Public School Choice is at Risk in the California Legislature

With the growing number of teacher strikes across the country and particularly, in California, the arguments over charter schools have also been on the rise. Folks from various backgrounds have shared their positions on charter schools and school choice in general, leading to further polarization on the issue.

Earlier this week, the California Assembly Education Committee met to provide a hearing for four new bills that when combined, would severely impact the public charter schools that exist in our state. Together, these bills would impact and address charter schools by denying their right to appeal, limiting them to one year renewals, and make it so that the financial impact of charters on the school district can be a just enough reason to deny a charter. Below is a description of the four bills that held hearings in Sacramento this week.

  • AB 1505 (O’Donnell) would eliminate due process rights for teachers, families, and operators of charter schools to appeal denials at the local level. This would include new, renewing and revoked charter schools, who would otherwise have the right to appeal to county and state boards of education. This bill would also delete the provision that “pupil academic achievement is the most important factor in determining whether to revoke a charter.” This bill would essentially delete academic performance as the most important factor in determining renewal.
  • AB 1506 (McCarty) would impose a limit on the opening of new charter schools to the existing level of about 1,323 schools. This bill would also only allow a new charter school to open if and when an existing charter closes.
  • AB 1507 (Smith) would delete the authority of a charter school to reside outside the “jurisdiction or geographic boundaries of the chartering school district because the charter school has attempted to locate a single site or facility to house the entire program.” In other words, it removes the right of charter schools to reside outside the school district that authorizes them under highly limited circumstances.
  • AB 1508 (Bonta) would justify denial of a petition if the board “finds that the petition does not contain a clear explanation of why the proposed model cannot be accomplished within the school district structure of neighborhood public schools.” Additionally, it would allow a district to deny a charter petition or renewal based on a district’s interpretation of the charter school’s financial, academic, or facilities impact on the school district.

An Ed Source article on the matter presented the outcome by stating, “The bills, which would make significant changes to California’s charter school bill adopted in 1992 and revised several years later, were approved after five hours of debate and public testimony. “

Families, educators and community advocates flooded the floor of the assembly meeting and shared their ever growing concern over the impact these bills would have on families and students.

Another ABC News article on the matter presented the perspective of local charter educators and parents and their growing concern over these bills. ABC cited one teacher’s concern and added that their local charters are there to “serve a population of students in our area that is looking for an alternative program.” These bills, if passed, would present huge roadblocks for the continuing education of students already enrolled in a charter school, not to mention for existing petitions. Adults and politicians must put their egos aside and begin to reach across lines of difference for the sake of students. The state of public education in the United States, as it currently stands, cannot afford further division amongst the adults who are supposed to be working to improve it.

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Daniela Felix

Daniela Felix

Daniela is a first generation college student who is heavily involved in education in her home district, West Contra Costa Unified. After becoming a mother at a young age, Daniela’s passion for education justice only intensified and she began to fight for an equitable education for all children, regardless of background or zip code. Daniela played a key role in organizing parents with the California Charter Schools Association and is a firm believer in school choice for all families. She is currently a Lead Organizer with Students for Education Reform, organizing college students around education justice issues in her home district. She was recently accepted into Teach for America and plans to continue impacting the lives of children in her hometown of Richmond, CA as a high school social studies teacher. Daniela is a UC Berkeley senior pursuing her B.A. in Legal Studies and Education along with her 4 year old daughter and husband. Daniela is a firm believer in that every single child is capable of meeting high expectations if given the correct support. Daniela hopes to be a provider of that support.

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