California School Vouchers for Foster Children Initiative (2010)

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A California School Vouchers for Foster Children Initiative (09-0085) did not qualify for the November 2, 2010 ballot in California as an initiated constitutional amendment.

On November 18, 2009, William E. Oberndorf filed a request with the Office of the California Attorney General for an official ballot title on an act that he was calling the "Foster Child Opportunity Scholarship Act." Once the attorney general's office provided that title, supporters were able to start collecting signatures.

Text of measure

Ballot title

The ballot title for 09-0085 was[1]:

Establishes Private-School Scholarships for Foster Children. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

The letter requesting a ballot title was filed by Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor.

Summary

The official ballot summary was:[1]

Requires the State to offer annual private-school scholarships for foster children eligible to attend kindergarten through twelfth grade. Amends Constitution to allow foster children to use these scholarships at religious schools, if they choose to do so. Limits the value of the scholarships to no more than the amount of state funding per pupil provided for charter school pupils. Requires each foster child in private school who has received the scholarship to take state-mandated academic tests.[2]

Fiscal impact

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:[1]

No impact on total education funding at the state level. Minor reduction in education costs at local public schools.[2]

Purpose

According to the language filed with election officials, the motivations for the proposed initiative were:

(a) Approximately 50,000 K-12 school-age foster children reside in California.

(b) The appropriate responsible adults in foster children's lives have legal and effective responsibility to make decisions that will best help each foster child become an educated, productive member of society.

(c) Most foster children attend public schools in the district of their foster residence. Often foster children change residences and therefore must change schools. This is not always best for their educational needs.

(d) Private schools are currently not an available option to most foster children, but their ability to attend them could improve their educational outcomes and provide a dimension of stability to this aspect of their lives.

( e) California should expand opportunities for foster children to be educated in schools that best suit their needs by permitting the funding used to otherwise pay for costs of educating foster children in public schools to be used toward the costs of their education at California qualified private schools chosen by the appropriate responsible adult in their lives.

Commentary

The editorial board of the Orange County Register wrote in January 2010, "This is potentially a promising way to introduce more competition and reform into California's underperforming public education system. More broadly, it would give school choice a beta test in California...This effort could become a valuable test for improving education in California and, at the same time, extend more opportunities to some of our most disadvantaged individuals."[3]

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Secretary of State Ballot Title and Summary for Initiative 09-0085, accessed January 10, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  3. Orange County Register, "A chance for school choice to prove itself," January 5, 2010