Frustrated Kern Residents Want Taxpayer Funds To Leave Public School System | New

David Lopez didn’t need to explain his growing frustration with public schools to the small crowd gathered in an Assembly of God hall in Canyon Hills.

Lopez and his wife, Lillian Lopez, are leading the local effort to collect signatures for a new statewide voting initiative that promises to give parents more control over their children’s education. The Education Freedom Act does this by providing $ 14,000 per year for every student who leaves the public school system – either to spend on a private school or to save for post-secondary education and training.

On Tuesday night, the Canyon Hills crowd shared David’s anger with the public schools and were eager to hear how in Kern County they could help collect 1 million signatures so that the initiative qualifies for the ballot. November 2022 statewide.

But Lopez has always pointed out the problems in public schools that angered local conservative Christians, including him and his wife Lillian Lopez. The pair serve as co-chairs in Kern County for the California Schools Selection Committee, which created the Education Freedom Act.

Topping the list were mandates imposed by the state during the pandemic, particularly Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent order that all students be vaccinated against COVID-19, pending full approval of the vaccine by the FDA. David also referred to California’s emphasis on promoting LGBT rights in schools and ethnic studies in its program guidelines.

“It’s time for a change,” Lopez told the crowd. “The temperature is rising in the state, and it’s coming to a tipping point.”

California’s current public school system has been overtaken by vested interests, including teacher unions, David said. This ballot initiative puts parents in control, allowing them to use taxpayer dollars for their children’s education in a way that better matches their moral values.

Lillian, whose daughter attends the Bakersfield City School District, has been instrumental in recent efforts to allow parents to opt out of anti-bullying classes that involve LGBTQ content.

“Parents have the right to teach children what they want,” said Lillian.

How it works

Since Proposition 98 of 1988, public schools receive a basic amount per pupil. This school year it was $ 13,465. This is not all the money schools have, but it is the money that the Education Freedom Act wants to put in education savings accounts for every student.

Parents who withdraw their students from public school – or who don’t have their students in public school in the first place – could claim an annual voucher to their education savings account each year. It would start at $ 14,000 in 2023-24. This money could be used to pay for tuition, fees or other expenses at an accredited private or religious school.

The remaining funds would remain in the account. It could possibly be used for higher education or vocational school. This is the key for parents who choose to teach their students at home. They too would also be eligible for education savings accounts. They could let their money pile up until they were interested in using it, whether it was a high school, college, or vocational program.

Students attending public school would not receive money in these accounts. Their Proposition 98 funds would go directly to the school they attend, as is currently the case.

Supporters of the initiative said it was simply a way to refund taxpayer money so parents can use it however they see fit.

“You are paying for what they are happy to call education,” said Mike Alexander, president of Californians for School Choice statewide. “The only question is whether you will get it.”

Disagreement on the good ones

David said the Education Freedom Act should have bipartisan appeal because it would also force public schools to improve, competing for students and all the tax dollars they bring in.

The theory is based on the principles of the free market. When parents have the opportunity to shop for a school with taxpayer dollars, they will be taken care of in a new way by the public school system, Alexander said. At present, children are “locked in a state monopoly”.

Luis Huerta, professor of education and public policy at Teachers College Columbia University, conducts research focused on school choice efforts, including good ones. He said that while the good guys continue to be politically popular, three decades of research on other states with good guys has not supported claims that they are driving reform.

Students who move from public to private schools do not necessarily perform better. He cited research in Louisiana and Ohio showing that sometimes they are doing less well. He said students’ high performance in private schools was due to their families, income and other factors, not the school itself.

“There is no ‘private school effect’,” Huerta said.

He also noted that the Education Freedom Act is structured differently from other programs, as there is no means test. Voucher programs that have been adopted in other states tend to target low-income students or students from lower performing schools, at least initially.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office reviewed the program and noted that the immediate beneficiaries of this program would be many of the 555,000 students who are currently in a private school or homeschool who would apply for funds from this program. There is no resource test in the initiative, so anyone would be eligible. If 90 percent of those students applied, it would cost the state $ 9 billion a year.

“The state would typically pay for these costs through cuts to existing funding for public schools (as the measure allows) and / or cuts to other public programs supported by the General State Fund,” he said. said the Office of Legislative Analysts. tax impact report.

Huerta said the initiative offers “another right to those who attend private schools.”

The initiative’s website addresses this problem by stating that most high-wage earners “pay almost all of the funding for K-12 education.”

“The majority of the top 20% of employees do not have children in primary and secondary education and would not derive any financial benefit” indicates the site in an FAQ section. “Putting all California K-12 students on a level playing field financially is extremely fair. “

History of vouchers

California has already considered similar initiatives. In 1993, 69.56% of Californians rejected Proposition 174, which would have given parents half the amount spent per student in the previous year for tuition. Proposition 38, a measure that would offer parents $ 4,000 vouchers, was rejected outright in 2000 with 70.6 votes against.

Alexander and David have pointed to groups like the California Teachers Association as opponents who have helped contain past efforts. (A representative from CTA said he was not commenting on measures that had not qualified for the ballot.) But Huerta noted that private schools themselves have been the main enemies of the good efforts, at the same time. both in California and in other states. Catholic schools in California opposed Proposition 38.

Huerta said the economy of private schools can be disrupted by the vouchers. This could lead to higher tuition fees, and it is not clear whether the voucher would cover funds to allow private schools to grow. Many private schools may not want to expand – they may want to keep the small environment they have now, he said.

But Alexander, who was part of the 2000 effort, said he believed the initiative would be more successful than in previous years due to the current political climate. He noted the walkout of schools statewide on Monday to protest the impending school vaccination mandate. Some school districts in Kern County saw attendance drop 25% on the day of the protest.

“Parents are fed up with schools that don’t open, school boards that don’t listen,” Alexander said. “The only real option is the choice of school.”

Lillian said her group will reach out to other churches for their support. But the heart of the local effort is the Canyon Hills Assembly of God. The church’s harvest festival on October 31 will kick off the local signature-gathering effort.

You can reach Emma Gallegos at 661-395-7394.

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