Schools, Veterans Win Support in California

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Conforming to pre-election polls, treatment programs for drug offenders won a resounding victory and California's public schools scored a major triumph with the defeat of school vouchers last night.

With the support of well more than 50 percent of California voters, Proposition 36 will completely overhaul the state's system for dealing with drug offenders. Instead of jail time, drug convicts will be funneled into treatment programs aimed at reducing overcrowding in the state's jails.

In a rare bipartisan statement, both the Berkeley College Republicans and the Cal Berkeley Democrats supported the proposition.

"I think it's a positive step in the right direction and I supported it," said Ben Carrasco, vice president of the Berkeley College Republicans. "We need to focus more on rehabilitation. The Cal Republicans supported it. I'm happy to see it pass."

Facing opposition from the Berkeley Board of Education and the Berkeley City Council, in addition to many local parents, Proposition 38 failed by an astounding margin. The proposition would have authorized the state to provide at least $4,000 in vouchers for students to attend private and religious schools.

Also showing symbolic support for California's public schools, voters approved Proposition 39, which will allow school bonds to be passed by 55 percent in a local vote, rather than the two-thirds majority previously required.

"Combined with the results of 38 and 39, Californians are committed to consistent educational reform," said Andy Katz, president of the Cal Dems. "We had two directions California had to choose from and California chose construction over defunding public schools. This is the right direction because it will help local governments in California improve education."

Many Republican students, on the other hand, supported the voucher proposition, which would restrict state and local authority's ability to require private schools to adhere to academic standards.

"I am dismayed by the results," Carrasco said. "I think we need to try something new. A lot of schools in California have been failing. I think we need to give students an alternative. It would have been a positive step in the right direction and this is a step back for reform in the state."

Continuing the trend of noticeably large majorities, Proposition 32 passed overwhelmingly. The proposition will provide $500 million to the Cal-Vet Loan Program that aids veterans in purchasing homes and maintaining farms.

Criticized as taking retirement funds from state employees and giving them to wealthy legislators, Proposition 33, which would have allowed elected officials to participate in California's Public Employee Retirement System, appeared to be facing rejection as of 1 a.m. this morning. Supporters of the measure said the current system is unfair and discourages less wealthy citizens from seeking an elected position.

Carrasco said he personally voted against the proposition.

"Public officials, like all Americans, should take responsibility for their own retirement," he said.

Another strongly contested issue - Proposition 34 - will repeal campaign contribution and voluntary spending limit regulations previously passed by California voters but not yet enacted due to a pending lawsuit.

Proposition 37, which would have required a two-thirds vote of the state legislature to impose future fees on polluting corporations, was defeated.

By 1 a.m. this morning, Proposition 35 had not reached a conclusive result. If passed, it would remove existing restrictions on when the state can contract with private entities for architectural and engineering services.


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