State of California (Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sierra, Yuba Counties) November 7, 2000 Election
Smart Voter

Vouchers An Attack On Education

By Thomas "Tom" Romero

Candidate for State Senator; District 1

This information is provided by the candidate
This position paper discusses the efforts to use tax payer dollars to fund private and religious schools. Another vouchers initiative will be on the November ballot. Vote NO!

Thomas "Tom" Romero Candidate for the First Senate District of California

A voucher initiative will appear on this November's election ballot. This measure is another attempt in California to use public money to fund private schools. This initiative like those in the past is an attack on public education---if successful it will destroy free public education as we know it today. One of the main factors pushing the voucher initiatives across the country is the effort for private individuals to make money off the taxpayers without being responsible to those taxpayers. The supporters want to use the taxpayer's money for private gain. In California, education is the people's business. Education dollars make up half the state budget--it truly is big business and in general the 1,000 school districts in California are doing a good job, with the resources available to them.

The voucher initiative on this November's ballot will cost California's tax payers $2.5 billion to fund private schools. These schools will not be accountable to the tax payers since the initiative prevents public oversight of public funds. Any person can start a private school and receive a $4,000 voucher per enrolled student. Private vouchers schools will be exempt from provisions of the state building codes, including fire, earthquakes, safety standards for construction and maintenance.

Many of us remember the tragedy of Jones Town. If this initiative passes a person such as the former Rev. Jim Jones could take public educational funds without being accountable to the public. Do we really want to take a chance like this with our tax dollars or children?

Public school systems in California are built on the idea of comprehensive compulsory for all children. The United States is the first nation in history to make an effective effort to educate all the country's children despite gender, economic background, race or national origins. It has not been a perfect attempt as we know from the past in the segregate south or here in California with the children of migrant farm workers. Though it is imperfect, it is one institution that all Americans should be proud of and continue to support. Unfortunately, there are those who for narrow religious or economic reasons wish to destroy this on going experiment in democracy. Our public tax money should fund schools to strengthen the democratic institutions of our nation not create places to pursue narrow religious ideals or segregate students by the economic level of their parents.

The American Federation of Teachers in its Spring 1999 publication reported that a state audit revealed that Ohio residents' tax dollars for the voucher program in Cleveland are subsidizing private school tuition for many families with annual incomes of $50,000 or more. Thirty students, some from families with annual incomes of more than $80,000, have applied for and received vouchers--even though the program was bankrolled through a transfer of state aid for disadvantaged students and is touted by supporters as a lifeline for low-income students.

Our schools are the one institution where all Americans whatever class or race come together in a unifying setting. Our schools are where we as citizens hopefully learn the give and take of working together in an academic setting or on the playing field. California schools do an exceptional job with the resources available to them. We have highly dedicated teachers who work long hours in their commitment to educating children. There are many parents serving on school boards, site councils, and the P.T.A.s working to give the best education possible to students. Testing shows that the top 25% of students in this country compare equally with those in other nations. Overall, our test score are low because we try to educate all children no matter their social position, cultural background, or mental abilities.

Though we have the longest history of free public education, we are not the first country to have this important democratic institution attacked. Beginning in 1984, New Zealand like the United Kingdom earlier under the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has had its public system "devolved" or privatized. Hugh Lauder, Cathy Wylie, and Rose Parker-Taunoa in their work "Towards Successful Schooling" pointed out that the policies to destroy public education are an attack on the egalitarian system that benefits women, minorities and working people.

The one major thread that runs through this attempt to destroy public education at home or abroad as in New Zealand is the idea of consumer choice. Underlying the claim that public schools are not doing well is the notion of consumer sovereignty. Those antagonistic to public schools are attempting to reduce the democratic institution of public schools to consumer choice. Their argument is basically that the state has a monopoly over education and that monopoly prevents parents from making an informed choice as they do daily in the marketplace. But educating children in a democratic society is more complex than offering canned peas for sale in a supermarket.

We cannot hide from the fact that our schools are not perfect and we must make necessary reforms to improve the quality of our public schools. Our schools in part do not measure up to other industrial nations. But those nations by which we are measured have educational systems that have strong centralized government control and regulation. When you compare the choice and school involvement that California parents have to that of Japanese parents our school systems have greater local control and more free choice.

We must not shred our comprehensive system of "public education for all" into a system of private schools that are narrowly focused on special groups because then California's schools will become socially segregated as they are in many other countries.

Let us work together to improve California's schools to benefit all the children of the state and see to it that all the schools in our northern California communities offer quality education equal to any other section of the state.

Save Our Public Schools Vote "NO!" on Vouchers


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