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TUSTIN : District Board Assails School Voucher Plan

September 17, 1993|BERT ELJERA

The Tustin school district board has unanimously condemned the school voucher proposal on the November ballot that would allow parents to use state money to send their children to private schools.

Public school districts have said they will be financial losers if voters approve the measure, Proposition 174.

"It is bad for our kids, bad for taxpayers . . . it's a bad law," said board President Merlin L. Henry Jr., moments before the board approved a resolution opposing the proposal this week.

If approved, Henry said the voucher system will "significantly reduce" the state's already declining funding for public education while offering no safeguards on how the money would be spent.

Except for Dave Leahy, a resident, no other proponent of the measure spoke before the board, although the item was listed on the agenda and available to the public days before the meeting.

Leahy, who has two children enrolled in Tustin elementary schools, said the voucher system will offer parents the option of finding better schools for their children.

"We have got only one shot to educate our children," he said. "We must do it right.

Under the voucher proposal, parents would receive about $2,600 per child, per year, to help pay tuition in a private school. Proponents say it would give parents frustrated with the public school system the choice of where to send their children to school.

In addition, they say it will save taxpayers money because the vouchers cost just about half of the $5,200 the state currently spends per child, per year, in public schools.

Opponents say, however, that with about 500,000 students currently attending private school, the measure would drain $1.3 billion a year from state public education funding at a time of deep budget cuts because of declining tax revenues.

Board members used the same argument in adopting the resolution. They also said private schools are not held to the same curriculum, teaching and graduation standards as public schools.

Teachers, school administrators, school boards and parent-teacher associations across the state have declared opposition to the measure, which will be on the Nov. 2 ballot.

At the Tustin board meeting Monday, parents who spoke against the measure said it will be disastrous to public education.

"This will create a billion-dollar bureaucracy," said Sandy Benes. "Nobody is talking about how much it will cost just to implement this program."

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