School Choice Is Issue in California Recall

With California voters already casting ballots by mail in the September 14 election to recall Governor Gavin Newsom, a replacement candidate, Larry Elder, is pushing school choice in a last-minute appeal to Democratic voters.

Polls show Elder, a Republican radio host, is the leading replacement candidate. Most, though not all recent polls show “keep” Governor Newsom beating “remove,” but the margins are close, and the actual election day is two weeks off.

Larry Elder

Two recent Elder commercials highlight the school choice issue. One features Gloria Romero, a Democrat who was the majority leader in the California State Senate. “I believe in charter schools and school choice. So does Larry Elder. But not Gavin Newsom—he shut our public schools while he sent his kids to private school,” Romero says in the ad.

Another shows Elder making the case against Newsom. “I favor school choice, he doesn’t. I favor giving parents an option out. He doesn’t.”

“In-School Learning” is one of eight “topics” on the Elder campaign website. “We had a governor who is shamelessly beholden to the teacher’s unions. A governor who sent home millions of public school children while his own children received elite in-person instruction at a private school,” the Elder website charges.

In this Aug. 11, 2021 file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the Carl B. Munck Elementary School in Oakland, Calif. While talking to reporters during an online interview, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, Republican Larry Elder promised that if Newsom is ousted in the Sept. 14 election, any mask or vaccine mandates in place at the time "will be suspended right away"
Gavin Newsom

“As governor, I would be a big proponent of school choice. It is simple, the money follows the child, not the other way around. Studies have shown that school choice improves education in the suburbs and in the inner cities alike. Positive competition improves the product,” the Elder website says. “Education is a 21st-century civil rights issue. It’s not right to force parents to send their children to an under-performing school.”

Newsom, for his part, has portrayed the recall effort as “A partisan, Republican coalition of national Republicans, anti-vaxxers, Q-Anon conspiracy theorists and anti-immigrant Trump supporters.”

“I’m incredibly proud of California’s economic recovery” Newsom said, issuing tax rebate “stimulus” checks timed to arrive in mailboxes shortly after the recall mail-in ballots.

Ira Stoll is managing editor of Education Next.

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