Actually, my wife and I were wallowing in fall colors in the Great
Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, about which I plan to
write later. We were also in Jimmy Carter country while he was opting out
of the Southern Baptists for reasons that relate rather directly to some
things going on here. But I'll save that, too, because this week is full
of portent, both locally and nationally, and I'd like to run on a little
about one element in our upcoming election.
Because I have this note pasted to my forehead that says "Keep It
Local," I ask you to accept a small stretch. I believe that nothing is of
more local importance than our schools, and they will be deeply affected
by two of the propositions put before California voters on Nov. 7.
Proposition 38 would authorize annual state payments of $4,000 per
pupil for privatereligious schools. Proposition 39 would permit school
bonds to be passed with 55% of the local vote.
To take the latter first, we were most fortunate -- and sufficiently
enlightened -- to pass a school bond in Newport-Mesa by more than a
two-thirds majority earlier this year. Dozens of other school districts,
including our neighbors in Irvine, haven't fared so well.
In district after district, one-third of the voters -- often
prevailing by a few tenths of a percentage point -- has managed to abort
desperately needed school bonds. An earlier statewide effort to change
this to a simple majority almost passed -- and probably would have passed
had Gov. Davis given it his support. The 55% compromise will hopefully
satisfy enough of the doubters to bring it home. I hope to help make that
While the passage of Proposition 39 would make it easier for the
majority of voters to address critical needs of their local public
schools, the passage of Proposition 38 would do just the opposite. It
would divert massive public funds and attention into dubious and unproven
private school vouchers that author and MacArthur fellow Stanley Crouch
called, in a recent Los Angeles Times essay, "nothing more than pink
elephants walking through hills of horse feathers."