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District of Choice Bill set to expire

A substantial percentage of the staff and student body will face possible eviction from the Walnut Valley Unified School District (WVUSD) after the 2016-17 school year because of the tabling of Senate Bill 1432 (SB 1432).

SB 1432, or the District of Choice (DoC) Bill, is on hold until Aug. 31. The District of Choice provision allows students to be enrolled in schools outside of their area of residence, regardless of their academic and athletic performance. Approximately one in four students at Walnut High School is part of the District of Choice program.  

WVUSD is one of 47 districts of choice in California, and the postponement of the bill will result in a loss of over 3,500 students and 300 staff members in the district. Approximately 30 percent of the total budget and programs for extracurricular activities at school will also be lost.

“My parents wanted me to have the best education and having heard about the district and the school educational programs they provide, it was a better choice than what my home district provided,” junior Katherine Co said. “To hear that I won’t be able to stay anymore, it’s kind of heartbreaking. I’m already halfway there. I don’t want to have to transfer back to my home district for my last year and have to go through the same process all over again.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, Chairperson of the Appropriations Assembly, has decided to defer the renewal of the bill.

“[Gonzalez] believes that rich, affluent kids take advantage of DoC and kids of poverty, they can’t. That’s her belief, but unfortunately, it’s not fact,” Danny Kim, Director of Secondary Education and Pupil Personnel, said. “In Walnut Valley, we have a significant number of students living in poverty that come here from DoC.”

Over 10,000 students will be affected by this bill, which currently allows 526 students from low income households to receive education in the WVUSD.

“We absolutely welcome all students and we do not deny any students. And I challenge [Assemblywoman Gonzalez] to speak to the parents and see how much the program means to so much of us. This is a community issue,” WVUSD Superintendent Bob Taylor said.

A rally took place at Maple Hill Park in Diamond Bar on Saturday, Aug. 27. Speakers included sophomore Ethan Lee, Superintendent Bob Taylor and state Sen. Bob Huff, who wrote SB 1432.  

“Is it okay to downgrade quality education at the expense of other schools that currently cannot even offer the same programs? Is it even right to restrict students’ choices what they call their own education? Students have the right to pursue the path they deem is suitable for them. They seek an education that offers varieties of options, chances that would allow a future, a future they desire,” Lee said. “We gather here to represent our unity in this issue. We stand together in hope that this bill will be passed.”

The new bill proposal, Appropriations Bill 1771 (AB 1771), has failed to pass. AB 1771 would have allowed DoC students who are enrolled before July 1, 2017, to stay in the district until they graduate from high school, but would have terminated the SB 1432.

The District of Choice Bill renewal will expire on Aug. 31, and a final decision will be made by the assembly. Currently, the original bill will be in effect until the end of the 2017 school year, and the district is making efforts to prolong the bill.

By Editorial Board