A True Equality-Driven Democratic California School Choice Initiative Doesn’t Require Income Divisions or Means Testing
by Marc Eng
With nonstop news stories about divisions around class, income, race and anything big government and the media can think of to cause conflict, the reality of our unity in California is missed and hardly talked about these days. But a new school choice initiative, the Educational Freedom Act, does this. After watching the consistent efforts of California School Choice Foundation in the community, I am proud to endorse this effort.
The last year has been quite an eye opener for me. Fighting for many causes I believe in as a local community organizer, I found that both political parties, including some in the grassroots, are quite willing to throw aside their values and common sense to play for their “team”. The team should be everyone. California needs to be uplifted as a group, as we are now in the bottom of the ranks in academic achievement compared to other states.
My heart has always been for the issues and nothing excites me more than common sense legislation. With recent wins in Virginia and New Jersey, showing the power of parents, it is no wonder there are multiple school choice initiatives now being proposed. The “Educational Freedom Act” run by California School Choice Foundation is the superior initiative by far and the ultimate end-user legislation.
The end user in this case is North Orange County resident Windi Eklund and her husband Joshua, who homeschool 3 kids.
“I am a long-time homeschool mom who has tried out almost all of the legal homeschool paths available to us in California. We have homeschooled through district ISPs, non-classroom based charter schools, a PSP, and filed our own PSA.”
In the 80’s and 90’s the homeschool community was made up of parents who homeschooled to raise their children free from government control and in the ways of their religious beliefs.
As time has gone on more and more families left the traditional school system to educate their children at home. The reasons for this vary, and many never actually wanted to homeschool. Windi fell into this category. It was only after being faced with the fact that the traditional education system that she had been educated through as a child, was not going to work for her oldest son, that she began to homeschool.
With the pandemic, this group of “reluctant homeschoolers” increased by at least 30% and when the covid vaccine mandate hit schools in 2022, this group of “education refugees” only grew and will continue to grow more.
Windi had been closely watching the school choice initiatives being proposed and settled on the “Educational Freedom Act”.
In the initial discussions, she saw groups she respected such as CCSA (the California Charter School Association), the HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) and FPM (Family Protection Ministries) consulted about how a successful program should work with charter schools and homeschools.
What was saddest for Windi is she realized that her family was not considered a homeschool family under traditional definitions.
She was a homeschooler under a charter school or independent study program through a district and that excluded her. For 12 years, Windi’s son was under a charter school and therefore was a unique homeschooling case. Now he is a senior but went through his first 11 years under the public school accreditation but will graduate without that. But quality education in the moment is the priority of the Eklund family.
For the last couple of years, she transitioned to private homeschooling and cherishes the flexibility she once enjoyed under the charter school programs. “We had been able to create our own studies and curriculums such as real life field experiences. For example, US History – we would go to DC and New York. Suddenly the Charter school stopped accepting these “learning outside the box” activities because it didn’t fit in the curriculum that now required us to complete specific worksheets and research papers. And that changed over 3 years. It ultimately didn’t fit my children’s needs”
Windi has a unique perspective and I have considered her a subject matter expert on education choices, being that she has seen many angles of this. Windi was also the director of homeschooling for her charter school and husband Joshua was director of student services. Both lost their job last year and would be subject to means testing and income phase-in’s that would have shut them out of this program by the other school choice initiatives simply because they made a great income last year but that has since plummeted due to losing their job.
Many other families would be in this position in a volatile world and job market. It could be destructive to a family unit. The means testing would shut out a “high income” family that makes over $100,000. But what if they have five or six children? That would not be a lot.
The unaccredited programs were the ultimate deal breaker for Windi. The “Educational Freedom Act” allows homeschool moms like Windi to opt in. Many private homeschoolers don’t want government intervention. By extension, private homeschoolers don’t want government funds. Other initiatives shut out Windi but EFA and California School Choice gives her the option to opt in and save for college or even high school – it is an important tribute to parents’ sacrifice, giving up one spouse’s income to stay home and provide quality education to their kids. Other initiatives would shut her out from the college savings option.
As a homeschool parent who lived and worked in the homeschool and charter school communities, Windi Knows for a fact that the majority of homeschoolers nowadays no longer align with the government free (no tax dollars) belief system of the HSLDA and FPM. The majority of families would welcome access to opt into the program.
Our special needs students would be protected better. There are many who have flocked to non-classroom based charter schools because district schools fail to provide them the support they need. Many students who are dealing with adult responsibilities who would otherwise have had to drop out of school are served by our non-classroom based charter schools. Such as teenagers taking care of elderly parents or family members and need flexibility in their schedule.
Students who are not fully vaccinated, especially ones with health issues, have had their ability to attend any in-person school revoked by our legislature. They now attend non-classroom-based charter schools. We need to represent all the families who use charter schools.
All of these families who can no longer be served by the system (funded by their tax dollars) to educate their children not only have to figure out how to educate their children, they also have to figure out how to pay for that education.
A phase-in from low to high income makes sense if we are trying to get the support of those who don’t understand issues on the ground and are more focused on the political elite level where special interest groups dominate. But it makes no sense to people on the ground. Only if we make this available across the board minus the divisions can we make this truly Democratic and accessible to the average family, increasingly protecting those with customized circumstances and situations.
The Educational Freedom Act is an easy solution, opting out of creating barriers and differences between our California residents. It gives the power back to parents, giving an opportunity for families to opt into an education savings account and saves up for college. We do not need divisions, means testing or a general disinterest in the nuances of our education system.
EFA and California School Choice have what it takes to truly revolutionize our education system by creating friendly competition, uplifting all boats. Most importantly, it does not discriminate against anyone, regardless of income, race, gender, etc. Our kids deserve this. Democrats, Independents, and Republicans should all support this common sense legislation.
Marc Ang (email@example.com) is a community organizer in Southern California and the founder of Asian Industry B2B. He has thrown many quality education fairs, promoting school choice. Marc’s book “Minority Retort” will be released in late 2021.