November 9, 2009
Pursuant to Elections Code Section 9005, we have
reviewed the proposed constitutional initiative that would require
parents or guardians to possess sole authority and responsibility to
establish the educational curriculum of their children or wards
(AG File No. 09‑0047).
The California Constitution has few provisions
relating to K-12 curricula. The most notable provision (contained in
Section 7.5 of Article IX) requires the State Board of Education to
adopt textbooks for use in grades one through eight. The Constitution is
silent on other curricula matters. Although the Constitution includes
few requirements in this area, the state's Education Code provides more
specific guidelines for the development of curriculum frameworks.
Specifically, Education Code Sections 33530‑33541 authorize a
state-level commission to establish curriculum guidelines. This
commission—consisting largely of curriculum experts who volunteer their
time—is responsible for developing minimum curriculum standards, which
are then considered for adoption by the State Board of Education.
This proposal gives parents and guardians the
sole authority and responsibility over their children's or wards'
education curriculum. The proposal also declares that this
responsibility and authority shall not be usurped by any local, state,
or higher-level governmental entity.
This initiative's fiscal impact at the local and
state levels depends heavily upon its interpretation—specifically
regarding the word "responsibility"—and implementation. On the one hand,
the measure could be interpreted as simply requiring parents or
guardians to approve the curriculum at their child's or ward's school.
If so, the impact at the local level might be negligible. On the other
hand, if parents choose to or are required to develop a specialized
curriculum for each child, then the fiscal impact to districts could be
large. Under the scenario, many more teachers might need to be added to
the school workforce to accommodate individual plans of study. At the
state level, the fiscal effect is also uncertain. Depending upon the
measure's interpretation, there could be savings related to reduced
staff required to administer state standards. On the other hand, future
costs to the state could include decreased economic productivity should
curricula developed by parents and guardians result in a less educated
Summary of Fiscal Effects
This measure would have the following fiscal
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