction of real school choice will be a radical improvement in the performance of existing public schools.
Recent financial impact studies shows that after 7% of the students exit from public schools there is likely to be more funding per-student available.
Because California public schools are, on average, the worst in the country, families will flee these failing schools in large numbers. Reduced student populations will undoubtedly lead to reductions in teaching and support staff. These job losses in the public sector will also undoubtedly be offset by job opportunities in the private sector. Unquestionably, under-performing teachers will have a tough time securing employment in the private productive educational sector. This is a good thing. One of the many reasons that public schools are failing is because of their medieval civil service and tenure system.
The demand for quality teachers will increase due to the increase of demand. Expect teacher incomes to increase. We have seen this in states that have instituted school choice.
Generally, the passage of the Education Freedom Act will have no structural impact on the current public school system. The proposed initiative will not degrade the public school system in any way; it will only make schools and school districts more competitive in order to deliver a product their customers demand. The current California educational system will be preserved intact. The local school districts will continue to be operated as they are now. They can continue to choose which students they will accept (also known as ZIP Code discrimination). They will continue to hire their own teachers and employees. With voter approval, they will continue to be able to float bond issues to construct school facilities and pass) parcel taxes earmarked for schools. We expect an increase in public school per student funding.
In brief, very little will change and yet everything will change because of the introduction of competition into the California education system.
Yes and no. The Educational Freedom Act makes no special provision for home-schooling families. Parents can only use scholarship funds to educate their K-12 children at public schools, charter schools or accredited private or parochial schools. Many home-schooling families have already adapted to this reality by taking courses from accredited institutions such as community colleges or charter schools.
However, this does not mean that students being home-schooled will not receive the scholarship credit. The Act would permit home-schooled students to accumulate the entire annual scholarship credit and save it for college or other qualified educational expenses. Thus, a home-schooled student would theoretically be able to accumulate his annual scholarship from kindergarten through 12th grade. Even if the scholarship credit remains fixed at $14,000 per year, a home-schooled student could accumulate $200,000 in principal over 13 years all of which could be used for in-state college or vocational training of his or her choice. Unspent funds after age 30 revert back to the state treasury.
No. Public and private restrictions to admission will continue unchanged under the Educational Freedom Act. For example, most public schools only accept students who reside within the district. This is known as “ZIP Code discrimination.” Some school districts accept inter-district transfers or Parent Employment Related Transfers. Changes to admission policies will be up to the school district under local control. This will continue unchanged under the Education Freedom Act. Likewise, private schools have their own admission standards and tuition requirements which must be met. Parents will be free to send their children to a private school and apply their scholarship credit towards the payment of tuition making up any difference out of their own pockets. The school will not, however, be required to accept the annual scholarship credit as full payment of tuition.
This bill is about funding only and has no restrictions on it's application except in areas such as fraud, and may be used for tuition payment only. The key word is "Freedom". Some college expenses may apply.
The short answer is that the Educational Freedom Act makes no changes to the laws or regulations governing charter schools. The longer answer is that introducing competition into education will lead to dynamic changes, all for the better. The charter schools will undoubtedly recognize the opportunities (i.e. larger customer base to offer their products).
Note that charter schools are essentially public schools and are not eligible for the Education Freedom Act funding. We expect most charter schools will become private schools because they would likely have access to more funding than they currently enjoy.
As currently drafted, the Educational Savings Act provides as follows:
Education Code section 69995.5
(c) The State shall not impose any condition on the eligibility of any private school, college, or university to receive funds other than the following:
1.Periodic certification that an eligible child is enrolled in and attending the school.
2.Periodic certification that the amount paid is only used for tuition and eligible education expenses.
4.The general health and safeties standards applicable to all private schools operating a California.
As the initiative sponsors complete their legislative review and due diligence, these provisions may be strengthened and made more specific. The goal is to ensure that the teacher unions acting through their surrogates in the State and local school districts are not able to regulate participating institutions out of existence thereby transforming current private institutions into public proxies for the implementation of the same social and political agenda that participating parents seek to avoid.
It is important to remember this bill is designed to as much as possible provide no strings attached to students and schools being able to qualify for funding. So under the bill, funding cannot be withheld based on having a specific program or curriculum.
Won't the public schools end up with all of the poor students, the disciplinary problems and those with learning disabilities?
The requirement for the public schools to keep students with disciplinary problems in the classroom will remain unchanged. It is unfortunate because these students interfere with the ability of their classmates to receive a high quality education. Unfortunately, many parents abdicate their responsibility for raising their children. That is unfair. Charter, private and religious schools do not have the same restrictions. This puts onus on the parents to be more directly involved in their child's education.
In states where school choice has been established such as Arizona, special needs students have been served very well. Special needs programs in the public schools will not be eliminated. As long as there is a demand for special needs educational programs and the parents have the ability to pay for it through their Educational Savings Account, an even greater range of quality options will emerge to meet the demand.
When there is a need, history shows us that the free market will seek to fill that need, usually with better quality and lower cost.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the upper 20% of wage earners currently pay 84% of all income tax collected. Other estimates are as high as 91%. That means the higher wage earners already pay nearly all of the funding for k-12 education. This wealth re-distribution system is already highly progressive. The majority of the upper 20% wage earners do not have children in K-12 education and would be drawing no financial benefit. Putting all K-12 California students on equal financial footing is extremely fair.
Every student and socio/economic situation is unique. The variables are so great that we prefer just to treat every student equally. We believe we offer the greatest possible benefits to the economically challenged as well as the middle class and those who really pay the bills..
We choose not to discriminate based on race, class, gender, orientation, religion or political affiliation.
Education is a service that we currently pay for with our tax dollars. Unless you are affluent, you have no influence on where and how your children are prepared to thrive in a changing and challenging world.
Currently, educational decisions are made by unaccountable bureaucrats often hired by our elected leadership. The public employee and teacher unions incestuously fund our elected representatives' political campaigns. Even with the very best of intentions, the system is inherently corrupt by design. It shifts funding priorities away from the welfare of the student to the welfare of the public employee unions.
Introducing competition into the marketplace will dramatically improve education in California. To compete and attract students (customers), schools will constantly seek new and innovative ways to provide the best service at the lowest cost. The winner will be the children, especially those currently living in our less affluent neighborhoods.
The short answer is no. Under the Educational Freedom Act the individual student will be subsidized with public funds just as under the current system. The difference is that the parents can use these funds at an accredited private or parochial school. Religious schools, therefore, are not directly funded by the government. This follows the funding approach taken by the Federal Government following World War II when it created the G.I. Bill. The courts have reviewed and approved this approach. The courts have also reviewed and approved other school choice approaches. Although we can expect that the Educational Freedom Act will be challenged on this and other constitutional grounds there is little or no concern that such challenges will succeed on these grounds. The courts support freedom of religion and freedom of education.
The Educational Freedom Act is tax and revenue neutral. The existing formulas for funding education in the State of California will remain the same. Taxes will not be increased, nor will the schools’ share of tax revenues be changed. The provisions of Proposition 98 will remain intact. Proposition 98, passed by voters in 1988, essentially earmarked a minimum of 40% of state tax revenues for “education.” The estimated revenue generated by Proposition 98 for FY 2019-20 is $80.7 billion. On a per pupil basis, the State spends approximately $14,000 per pupil per year. The state also provides additional revenues to school districts in the form of grants generated either by the state or the federal government. These additional cash flows total approximately $16 billion. Under the governor’s budget for FY 2019-20, the total projected spending on California public education is approximately $96.7 billion. which represents an average K-12 per pupil spending of $14,000.
It should be noted that because Proposition 98 ties educational revenues to tax revenues, any increase in tax revenues results in automatic increases in educational spending. Because of an expanding economy, spending on education has exploded.
In its current form, the Educational Freedom Act will only reallocate Proposition 98 funds, even though the amount of the individual scholarship will represent, in practice, less than is actually being spent per pupil by the state. Students at public schools, therefore, will continue to receive far more money per capita than students attending private or parochial schools using scholarship funds provided under the Educational Freedom Act.
FYI Prop. 98 represents 38% of the State Budget. Currently it states that the moneys are for public education only. The Education Freedom will add The Education Freedom Act as part of Prop.98 education funding distribution. It changes none of the other convoluted distribution formulas found in Prop. 98.