For Too Many Charter School Families, Getting to School Is a Struggle

Christina Laster, a 2020 Palm Springs resident, considered sending Daniel, her young son, to the nearby elementary school. At Julius Corsini Elementary school, however, students do well. Math and English are well below the state’s average.

Laster states, “There is no reason I would send my son into a 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. It is an issue that affects all states. While it may vary by region, approximately two-thirds don’t have to require charter schools students to be transported in their districts.

Andrew Rotherham co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, a non-profit organization that has been studying the topic. How school transport limits parents’ choices. Parents often struggle to get their children into a charter school. [and]People may not have the option to choose from many options in areas that are car dependent.

He explained that many “low-income minorities” end up driving the most distance to school. 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 spend most of my day at the park in meetings or phone 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 does not offer transportation funding to charter schools. She explains that it is not even an item in their budget. “We have the Local Control and Accountability Plan. We also have a funding formula for local control. No resources are available for charter schools.

Skeptics could ask, “Why should districts be obliged to transport children to another community or another county simply because their parents don’t like the schools?” 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. If parents are willing to choose, they can give their children the opportunity in an equitable way that is efficient. However, the school choice argument is that parents should have a voice in the decision-making process. They are the final 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. With him, I have been there. “We’ve seen what the data says.”

Daniel attended a California public school before they moved 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 states that Daniel had been mistreated by his teacher as early as the first grade. In the second grade, his emotional state was utterly destroyed. 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” and because she was unable to provide support for Daniel, she enrolled him in Palm Academy.

“If you look at how African American and black males are treated in the United States, if they can’t read or write properly and are punishing excessively, this is called a school to prison pipeline. Laster states that she doesn’t want her son in the school to prison pipeline. He must continue to follow the same path that he is on. He is at the grade level. He doesn’t fail in math and English language arts. This is huge for California fifth-grade black boys.

Laster, who is not satisfied with Daniel’s academic performance, wants him to return homeschooling in order to cut down on the commute. 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. That has been made more evident by the pandemic. These shortages have caused people to pay attention to transportation in schools. However, these are persistent issues in a system that doesn’t work well enough. People don’t think about them. 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 fulfilling the promise of school choice. “I want my boy to get educated.” “I want my son upward mobility,” she said. To ensure that my son has the greatest possible future, I make sacrifices now.

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.