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L.A. Mayor Endorses Preschool Measure

April 28, 2006|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

Surrounded by parents and students at a charter school in MacArthur Park, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday endorsed the universal preschool measure on the June 6 ballot.

His call for city voters to support Proposition 82 is the latest in a flurry of announcements both for and against the initiative that reveal a surprising lack of traditional partisanship.

Unlike many recent California ballot measures, which were supported or opposed along party lines, Hollywood director Rob Reiner's proposal to provide free half-day preschool for the state's 4-year-olds has proponents and detractors in both Republican and Democratic camps.

"On most measures, you tend to see sharp party polarization, [but] occasionally, politicians are telling the truth when they say they have the public interest in mind. Sometimes they just have genuine disagreements about where the public interest lies," said John Pitney Jr., a government professor at Claremont McKenna College.

"A lot of times there are ulterior motives, but this might be a case of sincere disagreement."

Proposition 82 -- which would tax the state's wealthiest individuals, raising an estimated $2.4 billion annually -- has split traditional allies. The state Chamber of Commerce opposes it, while the Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco chambers support it. Villaraigosa has joined Democratic gubernatorial candidates Steve Westly and Phil Angelides in favor, but other liberal lawmakers such as state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and former state Sen. John Burton are opposing it.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes the measure, but his former education secretary and fellow Republican Richard Riordan not only supports it but also has been named a co-chairman of the pro-82 campaign.

Villaraigosa announced his endorsement while flanked by students, parents and educators on a playground of the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy.

He said universal preschool would prepare children for kindergarten, help them learn to read earlier and reduce the number of high-school dropouts.

"California needs to make an investment in education," he said.

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