Parents Like Me Helped Stop Anti-Charter Senate Bill 1362

Senate Bill 1362 is a bill that was proposed by Senator Jim Beall of San Jose, CA. This bill would have given more power to local boards to deny a charter petition “…based on justification, that approving the charter school would not be in the best interests of the pupils of the community.” This bill would have also increased oversight fees that would have ultimately been taken from our students and their academic funding amongst other things and would have increased time for review of a petition.

This bill was a threat to not only my daughter’s school, but to all charter public schools in the state of California. When our local board members do not want to meet with us parents, let alone work with us to find solutions, we can’t have a law that will give them more power to make decisions based on their personal agenda. As a parent, who attended local traditional district schools and who had my older children attend traditional district schools, I do not want board members to deny a petition based on the financial impact of the school district. Our children have no time to wait for our local district schools to improve in our community; I’ve been waiting over 30 years.

We need school board members to listen to the needs of the community they are serving and to do what is best for children, not district finances or the teachers union.

SB 1362 would have also increased the maximum fee that a charter authorizer can charge charter schools from one percent to three percent of the revenue of the charter school. That is tripling the cost! This fee increase could mean charters would need to cut programs in schools in order to meet their budget with the increased fees. I am concerned that this bill could have potentially increased oversight fees to local school boards who are already manhandling finances of the district, so giving the boards additional access to more money is extremely concerning.

Currently, charter schools must go back to the authorizer for reauthorization every five years. But what about our traditional district schools? Who holds them accountable? Why don’t they need to be reauthorized to ensure that they are providing high quality education for all students?

In general, the language in the bill was very vague and appears to allow denial of a charter school based on fiscal impact to the district or other issues unrelated to the quality of the charter. Charter petitions should be judged based on their merit and ability to provide a sound educational program to students, and interest from the community in having this school option, not based on vague criteria that may have nothing to do with the quality of the charter petition.

I worked hard, alongside other parents from my community to bring Rocketship Fuerza to our community. We were denied at the district board and appealed to the county board, where our petition was unanimously approved. If this bill had been put into law four years ago, we wouldn’t have our school, which is providing high quality education for all students in San Jose.

I attended the hearing on April 18th when Senator Jim Beall presented the bill to the Senate Education Committee. Many families from California attended the hearing to oppose SB 1362. The committee postponed the vote to the following week, so I organized other parents from my community to attend the vote and also urged families of the importance of notifying our senator that we opposed the bill via a petition. I informed parents about this bill because I knew firsthand the impact this bill would have on our schools.

Senator Jim Beall pulled the bill the morning of the vote on April 25th. Our presence was definitely noticed. This meant that the bill was dead. The parents from various charters and I were going to Senator Jim Beall’s office to thank him for pulling the bill, I said to the senator, “Thank you for pulling the bill.” His response was that he was still working on it.

We won the battle on April 25, but the fight is not over. This is why it is so important we not only build relationships with our elected officials, but maintain those relationships and make sure we continue to inform them of our local politics. We parents have the power to make a change, but we must get involved. We cannot depend on others to do the work alone because this work cannot be done alone. It was tiring going to Sacramento back to back, but I knew the urgency and that no one else will advocate better for my children than me. We must continue to be informed and hold elected officials accountable.

It is important that we know who is running for public offices, from local school board to governor, because the politicians are making decisions for our communities. We cannot allow others to do the work for us, we must get involved and stay involved. We must share with one another our stories, we have powerful stories, and within our community, they are similar stories, which mean we are not alone.

I hope that we parents can be at the table with our elected officials when proposing bills that will affect our children. The CTA co-sponsored this bill, so obviously the union’s interest was in passing this bill, but we (charter parents/reps, CTA, and Senator Beall) need to work together to do what is best for all students. Our education system needs to improve, but we must collaborate to ensure all our schools are providing high quality education to all students.

You can find more information on the bill here.

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Lety Gomez

Lety Gomez

Lety Gomez was born and raised in East San Jose. She is married with three children. She graduated from University of Phoenix with a bachelor’s degree in Business/Accounting. When she was a teenager, Fr. Mateo Sheedy was the pastor of her parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus. She fondly remembers his passion for social justice, especially justice for the immigrant community in San Jose and ensuring that the parish youth had access to high quality education. Fr. Mateo instilled in her his passion for social justice, but for many years it was kept unlit, deep inside of her. It wasn’t until her youngest daughter was enrolled at Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep in 2014 that her passion for social justice lit up. Thanks to the Rocketship parent organizer at that time, Lety received training and the tools to use her voice for social justice and learned about community organizing. She is proud to be one of the many parents who worked hard to open their school, knowing that the kids needed and deserved a better public school. That struggle is why they named their school Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep. “Fuerza” is the Spanish word for force, strength, or power. Her passion for advocating for education has allowed her to be a voice for other parents in her community who seek high quality education options. She wants to share her story with other parents in efforts to motivate them to get involved so they can advocate together, because united they can make a change in the educational system and in their communities. Lety is currently a community leader in East San Jose, where she advocates for equity in public education and parent choice.

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