Let parents choose their children's schools

This week, SB 680, which would continue to allow parents to send their children to whatever public school they choose, earned bipartisan, unanimous support on the Senate Floor. The bill is co-authored by Democratic Senator Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles) and Republican Senator Bob Huff (R-Glendora)."(Monday) we made a huge step in ending zip code education which is nothing more than educational redlining," said Romero, who is chair of the Senate Committee on Education. "Parents can choose where their child worships, where their family shops and they must be allowed to choose where their child will receive the best public education to meet their academic needs." Currently the District of Choice (DOC) program, also referred to as a cross-district or open enrollment option, is due to end on July 1, 2009 after 17 years of existence. SB 680 would make the program permanent. The program gives parents the choice to decide which public school is best for their children's academic needs without first seeking permission from their district of residence, as required under the usual inter-district transfer agreements. The bill would also extend the program to other neighboring districts that elect to serve as a DOC. The bill recognizes the negative effects of redlining and seeks to end a practice that holds children hostage by a zip code or the area they happen to live. This is often the case when students, especially poor and minority children, are assigned to a persistently low-performing school in their neighborhood. Most students who participate in the DOC program transfer from a low-performing school to DOC schools with an Academic Performance Index of 100, 200 and even 300 points higher than their former school. "The Districts of Choice program helps thousands of parents and students across the state to choose a school that better meets their needs," Huff said. "With the student population declining statewide, Districts of Choice has become a tool that rewards schools doing a great job, and motivates other schools to do a better job with our limited education dollars." Without extending this program in law, a student who has transferred to a school in a district other than the school district of their residence would be forced to return to the their original district of residence. The DOC program is the only one in current law that provides parents an option to enroll their child in a school of their choice. "At the end of the day, this legislation is really about providing equal opportunities in education for all California students," Romero said. "Parents, not zip codes, should decide if a school is providing those opportunities for their child." SB 680 next will be heard in the Assembly Education Committee. Contributed by the office of Sen. Gloria Romero.

********** Published: April 24, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 1

Eric Pierce