School - Not Parental - Choice in California

The Opinion page article ``Californians Weigh School-Choice System,'' Oct. 4, incorrectly identifies California's voucher initiative on the November ballot as the ``Parental Choice in Education'' initiative.

The initiative provides for school choice, not parental choice. Section b.7. of the initiative states clearly: ``the State shall disburse the student's scholarship funds ... directly to the school ....'' The choice of who to take is left to the school. As the author points out, schools are allowed under the proposal to reject students based on gender, religion, academic or physical ability, or family income.

The author also comments on the fact that choice programs offered in other parts of the country are not being discussed in this campaign. I think the reason for this is the scope of the California proposal, which is a constitutional amendment, locking this particular choice alternative into the state Constitution and making it nearly impossible to change. It is not a pilot project targeted to needy students that can be modified as necessary. Advocates of public education as a foundation of our democracy are appropriately concerned about the effect this widespread proposal would have on society.

Californians would be best served by carefully reading Prop. 174 before voting and asking themselves if it really addresses the concerns expressed by its proponents. Since the article was written, Gov. Pete Wilson has come out in opposition to Prop. 174. Meg Stallard, Woodland, Calif.

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