SACRAMENTO – Lawmakers, educators, parents and a broad coalition of community supporters joined for a news conference today in the State Capitol to shed light on a very important package of bills that must be enacted to ensure California charter school accountability and transparency and to also ensure unbiased access to all students.
SB 808 by Sen. Tony Mendoza, AB 1478 by Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer and AB 1360 by Assembly Member Rob Bonta would address many of the injustices and fraudulent practices that are negatively impacting California’s students.
SB 808 would ensure local control by allowing charter schools to be authorized only by the school district in which the charters would be located. “It is important, especially as an educator, to have people engage in open discussion about ensuring that our children’s educational system continues to improve. Part of ensuring that our education system advances is to make sure that all schools – charter and traditional – are held accountable for the concerns of parents and students,” said Senator Mendoza, author of SB 808.
AB 1478 would require charter school governing boards to comply with existing laws rightfully demanding transparency and accountability to parents and the public in the operation of taxpayer-funded schools.
“Evidence shows that this lack of accountability has led to financial gains for for-profit corporate charter operators, has too often been disastrous for thousands of California students and has cost taxpayers millions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse,” said Terri Jackson, California Teachers Association Board Member and fourth-grade teacher in Contra Costa County. “Public education should be about kids, not profits. Instead of subsidizing corporate charter schools run by for-profit companies with taxpayer dollars, we should be using the money to strengthen our local neighborhood public schools for all California children.”
The California Federation of Teachers also co-sponsored the bills urging lawmakers and the governor to enact them to stop the fraudulent and wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. “By creating non-profit shells, charter corporations are able to hide behind a technicality to skim off profits from public dollars. AB 1478 will help put an end to this practice, and this package of bills will make charter schools more accountable overall,” said Gemma Abels, a CFT Vice President and president of the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers.
AB 1360 would set new requirements for charter schools’ admission, suspension and expulsion policies, bringing them more in line with traditional schools. “AB 1360 provides equal opportunity for our students by ensuring they have fair access to learning opportunities in all publicly funded California schools,” said Assembly Member Bonta. “Our young people must not be disadvantaged or pushed out of learning environments through unfair admissions policies or disciplinary rules. AB 1360 puts our children first.”
The impact on California’s students has raised many red flags for community supporters around the state, causing heightened attention, concern and action to ensure social justice, equity and consistent application of policies for all students regardless of ZIP code.
"The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color is co-sponsoring AB 1360 because we are committed to ensuring all schools have nondiscriminatory admissions policies and procedural protections for students in place guaranteed by the right to due process that are clear and consistent,” said Jordan Thierry, Senior Associate, Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. “This legislation will help ensure decisions related to admissions or disciplinary actions are not arbitrary, but rather based on established guidelines aligned with state and federal law."
Support for these bills is widespread. In fact, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, at the helm of the district where there are many recent cases in which the FBI is investigating fraud and fiscal mismanagement at charter operations like at Celerity Educational Group, adopted a resolution April 18 in support of this legislation that would provide much relief for the students in LAUSD schools.
“These bills reflect the idea that all publicly funded charter schools must adhere to the same accountability and transparency standards as district public schools. In Tuesday’s vote, the School Board signaled that the Trump/DeVos ‘anything goes’ agenda to privatize our public schools is not welcome in Los Angeles,” said United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl about the school board’s action. “We applaud George McKenna, Steve Zimmer, Scott Schmerelson, and Richard Vladovic, all veteran classroom teachers, counselors, and school administrators, who led the charge in this important vote.”
During the 2016 statewide campaign and, once again, in the school board election in Los Angeles, corporate billionaires with a coordinated agenda to privatize public schools are spending millions of dollars to elect candidates whose agenda is aligned to theirs. A concerned group of educators, parents and community supporters launched Kids Not Profits. The campaign exposes privately managed charter schools, their impact on students, the billionaires behind them and urges supporters to take action to demand that state lawmakers create stronger charter regulations, more accountability, transparency and equal access for all students.
Recent news headlines and academic studies have documented the waste, fraud and abuse by privately managed charter schools that have cost taxpayers millions while hurting students. A new report from national nonprofit In the Public Interest finds that much of this public investment, hundreds of millions of dollars, has been misspent on schools that do not fulfill the intent of state charter school policy and undermine the financial viability of California’s public school districts.
In a report released earlier this month, Spending Blind: The Failure of Policy Planning in California’s Charter School Facility Funding, In the Public Interest reveals that a substantial portion of the more than $2.5 billion in tax dollars or taxpayer subsidized financing spent on California charter school facilities in the past 15 years has been misspent on: schools that underperformed nearby traditional public schools; schools built in districts that already had enough classroom space; schools that were found to have discriminatory enrollment policies; and, in the worst cases, schools that engaged in unethical or corrupt practices.
An ACLU report, “Unequal Access,” found that more than 20 percent of California’s charter schools deny access to students with disabilities, English learners, or students who have lower grades and test scores. The NAACP recently called for a ban on privately managed charters.
Charter school scandals continue to make headlines, while another report shows that an expansion of privately run charter schools would cost the Los Angeles Unified School District more than $500 million this year alone.
And important to note, research by In The Public Interest shows Californians overwhelmingly favor proposals to reform charter schools—proposals that include strengthening charter school accountability and transparency, improving teacher training and qualifications, preventing fraud, returning money to taxpayers when charter schools close, and ensuring that neighborhood public schools are not adversely affected.