Democratic legislators purport to defend foster kids, poor children who receive subsidized school lunches and English-language learners.
So they should have readily supported legislation that would have allowed those students to attend the public school of their choice. They didn’t.
In Assembly Bill 1482, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Roseville, seeks to bar school districts from denying the transfer of students for whom English is a second language, foster children or kids who qualify for reduced-cost meals. It would be similar to existing laws that permit working parents and military parents to enroll their children in towns where they work.
At an Assembly Education Committee hearing last week, Kiley cited statistics showing California students who receive subsidized meals rank near the bottom nationally in math, reading and science.
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A California School Boards Association lobbyist testified that the bill could apply to more than half the state’s students and be “very disruptive.” Kiley offered to cap the number of kids who could transfer. That didn’t suffice. The bill failed by a 3-4 vote, with Democrats casting the “no” votes.
The skirmish is part of the larger war between advocates of greater public school choice, and much of the education establishment including the teachers’ unions. EdVoice, funded by charter public schools advocates and a rival of the teachers union, supported Kiley’s bill. It spent $10 million on California campaigns last year. The California Teachers Association is among the Democratic Party’s biggest donors, and opposed the bill.
Kiley’s bill raises a complicated issue. As kids bolt from their home districts, they lose state aid, which is based on attendance.
But that’s not the concern of parents who are trying to find the best school for their children, noted Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego, the lone Democrat who voted for the bill. Parents want the best for their kids, and she and Kiley pointed out that parents of means figure out how to put their children in schools of their choice.
“In the end, the people who suffer the most from all the manipulation at the top are the kids who need the services the most,” Weber said.
Kiley’s bill wouldn’t have altered the course of public education in California. But it would help a few kids and ought to be revived. It might disrupt the public school establishment, at the edges. But maybe any schools left in the lurch could use some disruption.