by Stephen Smith
September 15, 2021
In general, reporters and others interested in our initiative are directed to our website www.californiaschoolchoice.org. You will find the FAQ’s particularly helpful.
Q1. What about California’s public education system led to this grassroots effort for the initiative?
The reasons are legion.
- California schools can hardly be called an “education” system. Despite spending $20,000 per student per year – – that’s an average of $500,000 per classroom of 25 – – California schools rank near the bottom of the nation at 48th place. This has happened even though per pupil spending has almost doubled in the last decade.
- Increasingly, California schools preferred to indoctrinate rather than educate. In the face of vigorous parental opposition, social engineers (*1) disguised as “educators” continue their efforts to implement critical race theory. They also have frustrated efforts of parents to opt out of equally controversial “sex-ed” programs. (*2)
- Parents are outraged by the closure of the schools and mask mandates. Eighteen months after the start of the Covid panic, schools are still not fully reopened.
- Parents are frustrated by being ignored by school boards, teachers unions and politicians. They feel strongly – – and correctly – – that they are the parents and should be making basic decisions about the health, education and formation of their children. This is a basic human right that is frustrated daily by a leviathan system that cares little for them for their children. (*3)
*1 https://freebeacon.com/coronavirus/la-teachers-union-president-there-is-no-such-thing-as-learning-loss/ “There is no such thing as learning loss," the union president told Los Angeles Magazine. "Our kids didn't lose anything. It's OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup." Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA)
(*3) CPC report and polling data https://californiapolicycenter.org/new-polling-shows-covid-19-shifted-california-voters-opinions-on-schools-2/
Q2. How will the state provide the $14K per student?
- The principal source will be Proposition 98 tax revenues which, in the coming school year, will average approximately $14,000 per student. In fact, as noted above, the State spends approximately $20,000 per student per year.
- Ultimately, of course, parents, like every other taxpayer in California, will pay dearly for their own K-12 education as well as that of their children. Politicians and other advocates of centralized, inefficient, and incompetent government schools, never let on that under proposition 98, 40% of California state tax revenues are earmarked for what they are pleased to call “education.” As a practical matter, therefore, everyone in California will pay for K-12 education their entire lives. The only question is whether they get the education they pay for. Therefore, we say: It’s Your Kids, Your Money, and Your Choice.
Q3. Why do students and families need school choice?
- It should be recognized that what we call “school choice” is another way of describing parental choice. As discussed above, California schools, dominated by corrupt teachers’ unions and politicians have utterly failed to educate our children. This system particularly affects poor and minority communities who have no ability to escape the system. Therefore, they have no opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty and ignorance that so often characterizes our inner cities.
- It is not only that they need school choice. It benefits all of us. In California, indeed in America itself, real progress depends upon economic, social, and political mobility. The foundation of this mobility is a decent education without which our poorest citizens cannot hope to participate fully in our complex economy and our form of government. The current government school monopoly both creates and sustains a permanent underclass. This system is not only immoral, but also dangerous. Therefore, our school choice initiative must first be understood as a preferential option for the poor.
- School choice is wildly popular among parents and citizens at large. There are several polls showing that approximately 70% of black and Latino Democrat parents desire some form of school choice.
- Another example is homeschooling. It is estimated that there were only 73,000 homeschooled children in 1973. In the wake of school closures and the rapid decline in education, that number has swollen to as much as 5 million. These parents are tired of arguing with the teacher unions and politicians.
Q 4. Is this the first ballot initiative of its kind in the U.S.?
- This is not the first time that Californians have tried to get some form of school choice. There was an initiative on the ballot in the early 90’s and again in 2000. Both failed. That said, there are several states that have various forms of school choice that often include the ability of parents to choose a public school to attend but only within the system. Other state programs do allow limited funds to attend a private school or provide funds for certain educational expenses procured outside the system. Arizona and Florida are examples of each. Some states have put Education Savings Accounts into place to implement parental choice.
- The Educational Freedom Act initiative goes further than any other proposal of which we are aware. It grants the right of any parent to request the creation and funding of an Education Savings Account that they can use to enroll their child in any accredited school of their choice and save anything left over for college or vocational training. It is both simple and revolutionary.
Q5. Why does it need to happen through a voter referendum instead of the state legislature?
- This is simple. The politicians, special interests and the teachers’ unions have a monopoly on what millions of Californians say, think and do. They also control for their own benefit 40% -- over $100 billion – of the California budget. They will not give up this power willingly. We anticipate that the enemies of educational freedom will spend $100 – 200 million to defeat parents’ rights.
Q5. What is most important for people to know?
- The most important thing for people to know is that help is on the way. For the first time:
- Parents, not politicians, bureaucrats or zip codes, will determine how and where their children will be education.
- Because all schools, both public and private, will have to compete for students, ALL schools will get better.
- Because of competition, all schools will have to deal respectfully with parents who will be customers with a choice.
- Parents, including homeschoolers, will be able to shape their children’s education in a way best suited to their needs and talents, not the government’s.
- Because educational funding will now follow the student and empower parents, California will experience unprecedented innovation in education. California will once again lead the nation in educational innovation and excellence.