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Voucher Initiative Lagging, Survey Finds

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From Associated Press

Opposition to a hard-fought school voucher initiative on California’s November ballot is growing, a poll released Friday shows.

Proposition 38 would let parents use $4,000 in taxpayers’ money to send their child to a private school.

The Field Poll found that 52% of likely voters who were surveyed oppose Proposition 38, while 36% support it and 12% are undecided.

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The poll also found support below 50% for the other education initiative on the statewide ballot, Proposition 39, a proposal to make it easier for school districts to pass school bond measures.

On Proposition 38, the Field Poll shows opposition has grown from 39% in June and 49% in August. Support has stayed mostly flat at 39% in June and 36% in August.

Both sides began running television ads in July and have stepped up their efforts in recent weeks. Total spending through Sept. 30 topped $46 million, placing it among the state’s most costly proposition campaigns.

The initiative is sponsored by Tim Draper, a Redwood City venture capitalist, who with his father has provided $23 million of the campaign’s $24 million.

Proposition 38 spokesman Chris Bertelli said the poll had no validity. “I certainly think it’s a close race,” Bertelli said.

Opponents include Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and school groups, who have raised $22 million, $18 million of that from the California Teachers Assn.

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Proposition 39, the bond measure proposal, would reduce the vote required to approve school construction bonds from two-thirds to 55%. It is similar to a measure narrowly rejected by voters in March.

The Field Poll found that 46% of likely voters support the measure, while 34% are opposed and 20% are undecided. That compared with 48% in favor and 31% opposed in August and 45% in favor and 41% opposed in June.

Proposition 39 is backed by Davis, former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and a coalition of school and business groups. They say that local school districts need to raise money more easily for new and remodeled schools.

The lead opponent is the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., which says that property owners need protection from increases in property taxes, which are used to repay school bonds over several decades.

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