If This Gets on the Ballot, Our Schools Could Become More Like Florida’s

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Imagine you are walking into the grocery store, minding your own business, when a paid signature-gatherer with a clipboard tells you “This will give California kids a constitutional right to a high-quality public school education.” Sounds great, but wait! Who defines exactly what constitutes “high quality”?

As a sophisticated voter, you don’t pick up your pen to sign until you have read the Petition Summary. It goes like this (emphasis added):

“Creates new constitutional right for all public school students in preschool through high school, including charter schools, to a ‘high-quality’ education, the requirements of which will be defined by the courts. Allows lawsuits to enjoin or invalidate any law, regulation, policy, or action that allegedly violates this new right. Policies that do not ‘put the interests of students first,’ which is not defined, are deemed to violate the new right.”

So that’s the catch. “High quality” is defined not by educators or by democratically elected school boards or communities or families, but judges. What fun could the far right have with that? (For they are wise in the ways of “court shopping.”)

The full text of the ballot petition is even more interesting. As CCUSD School Board Member Brian Guerrero points out, “There’s a lot of coded language in it. It’s trying to create an opening to attack teachers and unions, but it is also trying to open space for more charter schools as well as school vouchers that could be used in private schools. You’ll also notice that it takes aim at ‘developmentally inappropriate curriculums’, which means they are probably unhappy with including LGBTQ students and families, racial equity, and/or the teaching of a realistic portrayal of US history vs. patriotism propaganda. It’s a right-wing grab bag.”

And check out Section 3(d) of the thing. It seems that it would allow a court to order almost any remedy except for new taxes to provide underfunded schools with the resources they would need to provide a high-quality education.

This new campaign seems to be largely a re-tread of #21-0033, that failed to qualify for the 2022 ballot. It appears that at least part of the agenda last time was to attack the teachers’ unions. One of the key backers of #21-0033 was a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who had a bee in his bonnet about teacher tenure. He had even underwritten a lawsuit against the California Teachers Association over it.

The official “Fiscal Impact” statement vaguely refers to “Unknown litigation and court costs…”

When the paid signature gatherer approaches me with this one, I will politely decline.