NEW YORK — There are 6,163,001 reasons for California voters to recall Gavin Newsom on Tuesday. That’s the number of K-12 students who largely are ill-served by the Golden State’s Democrat governor.
California once boasted America’s finest government classrooms. I was highly fortunate to attend such schools in Los Angeles, from kindergarten in 1969 until high-school graduation in 1982. Back then, kids actually learned something from mainly talented teachers.
My, how far that system has fallen.
California’s schools are ranked No. 41 overall in America, according to a WalletHub study last month. While California was a dismal 36th in quality (behind No. 34, Washington, D.C.), it ranked 51st in safety. That’s right: California’s schools are more dangerous than those in every other state and D.C., which was a mere 47th in safety. California’s pupil-teacher ratio was ranked No. 50. Only Arizona’s classrooms are more packed.
The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress found in 2019 that only 32 percent of California’s fourth graders were proficient in reading, versus 34 percent nationwide. Just 30 percent of eighth graders read at grade level, compared to the 32 percent national average.
The same NAEP data show that only 34 percent of California’s fourth graders were proficient in math, versus 40 percent across America. Just 29 percent of eighth graders could compute at grade level, compared to the 33 percent national average.
To be charitable, California’s schools are reliably below average.
How bad does it get?
Ask Larry Elder, the veteran conservative radio host who leads the Republican contenders who hope to unseat and replace Newsom.
“I went to Crenshaw High School,” Elder said in a new campaign ad. “If you saw the movie Boyz N the Hood, that’s my high school. Right now, only 2 percent of kids at Crenshaw High School are math proficient. Now, who sends their kid to a school where only 2 percent of the kids are math proficient, if they have an out? We’re spending almost $15,000 per student per year in California, and yet our scores are near the bottom of all 50 states. This is ridiculous.”
For Elder, this issue is not just academic.
“Recalling Gavin Newsom is personal to me,” he observed in another spot. “I benefited from schools, the quality of which allowed me to go from South Central to the Ivy League. That route is now foreclosed because the quality of the schools has declined. I favor school choice. He doesn’t. I favor giving parents an option out. He doesn’t.”
Elder recalled that Newsom’s children enjoyed in-class education even as their father padlocked government campuses and sentenced millions of students to Zoom school.
“There’s absolutely no reason why children without the wealth of the Newsom family should not have the same academic opportunities,” Elder tells me.
The Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi considers Newsom a sworn enemy of school choice.
“Under a 2019 law signed by Governor Newsom, local school boards can deny a charter petition if it finds that the proposed charter ‘is demonstrably unlikely to serve the interests of the entire community,’ which is a carte-blanche reason to deny any charter petition,” Izumi wrote early this year. “In other words, the future of charter schools in California looks very rocky at best.”
Indeed, on this vital matter, the Center for Education Reform’s Parent Power! Index gives California a big, fat F. Beyond embattled charter schools, CER declared: “There are no choice programs in this state.”
Classroom-excellence advocates, including Elder, are promoting the Educational Freedom Act. This referendum would make Sacramento deposit $14,000 in every student’s personal account. This sum — adjusted to match average, annual, per-pupil outlays — could help finance tuition, books, and supplies at any eligible school that parents and students select.
Given the leash that the teachers’ unions have around Newsom’s neck, he will battle this measure like a Rottweiler — unless voters neuter him on Tuesday.
Think of the children. Recall Gavin Newsom.
Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News Contributor, a contributing editor with National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research