School choice stirs passions

It was 11 years ago when my wife and I decided we could sell our house in a city where the public schools were far below par, and buy one in a city with an above average school district. Instead of shopping for homes with the best bathrooms or the most walk-in closets, we looked for homes located within the political boundaries of the best school districts of the San Gabriel Valley.

After bidding on a house in Arcadia, and the seller denying us, our Realtor found a house in nearby Temple City. After poring through API scores and demographic reports, I was convinced Temple City Unified School District schools would offer our two elementary-aged boys the best, most challenging education, both academically and otherwise.

We were fortunate. We scraped together every penny and landed a home within the TCUSD. The result? Both our boys received an excellent education in a public school system. Our older boy attends UC Berkeley, where he told me the college level calculus course was easier than the high school AP calculus classes he took at Temple City High School (taught by the excellent teacher Mrs. Nancy Bulgin). He got 100 percent on two midterms and a final from the Berkeley class! Sure, he’s good at higher math. But he specifically told me he “learned all that stuff” at TC High.

Our other son graduates in two weeks from TC High and is headed for UC Irvine, also an excellent school, where the average GPA of the entering freshman for the first time reach 4.01.

It is clear our gamble paid off big time. But not every family we run into were so lucky. Some could not afford a home in Temple City. Some were denied transfers into TCUSD. Many could not buy into San Marino, South Pasadena, or Arcadia, home to fantastic school districts.

That’s why I am so passionate about a school choice bill that is offered by two local legislators who normally are far apart on political issues. SB 680 is authored by state Sen. Gloria Romero, a Democrat, and state Sen. Bob Huff, a Republican. The bill would extend the District of Choice program, of which the Walnut Valley Unified School District is a member. Check out the newspaper’s editorial for more on the bill

Since that editorial was posted, we’ve received comments both pro and con from school superintendents and school officials. Nany Lyons of Walnut Unified said the editorial nailed it. She favors the bill. Board members from Rowland Unified and Pasadena Unified have stated they are opposed to the school choice bill. Some say that Walnut doesn’t play fair when a student wants to transfer into Walnut, that Walnut “cherry picks” their students for the best and the brightest. I don’t know if that is true. But I would guess the rules could be tightened up and more oversight offered.

Overall, I still believe that parents need to fight for the right to send their children to the public school of their choice. Because getting a student excited about school can make all the difference not only with their grades, but in their lives.

This entry was posted in environment, land use, Pasadena by Steve Scauzillo. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.

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