A powerful liaison of aggressive teacher unions and politicians supported by them have produced a package of bills which threaten to destroy California’s wildly popular and successful charter schools, and the 630,000 school children who benefit from them. And the California Legislature is quickly advancing these charter school killers. 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) are all sponsored by the California Teachers Association, and were passed by the Assembly Education Committee this week.
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.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, who was strongly supported by the California Teachers Association labor union during his campaign, has called for more regulation of charter schools. Newsom spoke specifically about charter schools in his budget presentation address, issuing a veiled threat of additional transparency requirements – requirements not required of California public schools.
Previous bills on Charter School Transparency have not made it through the Legislature or were vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, as enumerated in this 04/09/19- Assembly Education Committee bill analysis.
Unions Waging War on Charter Schools
“The CTA bills being pushed by the union’s allies in the Legislature would destroy the charter-school sector in California,” said Izumi, Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. “The bill that would prevent charter organizers from appealing adverse decisions of local district school boards to county and state boards of education would give effective veto power over charters to local and state unions which give huge campaign donations to school board candidates and therefore control many, if not most, local school boards.
Izumi said many of the best charter schools in California were approved by county and state boards of education, and not by local school boards. “So if this appeal process is eliminated, California’s children will lose charter schools that are providing them the excellent education that they would not receive in the regular public schools,” Izumi said. “No matter what the CTA and their legislative mouthpieces say, the victims will be the children of California, many of whom are also the most vulnerable, the most disadvantaged, and the most in need.”
Charters Not Draining Funding from School Districts
Izumi says the claim that charters drain funding from school districts is full of holes. “For charter schools to ‘drain’ public schools of funding, one must assume that students are the property of the regular public schools.”
“Parents and their children voluntarily choose to go to charter schools because charters often perform better, children are safer, and charters offer the type of curriculum and personalized learning that students want,” Izumi said.
And really, Izumi says the answer is easy: “School districts can keep students from leaving the regular public schools by simply doing a better job of educating them. It’s within their control.”
Scapegoating Charter Schools For School Districts’ Fiscal Woes
“The bill that would put a moratorium on charter school expansion would stop the creation of charter schools needed to meet the demand of parents and their children,” Izumi said. AB 1506 states that the maximum total number of charter schools authorized to operate in California will be the total number of charter schools operating as of January 1, 2020.
“Make no mistake, parents and their children want more, not less, charter schools,” Izumi said. “That is why there are lotteries to determine admission to many charter schools because there are too few spaces for the kids who want to attend.”
Izumi said expansion of charter schools is needed to meet this demand by parents and their children. “The CTA wants to stop this competition from mostly non-union charter schools for their own special interests, but the solution for the unions and the school districts is simple and totally within their control: provide better education and learning for students, plus fiscally well-managed schools. The problem for the unions and many districts is that they are failing to provide both of these essential ingredients, which is why so many parents want a charter-school alternative.”
The main reason for the financial distress in school districts is not the number of charter schools, but exploding pension costs and health benefits for teachers and other school staff, Izumi added.
During the recent Los Angeles Unified School District teachers union strike, Izumi explained that while UTLA and its allies claimed that charter schools inadequately serve the needs of low-income and minority students, the data demonstrates that charters are improving the achievement of those students. “According to a 2017 study by the school-research-and-rating organization GreatSchools, there were 156 public schools in California ‘that are providing strong results for African-American students and Hispanic students.’ While only a little more than one in 10 public schools statewide is a public charter school, among these 156 high-performing schools, nearly one out of three was a charter school,” Izumi said.