With the 2022 General Election now only a year away, many serious races are now looking deeper into signature collection and the June primaries. But for many parents looking at alternative schools and homeschooling due to new vaccine mandates for students and low public school ratings, a new proposed ballot initiative that would give up to $14,000 per student to attend private schools is quickly making headway into being on the ballot in 2022.
According to the California Education Savings Accounts Initiative (Educational Freedom Act), one of a slew of proposed ballot initiatives currently collecting signatures for next year, California would provide yearly voucher payments of $14,000 into education savings accounts for K-12 students attending accredited private schools. The initiative would include religious schools, eliminating the current constitutional ban on public funding going towards religious and other private schools. California would not be allowed to set requirements on certain standards, such as teacher credentialing, curriculum, or disciplinary policies, but would need to meet educational standards in order to graduate and advance in grades, as well as meet state health and safety standards.
Funds for the vouchers would come directly from both the California state General Fund and local property taxes, with any extra funds from the vouchers after tuition and other private schools costs going to college, vocational training, and other higher education costs. If funds remain by the time the student is 30, all remaining funds will go back to the state.
Following the proposed proposition receiving the okay to start collecting signatures last month by the Attorney General’s office, many groups quickly voiced opposition to the initiative, most notably, public school teacher groups and unions. Public school teachers unions, most notably the California Teachers Association (CTA), already have been fighting back against numerous proposed initiatives that would weaken public schools and teachers unions, including the Constitutional Right to a Higher Quality Public Education Act and initiatives that would challenge current tenure firing rules. The $14,000 for private education would just be another line in the sand for them.
“If this is passed by voters, public schools would have to compete with wealthier private schools,” said Andrea Dominguez, a public school teacher in California whose school would be severely challenged by the possible new law due to a number of private schools in the district, to the Globe on Monday. “Public schools are the building blocks of this nation. This would erase them and severely weaken how much we can teach children not wealthy enough to go to private schools, even with that voucher.”
A huge possible expansion for private schools in California
However, proponents of the proposed initiative say it will give students equal access to private schools, and would give lower-income students a possible head start on higher education by using unspent private school voucher funds. California currently has around 6.6 million K-12 students, with only 471,000 going to private schools. If passed, the initiative would raise this number and, if unchallenged, could begin more private school start-ups in the Golden State.
“Today marks the culmination of three years of hard work from our dedicated network of grassroots supporters that created this real movement for true school choice reform,” said Californians for School Choice Chairman Mike Alexander last month. “Under the Educational Freedom Act students would be able to attend any accredited private or religious school of their choice and save any money left over for college, vocational training or other qualified expense. The Educational Freedom Act is unique because it does not call for a means test. It gives all students equal access to accredited schools that they might not be otherwise able to afford. There are no caps on the savings accounts.”
The proposed proposition will have until April 11, 2022 to get 623,212 valid voter signatures to appear on the 2022 General Election ballot, although more signatures will be needed to combat invalid and unusable signatures.