Gov. Gavin Newsom sent out a press release Wednesday announcing that he will sign “the first major overhaul to the charter schools law since its enactment 27 years ago, and will address longstanding challenges for both traditional public school districts and charter schools.”
Newsom says, “AB 1505 empowers communities to consider the fiscal impact of new charter schools on existing schools in the neighborhood, increases accountability and transparency for all charter schools, and ensures that high-quality charter schools continue to thrive.”
A powerful liaison of aggressive teacher unions and politicians supported by them produced a package of bills this year which experts say will ultimately destroy California’s wildly popular and successful charter schools, and the 630,000 school children who benefit from them.
These charter school killers are Assembly Bills 1505 by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), 1506 by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and 1507 by Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D- Santa Clarita), and all are sponsored by the California Teachers Association.
The bills would cap the number of charter schools in the state, and limit the ability of charter-school organizers to appeal anti-charter decisions by often union-controlled local school boards to county and state boards of education.
“’Taken together,’ says the Charter Schools Development Center, these and other union-sponsored bills ‘signal the union’s intent to cripple California’s charter schools sector,’” Education Scholar Lance Izumi recently reported.
Izumi, Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, also notes, “school districts in dire financial straits have inflicted their wounds upon themselves, through union contracts they cannot afford and agreeing to unsustainable health and pension benefits, and often have students in the most need of better educational alternatives such as charter schools.”
“Under the compromise, local school boards can deny a charter petition if it finds that the proposed charter ‘is demonstrably unlikely to serve the interests of the entire community,’ which is a carte-blanche reason to deny any charter petition,” said Izumi.
This anti-community-interests provision requires the inclusion of “considerations of the fiscal impact of the proposed charter school.”
Of course, every school board will claim that charters adversely impact the district bottom line, making budgetary mountains out of tiny charter molehills.
Also, proposed charter schools can be denied if they “would substantially undermine existing services, academic offerings, or programmatic offerings,” an excuse big enough for school boards to run a train through.
In addition, school boards can disapprove proposed charters if they “duplicate a program currently offered within the school district,” with nothing said about whether the district is effectively providing the duplicated program.
Further, in districts that have been judged as being unlikely to meet their financial obligations, a rebuttable presumption of denial of a charter petition will now be the standard, which Governor Newsom’s office interprets to mean, “The presumption in those districts will be that new charters will not open.”
Charter schools, created under a 1992 state law, are publicly funded schools that are independent of school districts and have greater flexibility to innovate.
The 1992 law says that charter-school organizers must meet two requirements to receive approval of their charter from a local school board: financial viability and a sound educational program.
Izumi, who appeared in the award-winning documentary Waiting for Superman, noted, “audiences cried when they saw poor minority children unable to access high-performing charter schools because there was not enough room for them in those schools.”