OP/ED: Educational choice is essential in the era of COVID-19 – CA Assemblywoman Megan Dahle

Submitted by Assemblywoman Megan Dahle

As school districts in Los Angeles and San Diego have announced their continued closure through the coming fall semester, I am one of many concerned parents that fear this trend could spread statewide. The communities I represent in the First Assembly District overwhelmingly depend on schools to provide meals, care, and a safe place for our children, and our region is not alone in this. What’s more concerning is that the arguments driving the school closure debate are focused more on politics than actual science and what’s in the best interest of students. As such, it has never been more important for educational options to abound for parents.

For many students in the North State the reality is that the local public school is their only option. Our students have some of the highest Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) scores in the state. In eight of the nine counties I represent, the number of students that qualify for free and reduced-price meals at school ranges between 50 and 70 percent of all students, and they live in frontier areas. There are no daycare facilities, and access to broadband is spotty for some, and nonexistent for most. The local public school is the life source for these students, and our communities cannot afford to do without them through the coming fall semester.

Furthermore, CDC data seems to demonstrate the risk of reopening schools is worth the reward of preventing learning loss, as children under the age of 18 are far less likely to contract the virus and fatality rates are extremely low. Even fears that kids will transfer the virus to adults are starting to be dispelled based on preliminary research from reopened schools across Europe. Despite these facts, teachers’ unions like UTLA have succeeded in strong-arming some districts into closures with politically motivated demands like banning charter schools. This is entirely contrary to what the state ought to be doing, which is expanding educational choice for parents.

If the option of returning to public school is going to be held hostage by teachers’ unions across the state, parents need viable alternatives like charter schools. Many have been incredibly successful in transitioning to distance learning and combining blended learning models that parents are desperate for. As a result of the flexibility they offer, many charters have seen especially high numbers of new applicants in the months immediately following Newsom’s March 19 th stay at home order. But slots have been increasingly limited due to years of Democrat policies systematically restricting parental choice.

Some of the most recent examples of this include:

  • AB 1505 (2019) gave further power to school districts to deny charter applications and enacted a temporary moratorium on nonclassroom-based charters.
  • AB 1507 (2019) added arbitrary location restrictions that limit where charter schools can operate.
  • SB 98 (2020) enacted hold harmless provisions that cap K-12 average daily attendance (ADA) at 2019-20 levels, unfairly punishing schools that have operated successful programs and attracted new students during COVID-19, many of which will be charter schools.

Governor Newsom has approved each of these bills that edge charters further out of the picture, and with them, many viable options for students. Now, with a pandemic on his hands, widespread public school closures, and parents becoming desperate for educational choice, it appears the chickens have come home to roost.

Now is the time for the state to correct its course. Any decisions regarding the reopening of schools this fall should be regional, taking into account that not all communities have been affected the same by the pandemic. It should not be up to the political whims of teachers’ unions to decide if public schools should open in the fall, but rather local leaders in concert with community stakeholders. Charters should receive equitable funding on par with public schools and be promoted as the viable option that they are. Whether parents feel comfortable sending their kids back to school or not, they deserve options.

Assemblywoman Megan Dahle represents the 1st Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes portions of Butte and Placer counties, along with Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, and Siskiyou counties.

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Contact the editor: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 16 grandchildren.

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