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The real reason Americans are fleeing California

The real reason Americans are fleeing California

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
September 12, 2023

This article was originally published at The Telegraph.

Gavin Newsom's woke policies are hurting children's education. Is it any wonder their parents are leaving?

By Scott Yenor and Alli Megal

“As California goes, so goes the nation”. That’s the phrase the ruling class of the most populous state in America likes to intone when times are good. What is incubated and succeeds – and, conversely, what festers and dies – in the Golden State is bound to make its way eastward, in a reverse socio-economic Manifest Destiny.

The hubris of the Californian position was once warranted. But today, the state leads the country in net domestic outmigration. Rising crime, rising taxes, and the sinking sensation that state leaders are too stoned or too stupid to meet the crisis each play a role in these shocking departure statistics. But so, too, does something else: the failing public school system.

In 2021, about 30 per cent of California public school students performed at grade level in math and reading. 8th grade students, those about to matriculate into the last four years of their public education, performed worse at 23 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. The enrollment number of 6.4 million students a decade ago has, in 2022-2023, dropped to about 5.85 million. Small wonder, then, that the state leads the country in illiteracy levels.

The pedagogic post-mortem is complex, but one thing is clear: the educational monopoly the woke Left enjoys over the public school system is much to blame. As we detail in a recent survey of the California K-12 public education, the mania for “social justice” has had a deleterious effect on educational standards in the state. Teachers in the public school system – the 2nd highest paid in America – have less interest in teaching the foundations of a robust education than they have in ensuring that students don’t stray too far from the approved group-think.

California’s education establishment has passed no fewer than twenty laws or initiatives promoting social justice since 2011. Here is a sampling: The FAIR Education Act (2011) mandates the incorporation of LGBTQ+ heroes into K-12 curriculum; the School Success and Opportunity Act (2013) allows kids to use bathrooms based on their chosen gender identity; the 2019 Suspension and Expulsion policy banning suspensions in elementary and middle schools for willful defiance; the Menstrual Equity for All Act (2021) requires the placement of feminine hygiene products in girl’s and boy’s bathrooms.

Simultaneous to these laws is an expansion in the reach of public-school missions, under the 2020 California Department of Education’s Transforming Schools Initiative. To address historic inequities, the Initiative seeks to maximise the influence of public schools to shape the minds of children. This entails massive spending, including $1.8 billion for professional development including equity and LGBT training; about $500 million to increase the number of school counsellors and $250 million for Inclusive Early Education programs. Of course, the Leftist interest groups who provide gender sensitivity or cultural responsiveness training will receive a sizeable windfall.

It’s unlikely that such politically-charged reforms would have been passed without the intervention of teachers unions, which are extraordinarily powerful in California. In fact, the state bizarrely makes it a priority to channel aspiring teachers into these bodies: school districts must give unions the personal contact information of teachers within thirty days of the date of hire, and it is illegal in California to discourage membership. As a result, the California Teachers Association (CTA) claims to have over 300,000 members – while the state has only about 320,000 teachers.

These unions end up having incredible influence in local school districts. Political candidates endorsed by CTA win nearly 70 per cent of competitive school board races. Many others win school board seats without opposition.

Local school districts who try and buck these trends face difficulties. When Temeluca Valley Unified School District rejected the state’s social studies curriculum over its celebration of gay rights activist Harvey Milk, Governor Gavin Newsom threatened to fine the district $1.5 million and to withhold $1.6 million in state assistance. Similar state pressure ended efforts in Poway Unified School District to remove pornographic books from their school libraries. Both boards reversed course.

This toxic mix of a woke agenda with an educational monopoly – years in the making – has left Californians with a Hobson’s choice: either attend public schools or leave. They’ve already made up their minds.

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