Signature-gathering begins for CA private school savings account ballot initiative
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
California has just given approval for signature-gathering for a proposed state ballot measure to create education savings accounts, with $17,000 a year per student usable at any accredited private school in the country.
Opponents say the move would hurt public schools.
Kevin McNamee, a community college professor spearheading the proposal, countered low-income families should have choices not limited to their local public school.
"If that local public school is giving a poor education, which leads to a poor-paying job, it continues the cycle of poverty," McNamee asserted. "This puts the low-income families, moderate-income families, on par with the same educational options as the wealthy families here in California."
The Secretary of State estimates the program would cost up to $10 million a year, money which would otherwise go to public schools. The initiative would reverse the state constitution's ban on public funds for religious or nonreligious private schools. And it would place no limits on parental income, allowing wealthy families to qualify for the money.
Kate Silveira, an elementary school art teacher at the Desert Sands Unified School District in Indian Wells, opposes the initiative, arguing similar programs in other states have primarily benefited the wealthy.
"For example, in New Hampshire, 89% of the students that received the money were already in private schools," Silveira pointed out. "These funds are really just a coupon for students already in private education. And we shouldn't be pulling money from our public school education system."
Silveira also thinks public funds should not go to schools with no obligation to accept every student. She noted private schools are free to consider factors like race, religion, test scores and income level - and they don't have to provide special education.
"Our taxpayer funds for education needs to support every child," Silveira emphasized. "Once you start discriminating against any group, it doesn't support everybody. And that's not the purpose of our state-funded and federally-funded public education."
The proposal would prohibit the state from requiring certain curriculum, disciplinary, or teacher credentialing policies as a condition of funding. Its backers must deliver more than 874,000 signatures no later than mid-May of next year, in order to be on the November 2024 ballot.
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