Four bills could wrap charter schools in red tape

charter school futureSince their introduction in California 23 years ago, charter schools have grown like kudzu. According to the California Charter Schools Association, the state now boasts 1,184 charter schools, teaching an estimated 547,800 students.

Charters are public schools that generally work outside the statewide schools system, cutting out much of the red tape. The picture shows the future Accelerated Charter Elementary School at 3914 S. Main Street in Los Angeles.

Now a group of legislators closely linked to the public-employee unions is seeking to put new limits on charters. A key goal is to force all the charters to be run as nonprofits, taking away a key reform model.

Reported the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:

“The public is paying for them,” Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, said afterward. “The accountability ought to be there and the protection for the employees ought to be there.”

Four Democrats, flanked by representatives of the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers and the California Labor Federation, announced four new pieces of legislation the legislators said will ensure the charter schools fulfill their stated mission.

Hernandez introduced Assembly Bill 787, which would not allow charter schools to be run for profit. Instead, it allows a charter school to operate as, or be operated by, a nonprofit public benefit corporation. …

Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Compton, introduced Assembly Bill 709, which explicitly states that charter school board meetings are covered by California’s open meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act. …

State Sen. Mark Len, D-San Francisco … introduced Senate Bill 322, which would make it explicit that charter schools are to comply with a number of other laws covering public schools. …

State Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Montebello, introduced Senate Bill 329, which tweaks the language of existing law regarding accounting in public school districts.

Red tape

Charter-school defenders claim all the new red tape would defeat the purpose of charter schools, which are highly popular with students and parents. In a statement, the CCSA responded to the flurry of new bills:

The proposed legislation highlighted today by the California Teachers Association (CTA) intentionally misrepresents the realities of charter schools in order to stem the success of our growing movement of charter schools in California. Fortunately, the success of charter schools speaks for itself, and is well documented by independent research. Parents, the broader public and responsible policy makers all understand that charter schools are public schools and that charter schools are performing very well with students, providing life changing opportunities to the students who need them the most. That is why there are more than 91,000 students on waiting lists for California charter schools.

This proposed legislation attempts to spread misperceptions about charter public schools. And we believe current laws address concerns raised and these proposals are unnecessary.

The truth is that all charters schools are public schools just like traditional district schools. They are tuition-free and open to any student who wishes to attend. Charter public schools give parents and students a choice in their education. They are diverse and reflect the communities they serve. Charter public schools are held accountable by their authorizer (usually the local school district) and by the families they serve.

Test scores

A key for the CCSA is test scores:

Perhaps most importantly though, and missing from the overarching discussion, is that charter public schools are getting strong academic results with the students they serve, and in many cases are performing better in comparison to traditional district schools, and remarkably so with the neediest students. As recently as last week, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), the nation’s foremost independent analyst of charter school effectiveness, released a comprehensive Urban Charter Schools Report and offers unprecedented insight into the effectiveness of charter public schools. Similar to the findings from the report, Charter School Performance in California that CREDO also released, we are once again encouraged that independent research confirms California’s charter schools are performing well, especially with historically underserved students, and are improving over time (see also: Charter School Performance in Los Angeles). These strong academic results are clearly a driving force for the parents who are making their voices heard in their desire to send their kids to charter schools.

Gov. Brown

If these bills pass, a key hurdle will be getting a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown, long a charter supporter. While mayor of Oakland, he even started two charters, the Oakland Military Institute and Oakland School for the Arts.

Just after he was elected in 2010, a spokesman said, “The governor is very proud of the two schools he founded in Oakland more than a decade ago. These schools have served  thousands of Bay Area students — many the first in their family to go on to college — and he remains committed to their success.”

John Seiler

John Seiler

John Seiler has been writing about California for 25 years. That includes 22 years as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register and two years for, where he is managing editor. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated from Hillsdale College. He was a Russian linguist in U.S. Army military intelligence from 1978 to 1982. He was an editor and writer for Phillips Publishing Company from 1983 to 1986. He has written for Policy Review, Chronicles,, Flash Report and numerous other publications. His email: [email protected]

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