Voters Endorse Education Measures
By Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer
Education loomed large in Tuesday's election as voters supported proposals to reduce class size and increase funding for school projects. But in the two states that considered banning bilingual education, there was a split decision.
Voters in at least 18 states weighed in on 24 education policy questions, according to a tally of measures by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most education measures won.
Questions about vouchers and charter schools that sparked controversy in the past were absent this year, but the issue of English-only classes provided fireworks in two states.
Massachusetts voted to ban bilingual education, but Colorado rejected the idea. Similar measures passed in California and Arizona in '98 and '00. California businessman Ron Unz was the chief financier of all four campaigns.
Florida voters approved all three education-related initiatives on their ballot. The measures will:
- Limit to 18 the number of students in pre-kindergarten through third grade. Grades 4 through 8 would have up to 22 students in a class, 25 for high school. to require the state offer free, universal pre-kindergarten learning for all 4-year-olds in Florida;
- Offer free, universal pre-kindergarten learning for all 4-year-olds in Florida; and
- Establish a local board of elected trustees to manage each state university and a state board to oversee the entire university system.
In California, voters endorsed a proposal spearheaded by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger that would force the state to spend more money on before- and after-school programs up to $455 million.
North Dakota voters balked at paying college-age North Dakotans up to $5,000 in tax credits and another $5,000 in student loan reimbursements to stay and find jobs in the state.
Education-funding measures generally fared well. Voters in Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee decided to fund more education activities via gambling and lottery measures. And Utah residents passed an initiative that would increase taxes and fees on the storage and disposal of radioactive waste and spend 80 percent of the revenue on education.
Missouri voters, however, rejected a tax hike of 55 cents per pack of cigarettes, with a portion dedicated to early childcare and education.