The accumulation of harmful public policy proposals that would have eliminated parental choice in California demonstrates what happens when the Sacramento public school awakens a sleeping giant.
In large part because of the educational disruption caused by the pandemic, many California parents have seen firsthand the shortcomings of the traditional classroom brought to their kitchen table. The school closings and class zooms that followed started out as a tough inconvenience, and quickly turned into a huge wake-up call.
In fact, it forced parents to start paying attention to other details of how their public schools operate and asking key questions about everything from curriculum to pedagogical approaches.
“During the 2020-21 school year, the pandemic forced schools of all types to close their doors and switch to distance learning. “- SCPAN report
Ultimately, these questions led to one conclusion: Parents need to determine which model of education works best for the child.
A new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools validates this latest parent change, finding that California charter schools appear to have benefited from the state’s decline in public school attendance.
California charter schools registered 15,283 new children in the 2020-2021 school year, an increase of 2.3% from the previous year. In contrast, the state’s public schools saw a drop of 175,761 students, a decrease of 3.2%.
“Many families were dissatisfied with the quality of what was available for their children. And this dissatisfaction led them to learn more about the other educational options available. For many families, the agility and flexibility of schools has made it the right choice for a public school.
And it doesn’t just stop at the brick and mortar charter schools.
In 2019, there were an estimated 2.5 million children statewide learning at home. Today there are more than 5 million and that number is growing rapidly.
To be clear, this move away from traditional classroom teaching is not the result of our teachers, most of whom do their jobs admirably. Failures belong to the system that resists competition and reform.
Unfortunately, the state’s public educational institution has always resisted these alternatives even as many neighborhood public schools have failed. The California Teachers’ Association (CTA), for example, turned to its allies on the State Capitol to limit parental choices in subsequent legislative sessions. However, this year they took their chances and finally woke up the sleeping giant.
Parents are increasingly aware of public policies that are counterproductive and harmful to their children.
During the 2021 legislative session, California witnessed yet another series of nefarious measures aimed at undermining a parent’s ability to access the type of public school best suited for their child. By preventing state funding from following the student, these proposals were the opposite of what the parents were asking for.
According to a recent statewide poll conducted by the Good4U coalition, 87% of California parents believe they should be able to choose the public school that is best for their children.
There are many different public learning options available for families – from brick and mortar charters to virtual home school programs. All of them have been around for decades with established and proven track records. Unlike many traditional neighborhood schools, these charter schools did not fail to beat when the classrooms closed in March 2020. Our teachers continued to teach and our children continued to learn.
And that’s why deliberately obstructing these programs woke the sleeping giant. Parents are increasingly aware of public policies that are counterproductive and harmful to their children.
We’ve organized ourselves, joined social media platforms, and now have the attention of elected leaders in charge of education policy – from local school districts to the State Capitol. As someone involved in this effort, I saw with my own eyes that in all regions, and among all races and creeds, parents wanted to determine what works best for their children.
So here is my advice for parents. Get involved. Research public policy and join parent coalitions. Kiss the sleeping giant together. We can do it!
Editor’s Note: Janell Smiley, a resident of Santa Rose, is the president of California Parents for Public Virtual Education. She is the mother of two online charter school graduates.