Talon

District of Choice bill moves through state legislature

AB 185 attempts to renew the District of Choice program, with new accessibility and transparency requirements.

People+gather+to+protest+the+removal+of+the+DOC+bill.+Approximately+10%2C000+California+students+are+directly+affected+by+the+bill+%28Nick+Burt%2FTalon%29.
People gather to protest the removal of the DOC bill. Approximately 10,000 California students are directly affected by the bill (Nick Burt/Talon).

People gather to protest the removal of the DOC bill. Approximately 10,000 California students are directly affected by the bill (Nick Burt/Talon).

People gather to protest the removal of the DOC bill. Approximately 10,000 California students are directly affected by the bill (Nick Burt/Talon).

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






New DOC bill crafted to address equity concerns

California State Assembly Bill 185, a bill to amend and renew District of Choice program, is under review by the Assembly’s Committee on Appropriations. The bill proposes new additions to the program, aimed at extending the program and making changes to issues brought forth by districts of residence.

The bill, which passed an Assembly Education Committee hearing with unanimous support, is sponsored by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, and Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, the chairman of the Assembly Education Committee.

The DOC program allows students from any public school district and grade level to apply to a California District of Choice without a permit from the student’s district of residence.

AB 185 included numerous additions directed at both districts of residence and Districts of Choice. Among these changes were new requirements for reporting student transfer information online to districts of residence, priority status for students on the National School Lunch Program (which provides eligible students with free and reduced-price lunches), and the ability for districts of residence under budget constraints to limit the number of students able to transfer out of the district.

“We like the [AB 185]— it has a rolling cap of 6 percent which works fine for us,” Superintendent Tony Knight said.

The rolling cap would replace a previous 10 percent hard cap on transfers from a district of residence to a District of Choice.

The original 10 percent cap measured the number of cumulative DOC students transferring to a specific DOC from a specific district of residence, limiting the number of DOC transfers to only 10 percent of the average daily attendance from that district of residence. The cap is cumulative because it has measured the total number of DOC transfers from the district of residence since the beginning of the specific district’s DOC program.

The change would allow for no more than 6 percent of the student population from a specific district of residence to attend a DOC in any given year.

Such changes to the enrollment cap have led local districts like Simi Valley Unified School District to pass resolutions to formally oppose the new legislation.

In their oppositions, SVUSD and local school districts like Conejo Valley USD claim that Oak Park hand-selects students and turns away certain student groups.

We use a blind process and do not sort anyone out … there is transparency on the selection of those students.”

— Tony Knight

Based on the information I have from first-hand accounts of parents and data from OPUSD website and government data, Oak Park appears to be using District of Choice to cherry-pick the best students and has resulted in a tremendous disparity between the demographics of OPUSD transfer students and the feeder districts,” Dan White, a member of SVUSD’s school board, wrote in an email.

White said he believes that OPUSD particularly turns away students who require special needs — even after those students are chosen through the district’s practice of lottery enrollment.

 

 

Knight said these accusations were false.

“It just didn’t happen and it’s fake news — they have zero evidence to back that up,” Knight said. “We use a blind process and do not sort anyone out … there is transparency on the selection of those students.”

Some districts of residence have even filed suit over the DOC program. In one case, Pomona Unified School District filed a lawsuit against neighboring Walnut Valley Unified School District, the largest District of Choice in California. The lawsuit claims that Walnut Valley USD has violated California’s Education Code by artificially affecting the racial make-up of the district.

Data from California’s Department of Education shows that Pomona’s racial diversity of 12 percent white and 7 percent Asian has gone to 4 percent white and 4 percent Asian since Walnut Valley USD adopted the District of Choice program.

Rowland Unified School District borders Walnut Valley USD and has also seen drops in the racial diversity of the district since the adoption of the District of Choice program.

There is a way to become involved and change a school district to fit a student’s needs through the Local Control Accountability Plan process.”

— Shay Loman

New requirements in AB 185 prohibit Districts of Choice from targeting specific ethnic communities with advertisements in hopes of attracting certain student demographics.

Other opponents to the program cite it as outdated — created when school districts were controlled by the California Department of Education.

“I’m not disputing a parent’s choice in the education of their student. However there is a way to become involved and change a school district to fit a student’s needs through the Local Control Accountability Plan process,” Association of Rowland Educators President Shay Loman said.

LCAP is a program that allows students, teachers, community members and parents to meet with local school district officials to suggest changes to school policy and educational plans. These suggestions are then gathered together and implemented the following school year.

“Allowing Districts of Choice to continue flies in the face of our efforts to put the control of a students education in the hands of parents,” Loman said. “I do not want to argue with parents wanting control over their child’s education; I however want to encourage school district change through the LCAP.”

Concerns raised over transportation costs, state funding

Changes to the DOC program included a requirement that Districts of Choice provide free transportation to certain transfer students. According to Knight, schools would need to pay for the transportation of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program, and who live within a 10-mile radius of the district.

Originally, students who were not on the National School Lunch Program would pay a fee to receive transportation to OPUSD.

According to Knight, it will cost $11,000 dollars per student a year to provide bussing services from either Simi Valley or Woodland Hills to Oak Park. However, no official analysis has yet been conducted on the cost of these new transportation requirements.

But with the inclusion of free transportation for both students on and off the National School Lunch Program, transporting both kinds of students for free would be too costly for Oak Park USD Knight believes.

The consequences of these additional costs also concerns Knight.

We were thinking of developing potential transportation hubs to help families and reduce the traffic in the area but are instead unable to charge anyone for transportation.”

— Tony Knight

“It’s economically impossible to offer free transportation for everyone. We were thinking of developing potential transportation hubs to help families and reduce the traffic in the area, but are instead unable to charge anyone for transportation,” Knight said.

Authors of the bill believe that it is necessary to include free transportation to all students to insure equity in the program.

“If the district is already offering transportation to students, that should be made available to students who are not in the free and [reduced-price] lunch category,” O’Donell said.

However, Irwin was not notified of the change in the cost of transportation for both types of students until days before the bill was presented at the General Assembly on Education — due to an abrupt change by one of O’Donnell’s staff members.

“It would be difficult to maintain DOCs with that requirement in place, so we are working with Mr. O’Donnell to work this out. There was a commitment made at the Assembly meeting to ensure that this was worked on,” Irwin said.

There is no data available to confirm that increased busing to students in local districts will increase participation of allegedly excluded racial groups in the program.

“The Districts of Choice have pushed back on offering any transportation — but it’s my job at the state level to ensure that any program that passes is equitable and the transportation component ensures this,” O’Donnell said.

We had to make this deal to move forward. My main concern for this bill was to address the needs of OPUSD and they are not a basic aid district.”

— Jacqui Irwin

Another addition to the bill eliminates extra state funds “following” students from districts of residence to Districts of Choice, in cases where the DOC is already primarily funded through property taxes. The change holds to affect roughly 1,000 students in over 20 districts that use the  the program.

“If these districts are so well-funded, and have such a large amount of money for every student – they should not need more money per student. This is meant to be an opportunity, not a money- maker,” O’Donnell said.

Under current law, these basic aid Districts of Choice receive 70 percent of the state funding allocated for each student who transfers while the remaining 30 percent is given to the district of residence the student is originally located.

“We had to make this deal to move forward. My main concern for this bill was to address the needs of OPUSD and they are not a basic aid district,” Irwin said.

As OPUSD is not a basic aid district, it would not be affected by this component of AB 185.  For basic aid Districts of Choice, without this funding, some may be unable to continue accepting transfers.

It’s going to take a lot of phone calls, trips to Sacramento and persuasion to renew the program — but I think we can do it.”

— Tony Knight

“I think the problem is that the authors of this bill see all basic aid districts as the same, rather than the fact that many of these districts receive various levels of per pupil funding,” Shoreline USD Superintendent Bob Raines said.

Shoreline USD, located in northern California, is considered a basic aid district and holds to lose five to 10 teachers with the change.

“Some basic aid districts only receive between $7,000 and $8,000 per student from property taxes, while other basic aid districts receive $12,000 student,” Raines said.

With growing opposition on both sides, Knight is preparing to work with other districts to compromise on the future of the district of choice program.

“It’s going to take a lot of phone calls, trips to Sacramento and persuasion to renew the program — but I think we can do it,” Knight said.

New legislative session renews debate

With approximately 10,000 DOC students across the state of California, uncertainty over the future of the program arose after Senate Bill 1432, a bill introduced to continue the District of Choice program past its July 1, 2017 expiration date, died in the California state legislature Aug. 11, 2016.

Unless a new bill passes before July 1, 2017, current DOC students across the state of California may have to go back to their districts of residence after the 2017-18 school year.

“We received a lot of communication from District of Choice schools last year,” Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, said, “and we set out to find out what issues there were.”

Many of the issues that arose last year included accusations of racial inequality between districts of residence and Districts of Choice, as well as a lack of communication between districts. A 2016 California State Legislative Analysis Office report on the program included data that allegedly explored these issues.

Both districts of residence and [Districts of Choice] have concerns over the additions in this new bill, and we will continue to listen to them and make changes throughout the legislative process.”

— Patrick O'Donnell

To resolve these issues, four bills were proposed in January and February of 2017 by four different California state assemblymembers. Two of the bills proposed an extension of the program in its current state until 2022.

Irwin, whose legislative district includes Oak Park, proposed a bill in late February that extended the program until 2022 with new requirements for districts to provide transportation for students within ten miles of the district boundaries.

“We tried to address those past issues in this bill and tried to make a bill that could pass this year,” Irwin said.

In early March of 2017, Irwin’s bill was combined with a bill on the same topic by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach — forming AB 185.

“Both districts of residence and [Districts of Choice] have concerns over the additions in this new bill, and we will continue to listen to them and make changes throughout the legislative process,” O’Donnell said, noting the need for both choice and “equity for all.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the Writer
Nick Burt, Former Managing Editor

When not investigating, scheduling or putting up posters, Nick can be a chill dude. Always on the lookout for a good story, he isn't afraid to make the...

Leave a Comment




Navigate Left
  • District of Choice bill moves through state legislature

    News

    Out with the gold, in with the new

  • District of Choice bill moves through state legislature

    News

    Student passes required to leave at lunch

  • District of Choice bill moves through state legislature

    News

    Vintage plane hits center divider on 101 freeway

  • Feature

    Progress for LGBTQ+ community with gender recognition

  • District of Choice bill moves through state legislature

    News

    Debate team succeeds at competitions.

  • News

    New play “The Interference” introduced to Women’s Literature curriculum

  • News

    CAASPP scores soar

  • District of Choice bill moves through state legislature

    News

    Government sends text alert, students respond

  • District of Choice bill moves through state legislature

    News

    Engage Therapy comes to Oak Park High School

  • District of Choice bill moves through state legislature

    News

    College Knowledge Night attracts student and parents of Ventura County

Navigate Right