Part of the effort to organize school choice activities in California is now under the care of venture capitalist Timothy Draper. Last year Draper created a Web site designed to mobilize grassroots support for school choice (http://www.localchoice2000.com). Draper’s site now features the draft of a school voucher ballot initiative, which he assembled based on input received from California citizens. The ballot initiative draft proposes the creation of a $4,000 tuition “annual credit” program that would simultaneously provide alternatives to public schools and increase per-pupil funding for students who remain in public schools. The “Local Choice Amendment” could qualify for the ballot as soon as March of 2000. (Forbes, 12/28/98; Local Choice Amendment Web site)
On January 25 Governor Jeb Bush released his plan for Florida schools, which contains a limited proposal that would allow children in the worst-performing public schools to attend private and religious schools using public funds. Bush said, however, that if public schools perform well under his care, no such voucher plan would be necessary. Under the proposal, private schools would not be allowed to charge voucher students more for tuition than the average amount spent on a public school student. (Miami Herald, 01/26/99)
State Senator Clay Land has proposed that lottery-funded vouchers be provided to low-income children for use at public or private schools of their choice. To qualify, a student would have to come from one of the worst-performing schools in the state and from a family that earned no more than twice the poverty rate. (Atlanta Journal, 02/02/99)
A poll conducted February 1-4 by EPIC/MRA of Lansing for the Detroit Free Press found that 77 percent of Detroit voters support a K-12 tuition tax credit for tuition paid to nonpublic schools. Sixty-five percent would support a voucher plan. EPIC/MRA surveyed 502 Detroit voters. (Detroit Free Press, 02/06/99)
Despite great opposition, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani continues to push the idea of a limited voucher program for the city. For his support of school choice Giuliani has now been opposed by the United Federation of Teachers, the New York Civil Liberties Union, State Assembly Education Committee Chairman Steven Sanders, Council Speaker Peter Valone, and even an ally–Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew. Many say the mayor’s proposal would be unconstitutional. Nonetheless, Giuliani Senior Advisor Anthony Coles has said that “so long as vouchers are given to parents, and parents can choose the school of their choice, the program will be constitutional.” Giuliani and his aides also say that because the program would be small and experimental, it would require no more approval beyond the Board of Education. (New York Times, 01/26/99; Newsday, 01/16/99)
Not to be confused with above news from Florida, Governor George Bush of Texas encouraged the legislature in his January 5 address to pass a pilot voucher program that would allow students in poorly performing schools to transfer to private and parochial schools. Bush said the time is right for a limited experiment of this kind. (Education Week, 02/03/99)
On January 13 Delegates Jay Kasten and Richard Black, along with Senator Stephen Martin, introduced House Bill 1740, a tax credit for parents who home- school their children or send them to private schools. Unfortunately, the House Finance Committee rejected the bill on February 5. Parents would have been able to claim up to $577 per student in the year 2000. By the year 2004 families could have claimed up to $2,950. (Washington Times, 01/24/99; Virginia General Assembly Web site)
Excerpted with permission from The Freedom Report (#68, February 19, 1999), Blum Center for Parental Freedom in Education, Marquette University, Brooks Hall 209, PO Box 1881, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881; phone 414/288-7040; fax 414/288-3170; e-mail [email protected]. David D. Urbanski, director. The full Freedom Report, done in cooperation with the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation, is available from the Blum Center, or at http://www.mu.edu/blum.