School choice advocates are gathering signatures and raising awareness for the Education Freedom Act, a proposition slated to go before voters in 2022. The statewide initiative would allow parents more control over how their children are educated. This initiative comes at the time when government leaders and their backers are attacking individual parental decisions in education and medical issue.
More than a hundred people from multiple states and counties around California gathered at Riley’s Revolutionary War Re-Enactment Farm this month to educate and advocate against the government’s encroachment on civil liberties.
Guest speaker, Rebecca Friedrich, nationally known for the Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association encouraged the audience to fight for their civil rights. The organization School Choice is working towards qualifying and passing the statewide initiative Education Freedom Act. Leaders of the initiative consider advocating for School Choice as the ‘next great chapter in the on-going civil rights movement in America’.
Author of the book Standing Up to Goliath, an expose of bully unions, Friedrich is also a Prager University host, and founded For Kids and Country a national movement of parents, teachers, students, faith leaders, and citizens uniting to restore the nation’s schools and culture.
“The unions use fear tactics. Those who use independent talk over union think are bullied or silenced,” said Friedrichs.
Under current law, parents have the ability to choose where to send their children to school, but only if they can afford the choice. Sending a child to a private or religious school comes at the parent’s own expense. If a family cannot afford private education, they must send the children to the local public school where the government will pay. Under current attendance laws, parents who cannot afford private schools have no choice but to send their children to state-run institutes.
Advocates for school choice believe all children of all income levels could benefit from the Educational Freedom Act. This act is an individual scholarship account (Educational Savings Account) that would be created for each school-age K-12 child in the State of California. This account would allow the state to regularly deposit an amount equal to the average per-pupil education expenditure in the State of California. That amount is currently over $12,000 per year. Parents can then use that money to send their children to a school of their choice.
Parents can choose an existing public school, a charter school or accredited private or parochial school. Any amount of leftover can be accumulated and used for an in-state college degree program or any other qualified educational expense (e.g. vocational schools).
At the town hall held at Riley’s Farm, another speaker was education adviser Vicki Alger. Alger works for the Independent Institute in Oakland, however, she lives in Arizona. Arizona already has an educational freedom law and she said the four children in her family all received a great education in public schools but that was because competition made the schools better.
“Everything that was feared from having school choice didn’t happen. Competition made schools better,” said Alger.
Founder and President of the Teachers Empowerment Network, Larry Sand said that the issue of school choice is not a right or left issue. “This is about parental choice, not just school choice. We feed our kids what we want we have the right for educational freedom,” said Sand. “This is a civil rights issue, it’s a liberty issue.”
Sand pointed out that the Democrats love Pell Grants for college students that allow students to choose what college they can attend, but are against the same type of program for students in K-12.
“What if the government said you had to eat at the crappy Italian restaurant near your house and you couldn’t drive across town to the better run Italian restaurant simply because of where you live. Competition and choice are also needed in our education,” said Sand.
“Competition is the tide that lifts all boats,” said another guest speaker, Marc Ang, a graduate from Columbia University who is the President and Founder of the Asian Industry B2B. “Kids are graduating from with no skills and the talent pool is getting worse. We need to be strategic in where our children attend high school not just college.”
James Patrick Riley owner of Riley’s Farm who is also embroiled in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District for violating his First Amendment rights, wrapped up the event with Patrick Henry’s speech, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”.
School Choice advocates need a million signatures to get the measure on the 2022 ballot. However, they are seeking 1.5 million as a cushion.