Despite protests from hundreds of parents, students and African American faith leaders, the California State Assembly Education Committee voted to advance three bills Wednesday that could potentially lead to the shutdown of every high-performing public charter school in the state.
“If these bills pass, no charter school is safe,” said Roxann Nazario, a Fenton Avenue Charter parent who traveled to Sacramento to speak out against the bills. “It doesn’t matter how well they’re performing academically, how well they’re serving their community, how much they’re closing the achievement gap or for how long. It could literally close any charter school.”
The three bills, AB 1505, 1506 and 1507, are authored by Assemblymembers Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), and sponsored by the California Teachers Association.
The Education Committee voted 4-1 (with one abstention) to advance AB 1505 and 1506 to the Appropriations Committee and to send AB 1507 directly to the Assembly floor for a vote.
Each bill would lead to fewer high-quality public school options for kids, and cumulatively they could lead to the closure of 1,300 nonprofit public charter schools serving 600,000 students across the state. That means at least 10 percent of the state’s kids and their families will be affected — most of whom are low-income kids of color.
“When bills are written that will systematically negatively impact communities of color, it’s racism and classism at its core,” said Lety Gomez, of a mom of three kids from San Jose who protested in front of McCarty’s office Wednesday.
Pastor Tecoy Porter, President of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, said that capping charter schools “caps the success of black and brown academic achievement in California. These bills are not about our kids. Instead, they’re about making money off the mis-education of our children.”
The bills are expected to head to the floor for a vote by the full Assembly sometime between late April and late May.
Nazario believes that’s premature, given that Governor Gavin Newsom has already created a task force to study the impact of charter schools, which won’t be released until July. “Why are we passing a bill before we study the impact?” she asked. “We’re putting the cart before the horse.”
Here’s what the bills would do:
· Gets rid of the right to appeal the denial of a charter to the county or state – meaning school districts could unilaterally shut down schools they consider to be competition.
· Allows school districts to shut down charter schools because of the belief that they have a financial, academic or facilities impact on the district. For example, if a single student leaves a district school for a charter, the district could claim that this has a financial impact, and therefore the charter should not exist.
· Allows for charter renewal terms from two to five years, rather than the current five and eliminates academic achievement as the most important criteria in renewal considerations. This would allow districts to shut down charter schools more quickly and easily.
· Eliminates the flexibility charters have to hire non-credentialed teachers in non-core subject areas that may be experts in those subjects. For instance, charters with a focus on dance could no longer hire professional dancers to teach a dance class unless they get a general education teaching credential.
· Doubles the time it takes for charter petitions to be heard and requires educators wanting to open new charter schools to prove they cannot accomplish their goals within the district itself.
AB 1506 (and its proposed amendments):
· Create a cap on new charter schools by limiting the number of charters to the number operating as of January 2020. That means no one would be allowed to open a new charter unless an existing charter in that same school district shuts down.
· Prevent Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) from opening any new charter schools unless there are no new stand-alone charters that want to open.
· Prevent existing charters from growing their enrollment to meet demand.
· Prevents a charter school from being located in a nearby district, even temporarily, when no classroom space can be found within the authorizing district.
· Prevents online independent study charter schools from offering resource centers for students outside of their authorizing district. The schools could also offer only one resource center within the authorizing district. This would specifically limit services such as school counselors and computer labs and would lead to the closure of most online independent study charter schools.
Parents who support having high-quality school options for kids should contact their state legislators. You can find your representative here: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/
— This story has been updated.