CA School Walkouts Planned to Show Newsom, Teachers How Many Students They'll Lose Over Vaccine Mandates

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

When California Gov. Gavin Newsom, freshly empowered after beating a recall effort, announced a vaccine mandate for all students in public and private schools many of the state’s parents, who were already deeply dissatisfied by his reaction to the pandemic and his endless kowtowing to teachers’ unions, decided they’d had more than enough and were going to make their voices heard. And this time, parents who haven’t been very politically active are joining in.

These parents figured the best way to make a statement to Newsom and the teacher’s unions is to show them just how many students – and dollars – they’ll lose if this vaccine mandate sticks. A number of “student strike” days were quickly planned, starting with one on “Census Day” by a parent, Conal O’Herlihy, who’s a Hollywood producer (so you know he is risking a lot by being so vocal about his opposition to vaccine mandates).

Census Day enrollment counts are taken on the first Wednesday in October and, according to Ed Data:

[E]stablish a baseline count of the students attending a particular school along with important demographic information such as race/ethnicity, whether the students are English learners, how many qualify for free and reduced-price meals, and much more. Most of the student demographic and performance data reported by the state and available on Ed-Data is based on Census Day enrollment. This includes English learner data, teacher-pupil counts, and more.

In a statement to RedState, O’Herlihy explained why he decided to take this step:

“When I heard about the mandate for all children to be vaccinated as soon as they could be, I felt like this was yet another government action that would overly effect schoolchildren without helping community health.

“Most of the rest of the world kept their children in school when it became quickly apparent that the virus causing the pandemic was effectively non-threatening to young children. Yet we in California kept our kids home from school for more than a year. And the main force keeping the schools closed was Teacher’s Unions and their influence over the government.

“Now we freak out every day, making sure we have daily passes on our phone to show at the gate of each school we drop off at, and our kids are still playing outside with masks on. There is no conversation about modifying these restrictions as we learn more and more about this pandemic. The restrictions are becoming more rigidly set in stone even as the pandemic wanes.

“Why mandate a vaccine that provides temporary protection only to the part of the population that is effectively immune – the children?

“Enough illogical unscientific governmental nanny state interference with my children!”

But, it is just a first step toward forcing the government to listen to parents more and to make reasoned, thought-out policies, O’Herlihy added:

“We have little say as regular parents. A small statement to the government is my goal. We want real thought to be put into decisions such as mandates when it affects our children. This is a first step.”

No numbers related to the October 6 walkout have been released.

Student walkouts impact the local school district’s bottom line while not affecting Sacramento (yet), so some districts aren’t very happy about the walkout. Educate 78, a group in Oakland, CA focused on “developing antiracist literacy leaders,” explains the impact average daily attendance has on school district funding in a 2017 blog post:

Because a lot of school funding in California is based on “average daily attendance” (ADA), not enrollment, a school loses approximately $85 per day for every student absent. This can add up quickly! For a district or charter with scarce resources and tight budgets (aka almost every school in Oakland), this feels important. To get an estimate of the potential minimum dollars lost, I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation. (Assuming 10% of school year = 18 days, 15.4% of Oakland’s 53089 students were chronically absent during attendance tracking period, and $15,337 per-pupil funding annually in CA in 2016-17). That adds up to a potential loss of at least $12.6 million citywide! (Some students were absent a lot more than 18 days a year.)

The walkouts are intended to make a visible statement to Newsom about the depth of parental discontent, to show the California Teachers Association there will be far fewer teachers (i.e., dues-paying members) needed in the state if the mandate stands, and to show local districts how many students they could be losing completely if they don’t stand up for the children – districts that have already seen record unenrollment due to Newsom’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. California Globe notes:

Across California, state figures show that K-12 enrollment fell by 160,000 students, which was a 3-percent dip and the largest drop in enrollment in twenty years.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, enrollment dropped by 27,000 students, which was a nearly 6 percent fall.  The Los Angeles Times noted that this percentage decline “is three times what planners in the nation’s second-largest school district predicted.”

Another Southern California public school parent and education activist, Jenniffer Jones, started organizing a student strike on October 15 for similar reasons. She’s now joined forces with a number of groups statewide who plan to keep their children out of school on Monday, October 18, and are holding rallies around the state – including on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento.

Jones, whose daughter attends school in the Simi Valley Unified School District, is organizing a protest for parents, teachers, and students in Eastern Ventura County to show their opposition to the mandate.

Jones told RedState:

“The reason I’m asking parents to keep their kids home, from school on October 18, 2021 is quite simple. Governor Newsom is taking away my right to decide what is in the best interest of my child regarding their health. He is not the father of my child. He does not make decisions about my child’s health. I do. Parents have a right to decide what is in their child’s best interest. Not a politician.”

Some teachers aren’t happy with parents who want to, well, actually be parents. On social media some have advocated for holding “no make-up” tests that day, which only harms the student. Ostensibly the teachers would then tell the students that their failing grade is the parent’s fault? Talk about gaslighting.

Fortunately, other schools are more accommodating. A principal at Alturas Elementary School, in the state’s far northeast corner, sent a letter to the school’s families on October 11 about the “peaceful noncompliance activities to remind our government officials that individuals should have a choice when it comes to their health.” The principal continued:

“AES will be using the peaceful protest on Monday, October 18th as a teaching moment that will give us the opportunity to reinforce our students’ learning by making real life connections.”

The school plans a walking field trip, for staff and students who choose to participate, to view the “Protest for Choice.” Staff and students who don’t wish to attend will stay back on campus.

Choice. Freedom. Peaceful protest. Concepts those whose brains have been damaged by too much Biden and Fauci propaganda don’t grasp anymore.