Would allow creation of “Education Savings Account” for each K-12 student; organizers will need to gather signatures of one million voters
Labor Day is the traditional end of the summer and the beginning of fall. Before government created the perpetual school year, Labor Day also marked the beginning of the school year. This year, Labor Day marked the beginning of what will be a decisive and tumultuous year. Californians will have the opportunity to establish true educational freedom in our wonderful Golden State.
School Choice Initiative Filed with Attorney General
In August, key leaders of the California School Choice Foundation joined other Californians to formally present a school choice initiative to the California Attorney General’s office for what is known as “Title and Summary.” We expect to receive that summary no later than October 12, 2021. Once that happens, we can then begin to gather the 1.0 million valid signatures necessary to place it on the November 2022 ballot. Just to make sure, we plan to gather 1.5 million signatures.
Empowers Parents and Revolutionizes Education in California
The key four points of the initiative are these:
Educational Freedom Act
- An Education Savings Account (“ESA”) will be established for each K-12 child in California on request.
- Each year, that account will be credited with the student’s share of what are known as Prop 98 funds. That share will begin at $14,000 per year per student.
- The parent will be able to direct the ESA trust funds to a participating, accredited private or parochial school. The money will follow the student not the politicians.
- Any unspent funds will accumulate and can be spent on college, vocational training or other qualified educational expense.
This plan is both simple and revolutionary. Once passed, California will become the first state to enact universal school choice. More important, it will be the first state to recognize that It’s Your Kids, Your Money and Your Choice!
Get Ready and Get Involved NOW!
I need not tell you that school choice is the hottest issue in the country. It was the linchpin of at least two candidates in the recall election: Larry Elder and Kevin Kiley. Each endorsed our school choice initiative. You can understand why this is initiative is already driving bureaucrats and social engineers insane. No matter what happened in the recall election, school choice is not going anywhere. Thousands of supporters are now mobilizing to get it on the ballot and pass it. Scores of candidates for statewide and local offices will make school choice the focal point of their campaigns.
This is why you need to get involved right now. We don’t have a moment to lose.
Super Sunday – Happy Halloween! Trick or Treat?
As I mentioned above, we are not standing still for a moment. We know we will be able to start gathering signatures a month from now. We have been organizing and advocating for the last three years.
We want to hit the ground running. That’s why we are pre-planning a major event for October 30-31. Whether you call it Super Sunday or Halloween, you need to let us know what church or other venue you will be covering on that weekend. Our goal is to calendar at least 1,000 events statewide. Nothing will send a more powerful message than this. Friends and foes alike will know we are serious about our freedom and the future of our children.
This campaign will run for the next 13 months, ending in victory on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.
The following was provided by Stephen Smith:
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.
Q4. 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.
Q6. 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.
Michael Alexander is President and Chairman of the Board and Stephen Smith is Vice President of Californians for School Choice.
Allen Payton contributed to this report.