California Assembly Passes Anti-Charter, Union-Backed Bill

A bill sponsored by California Assemblyman Tony Mendoza that makes it easier for school districts to block charter schools has passed through the Assembly.

The legislation, which was backed by the California Teachers Association (CTA), won the vote at the Assembly by 45-28, writes Mike Spraque at the Whittier Daily News.

Mendoza said:

"If innovation and choice would add burden to a school district already faced with difficult decisions like eliminating adult schools and counselors, then it should have authority to deny charters.

"This is a common sense measure to benefit California's struggling public education system."

The bill, called A.B. 1172, sets out to make clear three financial reasons why districts should be allowed to reject charter schools, and now goes to the state Senate and Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration.

Spraque writes that under the bill a district could deny a charter school under any one of these three factors:

  • Received a negative financial certification
  • Given an emergency apportionment or loan and is operating under the oversight of a state administrator or trustee
  • Received notice that its finances are in question and due to declining enrollment is in the process of closing a school that a charter school petition identified as its proposed site.

Opponents call the bill an attack on the charter movement. Assemblyman Jim Nielsen said:

"It continues to astound me that there are assaults on charter schools that provide a wonderful alternative for children of parents in this state to receive a quality education."

Jed Wallace, president and chief executive officer of the California Charter Schools Association, said it will be now be much harder to establish a charter school in the state:

"We are very disappointed in today's vote, as it is out of touch with the increase in demand by parents and communities across the state to open charter schools for better choices in public education."

But proponents say that the bill will protect parents. Ruth Perez, superintendent of Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, said:

"I think it will protect (parents) who may want to send their child to a charter school without knowing how well it can support itself."

Mendoza is a former CTA official. And, as Mike Antonucci at EIA Online found, in the 2011 Campaign Finance & Lobbying Industry Report, the California Teachers Association contributed more than $6.5 million dollars in lobbying last year.

The union argued on its website that "this bill is necessary to ensure the fiscal solvency of school districts, and restore local control to elected school board members," writes an editorial at the Orange County Register.

Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, said:

"It would seem that no matter how you derive a dollar amount, that charters don't get the same funding as traditional schools.

"As such, I can't figure out how [charters] can ‘damage local school finances.' This law seems like an attempt to make it that more difficult for charters to come into existence. Some oversight is good, of course, but this seems to be excessive."

However, while charters have been successful in the state, Sand warns:

"The wolf is always at the door in California. It's much easier for California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers to harass charter schools by invoking restrictive laws than it is to try to unionize them one by one."

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