SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Film director and Democratic activist Rob Reiner has collected more than a million signatures to get an initiative on the June ballot that would fund preschool for all California children.
Reiner's measure would increase income tax rates for the top 0.6 percent of income earners to guarantee a year of preschool for all 4-year-olds.
"We did this thing the right way. We brought business leaders and labor together to help draft the initiative," he said in a telephone interview after the announcement outside a San Francisco preschool.
The initiative would raise an estimated $2.4 billion a year by increasing income taxes by 1.7 percent for individuals who earn at least $400,000 a year, or couples earning $800,000. It also would increase training for preschool teachers and require that they be paid at the level of public school teachers in the same county.
Reiner said he plans to turn the petitions in next week to the secretary of state's office, which will verify whether sponsors got the 598,105 valid signatures needed to qualify the measure for the ballot.
The initiative would provide money for existing public and private programs and would be administered by the state Department of Education.
Reiner, director of such movies as "When Harry Met Sally" and "This Is Spinal Tap," said the initiative would give all children access to good programs with highly qualified teachers. It would require that preschool teachers have a bachelor's degree.
The California Taxpayers' Association called Reiner's initiative a "massive tax increase proposal."
Reiner and another Democratic celebrity, Warren Beatty, have been suggested as possible contenders against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger next November, but Reiner said he's not applying for that job — yet.
"If at some point down the road I feel like I can get more done as an elected official, I'll think about it then. But I'm not thinking of that at this time," Reiner said.