Christina Laster thought about sending Daniel her local elementary school when she moved to Palm Springs in 2020. At Julius Corsini Elementary school, however, students do well. We are significantly below the state-average in English and mathematics.
Laster says, “I don’t see how I can send my son to an failing school.”
Instead, Daniel attends Palm AcademyThe Springs Charter Schools network includes. As with all charter schools, it is funded by the public so tuition costs are not a concern. Laster also feels the school has all the necessary equipment to meet Daniel’s unique needs.
Palm Academy is not able to provide transportation. It’s an independent charter school that accepts students from all over the country. And without access to options like the traditional yellow bus, getting to school can be a major barrier to exercising choice—especially for single-parent households like Laster’s. This problem is widespread: While the requirements vary from one state to another, most states do not require that districts provide transportation for students attending charter schools.
Andrew Rotherham co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, a non-profit organization that has been studying the topic. How school transport limits parents’ choices. It’s difficult for parents to send their children to charter schools. [and]In suburbs where residents are dependent on their cars and may need to travel great distances to get to work, it becomes difficult to make choices.
He explains that often “low income minority children end up traveling the farthest to reach schools.” It’s because parents live in areas where there may not be a school option they desire.
Laster takes between 35 and 40 minutes to transport Daniel to school.
After I drop him at school, she said that “I’ll go to the parks.” I will spend the majority of my time there, usually in meetings that are back-to-back and on calls. From 8:30 am in the morning to 4:30 in the evening, her longest day is the one that lasts the most. It isn’t possible to get reliable internet, so when she does need to go to the toilet she will use the nearby park restrooms.
According to her, Daniel could have done more efficient work if he had transportation. Laster was a San Diego schoolteacher for nearly 13 years. Now, she works at education reform. National Parents Union.
California doesn’t offer funding for charter schools to transport students. “It’s not even one line item on their budget,” she says. We have the Local Control and Accountability Plan. There is no funding for transport in public charter schools.
Skeptics may wonder why schools should have to take their children to another area or county because they are unhappy with the local school. They have the choice to either walk or ride the bus to the school they choose.
Rotherham says that it really boils down to your vision of the public school system. Parents can make choices for their children if they want. It is possible to get them there in an efficient and equitable manner. Actually, the school choice argument points out that the system must be flexible enough to accommodate parents. They are the main stakeholders.”
Laster is proud to have a say in Daniel’s education. “I wouldn’t send Daniel to the school district because I understand what it is like. He’s been with me before. He’s seen the results.
Daniel was an undergraduate at a California school called Lake Elsinore before they made the move to Palm Springs. Laster filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging mistreatment and failure to address Daniel’s learning needs. Laster claims that she moved away from domestic violence shortly after the case was resolved.
Laster claims that Daniel’s teacher had mistreated him by the first grade. He was mentally defeated by the time he reached second grade. Suicidal ideation. He did not want to attend school each day.
She decided to take him home and start him in third grade. But after about a decade and a quarter, I realized that this can be very expensive,” she said. She didn’t have enough time or resources to support Daniel and so she enrolls him at Palm Academy.
If we look at the situation with African American males, or African American men in this country and see if they are unable to read and/or write and are punished excessively, then that is what we refer to as a school-to prison pipeline. Laster says that he doesn’t want his son to be on the school-to prison pipeline. “I want him not to change the course he is on. He’s on grade level. He doesn’t fail in math and English language arts. This is major for California fifth-grade black boys.
Laster wants to homeschool Daniel again, despite his academic achievements. Springs Charter School Network offers programs to support families who homeschool and those who prefer study at-home.
Transport to school is like the “plumbing in your house”. Bellwether’s Rotherham. You don’t need to think too much about it until you see the results. This is what the pandemic forced to be known. These shortages have caused people to pay attention to transportation in schools. These are issues that have been around for a long time, and are not being addressed by people. Some of the issues that we are seeing right now, such as parents wanting to have different options and choice, will bring this to the forefront.
Laster sees transportation as an integral part of realizing school choice’s promise. “I want my boy to get educated.” “I want my son upward mobility.” she said. “I make sacrifices today to ensure that he gets the best possible outcomes later on in his life.”
Qinling Li produced and edited the video; Katherine Mangu–Ward did the narration and interview; Arthur Nazaryan added editing; Isaac Reese color corrected and graphic; Ian Keyser audio mix.