Charter School Mom Perspective: CTA’s Latest Radio Ad Stretches the Truth About Non-Profit Charter Schools

I’m both a charter and private school mom, and one of the reasons why I sought out non-traditional schools for my children was to put them in an environment that was more conducive to their learning styles and accommodating of their disabilities. Both of my kids are on the autism spectrum and have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Currently, my son is preparing to graduate from his charter school. My daughter has never been enrolled in a charter school, but she has been waitlisted. She now attends a private school for students who have learning disabilities and travels via taxi an hour from home to school every day. My daughter has also faced safety issues in traditional schools with bullying that were not resolved, even after I intervened and pushed for a resolution.  

When I recently heard the California Teachers Association’s (CTA) radio ad that said “out-of-state billionaires investing millions into politicians who will protect corporate-run charter schools that lack accountability,” I was left rolling my eyes. The ad titled “Kids Not Profits” suggests that the schools are corporate run and that these schools are making profits off of the children.

I come from a working class background. My husband and I struggled during the Great Recession and have scraped by despite the high cost of housing in Los Angeles. Even when things were rough, I have tried my best to advocate for my children so that they receive the resources that they need to be successful. My eldest child is on his way to college, and my daughter is doing well in school, despite some of the challenges that she has faced. Given my own economic situation, one of the last things that I want to do is enrich a billionaire or support someone like Betsy DeVos.

The charter school that my son has attended since middle school is not making profits. In fact, it is run by non-profit organizations. Most charter schools in California have non-profit operating organizations. Marshall Tuck, one of the leaders in education reform in California and a candidate for the State Superintendent, has been an advocate of banning for-profit charters so that the focus is on the students, not shareholders. In reality, only a small number of charter schools in California are run by for-profit organizations. And the California Charter School Association even supports a bill that would ban for-profits from operating in the state.

CTA’s suggestion that charter schools in California are not public is disingenuous. The vast majority of charter schools in the state are non-profit, do receive public funds, and are open to children who apply. If a charter school is full, this is where the randomized lotteries and drawings come in.

The CTA ad also says, “So as California chooses its next generation of leaders this election we must stand up to politicians who divert money out of our neighborhood public schools and say yes to leaders who value the promise of quality public education for all students no matter where they live.” If traditional schools were providing quality education to all students regardless of where they lived, parents like me wouldn’t be looking for charter schools or private schools for our kids. I tried sending my son to a traditional school where we were living at the time, and that school denied my son access to Free Appropriate Public Education, which is what every child in special education is entitled to.

Parents like me who have seen our children benefit from some amazing non-profit charter schools are going to have a hard time taking CTA seriously with radio ads like this one. Instead of using the election season to find common ground where we can work together, this ad promotes false information and ultimately causes a larger divide between teachers, who feel that their livelihood is being threatened, and parents, who simply want alternatives to schools that are unable to serve their children.

What do you think?

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Lisette Medina Duarte

Lisette Medina Duarte

Co-Chair at State Council on Developmental Disabilities

Lisette Medina-Duarte is a bilingual Los Angeles native. She grew up in Northeast Los Angeles’ Highland Park and graduated from Franklin High School. She continues to live in Highland park with her husband and her two children, who are on the autism spectrum. One of her children is in a charter school and the other is in a traditional public school. She has a strong passion and commitment to working with underserved and underprivileged communities. She is a grassroots organizer for social justice and educational advocacy, disability rights, equality and inclusions for African American and Latino communities of Greater Los Angeles.

In addition to managing multiple outreach, volunteer, and advocacy campaigns, Lisette’s 20 years of administrative experience have included fundraising, engagement, events, and sponsorship procurement. She has served on several local and school district leadership committees, facilitates parent groups, conducts workshops, and is often invited to speak at conferences. She is currently a member of the advisory board for UCLA’s Tarjan Center and a member of the Empowerment Congress. She was appointed by former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina to the state Council on Developmental Disabilities. She is also a member of the Community Police Advisory Board for the Northeast Los Angeles Police Department. She is also a consultant and board member for several California nonprofits. She works as a senior coordinator in field operations and development for a national nonprofit organization and is responsible for serving Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Diego County.

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