Rescuing Public Education in California

Depending on who you ask, California’s K-12 system of public education would be doing just fine if taxpayers threw another $30 billion (or more) per year into its insatiable maw, or, it is a failed model mostly because the teachers’ union agenda has ruined everything, from a crippling administrative overhead to mandating a curricula more obsessed with leftist indoctrination than with basic education.

In either case, though, there is agreement that big changes are necessary in order to restore to California’s K-12 students an education that offers them the skills and personal growth that will prepare them for life in the 21st century.

Big challenges are best addressed by big ideas. But California’s state legislature is a place where big ideas go to die, especially when it comes to education. Fortunately there is another path, which is through a state ballot initiative.

There is precedent, in the form of Prop. 38, a school voucher initiative that was put before California voters in 2000. It would have required the state to pay $4,000 per year per pupil attending private or religious schools, while greatly reducing the regulations governing the schools. The overall financial impact was unclear, with the possibility that in the long-run, public spending on K-12 education might actually decrease, since the $4,000 payment might be just enough to induce significant numbers of parents to shift their children into private and religious schools, allowing the much more expensive public school system to shrink.

While Prop. 38 was easily defeated […] Read More

School Choice Initiative Quietly Gathers Support

In the November 2020 election, California’s powerful teachers’ unions spent over $20 million promoting Prop. 15, which would have increased taxes on commercial properties. Other unions, mostly in the public sector, spent another $17 million to promote Prop. 15. But voters weren’t buying it. Prop. 15 failed.

Overall, in November 2020, California’s government unions spent nearly $70 million to promote or oppose state ballot initiatives, and almost all of that spending was unsuccessful. While a couple of union supported ballot propositions were approved by voters, they weren’t high priorities, attracting only around $200,000 in union spending.

This result presents a paradox. Why is it that public sector unions, which collect and spend nearly $1.0 billion per year in revenue, mostly from dues, and use that money to make or break the political campaigns of nearly every member of the California State Legislature, and which in similar manner control nearly every city council, county board of supervisors, school board, and governing board of transit districts and fire districts and transportation districts – you get the picture – why couldn’t they impose their will on California’s electorate when it came to ballot propositions in 2020?

Consider these results on key initiatives, all contrary to the will of California’s government unions: 52 percent of voters rejected increasing property taxes, 56 percent rejected “no bail” laws, 57 percent rejected the reinstatement of racial preferences, 58 percent supported the rights of independent contractors, and 60 percent rejected Read More