In district offices throughout California, educators are sitting down with California legislators to share their stories about the real impacts of privately operated charter schools and ask for their support of four CTA-sponsored bills making their way through the Legislative process that would address these impacts to local school districts and students.
In response to the unregulated and out-of-control proliferation of privately managed charter schools, legislators introduced three Assembly bills (AB 1505, 1506 and 1507) and one state Senate bill (SB 756), all of which passed out of committee in April. These bills would establish local accountability for privately operated charter schools and ensure that local school districts and students are protected from the adverse impacts of charters.
On May 2, educators Nick Cortez, Heather Mumy and Brian Wheatley visited Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) to discuss the charter legislation and share stories of charter impacts in their school districts.
“I welcome your insights as to what you’re seeing,” said Low.
Mumy, a member of Sunnyvale Education Association, said her school district was forced to find space for a privately operated charter and it was immediately evident the school wasn’t going to be successful. When the charter eventually closed, its students who returned to their neighborhood public schools were behind grade level and needed a lot of help catching up, causing an additional burden on the local schools and further impacting these students.
“My concern is what happens to the children. We can’t have that kind of turmoil,” Mumy said. “That’s not in the best interest of the education of children.”
Wheatley, president of Evergreen Teachers Association and an elected member of the San Jose Unified School District Board of Education, said the current system allows privately managed charters to appeal local school board decisions to counties and the state, where decisions are made by officials that have no connection to the communities their decision impacts.
“When the duly elected LEA (local education agency) says no and the state with no connection to the community says yes, that’s a major problem,” Wheatley said. “It feels like the Wild West sometimes.”
Cortez, a member of Campbell High School Teachers Association, noted that these bills aren’t about shutting down all charter schools. Rather, he said the proposed legislation ensures transparency and stability at a time when 40 percent of charter schools are failing.
“On that scale, something’s wrong. We’re asking that you support these bills so we can strengthen this system,” Cortez said. “It’s not that all charters are bad. If they’re engaged with their communities and serving their students, that’s great.”
Assemblymember Low said he supports increasing education funding and identifying long-term solutions in the state budget, including corporate tax reform.
“Apple needs to be paying their fair share,” Low said. “We need to be supporting our public institutions.”
Cortez responded that the beauty of these charter bills is that they cost the state nothing to address an ongoing problem before turning attention to full funding reform.
“What we need now to support our system is to pass these bills,” Cortez said. “I want to know that we can have your support on these bills.”
Low would not commit to supporting the charter package, saying that bills often change on the way to the Assembly floor and he wants to reserve judgement until then. He did say that conceptually he supports transparency and accountability for privately operated charter schools.
“We’re talking about taxpayer dollars here,” he said.
Contact Your Legislators and Urge Their Support
It’s important for elected officials to hear the support among educators for these charter bills and understand the widespread impacts of the unregulated proliferation of privately operated charter schools. Contact your Assemblymember and State Senator today and urge their support of the following:
- AB 1505 (Bonta, O’Donnell, McCarty & Smith) will place sole authority for approving charter schools in the hands of locally elected school boards, and allow them to consider impacts of new charters on existing schools when deliberating an authorization. (Principal coauthor: Assemblymember Kalra, Coauthor: Sen. Skinner)
- AB 1506 (McCarty) will place a cap on the number of charter schools in the state at 1,323, the current number open statewide.
- AB 1507 (Smith) will prohibit charter schools from operating outside of the districts that authorize them.
- SB 756 (Durazo) establishes a five-year moratorium on new charter schools so the state can study impacts and effects of charters on the public education system.
Join educators from across California as we rally at the Capitol on May 22’s CTA #RedForEd Day of Action to support our students and protect our neighborhood public schools. Click here to RSVP and for more information.