A new day for school choice in California

By Jackson Reese
June 12, 2021

United Teachers Los Angeles President Cecily Myart-Cruz has been talking for months about the “transformational change” she wants to bring to California schools through the COVID-19 pandemic. Golden State voters, according to a new poll commissioned by the California Policy Center, want changes, too.

Unfortunately for Myart-Cruz, the changes voters want could dismantle the government union stranglehold on schools that’s allowed them to be shuttered for over a year and turned children into political pawns. Just-completed polling finds attitudes toward school choice – as in, giving parents say and flexibility in how and where their children are educated – have dramatically shifted in California.

When asked if they’d support a ballot initiative establishing Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) – wherein parents who remove their children from public school receive a portion of the public education dollars intended for their child so they may pay for a variety of educational expenses, from tuition in private schools to tutoring  – a majority said they would. In fact, 54% of voters said they’d vote “yes” if given the chance, while only 34% said they’d vote “no.” Support among African American and Latino voters was even higher, with 71% and 66% expressing support, respectively.

Importantly, this represents a major awakening among California voters, who’ve undoubtedly been moved by decades of failing schools, and a 15-month-long tug-of-war between parents/students, and unions/politicians that control schools. In 2000, voters were given the chance to establish vouchers – arguably, the precursor to the gold standard of school choice solutions that are ESAs – and over 70% rejected the idea. The findings of CPC’s statewide voter survey indicate transformational change in California’s education system is finally possible in the foreseeable future.

And how could it not be, when California’s union-run, public school monopoly is so out of touch with the needs of students? CPC’s poll also found that most voters believe schools should be fully open now, that public schools are failing minority children and ESAs would help them, and that the pandemic demonstrated there are alternatives to the traditional public school system. Impressively, 69% agreed that, “Despite spending over $20,000 per student, California’s public schools are not performing well. We need to give parents better options to educate their children – especially when their school is failing.” 

After what can only be described as a lost and hopeless year for California students, be encouraged that change is on the horizon. 

Quote of the week

“There are plenty of life-and-death issues in which L.A.’s heroic and hardworking teachers do have expertise, or at least a direct interest – those facing the schoolchildren of Los Angeles … But instead of focusing on those issues, the teachers of Los Angeles … have decided it makes more sense to address issues taking place 7,500 miles away involving no one in the district.” – Nicholas Goldberg, Los Angeles Times

You’re invited!

Join us from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 23 for a virtual celebration of workplace freedom in California. In honor of the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision, we’ll be talking with people like Assemblyman Kevin Kiley and Mark Janus himself about the ongoing efforts that have led over 300,000 California government workers to leave their unions. Please register here, and mark your calendars. Email Mallory Staley at mallor@calpolicycenter.org with any questions.

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