Monday, June 12, 2006

California voters reject Meathead’s universal preschool plan

This story is several days old, but I didn’t see it reported in the Canadian media, despite the parallels to the debate here over the federal Liberals’ child care scheme – a scheme to which many Liberal leadership candidates remain firmly wedded.

Last week California voters rejected a proposition that would have provided “free” preschool to all 4-year-olds. The measure was spearheaded by director Rob Reiner, who first rose to fame as Mike “Meathead” Stivic on the 1970s TV series All in the Family. (My fellow geezers may also recall that Reiner alternated with Canadian actor Stuart Margolin in the role of “Snake” on the Partridge Family; Snake was a biker and would-be suitor of Laurie Partridge.)

As the Los Angeles Times reported last week:

Voters rejected a ballot measure that would have taxed the wealthy to provide free preschool for all California 4-year-olds, while a $600-million library bond issue appeared headed for defeat early today.

Proposition 82, the universal preschool proposal created and bankrolled by Hollywood filmmaker Rob Reiner, was designed to raise an estimated $2.4 billion annually by taxing individuals who earn more than $400,000 and couples who earn more than $800,000.

Shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday, Reiner acknowledged to a crowd at Los Angeles' Westin Bonaventure Hotel that Proposition 82 was not faring well.

"But it doesn't matter," he said. "Win or lose, we have raised the profile of the importance of early childhood education and preschool in this state, and it will never go away."

To those who didn't like the initiative, Reiner said: "Help us come up with another way."

The measure envisioned free half-day preschool at public schools and private learning centers for all children, regardless of family income. Opponents, who raised about half as much money as supporters, argued throughout the campaign that the measure was well-intentioned but fatally flawed.

The billions of dollars it would raise would be better spent on the state's public schools, they said, instead of providing a subsidy to the middle-class and well-off who can afford to pay for preschool.

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