There’s an aggressive turf war that several San Diego-area school districts are waging against personalized learning, independent study-based public charter schools across the county.

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School districts like San Diego Unified, Grossmont Union High School District and Sweetwater Union High School have been sending cease-and-desist letters warning these public charter schools that they’re not allowed to locate their resource centers within their district’s boundaries.

In many cases, these resource centers have been operating legally for years. So why wage war on them now? These charter schools are making a positive difference in helping students succeed and, as a result, growing in popularity throughout the county.

This unnecessary legal battle ignores the single most important question: What’s in the best interest of students?

This week commemorates National School Choice Week, which honors the fundamental right that parents and students have to choose which public school, whether traditional district or independent charter, best meets their needs. Many San Diego County students who enroll in these types of independent-study public charter schools were either homeschoolers who had been disenfranchised by the public school system altogether, or former students of these same district schools that are now waging war against them.

Many of these students chose public charter schools because their district schools previously failed them. These students were not given the individualized attention they needed to succeed. Many entered high school without the basic reading, writing, math and communication skills they needed to succeed in either college or the workforce. These students had lost hope and confidence in themselves and became disenfranchised from the public education system altogether.

Charter schools provide students with a fresh start. Many students describe their experience at charter schools as empowering and transforming.

The negative and one-sided news articles that have appeared lately are an attempt to distract the public from the truth: School districts are using public tax dollars not to improve their own schools and programs, but to engage in expensive legal battles to undermine and destroy the public charter schools that are better meeting students’ educational needs.

In other words, these districts are spending taxpayer dollars to eliminate citizens’ fundamental right to school choice.

It’s time to step up and defend the fundamental right we have to choose the education program that best meets the needs of our children. Our school districts must drop the lawsuits, end the turf war and recognize and respect this right.

Jeff Rice is the founder of the California Personalized Learning movement and director of the APLUS+ Personalized Learning Network Association. Rice’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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