Charter critics have potent new tool to block approvals, renewals

The Accelerated Elementary Charter School in Los Angeles could face headaches in getting its charter renewed.

In an effort to portray a far-reaching bill as a compromise between charter schools and teacher unions, Gov. Gavin Newsom invited leaders of both groups as well as state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurman to recent signing ceremonies for Assembly Bill 1505.

In remarks at the event, Myrna Castrejón, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, asserted that the new law “affirms that high-quality charter schools are here to stay and that the charter model — one that embraces accountability in exchange for the flexibility to innovate — is worth protecting and is of tremendous value to the students we serve.”

But what Newsom and Castrejón sought to depict as a balancing act was instead seen in most news coverage as the biggest blow yet to the California charter school movement, which began slowly in 1992 but now includes 1,300 schools that educate about 660,000 of the state’s K-12 students.

One modification to the original bill by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, was a huge win for charter schools. It allows charter applicants and charters seeking renewals to appeal rejections from local school boards to county and state officials. A provision on requiring all charter teachers have formal credentials was revised to give charter schools until 2025 to comply.

Trustees can cite fiscal concerns in opposing charters

But the single most important part of the new law is the provision most sought by teacher unions and most feared by charter advocates. That is language that allows district boards to reject charters solely on financial grounds.

In an era in which annual school spending has soared — up from about $67 billion in 2014 to a record $102 billion now, a 52 percent increase — it would nominally appear that charters don’t have much to worry about from such a provision. Yet many state school districts are struggling to make ends meet now as much as they did during the Great Recession a decade ago, when state spending plunged nearly 20 percent in a single year.

Analysts say one reason districts are in trouble has to do with the increase in special-education students, who cost significantly more to educate and whose statewide budget got a 21 percent boost in May.

But the main headache is the enormous cost of the Legislature’s 2014 bailout of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. It mandates that districts increase their CalSTRS payments by 132 percent from 2014-15 to 2020-21. Yet partly because of a significant increase in the number of retiring teachers getting pensions, the actual hit on district budgets over that span is much worse — 196 percent, the Legislative Analyst’s Office said earlier this year.

Pension bailout eating up surge in school funding

This has had the effect of pushing the total cost of compensation to 90 percent or more of the operating budgets in some districts, with by far the state’s largest district — Los Angeles Unified — among the hardest-hit. In May, LAUSD officials warned that a state takeover by 2022 was likely unless voters approved a parcel tax. Voters opposed the tax despite a heavy lobbying campaign. LAUSD’s fiscal reserves may not even cover the next three years unless state education spending keeps going up, district watchers warn.

But the problems are statewide. The state’s Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team — which helps districts in distress — has had to focus on problems in the counties of San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland and more.

In response, a union-led coalition is seeking to qualify a November 2020 ballot measure modifying Proposition 13, the state’s famous 1978 tax-limitation law. It would allow the valuation of commercial properties to go up each year to reflect their value instead of the maximum 2 percent increase allowed under Proposition 13, generating potentially $5 billion or more in new annual funds for schools. 

The coalition had already qualified a similar measure for the 2020 in fall of last year, but decided to withdraw it because of the fear that its harsh potential effects on small businesses would make it a hard sell.

6 comments

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  1. dc1
    dc1 15 October, 2019, 10:26

    If the teachers union is in support it clearly will be good for them, but bad for students and likely bad for taxpayers.

    Reply this comment
  2. deweaver
    deweaver 15 October, 2019, 10:52

    Meanwhile the quality of the education continues downward.

    Reply this comment
    • dc1
      dc1 15 October, 2019, 15:03

      Nothing like having a monopoly, and controlling the state government as well. It’s a good gig…they donate money to get their friendlies elected, then they get to ‘negotiate’ with them for all sorts of goodies and benefits. The only losers are taxpayers and students….

      Reply this comment
  3. Sean
    Sean 16 October, 2019, 07:24

    Think about that “rejection on financial grounds” means for charters. Fundamentally it means that with higher overhead, administrative bloat and a greater and greater proportion of funds diverted to retirement funds, school districts can use it to shut down their more efficient and effective competition.

    By the way this is nothing new. Remember when the ACA created the smaller more nimble insurance companies that were supposed to save people money on insurance premiums? In our state, some did and actually succeeded in reducing consumer costs while being profitable. But the clever folks who wrote the law (the legacy health insurance carriers like Blue Cross – Blue Shield) put in a poison pill which said that if other insurers had losses, the profitable ones could be assessed because they were assumed to skim off a healthier portion of the population. The amount of money assessed turned out to be 2x their total profit. They quickly went out of business.

    Nobody makes perverse incentives quite like the government. There is a reason healthcare and education costs twice as much as anywhere else in the world.

    Reply this comment
  4. Standing Fast
    Standing Fast 16 October, 2019, 16:54

    You are defending land use policy that favors developers over ordinary people, homeowners and renters who are a city’s greatest asset. The government program that paved the way for the anti-NIMBY movement promotes public funding and eminent domain abuse for private projects. That is not constitutional, but it is a federally-sanctioned law under the authority of HUD. It is NOT good for business. Our local government officials like it because it gives them great powers to control land use in their jurisdictions. It is about jobs for the boys, granting favors to rich and powerful people who contribute to political campaigns, and so forth. You are not in favor of true Liberty if you think people who don’t want giant development projects in their neighborhoods are selfish. It is the politicians, developers, and real estate investors who are selfish.

    Reply this comment
  5. Edward Ryan
    Edward Ryan 9 November, 2019, 18:26

    Edward Ryan
    Edward Ryan8 November, 2019, 12:26
    I’d like to comment on corruption by the California Attorney General’s failure to investigate a formal 75 page complaint on the LAPD Crime-buster Vigilante Facebook scandal matter. This is a serious matter as the Los Angeles criminal justice system skews when it comes to fair justice for all as LA homeless are attacked by LAPD supported vigilantes, then arrested and jailed if the try to fight back in self- defense. Now there is proof of “jury trial rigging “by LA Prosecutor and LAPD Slo for Topanga. Both are members of the secret vigilante Facebook group, and 2 other Vigilante group members as witnesses for a bogus littering trial where Van Nuys Judge Harmond seems to play along by issuing an extreme sentence. LAPD command now spreads disinformation saying LAPD members only posted insults to homeless when the truth is LAPD supplied tracking and other info to vigilante members. The info was used to do violent crimes and community terror stalking onto targeted homeless victims. A homeless advocate and activist for LA political reform was harassed then convicted and incarcerated for months when he was attacked on 12/29/16 in Van Nuys by the same LAPD crew. False police reports were used and judge Mulcahy Van Nuys court prevented the mentioning of vigilante abuse at trial. This happened to Ed Ryan [email protected] who had to flee LA after release because of more vigilante harassment by LAPD connected crews. Ryan’s jaw was smashed by a vigilante attacker wielding a hammer and LAPD refuse to take his complaint and investigate. Ryan now lives in Mass as LA Court court issued a probation violation warrant to further silence him. LA superior Court Presiding Judge, Kevin Brazile has so far ignored Ryan’s comprehensive complaint. Ryan challenges reporters to read the 8/1/18 complaint to Atty Gen Becerra that has plenty of screen shots of captured vigilante and LAPD postings to surely warrant the Cal AG to investigate, but he remains silent on the issue. Also remaining totally silent on this atre LA Mayor Garcetti I’d like to discuss Corruption in Los Angeles as the LAPD Crime-buster vigilante Scandal is being ignored and all LA city Councilors. LA City Atty Furey also is silent even though his long time Deputy Karin Philips is involved and is being reported to Cal BBO flor ethical violations of not disclosing vigilante group membership by entire prosecution team in People v Kevin Perelman , the van Nuys Superior Court jury trial in front of LA Superior Court Harmond that was rigged Atty Philips and LAPD SLO Dines

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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