In recent years, enrollment in the Los Angeles Unified School District has plummeted further than anyone had anticipated, leaving the LAUSD with 20,258 empty seats and 109 teaching jobs to eliminate. When one looks at the booming housing market in Southern California or the congestion on L.A. freeways, one has to wonder: Where have all the students gone? Parents are leaving neighborhood schools in favor of home schooling or charter schools. This year, 29,174 students attend charter schools within the LAUSD, an increase of more than 5,000 students from 2004. Why are some parents abandoning traditional public schools? Many believe that traditional public schools do not provide their children with a quality education and that, by either home schooling or a charter school, their child will receive a better education than their local school can provide. When I was an elementary school principal, two concerns most commonly voiced by parents were that school wasn’t as enjoyable for their children as they remembered its being for them and that their children became visibly stressed during test time. In truth, these concerns are valid. Many principals, fearing their school may be labeled “underperforming,” demand that teachers eliminate anything from their instruction – such as art, music, gym, field trips, etc. – that does not appear on the state tests. What would happen if the PTA went before the school board and demanded that, instead of using tax dollars to purchase test-preparation materials, the district should invest in science, music or art programs? What if parents insisted that failure to do so would result in parents’ keeping their children home on test day? You would quickly see school districts scrambling to provide a rich curriculum instead of the malnourished one that so many American schoolchildren receive today. You might also find student enrollment increasing as parents return their children from the charter schools to their neighborhood schools. Such reform would not require a referendum, a recall election or a change in teacher-tenure laws – just 6 percent who have courage and vision to stand up and demand that their children receive an education that truly leaves no child behind. David McCabe is the coordinator of teacher education at Pasadena City College.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Additionally, many districts administer trimester assessments to students that mirror the content found on the state tests. With such an emphasis on testing, students can expect to spend 20 to 40 days each year taking tests. It is little wonder that parents see their children becoming anxious about school and dispassionate about learning. For many parents, this approach is too narrow, and the choice for them seems simple: keep their children in public schools and deprive them of a well-rounded education or abandon the system and pursue a better education elsewhere for their children. The problem with this either-or approach is that parents fail to see the immense power they hold to create change. Parents should ask themselves: What could my child learn if teachers were allowed to teach students during those 20 to 40 days instead of testing them? According to federal law, schools must test 95 percent of their student population. What many parents do not know is that they can opt out of testing simply by submitting a written request to the principal. Most school districts do not make this information public because if more than 5 percent of their students are not tested, their test scores will be invalidated, and the district may lose funding. What would happen if parents who were unhappy with the quality of education their child was receiving did not withdraw their child from school but instead went to their principal and said, “If you do not provide my child with a curriculum that includes art, science and music, I will not let you test my child in the spring”?