When Jamie Wright’s 3.5-year-old son starts pre-kindergarten in September, she plans to send him to a Montessori school.
“Montessori adapts to his learning level,” she said. “If you have a curriculum that you give to all students in public school and it doesn’t account for their learning differences and he’s struggling, that’s unfair to him.”
Wright, founder of The Wright Law Firm, plans to pay for her son’s private education out of pocket because there is no voucher program in California yet.
“I’m not sending my kid to a public school,” Wright said. “I also am a lawyer, so my resources are different to where I don’t need a voucher.”
For parents who cannot afford private school tuition, Senate Bill 292 would have offered parents funding that’s equal to what the state spends on each student to opt out of public school however the Orange County Register reported in April that the education committee voted against the measure 5-2 in April of 2023.
“The California Teachers Association has a massive, massive, massive spend and they are the most vocal opponent of this voucher issue in California,” Wright told OrangeCountyLawyers.com. “It’s interesting how much leverage they have with some of the senators.”
Also known as CTA, the California Teachers Association is a union representing 310,000 educators statewide.
The state senators who voted against SB 292, introduced by Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), are Democrats while Republican state Sens. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R) and Scott Wilk voted in favor.
“We could get our governor involved but he wants no part of it because his biggest campaign contributions come from the union,” said Orange County Board of Education Trustee Mari Barke. “If parents want to push school choice, they could write to their assembly person or their senator and tell them the importance of school choice. A few of them would agree.” Find your California representative here.
Nationally, the state of Florida, led by Republican governor Ron DeSantis, has embraced school choice with reportedly positive results.
U.S. News & World Report ranked the Florida No. 1 for best education compared to California at No. 20. The Report Card on American Education also listed Florida No. 2 Nationwide and California No. 25.
Wright blames politics.
“A Democrat in Florida will likely find more common ground with a moderate Republican than a Democrat in California,” she said. “Floridians and the governor in Florida’s position is about empowering parents with more options whereas Governor Newsom is going to veto outright anything regarding a voucher.”
A ballot initiative is another option that parents can rally around to usher in a statewide school voucher program, but such a measure is fraught with obstacles given the fact that Attorney General Rob Bonta is considered pro-union.
“The biggest hurdle is raising the money needed to get the initiative on the ballot, then you need more money to campaign and get the proper message out,” Barke told OrangeCountyLawyers.com. “Because we have an attorney general who isn’t pro-school choice, we’re not going to get a ballot initiative name that people understand. It will be something like ‘vote for Proposition K if you want to destroy all public schools.”
In lieu of a school voucher program, Barke advises parents to take full advantage of charter schools.
Orange County has 41 charter schools and Santa Ana is the area with the most charter school options to choose from.
“It’s my understanding that charter schools are the compromise for vouchers and that provides a choice for kids,” Barke added. “There are no boundaries so if there’s a charter school in South County or Long Beach, for example, they take all comers until full. Once they’re full, you get in by lottery or get on the wait list.”
Juliette Fairley covers legal topics for various publications including the Southern California Record, the Epoch Times and Pacer Monitor-News. Prior to discovering she had an ease and facility for law, Juliette lived in Orange County and Los Angeles where she pursued acting in television and film.