View From Lodi, CA: Meathead`s Folly—Rob Reiner And Proposition 82

Rob Reiner`s Proposition 82, the
“Pre School for All”
initiative that will appear on
California`s June 6th ballot, is teetering on
the brink of collapse.

What`s bringing it down is a
combination of two things. First, Prop 82 is the
ill-conceived brainchild of a group of

Hollywood personalities
who, let`s face it, don`t

a clue
about educational realities.

And second, Reiner`s First 5
California Families and Children Commission will be the
subject of a full-scale state audit for possible misuse
of public funds. Reiner, while denying any wrongdoing,
has taken a leave of absence from the commission.

Whether Prop 82 fails because of
financial improprieties or because of its own intrinsic
shortcomings doesn`t matter. The important thing is that

realize its folly and chose instead to
focus on other, more useful academic goals.

On paper the concept is, of course,
appealing. Under Prop 82, free preschool would be
available to any four- year- old who wished to enroll.

And the

coming out of the Reiner camp are that
preschool translates into 13,800 fewer students who

repeat grades
in primary education, 9,000 fewer kids
in special education and 10,000 more high school


, Prop 82 proponents insist that those who
had preschool instruction are less likely to be
dependent on

public assistance
or to be incarcerated.

And since funding would come from
$2.4 billion in taxes imposed upon

who earn more than $400,000, Prop 82 is
advertised as a low-cost benefit to the average worker.

So far, so good. But a

closer examination
made by the non-partisan Rand
Corporation found that 66 percent of all California
preschool age children already attend preschool.
Proposition 82 would only increase the total to 70
percent. In other words, Prop 82 would cost $2.4 billion
to attain a net increase of 4 percent, or 22,000
students, in preschool enrollment.

According to the Legislative
Analyst, the cost of preschool education would be $8,000
per student, per year for a part-time, three-hour per
day program.

For the same

$2.4 billion
, California,

badly stretched for educational capital
, could hire
69,000 teachers, build or modernize nearly 17,000 new
classrooms or purchase 1.2 million new computers.

In addition to the questionable use
of funds, Prop 82 also raises concerns about creating
another layer of

Sacramento bureaucracy
that is already a dismal

Under Prop 82, the state
superintendent, Jack O`Connell, would be responsible for
establishing the money counties would receive per
eligible pupil. Then, those counties can divide their
money however they please—but subject to O`Connell`s

An interesting side bar, reported

Capital Weekly News
, is that O`Connell campaigned
with Reiner in support of Prop 82. In turn, O`Connell
was the only statewide candidate to receive financial
support ($1,500) from Reiner last year during his
re-election effort.

Rather than construct a brand new
administrative and financial monster, as Prop 82 would
certainly do, why not work within the existing system by
making kindergarten mandatory?

Look at the

California State Board of Education Content Standards

for kindergarten and ask yourself why this grade level
is voluntary.

Here are a few of the things
expected of children who complete kindergarten.

  • In

    , children must be able to distinguish
    letters from words, read one-syllable, high
    frequency sight words and describe common objects
    and events in general and specific language.

  • In

    , create brief legible sentences using
    upper and lower case letters.

  • In

    , compare length, width and capacity of
    objects; identify and describe common geometric
    objects and compare familiar plane and solid objects
    by common attributes.

If I were a parent or activist
concerned about California school children`s level of
academic preparation, I would insist that they attend
kindergarten where the structure for learning is already
in place.

And I would forget about more
costly and unproven initiatives like Prop 82.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the

Lodi News-Sentinel