Backers Back Out in California

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After gathering a purported 900,000 signatures and spending an estimated $2.5 million (including $750,000 from the California Teacher Association [CTA], $300,000 from filmmaker Rob Reiner's Forum for Early Childhood Development, and $1 million from the NEA), the CTA and Reiner pulled back their November initiative to raise commercial property taxes in order to establish a universal preschool program and fund salary increases for California teachers. In a joint statement, Reiner and CTA president Barbara Kerr explained, "we feel that the new and complicated circumstances of the November ballot make it necessary to pull back this worthy initiative."

The initiative faced an uncertain future for a variety of reasons, including the lack of support from Governor Schwarzenegger (who called the initiative a "job killer"), a crowded ballot (as many as a dozen, a least two others of which would raise taxes), and less than uniform support from other education groups ("Many of the other major education associations would have been opposed to it," claimed Kevin Gordon, executive director of the California Association of School Business Officials.). Education columnist Peter Schrag called the initiative a "blatant piece of ballot box budgeting" with "no accountability for how the K-12 windfall is spent." True or not, we can only imagine that union members were less than pleased to see they won't be getting a raise despite having already invested nearly two million dollars.