Universal preschool for all failed in California.
Voters reject Prop. 82
By Dana Hull
California voters soundly rejected Proposition 82 Tuesday, crushing the hopes of early childhood education advocates who hoped to make universal preschool public policy in the nation's most populous state.
Throughout much of the evening, returns showed that 60 percent of voters statewide opposed Prop. 82 while just 40 percent supported it, making it nearly impossible for the measure to ever get the simple majority it needed to pass.
``It doesn't look good,'' admitted Hollywood director Rob Reiner, who spoke to about 200 supporters at a Los Angeles hotel ballroom shortly after 10 p.m. But he vowed to fight on, saying that the push for universal preschool would not go away. ``This is important, and if it is not today the train has left the station.''
Though voter turnout was low across California, by 1 a.m. it appeared that Prop. 82 failed in every county except Alameda and San Francisco. It was evenly split in Imperial County.
Many San Jose area voters took their skepticism about the measure to the polls.
``Prop. 82 sounded really good, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized it was subject to shenanigans,'' said David Yomtov, a San Jose resident who said he voted against it. ``Kids should go to preschool, but it didn't sound like Prop. 82 would help the families who most needed the help.''
The ``No on 82'' campaign claimed victory shortly before midnight.
``We're grateful for this vote of confidence by California voters,'' said Pamela Zell Rigg, president of the California Montessori Council, which campaigned against the measure. ``In the meantime, the state education system can focus on serving K-12 students.''
Prop. 82 would have taxed the state's wealthiest residents to provide a free year of preschool to every 4-year-old. The tax-the-rich initiative, which had the support of Hollywood activists and labor unions, seemed a sure winner when it was first unveiled earlier this spring.
Proponents argued that making high-quality preschool available to the state's nearly 500,000 4-year-olds would be a huge boost to working families that struggle to pay for preschool, which often costs thousands of dollars a year.
Supporters also said investing in preschool would improve K-12 education by bridging the achievement gap separating wealthier children from their low-income counterparts.
Silicon Valley opposed
But Reiner and his campaign aides overestimated the breadth of their support -- and misjudged the depth of the opposition's.
Prop. 82 was attacked by anti-tax activists and Silicon Valley's vast venture capital community, which donated heavily to the ``No on 82'' campaign. Critics also warned that the measure would not do enough to help the state's poorest families.
Another salvo came from private preschools, notably many Montessori schools, over concerns that increased competition from a state-run program would threaten their business and their education philosophies.
The television commercials against Prop. 82 deftly capitalized on those fears, consistently warning it would do little to raise preschool enrollment while creating a ``preschool bureaucracy.'' The ads also urged California to fix K-12 schools before taking on the role of educating even younger children.
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