California legislators have seen their efforts to slow down the charter school movement fall short in recent weeks, after families and school choice advocates voiced their opposition. But despite this win for charter school families, advocates believe the battle isn’t over.
AB 1506, authored by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), sought to impose a cap on the number of new charter schools on the district level, while SB 756, authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), hoped to impose a two-year moratorium, which would slow down the charter school opening process.
While both bills were moved to the inactive file in May, and charter school groups believe that the legislation was defeated thanks to the “collective power of charter school leaders, teachers, families and students,” advocates and experts say this may not be the last time legislators will try to limit education choice in the state.
“No doubt that we have not seen the final act in this play,” attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com David Reischer told The Epoch Times. “The legislatures, with the backing of the California Teachers Association, will likely push this [type of] legislation across the finish line.”
To Christina Laster, the Inland Empire and San Diego Parent Union President for the California Policy Center, “there will always be a battle over school choice and charter schools.” She believes the fight against charters has more to do with prejudice and less with education.
“Historically, district-run schools have underserved and not educated black children while getting paid to do so,” she said.
Laster, a black mother and grandmother, also serves as the NAACP Education Chairwoman for SW Riverside county, although she says she’s not speaking on behalf of the organization. To her, special interest groups pushing anti-charter legislation are trying to keep education in the hands of the state. But parents say they are the ones who know what their children need, not bureaucrats.
“If someone can monopolize the educational system they monopolize who has the access and opportunity granted in society, this cyclical behavior will reappear in another format as it is an attempt to continue to oppress the most disadvantaged people, which have historically been black people,” said Laster.
There is evidence that charter schools, especially in California, have helped minorities and children with special needs to excel. But because these schools use public funding while being run privately, teachers unions have long opposed them.
In a statement sent to The Epoch Times, Judy Lynes, the spokesperson for the California network of nonprofit charter schools Learn4Life, explained that its network of more than 80 schools help over 40,000 students “who have washed out of public schools.”
More than just offering basic education, she continued, charters “help them get a diploma, job training and life skills – all for free.” In the end, these students “[saved] $1.7 billion in social services such as law enforcement and other social impacts” since 2001.
Schools such as Learn4Life are comprised of mostly minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged children, Lynes added. And several “have aged out of high school.”
“Many are teen parents or have adult responsibilities, like a need to work or take care of family members,” she explained
Lety Gomez, a mother of three whose youngest child attends Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep in East San Jose, agrees.
The education system has failed children like her own, she told The Epoch Times, and “charter public schools provide an option to families who are sick and tired of being forced to send our students to our failing neighborhood schools.”
“Our students have the potential to succeed, and we need school leaders and teachers who believe in our students. I have found that at my youngest daughter’s charter public school.”
Additionally, she said legislators don’t always see the extent of these students’ success.
“My daughter’s charter public school serves similar demographics as does our district public schools, yet her charter public school is outperforming all traditional public schools in our district. Why aren’t state legislators talking about fixing failing schools?”
Since 1992, when The Charter Schools Act became law, California has been at the forefront of the battle to expand choices for parents and students. However, teachers unions have led an aggressive anti-school choice campaign.
In a statement sent to The Epoch Times, Excel Academy Charter explained that while SB-756 was filed, it will be reviewed once more in January 2020. That means the temporary defeat of both SB-756 and AB-1506 won’t last. Furthermore, two other bills, AB-1505 and AB-1507, passed the Assembly floor and are now heading over to the Senate.
The bills, which give local school district full control over new charter school approvals and require that any new charter be located within a certain district respectively, may reduce parents’ choices, says Excel.
“We must now shift our attention from our Assembly representatives to our Senate representatives, and make sure that they hear our voices of opposition loud and clear,” read the statement.
To Roxann Nazario, a mother of a 5th grader who attends Fenton Avenue Charter School, in Los Angeles, it’s clear that whenever the defeated bills are brought back up for review, unions will push legislators to act.
“I have noticed that every time the charter community has a win, the teacher unions come at us even harder. There is retaliation for our efforts to simply keep our children’s schools open,” she said.
And while she knows they will have the chance to have their voices heard in Sacramento, she says the fight is far from over. Because a win for charters now “doesn’t mean we won’t have to stand up and speak up for our kids again next year,” she said.