SACRAMENTO — As kids played kickball in the background, Rosamunda Guillen and Jocelyn Graves described Wednesday how the school voucher initiative on the November ballot would harm their Hispanic and black communities.
Guillen of the United Farm Workers said the union voted unanimously to oppose Proposition 38 because “they know this proposition will take away even more resources” from strapped rural schools.
“Proposition 38 will not help my kids,” said Graves, a black parent from Sacramento.
Opponents of the voucher initiative held press conferences Wednesday in four California cities that were called “back-to-school” events to kick off their campaign.
However, both sides have already run summer television advertisements in what is expected to be a very expensive campaign, exceeding $40 million.
And Wednesday’s events were more an opportunity for black and Latino leaders to stress opposition to the initiative.
Tim Draper, a millionaire venture capitalist from Redwood City who is backing Proposition 38, has been trying to appeal to minority voters whose children attend poor-performing inner-city schools. One of his first rallies in July was at a black church in Los Angeles that runs a private school that could receive children with vouchers.
In the four cities, speakers included black leaders such as San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Aminah Jahi of the San Jose chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Hispanic leaders such as San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and Bert Corona-Hermandad of Mexicana Nacional.
In Sacramento, the press conference was held in a playground next to an elementary school a few blocks from the Capitol.
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who has already appeared in Spanish-language ads opposing Proposition 38, said the initiative would undermine several recent years of reforms that are just starting to produce increases in student scores.
“Everybody is always looking for the silver bullet, just like Proposition 38, some kind of a magical silver bullet,” he said.
Alice Huffman, executive director of the California branch of the NAACP, was critical of Draper’s overtures to the black community, calling him a “wolf” and a “phony.”
“There are not enough private schools, let alone voucher schools, that will take our children. So who’s going to have the choice? It will allow the voucher schools to choose,” she said.
Proposition 38 spokesman Chris Bertelli said Wednesday that the black and Latino leaders are not representative of parents who will vote.
“These leaders do a disservice to their communities that they purport to represent. They are beholden to the teachers’ unions and the status quo that is failing miserably for their communities,” Bertelli said.
The pro-38 campaign, however, is trying a unique method to build up a mailing, phone and e-mail list of interested people. Its Web page says anyone who registers on the page will be eligible for three drawings for a computer to be given to the school of the winner’s choice.
Read the initiative at the secretary of state’s page: www.ss.ca.gov
The two sides: