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ORANGE : Candidates Criticize School Vouchers

September 21, 1993|MARTIN MILLER

Most of the candidates campaigning for four seats on the Orange Unified School District Board of Trustees have declared their opposition to Proposition 174, the school voucher initiative on the November ballot.

At the district's first candidates' forum last week, seven of the 10 school board candidates criticized the controversial initiative, saying it would harm the state's education system by increasing the gap between good and bad schools. Candidates also said they feared that the initiative, if approved, would give birth to a monstrous new bureaucracy.

"It scares the dickens out of me to think of what kind of bureaucracy it would take to establish (the initiative) and implement it," said William Parker, an assistant school superintendent in Riverside County who is seeking the Area 4 seat.

Board President Lila Beavans now represents Area 4 but announced last month that she will not seek reelection.

The proposed state measure would offer parents of school-age children a taxpayer-funded voucher to help pay private school tuition. The school voucher plan would change the way the state funds education by providing parents with vouchers worth about $2,600 to be redeemed at any public, private or parochial school.

The other candidates who oppose the voucher plan are: John Hurley, incumbent, Area 1; James H. Fearns, a youth probation officer, Area 4; Terri Sargeant, a part-time county planner, Area 5; Mara Brandman, community activist, Area 5; Marvella McAllister, Area 7; and Alan E. Irish, incumbent, Area 7.

Two candidates, Max Reissmueller, an electronics technician supervisor running for the Area 5 seat, and Rick Ledesma, a corporate cost analyst running for the Area 7 seat, would not take a position on the school voucher initiative. They said voters should decide for themselves about the matter.

Reissmueller and Ledesma, however, were the only candidates who stressed they would fight any proposed district tax increases.

Only one candidate, Frank C. Noble, a business insurance broker running for the Area 4 seat, backed the proposed state measure.

The school voucher "will bring quality to the school systems," Noble said. "The status quo, the way it is, isn't the answer."

The sprawling district has schools in Orange, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Villa Park and Silverado. The district has about 26,000 students.

The forum, which was held Wednesday night, was sponsored by the Orange Taxpayers Assn.

Local PTA groups are trying to organize at least two more candidate forums in October, but no dates have been set.

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