Parents across California protested Wednesday as the state assembly passed AB 1505, a bill that could eventually lead to the closure of every public charter school in the state.
The bill narrowly passed on a 42-19 vote after multiple assembly members initially abstained from voting. Forty-one votes are required for passage. The bill now heads to the state Senate.
“It’s a terrible day for kids,” said Speak UP parent Roxann Nazario, who spoke at a protest rally in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday. “If this bill also passes the Senate and gets signed by the governor, it is essentially the death of charter schools in California. Parents like me won’t stand for this. We will vote out lawmakers who won’t support our kids’ schools.”
Charter schools in Los Angeles are authorized and regulated by the school board, county or state and operated by nonprofit organizations. They are given more freedom over hiring and curriculum in exchange for accountability. Until now, they have had to prove results for kids to stay open.
AB 1505 eliminates state laws that require charter authorizers to make the academic performance of kids the most important factor in decisions about whether to renew or revoke a school’s charter. The bill also eliminates the right of a charter school denied or revoked by a school board to appeal that denial or revocation to the county and state.
That means school boards could unilaterally shut down excellent schools that serve kids well, and there’s nothing a charter could do about it.
Finally, the bill allows a school board to deny new charters merely because they consider them to be financial competition for state per-pupil funding. Because any one student leaving a district school for a charter could be considered to have a financial impact on a district, this could mean school boards are effectively given carte blanche to ban any and all new charters.
"Families of privilege have always had choices -- to move to a neighborhood with a high-performing district school, to choose a private school, play the magnet points game or to move to another school district,” said Speak UP Founder and CEO Katie Braude. “This is an attack on our most vulnerable kids. Low-income kids of color also deserve quality school options, and it's wrong to take that away."
Assembly Member Shirley Weber, a Democrat from San Diego, decried the fact that the bill was rushed through the assembly before a task force set up to study the impact of charters had even completed its report. But the California Teachers Association, which backed the bill, had scheduled a day of action in Sacramento, and the powerful union was able to strong-arm enough legislators to vote against the interests of kids.
“This divisive bill is politically motivated and a slap in the face to parents and families who deserve to choose the best school for their children,” said Myrna Castrejon, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association. “The needs of our students should always come before politics. We must work together to balance the very real needs of local school districts with the needs of our students who deserve schools where they can learn and thrive. This is especially important in communities where good schools are too few.”
Another anti-charter bill, AB 1506, is also awaiting a floor vote. That bill would only allow new charters to open in big cities such as Los Angeles if another charter shuts down, and it would attempt to ensure that school districts never have more than 10 percent of their students in charters. SB 756 is yet another anti-charter bill making its way through the state Senate. That bill would place a two-year moratorium on any new charters.
Taken altogether, these bills represent an all-out political assault on quality school options for kids. But parents are vowing to fight. “This is not over yet,” Nazario said. “This bill barely passed the assembly, and we will not let up until these bills are dead and buried once and for all.”
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