Is Austin All It’s Cracked Up to Be? – CPC Newsletter

By Jordan Bruneau
January 29, 2021

More ammunition for the charter school fight: This week is National School Choice Week. In conjunction, CPC released a new study finding that South Los Angeles charter schools have 37 percent more college-ready SAT-taking students than comparable union-run schools nearby.

Specifically, 16.6% of SAT takers at these charter schools met or exceeded both the math and English components of the California Department of Education’s SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmarks versus 12.1% of SAT takers in comparable traditional district schools, including magnet schools, nearby. (See table below.)

Charter schools are especially vital now – as California students struggle to recover from the dramatic learning losses associated with the virtual-schooling debacle. Parents fed up with classroom closures and years of failing district schools now have even more reason to check out their charter alternatives.

Findings in-line with the overwhelming majority of school choice research: In his latest piece, CPC contributor Larry Sand notes how researcher William Forster finds that in 32 of 34 empirical education studies, “school choice improves academic outcomes in public schools affected by the program, while one finds no visible difference and one finds a negative impact.” In addition, school choice overwhelmingly has a positive effect on taxpayers, ethnic segregation and civic values and practices. New research also suggests charter schools can improve mental health.

6th Annual Parent Union School Choice Fair tomorrow: Learn about quality school options that are available for K-12 students in California tomorrow between 10 am and 12 pm in this free online Zoom event hosted by CPC’s Parent Union. Speakers include:

  • Mari Barke (emcee), California Policy Center
  • Andrew Campanella, National School Choice Week
  • Heather Martinson, Celebration Education
  • Windi Eklund, California Homeschool Network, Homeschool Concierge
  • Nancy Mikhail, Build-A-Project
  • Cassi Clausen, The Open School
  • Collin Felch, Vista Condor Global Academy
  • Larry Sand, California School Choice Foundation
  • Jeff Barke, M.D., Orange County Classical Academy
  • Cecilia Iglesias, The Parent Union

Register HERE

Will California’s reopening include schools? On the latest episode of National Review’s Radio Free California, CPC President Will Swaim and board member David Bahnsen discuss Gov. Newsom’s decision this week to ease Covid restrictions as the Recall Newsom campaign gathers strength. Yet they note that he’ll have a tough time persuading his allies in the state’s teachers union that it’s safe to reopen schools.

Just give education tax dollars directly to students and families: In his latest analysis, CPC contributor Edward Ring discusses a bold ballot measure proposal to create a school voucher system in the state, fundamentally transforming California’s education system. As Ed explains:

Unlike tepid iterations of school choice that have been unsuccessfully attempted in California in the past, or successfully approved in other states, this initiative is crafted to completely blow up the union monopoly on public schools. Proponent Michael Alexander, president of the California School Choice Foundation based in Pasadena, identified four key provisions:

  1. An Education Savings Account (ESA) would be created for every K-12 student in California.
  2. These accounts would be credited annually with each student’s pro-rata share of Prop. 98 funds (40% of the California General fund). This amounts to approximately $10,000 per student per year.
  3. The parents of K-12 students will be able to direct that money to a participating school whether it’s a public, charter, or accredited private or parochial school.
  4. The money, if unspent, would accumulate to be used for college, vocational, or any other accredited educational expense.

The next front in the war on free expression: CPC recently cosigned a letter to Congress opposing the latest congressional attack on free speech, the misnamed “Initiative to Accelerate Charitable Giving.” Despite its title, the bill requires charities and nonprofit organizations to disclose the names of their donors. Similar efforts are occurring at the state level, too. All would put cancel culture on steroids because donors would be subjected to ridicule, de-platforming, and blacklisting for contributions to causes that aren’t politically correct.

Privacy is an integral part of free speech – a tradition that dates back to the Federalist Papers. The Supreme Court upheld this protection in 1958, after the state of Alabama demanded the NAACP’s membership list, ruling that such a move would likely affect the free association of its members. Writing for the majority, Justice John Marshall Harlan II said:

This Court has recognized the vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations. When referring to the varied forms of governmental action which might interfere with freedom of assembly, it said in American Communications Ass’n v. Douds, supra, 339 U.S. at page 402, 70 S.Ct. at page 686: ‘A requirement that adherents of particular religious faiths or political parties wear identifying arm-bands, for example, is obviously of this nature.’ Compelled disclosure of membership in an organization engaged in advocacy of particular beliefs is of the same order. Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs.

Is Austin all it’s cracked up to be? For months, we’ve been chronicling the steady flow of Californians — both millionaire and middle-class – out of the state. Texas is the most popular destination for expat Californians, and Austin – “the California of Texas” – seems to be the most popular location in the state. Certainly, when you look at the price of housing and the tax rate, such a move looks attractive. Yet journalistic integrity and some enduring home-state love demand that we offer the other side of the story as well.

In a viral Business Insider op-ed this week, Brett Alder, a Californian turned Texan turned Californian again, writes how Austin is a major disappointment. He cites the two percent-plus property tax rate, the nearly four-figure monthly heating/cooling/water bills, and the cost of escaping the brutal summer heat to argue that the supposed cost savings aren’t all they’re made out to be. Sure, you get a bigger house – but that’s just more to clean.

Some of the piece lives up to a predictable pretentiousness – but then there’s a pro-liberty twist as well:

I love getting to know people from other cultures. In California we’ve had Vietnamese neighbors, Iranian neighbors, Filipinos, Palestinians, you name it. We love it. In parts of Texas it’s not just a monoculture, but a monoculture that doesn’t seem to be aware of its own blandness. Think about it: Are you ready to have your son judged based on his suitability for a future career in football? Are you ready to network by attending the local high school football game with the guys? Because that’s a thing in Texas.

And it’s not just that. The lack of openness to diverse ideas leaves you with the feeling that you traveled 15 years back in time technologically moving there. They voted out Uber and Lyft and think that’s not a big deal because — wait for it — they have a ride-sharing Facebook group.

In addition to Austin’s “bad weather,” Alder notes, “There are no snowy mountains, no raging rivers, and no soaring arches. If you live in Austin, things don’t change much in a huge seven-hour-drive radius. Since we love the outdoors — exploring, climbing, rafting — Austin was not our cup of tea.”

California is blessed with the best weather and outdoor attractions on the planet. It has the most interesting and innovative people from around the world all trying to live the California Dream. It’s the cultural, technological, and entertainment capital of the world.

Just think how great it could be if we could tame the government union menace and the corresponding big government!

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