Accountability Billionaires California Charter Schools Democracy Education Industry Education Reform Privatization

California: The Charter Law is Broken and Adversaries Don’t Agree on How to Fix It

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This is part 3 of the Los Angeles Times’ series about charter school dysfunction in California, written by Anna Phillips. 

Phillips traces many of the problems, especially lack of oversight, to state law.

She explains that the billionaires who fund the rapid expansion of charter schools have squared off against the powerful California Teachers Association, andthe two never agree.

The resultis That a badly flawed lawremains in place.

Phillips quotes several charter school advocates who want to eliminate the role of local school boardsin authorizing charter schools and transfer that power to a single state charter board.

What the advocates never mention is that the school boards have been rendered toothless by the law, which allows charters to appeal their rejection at the local level to the county board. If the county board rejects them, they can appeal to the state board, which has been extremely friendly to charters due to appointments by Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown, both very charter-friendly.

Phillips quotes one charter advocate who points to New York as a model. New York hastwo charter authorizing Boards: the State Board of Regents and the SUNY Charter Institute. Neither supervises the charters they authorize. The SUNY committee consists of appointees of Governor Cuomo, who loves charters and receives big campaign contributions from the charter billionaires and Wall Street charter lobby. When billionaire Merryl Tisch was chair of the Board of Regents, it too was an ally of charters. She is now on the SUNY board. Even now, the Regents continue to endorse charter expansion,despite local objections.

The Network for Public Education, which is not funded by teachers unions, believes that charters should be authorized ONLY by local school districts to meet their needs, not because an entrepreneur wants a school of his own or because a corporate chain sees a chance to grow.

The irony is that the charter billionaires seem already to have captured Governor Gavin Newsom, even though they supported another candidate. Newsom promised charter reform, and he signed a bill requiring accountability and transparency and forbidding conflicts of interest and nepotism. But he may have shackled the charter reform agenda by appointing charter allies to a majority of places on the new state task force to recommend changes to the charter law. Phillips ends her article by mentioning the task force but fails to mention that charter allies were given seven of 11 seats, surely by Newsom.

So this otherwise great series ends for me on a disappointing note. It is far easier for billionaires to capture a single state board or two state boards than to deal with hundreds of local school districts. There is a limit to the number of elections and seats they can buy, even with their deep pockets. One thing has become clear about “Reformers.” They don’t like democracy. They like mayoral control and state control. Local school boards get in their way.

 

 

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