Across the nation, education reform is the topic of conversation among families and teachers, legislators and even the courts. The discussion has turned into unrest among parents who know their children deserve a high-quality education, but are not seeing results.
Today, parents and children are fighting back against the “norm” — they want more from California’s education system. They know every child is unique and processes information in different ways. For this reason, parent options in public education are vital in today’s fast-paced, high-speed, globally connected world.
California has been on the forefront of parent choice with its many charter and public virtual schools. These schools bring new and exciting learning methods that are designed for each student as an individual instead of the student conforming to the school. Charter schools have literally changed parents and students lives—for the better.
Of course, with change comes adversity. Despite the positive aspects these schools bring to the lives of the students they touch, some in the Legislature, such as Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, think they know better than parents.
Under the disguise of “accountability,” Simitian and Brownley have created a “death by thousand cuts” scenario targeting charter and public virtual schools and the students they serve. For example, AB 440 and SB 645 would give the State Board of Education new authority to impose arbitrary standards that would result in fewer schools having their charter renewed.
As it stands, local school districts determine the fate of charter schools seeking renewals and give parents, teachers and school administrators the ability to voice their support for their charter school. AB 440 and SB 645 would grant new powers by shifting the final authority over certain charter school renewals from the local school district to the State Board. This added layer of bureaucracy would create obstacles for low-income parents and teachers unable to travel to Sacramento to advocate on behalf of their school.
Under AB 440 and SB 645, neither local school districts nor the State Legislature would have any oversight authority on the State Board’s ability to close down a school – even if the school is supported by the local district and parents. This “guilty until proven innocent” inquisition would only apply to charter and public virtual schools.
Worst of all, the bills undermine a parent’s right to choose the best school for their child. If the charter school is working for a student whether they are an at-risk or an advance-learner, the State Board would now have the authority to eliminate that choice, should the school close. Parents make a decision to enroll their child in a charter school for a variety of reasons such as a school’s unique curriculum or student safety. Parents are in a better position to determine these factors than a state agency
Parent choice was a major factor in the original creation of the charter school statute in California. Any metric that judges charter schools must include this important component. There is no denying, the accountability of our schools is essential. However, removing local control and transferring more power to Sacramento bureaucrats is certainly not the answer.
Parents deserve the right to choose what’s best for their children. And parents deserve the right to choose the type of school — brick and mortar, online or charter — that best suits their child’s educational needs. Throwing up more barriers as demonstrated in AB 440 and SB 645 in front of a parent’s choice is just plain wrong and parents just won’t stand for it.
Maureen Schultz, president of California Parents for Public Virtual Education, a non-profit organization made up of volunteers whose primary objective is protecting access to a quality, virtual public education in our state. For more information about California Parents for Public Virtual Education, please visit: www.calvirtualed.org.