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    California’s Traditional Public Schools Are Not Doing Their Job, And Parents Are Opting Out.

    By Larry Sand


    With sky-high taxes, a sieve-like southern border, and an ongoing flow of nutty regulations – one law targets cow flatulence, for example – California really doesn’t need any more bad news. But according to a recent report, the state now leads the country in illiteracy. In fact, 23.1% of Californians over the age of 15 cannot read this sentence. While part of the problem is due to the aforementioned porous border, much of the blame falls on the state’s failing public schools. For example, according to the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), just 30% of California eighth graders are proficient in reading. And that test, of course, was given before the highly damaging covid-related lockdowns kicked in.

    Voters’ attitudes toward the state’s government-run schools have tumbled accordingly. A new poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies reveals that just 35% of the state’s voters gave public schools in their local district a grade of A or B, down from 55% in 2011. At the other end of the spectrum, 25% now grade their local public schools a D or F, up 15 percentage points from 2011. The poll included responses from 800 California voters with 50% identifying as Democrats, 26% Republican, and 24% independent.

    Because of all the above, it’s no surprise that enrollment in California schools is sinking. In 2018-19, they lost about 23,000 students, but between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, public school enrollment in California dropped by more than seven times that figure, with 175,761 students leaving.

    In Los Angeles, the bleeding is profuse. Whereas L.A. Unified schools were home to 737,000 students 20 years ago, the district is now forecasting a 25,000 student drop by the fall which would bring their attendance number below the 400,000 mark, and things are looking bleak for the nation’s second largest school district. Its “American Rescue Plan” dollars will run out soon, and Los Angeles Times education writer Howard Blume reports, that from July forward, “the district is projected to spend about $1 billion more than it will take in over a two-year period. The district also must wrestle with underfunded retiree health benefits.” Additionally, the United Teachers of Los Angeles contract is up at the end of the school year, and the union will be demanding the sun and the moon in their new contract.

    San Diego, another troubled city, is losing students from its public schools at a faster clip than district leaders expected, and this will undoubtedly lead to financial difficulties. In Oakland, the school board has voted to close seven schools over the next two years due to sagging enrollment.

    So, just where are the leavers being educated? To be sure, some are being schooled in other states as California’s population is declining. But many of those who remain in California have enrolled in charter schools, which saw 15,283 new enrollees in the 2020-2021 school year, a 2.3% increase from the previous year, bringing the total to 690,657. By contrast, the 175,761 students who exited the state’s public schools represent a 3.2% drop.

    A big reason for the current upheaval is that the charters, a great majority of which are nonunionized, did a much better job during the pandemic.

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