(This post was co-authored by Evelyn B. Stacey, Education Studies Policy Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento, California.
Located about an hour north of San Francisco, Santa Rosa is a gateway city to California’s renowned Wine Country in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. This “jewel of Northern California” is ranked by Forbes as one of the country’s best places for businesses. For decades Santa Rosa has also been a location for family-friendly films and television shows, including All My Sons, The Wonderful World of Disney, and Cheaper by the Dozen. Some real-life parents, however, might take issue with just how family-friendly this “jewel” actually is when it comes to a new “alternative lifestyles” safety and violence prevention curriculum beginning with kindergarteners…yes, kindergarteners. When one Santa Rosa father expressed concerns, the principal of his five-year-old’s school, Helen Lehman Elementary in the Santa Rosa City Schools District, “advised me to find another school if I don’t agree with the alternative lifestyle education. Is there a way to opt out of this?” Well, no, and most Santa Rosa parents likely can’t opt out of their neighborhoods either since they likely struggle to pay mortgages on homes that used to be worth close to $400,000. So the only option for this Santa Rosa father and a growing number of California parents is to make peace with lesson plans, handouts, and reading lists of books like My Two Uncles (last paragraph), King and King, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, And Tango Makes Three. This curriculum is part of many districts’ safety and violence prevention programs-and officials at districts like the Alameda City Unified School District and the San Francisco Unified School District say they don’t have to notify parents about these classes, and parents have no right to exempt their children (Item #10). Parents should be the ultimate arbiter when it comes to students’ education and safety. “Does California have a school voucher program,” asked this Santa Rosa dad. Unfortunately, not yet; however, close to two dozen school choice programs now exist in 15 other states. Since some California public schools are apparently telling parents to move anyway, why not relocate to another state-one that actually embraces parents and their right to choose their children’s schools?