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Published in Print: November 1, 2000, as Yea Or Nay?

Yea Or Nay?

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Here are some of this year's education-related initiatives.

SCHOOL CHOICE

Millionaires are the chief sponsors of measures calling for statewide voucher plans in both California and Michigan. Silicon Valley venture capitalist Timothy Draper has promised to sink at least $20-million into his campaign for an initiative (Proposition 38) to make $4,000 vouchers available to all California students.

It's a proposal similar to one that voters rejected in 1993, and it's not doing well in polls. Michigan's initiative (Proposition 1), which is sponsored by Amway Corp. President Dick DeVos, is seen as less radical-$3,100 vouchers would be awarded only to children in struggling school districts-and is faring better.

In Washington state this spring, Microsoft mogul Paul Allen jumped on board a five-year-old grassroots drive for charter schools, pledging nearly $3 million to back a measure (Initiative 729) that would allow the creation of 20 such schools over the next four years.


CURRICULUM

After sponsoring California's 1998 initiative that dismantled bilingual education programs in the state, entrepreneur Ron Unz is helping bankroll a similar measure (Proposition 203) this year in Arizona. Conservative activists in Oregon are stumping for the "Student Protection Act" (Measure 9), which would prohibit public school instruction that encourages, promotes, or sanctions homosexuality.


TEACHERS

The Washington state teachers' union has qualified a measure (Initiative 732) to guarantee teachers annual cost-of-living raises. The 70,000-member group has been stymied in its salary battles in the legislature.

In Oregon, tax activist Bill Sizemore has put two "paycheck protection" initiatives on the ballot that target the state teachers' union. The first (Measure 92) would require labor groups to get annual permission from members to use dues for political activities; the second (Measure 98) would prevent unions from using government-run payroll deduction plans to raise campaign cash. A third Sizemore initiative (Measure 95) proposes a merit-pay plan for teachers.


FUNDING

The ballots in Arkansas and Massachusetts both include measures (Amendment 4 and Question 4, respectively) that promise state-tax cuts that could reduce school funding. Colorado and Washington are considering measures (Measure 23 and Initiative 728, respectively) that could substantially increase school funding. Colorado's is backed by Jared Polis, a 25-year-old Internet magnate.

In California, two left-leaning New Economy millionaires, John Doerr and Reed Hastings, are backing a measure (Proposition 39) that would make it easier for districts to pass school construction bonds. This is the pair's second attempt to end the state's requirement that two-thirds of voters approve such bonds, but polls don't look good for them.

Oregon is home to three big tax-relief measures; if all three pass, the Oregonian newspaper recently concluded, they will leave "no corner of public life untouched, from the mightiest state bureaucracy to the tiniest water district." Sizemore is attacking what he calls double taxation with a proposal (Measure 91) to allow residents to deduct their federal tax payments on state returns. He's also qualified an initiative (Measure 93) that would require voters to approve new or increased state taxes, fees, or charges by a "supermajority." Don McIntyre, a former Sizemore ally, is sponsoring a measure (Measure 8) that would limit state spending to no more than 15 percent of the personal income of Oregon residents.

—Drew Lindsay

Vol. 12, Issue 3, Pages 40-46

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