Voucher sides trade accusations over campaigns

The Associated Press
Wednesday October 18, 2000

SACRAMENTO — Opponents in the fight over the school voucher initiative on California’s Nov. 7 ballot accused each other Tuesday of using deceptive ads. 

Backers of the measure, Proposition 38, asked the Federal Communications Commission to order the anti-voucher campaign to stop running an ad backers say is “factually incorrect and misleading.” 

Anti-voucher forces said the ad is no longer running, and they produced Hispanic leaders to complain that a pro-voucher Spanish ad is “fraudulent and misleading.” 

Meanwhile, senior groups that oppose Proposition 38 criticize a pro-38 mailer that suggests that if seniors don’t vote for vouchers, they could be mugged by someone who drops out of a bad public school. 

Proposition 38, the most expensive measure on the Nov. 7 ballot with contributions that already have exceeded $46 million, would give parents $4,000 vouchers to send their children to private schools. 

It is backed by Redwood City venture capitalist Tim Draper, who says parents should be able to remove their children from bad public schools. 

Opponents include Gov. Gray Davis and the entire education establishment. They say public schools are starting to improve and vouchers would derail that progress. 

Opponents also say the measure would spend $3 billion for vouchers for children who are currently in private schools. 

The FCC complaint filed by the pro-38 campaign claims that a TV ad that anti-38 forces ran for a while in July and resumed running again last month is “false and deceptive.” 

Political campaigns frequently file such complaints with the FCC, which says stations must not transmit “false or deceptive signals or communications.” However, it is unlikely that the FCC will issue any ruling before the election. 

The ad says that schools receiving voucher funds have “no accountability on how they spend it or even what they teach.” 

The pro-38 campaign says such private schools are actually required by current law to teach English, math, social science, science, fine arts, health and physical education in grades one through six, plus foreign languages, applied arts, vocational education and driver education in junior and senior high schools. 

“The anti-voucher campaign is willing to spread lies and distortions across the airwaves in their attempt to stop parents of poor children from rescuing their kids trapped in failed schools,” said pro-38 spokesman Chris Bertelli. 

An anti-38 spokesman disagreed and also said the ad is no longer being run, because of new ads, not the FCC complaint. 

“The Draper campaign loses when voters hear about Proposition 38’s lack of accountability, so naturally they’re doing everything they can to stop the ad,” said anti-38 spokesman Jon Lenzner. 

The anti-38 campaign, meanwhile, has sent its own complaint letter to Spanish-language stations about a pro-38 ad in Spanish. A number of Hispanic leaders planned a news conference Wednesday in Los Angeles to echo the complaint. 

The ad says that parents would be given the $4,000. In fact, note the opponents, the check would have the parent’s name on it, but would be sent to the private school by the state. 

As for the mailer, four groups representing seniors called it a misleading scare tactic. 

“We just object to the fact that they’re trying to scare older voters,” said Pat Luby, legislative representative for the American Association of Retired Persons. 

He criticized the mailer’s attempt to imply that approval of Proposition 38 would stop dropouts from committing crimes and that rejection of the proposition will put seniors at risk. 

“It’s more than a stretch; it’s an Olympic stretch,” he said. 

The mailer shows a steely eyed youth, identified as a dropout, and a frightened woman being carjacked and says the dropout “could be your worst nightmare.” 

Bertelli defended the mailer, saying crime figures come from U.S. Department of Justice data and studies show that dropouts are more likely to commit crimes. 

The other groups that criticized the mailer are the Older Women’s League, Gray Panthers and Congress of California Seniors. 


On the Net: Read the initiative at http://www.ss.ca.gov 

The two sides: http://www.SchoolVouchers2000.com