The Voters Speak in 2002: Fully Fund and Strengthen Public Education

Universal Pre-Kindergarten and Before- and After-School Programs

On both the east and the west coast, voters approved important preschool and before- and after-school programs.

Before passage of Amendment 8, pre-kindergarten in Florida was available only to some low-income children who qualified for subsidies and to children whose parents could afford private schools. Beginning in 2005, all four-year-olds, regardless of family income, will be eligible to attend publicly funded pre-schools.30 The decision to send children to preschool is voluntary under the amendment that was championed by Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.31

Support for this Amendment was driven by studies showing that children who attend high-quality preschools do better academically in subsequent years when they are enrolled in school.32 The state estimates that as many as 70 percent of its four-year-olds will enroll in the program its first year. Preschool program costs will be shared between the state and school districts.33

Two years after they rejected private school vouchers, California voters this year provided more help for public school students. Backed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s Proposition 49 will go beyond the state’s existing support of after-school programs ($117 million this year).34 The voter-approved proposition calls for spending $550 million per year — only if there is a $1.5 billion surplus in state revenue in the 2004-2005 school year35 — for tutoring and other educational activities, homework assistance, and other programs in K-8 public schools.36 Critics feel the passage of the proposal allows after-school spending to sidestep the state budget process and thereby take funds away from other education programs.37 Proposition 49 advocates believe they now have the opportunity to set an example for the rest of the nation in going the extra mile to help students.38 The initiative’s passage may help provide additional insights on the impact that after-school programs have on learning.

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