State Journal: Bipartisan opposition
"I have reached this conclusion reluctantly, having publicly advocated ... the virtues of an experiment in parental choice,'' Governor Wilson, a Republican, said in a letter to leading supporters of the voucher proposal.
"With California facing the very real possibility of a fourth year of falling revenues and resulting budget cuts, I cannot responsibly advocate taking a risk that, given the odds, could seriously worsen the state's budget situation and jeopardize funding for education,'' he said.
The proposal would give parents scholarships they could use to send their children to public, private, or parochial schools. The vouchers would be worth half the amount the state spends per pupil on public schools. Local public school funding would be reduced for each student choosing to transfer to a private school.
Governor Wilson cited an estimate by the state finance department that the voucher program would cost the state about $1 billion over three years, and could cost as much as $1.6 billion.
The plan would only save the taxpayers money if about a million students transferred to private schools, he said, adding that there "clearly is not now the unused private school capacity'' that would be required.
President Clinton took sides during a West Coast visit, predicting that Californians "will regret this if they pass it.''
In a speech to an A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention in San Francisco, Mr. Clinton said the proposal would funnel $1.3 billion to people who already have children in private schools, "taking it right off the top away from a school system that doesn't have enough money to educate the kids it's got in it in the first place.''
He also said no standards for program quality would apply to schools receiving vouchers.
During a "town meeting'' in Sacramento, Mr. Clinton said charter schools are a better way to promote school choice, touting his own proposal for federal grants to support the development of such schools. The proposal is included in Mr. Clinton's plan for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
"We give states incentives to allow more choice of schools within the public school system, and we give incentives for school systems to empower people to set up schools, license them, and run them according to high standards as a part of the public school system,'' Mr. Clinton said.
"I think that's a better way to go than the intiative that's on the
ballot out here,'' he said.--J.M.