A nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California’s policies and politics

Trump v California

In this corner: Education

For basic background, start with The weigh-in: Education

School Vouchers
All talk, no action—yet
It's on!
On the ropes
California wins!
Trump wins!

Most Californians concerned about undocumented students; two-thirds want schools to be sanctuaries

published Apr 20, 2017

Poll: Californians favor tax-funded school vouchers

published Apr 20, 2017

Californians have overwhelmingly rejected private school voucher initiatives twice in the last 25 years, but a new poll shows this deep blue state has renewed interest in the idea championed by the Trump administration.

And the strongest support comes from African Americans and Latinos.

The poll finds 60 percent of adults and 66 percent of public school parents favor tax-funded vouchers that would help families cover the cost of private or parochial school tuition—even though most respondents also gave their neighborhood schools good grades.

“Many believe the state isn’t spending enough money on K12 education and should also spend what it has more wisely,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, which produced the poll. “In this context, many are willing to raise their local taxes and consider a voucher system.”

Republicans are more likely than independents and far more likely than Democrats to back vouchers, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,705 adults and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. While majorities across all racial and ethnic groups are in favor, almost three in four Latinos and African Americans surveyed back the idea.

President Trump first pledged his support for tax-funded vouchers during his presidential campaign, calling school choice “the civil rights issue of our time.” And before U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos joined his administration, she led an advocacy group that promoted private school choice.

Teachers unions in California and across the country vehemently oppose vouchers because they steer public money away from public school. California Teachers Association President Eric Heins dismissed the idea that Trump led Californians to rethink their long-standing opposition. “When people are asked on the street what they think about vouchers, they often say it’s a good idea,” Heins said. “But once you start sharing some of the details and tell people how much money they strip away from public schools, that support starts to erode.”

American Federation for Children spokesman Tommy Schultz, however, said he sees a mandate in the poll results. “Lawmakers in California should listen to parents who want to be empowered with educational choice and have access to a quality education for their children,” said Schultz, whose group had long been led by DeVos.

After encouragement, immigrant students create last-minute surge in state scholarships applications

published Mar 3, 2017

Fears about deportation had initially depressed interest in a state-funded scholarship program for undocumented California students, but a campaign to reassure applicants seems to have worked. Applications this year are up slightly compared to last year thanks to a late surge of submissions.

“We are thrilled, excited,” Lupita Cortez Alcalá, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, told EdSource.

Immigrants vying for a California Dream Act grant to help cover college costs in 2016 had only two months to apply, and the state received about 34,000 applications. This cycle, the application window was more than twice as long, but with one week to go before the March 2 deadline, only about 20,000 students had applied—a 40 percent drop.

That all changed over the last few days as lawmakers and top education officials practically begged qualified students to fill out an application.

“Please apply right away. The California Dream Act is the key to success in college and 21st century careers,” State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said. “It would be a shame if fear or confusion keeps students from applying for financial aid that they have earned and they deserve.”

A group of Assembly Democrats last week also urged students to go for it after seeing the anemic submission stats. “I’m pleased that the federal actions haven’t stopped tens of thousands of California Dream Act students from pursuing their education,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount. “I’m grateful to all the advocates and organizations who reached out to these students to help make sure they applied.”

In the end, the state received 35,882 applications, almost 2,000 more than last year.

Students reportedly told their high school guidance counselors and college financial aid officers that they believe the personal information they report to the state will be shared with the federal government, placing them at greater risk of deportation.

Betsy DeVos squeaks through confirmation as Ed Secretary

published Feb 8, 2017

With a historic assist from the vice president, the U.S. Senate narrowly approved Betsy DeVos to lead the federal Department of Education after a series of tense hearings sparked protests and exposed bipartisan fear about her fitness to oversee the nation’s public schools.

Two Republican senators joined Democrats in refusing to back the DeVos appointment, so Vice President Mike Pence cast the final vote in her favor to break an exceedingly rare tie. Picks for education secretary are rarely controversial, but this time was different. Senate Democrats seized on her lack of direct experience with public schools and her inability during her confirmation hearing to answer basic questions about how they operate.

Picks for education secretary are rarely controversial, but this time was different. Senate Democrats seized on her lack of direct experience with public schools and her inability during her confirmation hearing to answer basic questions about how they operate.

DeVos, a Michigan native, is a leading advocate of publicly-funded private school vouchers who could move swiftly to implement the $20 billion school choice program Donald Trump pitched on the campaign trail if the concept wins support in Congress.

But even an act of Congress may not get her very far in California. Democrats at every level of government oppose the concept, and voters here have twice rejected private school voucher initiatives.

Trump says student DREAMers "shouldn't be very worried" about deportation

published Jan 25, 2017

President Trump appears to be dramatically softening his tone regarding a popular program for immigrant children, telling ABC News that the program’s participants “shouldn’t be very worried” about deportation.

“I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody,” Trump said in an ABC News interview. “Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, currently protects roughly 750,000 immigrant children whose parents brought them to this country illegally, allowing them to work and go to college.

Former President Barack Obama created the program with an executive order in 2012 after Congress debated but failed to pass the so-called DREAM Act, which would have given immigrant children similar legal protections. He acted one year after California adopted its own legislation for DREAMers, allowing them to obtain scholarships to attend state universities.

DREAM stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.


The weigh-in: Education

published Jan 20, 2017

Education played a bit part in Donald Trump’s campaign for president, but the stage is set for the topic to draw more attention throughout his presidency.

California and Trump are at odds over his plan for a federally funded school voucher program, which would strip money away from public schools and use it to bolster private and parochial ones. It’s an idea Californians have rejected at the ballot box and one that Democrats vehemently oppose.

Trump can’t force California or any other state to offer vouchers. But if he uses federal Title 1 funding for poor children to finance his idea, the more than $25 billion California gets annually would be at risk unless state leaders go along with the proposal.

The two sides also disagree on the merits of a popular program for immigrant students. On the campaign trail, the president described the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as a form of “illegal amnesty.” He’s since softened his tone on DACA, but Democrats still fear the program will be cancelled.

Plus, Trump’s appointment of voucher advocate Betsy DeVos to lead the U.S. Department of Education has galvanized teachers unions in California and across the country to oppose Trump’s federal education policy at every turn.


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