COUNTYWIDE : Private School Plan Gets One Board Vote

A Ventura County Board of Education member sided Monday with supporters of a proposed state ballot initiative that would provide public funds to every child who chooses to go to a private school.

Wendy Larner, voicing a minority opinion among school board members across Ventura County, was the sole dissenter in a 4-1 vote against a resolution known as the voucher initiative.

The measure, proposed for the November ballot by The Choice in Education League, would allocate $2,500 to every child, or 50% of the amount estimated per student for state and local education spending.

Larner, whose opinion was echoed by two mothers attending the board meeting, said she believes that public schools will only improve if the measure passes because they would be forced to compete with private schools.

"I believe that we are a private-enterprise, capitalistic country where we have the freedom to choose," said Pauline Warren, whose seven children attended private Christian schools.

Other school officials criticized the measure, saying it is poorly written and would divert needed funds from public schools.

"That in a sense is almost enough for me," Supt. James F. Cowan said.

"Our system should be improved, but public funds should stay" in the public schools, board member Albert Rosen said.

Cowan said 10,000 students are enrolled in 232 private schools in Ventura County. If the measure passes, he said, it could have a significant financial impact on the public school system.

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