End of District of Choice could change campus

Angela Yang, Asst. News Editor

Would you be affected if District of Choice was discontinued?

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A major portion of the student body at Diamond Bar High School may lose their privilege to return to campus next year. Senate Bill 1432, commonly known as the District of Choice bill, has permitted parents and students freedom in choosing their educational setting for the past 22 years. This is the last academic year it will be in effect, as the bill is set to expire in July 2017.

Walnut Valley Unified School District is one of the largest District of Choice  school systems in California and may be drastically affected from the loss of this bill. According to Assistant Superintendent Michael R. Hodson, over 3,400 out-of-district students currently enrolled at WVUSD schools may  have to leave. The substantial decrease in funding will result in a loss of $28 million in revenue for the district, or 23 percent of the overall budget. More than 130 full-time teachers could  be laid off, and the district may be forced to shut down several schools.

The law had allowed any school district in California that  declared itself  a District of Choice  to accept out-of-district student transfers without requiring permission from their home district beforehand. This granted parents the opportunity to put their child in what they deemed was the best school setting.

The bill, while undergoing the process of being renewed, had been approved by the California Senate as well as four out of six state committees. However, it is being held in the California State Assembly Committee on Appropriations and has died in committee. The bill needs to be passed into law by Aug. 31.

According to WVUSD Administrative Director of Educational Services Jeff Jordan, the district was pushing for  a five-year extension of the bill.

 If the bill expires, every out-of-district student enrolled in the Walnut Valley district could be forced to leave their school, possibly at the end of the school year. However, that is a “long ways away,” according to Jordan, as nothing has yet been finalized.

“I’d go back to the Chino Hills district,” DBHS junior Patrick Tran said. “Comparing the two,  [it’s] just  different levels in education, different levels in athletics, different levels in everything. Just comparing the areas around here, Walnut’s the best.”

Junior Brian Song would also have to return to his home district of Pomona.

“[For] so many high school kids, especially us juniors, senior year is the most important year for us,” Song said. “If we don’t get good letters of recommendation for colleges there’s no way that we would actually be able to go to a good college. We’ve been striving so long for that one goal of college, you know?”

A petition launched by  parent Nancy Kim is rapidly gaining signatures from students and parents alike and has currently reached over 3,700 supporters. Students who wish add their signature to support the campaign to “Let Parents Have Choice in Their Children’s Education” can find the petition online at https://www.change.org/p/let-parents-have-a-choice-in-their-children-s-education.

A rally to save the District of Choice Bill will take place on Saturday  at Maple Hill Park in Diamond Bar. State  Sen. Bob Huff,  creator of SB1432, will speak, along with several student speakers as well.

An alternate bill was proposed by Assembly members Lorena S. Gonzalez and Patrick O’Donnell to allow out-of-district students attending a District of Choice  school to continue their education at that school if they were  enrolled before July 1, 2017. The compromise, known as Assembly Bill 1771, was amended in the state Senate on August 19.

According to Jordan, it is currently under debate whether this would ensure that existing students stay until high school graduation or until they leave the school they are currently attending.