Charter critics swing haymaker bills

Charter critics swing haymaker bills

(Calif.) Leaders of the state Assembly are moving a triumvirate of bills aimed at slowing the growth of charter schools in California.

Already playing defense in the Capitol against an unfriendly governor in Gavin Newsom and its long-standing rival, the California Teachers Association—charter schools were forced earlier this year to accept good governance requirements, something that charter supporters had successfully resisted for more than a decade.

But now far more serious challenges have been proposed:

  • AB 1506 would establish a hard cap on the number of charter schools that can be operated in the state.
  • AB 1505 would restrict the options charter proponents have to getting a new school authorized and to appeal denials.
  • AB 1507 eliminates the ability for a charter school to locate outside the boundaries of the district authorizer while also restricting the location of charter resource centers.

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach and chair of the education committee, said the time has come to revise key elements of how charter schools are governed.

“Clearly, we need to shore up the charter authorization laws,” said O’Donnell during a hearing Wednesday. “If you are a good charter operator, you don’t have anything to worry about, but more charter school reform is needed. We cannot kick this issue down the road any longer.”

After enjoying almost unqualified support from the state’s chief executive since former-Gov. Pete Wilson signed the landmark authorization bill in 1993, the charter school movement in California is facing perhaps its most serious political test.

The showdown between charters and the CTA has been brewing for years, but it has come to a head following a ham-handed effort by some wealthy charter supporters in the closing days of the 2016 primary campaign to discredit Newsom and in hopes of electing former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Last fall, charters also lost another hard-fought election for state schools chief when former Assemblyman Tony Thurmond won out over charter favorite, Marshall Tuck.

Of the three bills pending before lawmakers, AB 1506 is perhaps key. That bill was co-authored by O’Donnell and Assemblyman Kevin McCarrty, D-Sacramento, who is chair of the Assembly’s budget subcommittee on education finance.

If signed into law, the bill would limit the total number of charter schools in the state to those already authorized as of Jan. 1, 2020, and removes authority for the State Board of Education or any county office of education to exceed that number.

AB 1505, which O’Donnell and McCarty are also among the co-authors, is largely aimed at charter schools “shopping” for an approving authority. A recent report in the Los Angeles Times suggested that some small school districts were abusing this process to collect administrative fees.

AB 1507, which O’Donnell and McCarty are again also among the co-authors, closes an option for charters to locate a school outside the boundaries of an authorizing district under certain conditions. This option has provoked a number of court fights and controversies in the past between districts.

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