The passage of the Parental Choice in Education initiative could mean a loss of $5.5 million for Tustin's public schools, district officials said recently.
"We believe that (passage of the initiative) would have a disastrous effect," said Jane Bauer, a board member of the Tustin Unified School District. "I believe parental choice is important, but first we have to strengthen education on the public school level."
The district unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the initiative in March.
With that in mind, the district is sponsoring public debates on the initiative to persuade parents to oppose it. The measure would, among other things, allow parents to apply for state public-education money to help pay the cost of private school tuition.
Proponents of the measure are trying to collect 615,958 signatures by April 27 in order to place the initiative on the November ballot.
"This initiative is intended to give all parents an equal opportunity," said Gary Mendoza with the Excellence Through Choice in Education League, the group backing the measure.
"This initiative is based on the belief that our public schools are not serving the needs of students and parents," said Mendoza. "The schools that are under-serving our kids do have something to fear."
Bauer, who butted heads with Mendoza at Thursday's community meeting, said that by her own calculations, Tustin Unified could lose millions if the initiative passes.
Bauer said that for every 10 students in public schools statewide, one student attends private school. Using that ratio, she estimated that Tustin Unified has about 1,100 students in private schools. If the initiative passes and the district lost $5,000 per student, that would be a total loss of $5.5 million, Bauer said.
An analysis of the measure by the California School Boards Assn., however, noted that the initiative could allow as much as $6,700 per student to be funneled away from public schools.
District Supt. David Andrews agreed that passage of the initiative would be detrimental to the district. He said the measure sets up an unequal means of competition between public and private schools since they operate under vastly different guidelines.
"It's like attempting to clip a fingernail with a chain saw," Andrews said. The school district is not alone in its opposition to the initiative. Santa Ana Unified, Rancho Santiago Community College, Placentia-Yorba Linda, Saddleback Valley Unified, Huntington City, Huntington Union High School, Ocean View and Westminster School districts have adopted resolutions opposing the measure.
The Tustin district's final community debate on the measure will be Thursday at 7 p.m. at A.G. Currie Middle School at 1402 Sycamore Ave. in Tustin.