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School choice will not be on the ballot in November.

The man who led an initiative campaign to provide $14,000 per student for parents and guardians to select the private or religious school of their choice acknowledged that the drive fell substantially short of the signatures needed to put the measure before voters.

In an email to supporters last week, Michael Alexander, chair of California School Choice Initiative, said the campaign would collect about 200,000 signatures by the 180-day deadline for submitting them on April 11. That’s 20% of the required 997,000 verified signatures and less than a seventh of the campaign’s goal of 1.5 million signature to ensure the initiative would qualify.

“While that is far short of the number required, we can pride ourselves on an incredible effort,” he wrote, promising to try again in 2024.

Unlike a school voucher, which sends tuition money to the private school of a family’s choice, The Educational Freedom Act would have created an Education Savings Account on behalf of the parents. They would have designated a private or religious school and applied any money left over after tuition and expenses like tutoring to save for post-high school graduation education plans, whether a vocational program or college.

The state would have funded the average state funding per student under the Local Control Funding Formula – $14,000 initially – through the General Fund and property taxes. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated the initiative would have cost the state between $4.7 billion to $7 billion annually. Eight states have adopted education savings accounts as of January 2021, according to the school choice advocacy organization EdChoice.

Advocates were hoping dissatisfaction with remote learning and a slow restart to schools when Covid-19 receded would fuel support. Although two previous school choice initiatives in California — to create school vouchers — failed to get more than 30% of the vote in 1994 and 2000, a 2021 poll commissioned by California Policy Center,  a conservative think tank, found 54% of 800 voters surveyed said they’d support an education savings account initiative, 34% opposed and 12% were undecided.

“It should be an ideal year,” said Lance Christensen, vice president of education policy and government affairs for the center, who helped draft the initiative.  “Parents feel really handicapped and limited by their choice for kids’ education and providing savings account to use for any school would have been huge blessing.”

But internal fissures, a lack of money and bad timing doomed chances that a measure would make the ballot, let alone have the resources to counter a multi-million effort to defeat it by the California Teachers Association.

A failure to reach agreement over wording initially led to two competing initiatives last year. Fix California, led by Ric Grinell, former President Trump’s ambassador to Germany, backed out last fall, leaving one underfunded campaign.

Alexander, who previously led the Pasadena Patriots, an arm of the Tea Party, raised only $421,000 as of Dec. 31, with $400,000 from a single donor, Dale Broome, a radiologist from Redlands. That left the campaign without the estimated $7 million to $10 million needed to hire professional signature gatherers.

“Any major ballot proposition would have to have millions of dollars in bank before sending out the first petition. It’s nearly impossible to get an initiative on the ballot through volunteers,” said Christensen, who last month announced his own election campaign to challenge incumbent State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond in November. The omicron surge compounded the challenge of soliciting voters’ signature

In his email to supporters last week, Alexander acknowledged the initiative faced long odds. “Consider this for a moment: If 100 political consultants were asked to prepare a list of the 20 most difficult political projects in the state of California, ranking them by money required to qualify for the ballot, the amount of money that would be spent in opposition and the ferocity of the opposition, school choice would undoubtedly top the list as the most difficult and expensive,” he wrote.

But he said it could be done: “In the coming weeks, we will outline our strategy for ensuring that school choice is on the ballot in 2024. We plan to start gathering signatures again early in 2023. Fundraising for that effort has already begun.”

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  1. Russell Person 2 months ago2 months ago

    As a homeschooling father, I am here to tell others that with or without educational savings accounts, you can educate your children much, much better than the government schools. My 16 year old has completed 44 units of college with a 4.0 GPA.

  2. Brenda Lebsack 7 months ago7 months ago

    It's obvious from the plummeting Calif public education enrollment that there is increased dissatisfaction from parents, and in reading the comments from the Edsource's article about it... that belief is confirmed. https://edsource.org/2022/california-k-12-enrollment-plunges-again-falls-below-6-million/670111 I am a Calif public school teacher and I'm grateful my children are grown. My kids attended public school, however, I would never recommend public schools now. Between CRT, radical gender ideologies, SEL mumbo jumbo, watered down academics, social justice training, sexualizing … Read More

    It’s obvious from the plummeting Calif public education enrollment that there is increased dissatisfaction from parents, and in reading the comments from the Edsource’s article about it… that belief is confirmed. https://edsource.org/2022/california-k-12-enrollment-plunges-again-falls-below-6-million/670111
    I am a Calif public school teacher and I’m grateful my children are grown. My kids attended public school, however, I would never recommend public schools now. Between CRT, radical gender ideologies, SEL mumbo jumbo, watered down academics, social justice training, sexualizing children with explicit materials, non-transparency of school districts, many outside agencies having access to children without parent consent or knowledge via many virtual platforms, and a narcistic, hypocritical teachers’ union, parents have good reason to be outraged. Sadly, school choice did not make it on the 2022 ballot, however, it’s clear there is an outcry for change.

    Edison did not invent the lightbulb in a day, in fact it took him over 2500 failed attempts. I hope reform comes sooner than later because indoctrination cannot be tolerated with tax payer’s money. Here are two books in my district’s elementary schools now, teaching PreK-5th graders that there are unlimited gender choices based on their feelings and that their pronouns can change like the weather. This is not education for the sake of inclusion or diversity, it’s intentional gender confusion and psychological exploitation of impressionable young children. : It Feels Good to Be Yourself
    https://youtu.be/oNB-sYQidhE
    What are your words?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGqi1Q2x8PY&t=6s
    In Santa Ana Unified School District, Oakland Unified and LAUSD (they might be in your children’s school libraries also)

  3. Nicole Amaral 8 months ago8 months ago

    This is a great idea in theory. I just need them to present a clearer plan. I pulled my son from public school last year and pay $668 a month tuition at a Catholic School. I would love to have that reimbursed somehow. We pay property taxes and do not reap any benefits. We pay for my son to get a top notch education free of indoctrination of the leftist agenda. It’s worth it but … Read More

    This is a great idea in theory. I just need them to present a clearer plan. I pulled my son from public school last year and pay $668 a month tuition at a Catholic School. I would love to have that reimbursed somehow. We pay property taxes and do not reap any benefits. We pay for my son to get a top notch education free of indoctrination of the leftist agenda. It’s worth it but we have to live on a shoestring budget in order to make it happen. Our son is our number one priority.

  4. Sean Brennan 8 months ago8 months ago

    Sure, drain money from public education, siphon it into accounts that may or may not pay for a full private-school education, or, What the hey, just put most of it in a savings account and put your kids in some cheap online home schooling, maybe something with a nice, anti-vacc slant, throw in a few field trips to Disneyland, and use the leftover money for a new garden or some pavers or whatever. … Read More

    Sure, drain money from public education, siphon it into accounts that may or may not pay for a full private-school education, or, What the hey, just put most of it in a savings account and put your kids in some cheap online home schooling, maybe something with a nice, anti-vacc slant, throw in a few field trips to Disneyland, and use the leftover money for a new garden or some pavers or whatever. Because, no doubt, auditing millions of accounts into which Cal Ed funds are sent would be super simple! Sounds great! Let the dumbing-down of California accelerate!

    Replies

    • Sean Michael Bearly 8 months ago8 months ago

      The people who want their kids in private schools or home schooling are actually the parents who care most about their children's education. Which makes them more aware of how poorly the public school system is working despite countless increases in budgets. These parents are less likely to waste the funds than are the public school teachers, administrators and unions, which have brought California student achievement scores lower and lower at the same time they … Read More

      The people who want their kids in private schools or home schooling are actually the parents who care most about their children’s education. Which makes them more aware of how poorly the public school system is working despite countless increases in budgets. These parents are less likely to waste the funds than are the public school teachers, administrators and unions, which have brought California student achievement scores lower and lower at the same time they disrespect parents as you are doing now.

      The money should follow the student, not the bureaucrats. That is the only way to get the public schools back to the high level they were before the unions decided there are more important things to teach than reading, writing and arithmetic.

  5. Manny 8 months ago8 months ago

    This was just an attempt to fund religious schools and private schools with public school funds. Everyone has a right to send their child to where they want. You should pay for it yourself if it’s a private school. The roots for this type of initiative goes back to the segregationist South immediately after Brown vs. Board of Education.

  6. Todd Maddison 8 months ago8 months ago

    Certainly unfortunate for the kids of California. So now that the initiative has failed, we see a full article on the effort. Why, during the campaign, did we see nothing from EdSource except one paragraph in an article that was mostly about the failure of two other initiatives? Certainly 200,000 signatures was not nearly enough, but that's 200,000 more than any other all-volunteer initiative on education issues has managed to get. That effort - involving … Read More

    Certainly unfortunate for the kids of California.

    So now that the initiative has failed, we see a full article on the effort. Why, during the campaign, did we see nothing from EdSource except one paragraph in an article that was mostly about the failure of two other initiatives?

    Certainly 200,000 signatures was not nearly enough, but that’s 200,000 more than any other all-volunteer initiative on education issues has managed to get.

    That effort – involving thousands of volunteers statewide and getting so many parents to sign, was the most significant grass roots effort to fix education that has happened in our state in a long time.

    Was that not “education news” while it was happening?

    As the article says, “buying” signatures is a whole lot easier – all it takes is many millions of dollars.

    Californians’ for School Choice attempted it with just a passionate army of volunteers who care about the education of our kids.

    There were plenty of flaws in the effort, I hope we all learn from that and – for the good of our kids – make this successful in 2024.

    And maybe that time around we can see some coverage during the build up and campaign itself, rather than waiting until it’s over?