Rising first graders walk to their classroom at the start of the day during summer session at Laurel Elementary in Oakland on June 11, 2021. Laurel is a hub program for five district schools hosting 120 kids for the summer with a focus on resocialization in addition to academics. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – Schools are shaping up as a key battleground in the Sept. 14 recall election, and the coterie of Republicans running to replace Newsom is offering voters an alternative vision of public education: school choice. Under the plans John Cox, Larry Elder, Kevin Kiley and Doug Ose shared with CalMatters education reporter Joe Hong, state dollars would be sent directly to families rather than school districts. Parents could then take that $14,000 of per-student funding to any public, charter or private school they want — cultivating competition between schools and rewarding those that offer the highest-quality education. Yet many experts are wary of overhauling California’s education system, noting that Newsom and state lawmakers just infused a record level of funding into public schools.

“We need to empower the parents to evaluate schools. I think parents right now are beat down by a system that pats them on their heads and dismisses their concerns.”

Doug Ose, a former Sacramento-area U.S. Representative

“For a long time, California ranked at the bottom of per-pupil funding relative to other states. I don’t think we’re ready to throw in the towel just yet.”

Julie Marsh, a USC education professor

Meanwhile, recall candidate and former GOP San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer held a Tuesday press conference in San Francisco to lambast Newsom’s record on crime, days after the governor assured voters he was cracking down on organized retail theft. And on Thursday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will travel to Fresno to campaign for the recall — which could bolster the Newsom campaign’s effort to depict it as a “partisan political power grab.”