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Tue, Jul

School Choice: Educational Freedom Act Gives Rights to Parents

EDUCATION COMMENTARY - If “zoom schooling” has taught us anything, it’s that we’re locked in and our kids are learning things that shock us.

How many would love to exercise the same option Governor Newsom did when confronted with “zoom schooling” and send your kids to a private school? 

Fat chance, you say. I didn’t grow up with the Gettys. I haven’t got that kind of money. But what if you did? What if you could take your kid out of “zoom school” and put them in a private school with in-person learning? 

Well, that is now possible with “The Educational Freedom Act”. 

More than two years in the drafting, the Educational Freedom Act treats everyone in California equally. Parents of every Californian student may have the freedom to spend $14,000 provided by the State of California at a school of their choice—no matter how much money they make. 

But implementing this policy the right way and giving our kids that choice, requires two things: (1) signatures to place it before voters and (2) votes to pass it into law. 

But like every great policy idea, there are other versions of school choice circulating at the moment. Please don’t be confused. 

The one we need and the one you want is the Educational Freedom Act. It is sponsored by Californians for School Choice, a coalition of Parents, Taxpayers, and clergy throughout California. 

The Educational Freedom Act gets it right. It makes everything equal and fair. The key is letting parents direct state education tax dollars, not bureaucrats. Funding follows the student without conditions, mandates, or means testing. Every California family and every California student is treated equally. 

Those other initiatives leave out the middle class. Only the richest and the poorest students in California have a real choice of schools for the first 4-5 years. Annual student funding provided is phased in by “means testing”. The home schooled are specifically excluded from all benefits. They provide less than $14,000 per student annually. 

In contrast, the Educational Freedom Act provides $14,000 to all students regardless of their parent’s “means”. Funding for middle class students is not delayed for 4-5 years. Homeschoolers are not excluded or left out with the Educational Freedom Act. A homeschooled student in an accredited program may use this funding for tuition and school expenses. 

Even if the homeschooled student is not participating in the program, $14,000 per year is still allocated for them. The annual funding accumulates in an account setup on the student’s behalf. Once the homeschooled student graduates from high school, the accumulated funds are available for tuition at an accredited college, university or vocational school of their choice. 

Bottom line: The Educational Freedom Act is more inclusive than others. It’s a dramatically better deal for Californians. All students, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or religion are equally eligible for the school choice benefit. 

Now, consider the government-provided “public” schools. 

Many have forgotten their primary mission. Their charges are failing at the basic concepts of writing, reading, and arithmetic while our tax dollars are wasted by an “out-of-touch" bureaucracy. Students are not readied for college or career. They (and their teachers) are treated like “guinea pigs” by a state mandated political agenda. 

That’s why our current system is failing to prepare our rising generations to succeed in life, to be independent and to contribute to the economic wellbeing of their fellow citizens and our Nation. 

If we are to stop boring students, failing students and turning out so many “educated” students unprepared for life, the job of our children’s education must become the province of the parents and not the State. The Educational Freedom Act starts California down that path.  

The $14,000 per year provided by the Educational Freedom Act is business-friendly and unencumbered by the massive Education Code. Funds are securely transferred for tuition expenses with detailed considerations for the schools as well as the State Treasury. It protects the taxpayers with safety measures so that the unscrupulous cannot take advantage of the system. 

More money poured into the broken system does not yield better results. Spending more on a broken system did not solve the crisis in education.  All children deserve a quality education without delay—especially the poorest and most vulnerable among us who have suffered the most under the current system. That quality education begins with equal access and choice. 

Our children are our future. They deserve the best education that our tax dollars can buy. For some that might be public school. For others, a private or home school. Financial support from the state should be theirs to direct. The choice of school to attend should be theirs to pick. And a quality education should be theirs to receive. 

Your Kids. Your Money. Our Future.

 

(rian Hawkins is a proponent of The Educational Freedom Act, a statewide initiative to reform education in our State.  Hawkins is a Pastor, Community Activist and the first African American elected to the San Jacinto City Council.)