CTA members and legislative advocates made their presence known at an October 23 California State Senate Education Committee hearing in Los Angeles to push for greater accountability and local control for charter schools. The all-day hearing focused the charter petition process, the review process, and problems caused by the appeal procedure when charters are denied for cause locally.
CTA members spoke in favor of co-sponsored SB 808 (Mendoza), which would require all charter schools to be authorized by the school district in which they reside. Current law allows charters to do an end run around local oversight and accountability by seeking approval from un-elected, appointed county boards and the appointed California State Board of Education, and in some cases allows charters to be approved by school districts other than the one in which they locate. A report issued last month by the State Auditor found severe problems and abuses in both a lack of real charter oversight, and a “for profit” motive for school districts to approve charters outside their boundaries. SB 808 would end those practices and was part of a package of charter-accountability bills sponsored by CTA.
While the charter school industry, which opposes the greater local accountability required by SB 808, packed the hearing with supporters, there were many charter parents who spoke in favor of the bill and for more local control and oversight. Some recounted horror stories of the unresponsiveness of their child’s charter school administration to their concerns, and how those concerns were sometimes met with comments like “Well, you don’t have to keep your child here—you can always go back to a traditional school.”
CTA members, who included CTA Board member Kendall Vaught and CTA State Council Negotiations Committee members Carol Hunt and Maria Elena Caballero, spoke to the original intent of the charter law to allow charter schools to be locally driven labs for innovation, and emphasized the need to keep approval and oversight in the hands of the local community and with locally elected, local elected officials knowledgeable about and accountable to the communities they serve.