Parents Help Defeat Charter Moratorium Bill in State Senate

Tinisha Briley Landry of Inglewood (left) was one of 30 Speak UP parents and students who visited Assembly Member Autumn Burke’s office Friday to protest the passage of AB 1505, a bill that would take away quality school options for families. The bill now heads to the state Senate.

Tinisha Briley Landry of Inglewood (left) was one of 30 Speak UP parents and students who visited Assembly Member Autumn Burke’s office Friday to protest the passage of AB 1505, a bill that would take away quality school options for families. The bill now heads to the state Senate.

In the face of overwhelming parent opposition, the charter moratorium bill SB 756 failed to garner enough support to be brought for a vote on the California Senate floor Wednesday and was shelved for the rest of the year.

“The defeat of SB 756 is a victory for working families like mine, families who deserve choices as we search for a high-quality education for our kids,” said Justine Gonzalez, an LAUSD parent and transgender activist whose child will be entering kindergarten this fall. “A moratorium on public charter schools is not and never will be the solution to persistent gaps in achievement across the state.”

The resounding win for kids comes just one week after the state assembly passed AB 1505, a bill that would give unilateral power to school districts to shut down charter schools without a fair appeals process. Because many school boards consider charter schools competition for student attendance dollars, some likened the bill to giving Coke sole authority to decide the fate of Pepsi.

Parents were outraged by the passage of AB 1505, which only garnered enough votes after its authors promised amendments. About 30 Speak UP parents and students, including Tinisha Briley Landry of Inglewood, crammed into Assembly Member Autumn Burke’s Inglewood office last Friday to protest her support for the bill.

“The language in these bills was clear. They were written to take options away from parents,” said Landry, whose daughter attends middle school at WISH charter in Westchester, which was named in a recent report from Innovate Public Schools as one of the top middle schools in the Los Angeles area for closing the achievement gap for low-income African American students. “Capping charters equals capping parents’ public school choice and capping access to schools that cultivate their needs.”  

Parent Justine Gonzalez with her daughter

Parent Justine Gonzalez with her daughter

The death of SB 756 does not mean the threat to quality schools is over. AB 1505 and 1507, which restricts where schools can locate and impacts independent study charter students, will still be moving through Senate education and appropriations committees in June.

However, a fourth bill, AB 1506 also failed to get enough support for a floor vote and was placed in the inactive file Thursday, rendering it dead for the year. That bill would have capped the number of charters allowed in any district, and if it does not come up for a vote in the assembly by Friday, it will be considered dead for this legislative session.

Taken altogether, these four bills sponsored by the powerful California Teachers Association represent a full-frontal assault on quality school options for kids, especially low-income kids of color whom studies have shown often perform better in charter schools than in struggling neighborhood schools.

The bills gained momentum after the January teachers strike, which United Teachers Los Angeles only ended after the LAUSD Board agreed to vote for a charter moratorium resolution. Every LAUSD board member except for Vice President Nick Melvoin (BD4) called on the state to pass a moratorium.

Since then, LAUSD board meetings have taken on a decidedly anti-charter tone, with Board member Richard Vladovic (BD7) saying this week that he would vote against any new charter that did not explicitly make it clear it would not seek to co-locate with a district school – something that is often financially impossible when charters first launch.

“Our public nonprofit charters remove barriers our parents face and make it possible to find the school that uniquely serves the child’s needs,” Landry said. “We have Title 1 charter schools closing the achievement gap. Why would anyone want to halt the growth of schools like that?”

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