Suzette Martinez Valladares | ’Tis the Season: Back to School, Back to Basics

Suzette Martinez Valladares, Right Here, Right Now

As the back-to-school season swiftly approaches, the sense of responsibility as a parent is profound. Back to school means earlier bedtimes, purchasing school supplies, and carefully choosing new outfits. 

I am deeply reminded of the pivotal role parents play in shaping their child’s educational journey, ultimately impacting their future outcomes. Education begins at home, and parents are our first teachers. 

Having devoted over a decade to advocating for education, I have proudly championed educational opportunities for all kids, empowering parents and teachers at the local level, and supporting public charter, traditional public school, and private or homeschooling options. 

However, at risk today is the division between the state of California and our local parents and teachers. I firmly believe that the best approach to education is keeping the decision-making closest to the student. 

In other words, a student’s parent, their teacher, the school principal, and the local school board overseeing that district. 

We know that parent involvement is critically important for the education of students. The influence parents have on their children’s academic performance and overall educational experience is very strong, and volumes of data tell us that student outcomes are correlated to parental involvement. 

These are some of the reasons that, when I served in the state Assembly, I voted to give parents more choice and students greater opportunities. I am proud of some of these pieces of bipartisan legislation that passed. 

I have never been shy about my support for public charter school options or opening up pre-school/TK accessibility to families that may not otherwise be able to choose that option. 

Education of our children and support for our parents shouldn’t be partisan. It wasn’t too long ago that former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was a staunch supporter of public charter schools and expanding these educational choices. 

Former President Barack Obama said, “Whether created by parents and teachers or community and civic leaders, charter schools serve as incubators of innovation in neighborhoods across our country.” 

The bipartisan tone that once existed has now changed, and now those part of the establishment left are more decidedly anti-public charter school and seek to limit parent partnership. 

At the federal level, the Biden Administration has proposed tougher rules for charter school grants. 

Stateside, we have Assembly Bill 1604 by Assemblywoman Mia Bonta, D-Oakland, which makes it more expensive, and possibly prohibitive, for charter schools to finance new facilities or improvements to existing ones. 

Instead of working together, we have recently seen political spectacles from some left-leaning state leaders that want to rip local control away from parents and teachers – whether it’s charter schools or parental rights. 

Right now, a portion of the state’s education code (AB 1266) is being incorrectly used to bar parents from learning that their child has adopted a new gender identity at school. 

Students are required to have signed notes from parents for a whole litany of things at school, but this decision must be kept away from parents. 

Certainly, we can come up with a better solution that can protect students in potentially volatile situations while respecting the rights of parents to know when their minor child is making life-changing decisions. 

The point is that we need education at every level to empower parental choice and seek to include parents and not push them away. 

On the flip side, parents have a responsibility to be involved and hands-on in their child’s education process. Volunteer at the school, be active in the PTSA, support teachers and donate school supplies, take the time to sit down with our kids while they are doing homework. 

As a working mom, I understand the time challenges when our kids are back in school. But I also reflect on how important this time is – and that our participation and involvement are essential. 

As we prepare our children for the school year ahead, let us reaffirm the belief that quality education knows no political boundaries. Let us unite in the shared vision of empowering parents to actively engage in their child’s learning journey, partnering with teachers, and supporting the tremendous work they do and prioritize the educational success of our future generations.

Suzette Martinez Valladares is Santa Clarita’s former assemblywoman, wife, girl mom, avid DIY’er and a monthly contributor to The Signal’s “Right, Here Right Now,” which appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.

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