OPINION: Education in California is experiencing a once-in-a-generation transformation, as tens of thousands of parents make crucial decisions about how and where their children learn. From reexamining curricula to exploring school choice options and non-traditional learning models, parents are eager to find better or supplementary learning environments for their children.
During the past two years, California families faced the academic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic – and an inside peak of what was really happening in their classrooms. As a result, parents are more involved in their children’s education than ever – and choosing new schools, reconsidering options more frequently, and exploring new or non-traditional learning options.
California parents are not alone. A survey this month by the National School Choice Awareness Foundation showed that 53.7 percent of parents throughout the country have recently explored or are currently considering new options for their child’s education. According to the survey, Black parents (64.5 percent), Hispanic parents (64.6 percent), and parents aged 18-29 (63.3 percent) were most likely to reconsider new schools for their children.
Parents – and their children – are at a crossroads. We need to provide families with more resources and access to choose the best school or learning option.
We experienced such a crossroads ourselves. One of our daughters has special-needs, primarily diminished vocal capacity and mild CP that limited some physical activities. But she’s incredibly bright and creative. Instead of addressing those issues and building on her strengths, she was placed in a classroom with a wide range of special-needs students – including bigger, older students with severe behavioral challenges.
Her teachers cared deeply and tried hard to help, but the students with severe behavioral issues dominated their time and dictated the direction of the classroom. The situation not only limited (or eliminated) her learning opportunities but created actual physical danger. We had the benefit of being very involved and met frequently with the teachers and administration, but the system was inflexible. We needed a change.
Fortunately, we found one in a charter school that gave us flexibility and creative options that helped our daughter thrive. Now she is on a path to real learning, academic achievement, and an independent, productive life instead of being trapped in lifelong dependency of the state. We need to ensure all families and students have that opportunity.
During National School Choice Week, January 22-28, families can learn about school choice and attend local events as they consider their K-12 options for the next school year. California schools and organizations are planning 2,179 celebrations of educational opportunity this month as public charter schools, public virtual schools, private schools, as well as blended and home-based learning highlight their unique choices.
Despite its place as the base of technology and innovation in the world, California still lags behind other states in supporting choice and access to proven education options. By denying open enrollment for students to attend a school of their choice, our lawmakers are denying equal educational opportunities to our state’s student population.
The demand for school choice is alive in California – and we have to work together and do what’s best for all students and families. I hope you will join me in celebrating National School Choice Week and advocate during the 2023 legislative session for more choice and access to innovative education options.
About the Author: Tab Berg is a father of two high school daughters in Sacramento County and a board member of California Parents for Public Virtual Education.