CCSA Issues Statement on California Teachers Association's Proposed Anti-Charter Legislation

March 25, 2015

  • Print
The proposed legislation highlighted today by the California Teachers Association (CTA) intentionally misrepresents the realities of charter schools in order to stem the success of our growing movement of charter schools in California. Fortunately, the success of charter schools speaks for itself, and is well documented by independent research. Parents, the broader public and responsible policy makers all understand that charter schools are public schools and that charter schools are performing very well with students, providing life changing opportunities to the students who need them the most. That is why there are more than 91,000 students on waiting lists for California charter schools.

This proposed legislation attempts to spread misperceptions about charter public schools. And we believe current laws address concerns raised and these proposals are unnecessary.

The truth is that all charters schools are public schools just like traditional district schools. They are tuition-free and open to any student who wishes to attend. Charter public schools give parents and students a choice in their education. They are diverse and reflect the communities they serve. Charter public schools are held accountable by their authorizer (usually the local school district) and by the families they serve.

Perhaps most importantly though, and missing from the overarching discussion, is that charter public schools are getting strong academic results with the students they serve, and in many cases are performing better in comparison to traditional district schools, and remarkably so with the neediest students. As recently as last week, Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), the nation's foremost independent analyst of charter school effectiveness, released a comprehensive Urban Charter Schools Report and offers unprecedented insight into the effectiveness of charter public schools. Similar to the findings from the report, Charter School Performance in California that CREDO also released, we are once again encouraged that independent research confirms California's charter schools are performing well, especially with historically underserved students, and are improving over time (see also: Charter School Performance in Los Angeles). These strong academic results are clearly a driving force for the parents who are making their voices heard in their desire to send their kids to charter schools.

In regards to the specific charter school legislation highlighted today, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) supports charter schools operating in a publicly transparent manner and ensuring equal access to all students. CCSA also supports the right of teachers to be represented by a union. However, we believe current laws address these concerns and these proposals are unnecessary. They would impose unreasonable and excessive new requirements on charter schools that are not in line with the intent of the California Charter Schools Act of 1992 to provide autonomous, accountable and independent public schools. We look forward to the day when CTA and its supporters and allies accept that charter schools are here to stay, and that a far better use of time and energy would be working collaboratively to ensure that all kids in California can attend high quality schools just as charters schools are demonstrating is possible.

CCSA supports public transparency of charter schools operations. Current laws already contain significant public transparency requirements for charter schools. CCSA sponsored SB 1317 last year to apply several additional governance requirements on charter schools boards. AB 709 is the wrong approach. We are working with Assemblymember Medina on amendments to AB 1057 so that we can support reasonable governance provisions for charter schools. In addition, most charter schools are organized as non-profit public benefit corporations and are held to state and federal laws governing nonprofit organizations (less than 10 of the 1,184 total California charter schools are for-profit). If charter school boards are violating these laws, they should be held accountable.

Employee Representation
CCSA acknowledges and supports the right of charter school teachers to be represented by a union. Currently many charter school teachers are represented by unions. In fact, Education Code 47611.5 explicitly applies the Educational Employee Relations Act to charters schools, and requires each charter school describe how it will comply with the Act.

Enrollment Discrimination
CCSA fully supports open enrollment in charter schools. Current laws ensure this is the case. Pursuant to Education Code 47605(d)(1) a charter school must enroll all pupils who wish to attend and if enrollment exceeds capacity, the school must hold a random public lottery for admission. Other preference in enrollment may only be allowed if permitted by law and approved by the charter authorizer. A charter that violates the law can be revoked. These high standards of open access do not apply to traditional school districts which may restrict admission based on academic achievement at some schools, as is the case with most district-operated magnets.

Expulsion Policies
Education Code Section 47605(b) requires every charter school to describe its expulsion and suspension policies as part of its charter approval process. These polices are public, transparent, and approved by the school's authorizer. In addition, federal law ensures that every public school student, including those in California's charter schools, are entitled to due process when a school official has recommended suspension or expulsion. If charter schools are violating those laws and policies, they should be held accountable.

Learning Outcomes
None of these proposals have any impact on charter school learning outcomes. The fact is that charter schools are doing particularly well serving high need pupils. A 2014 report by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford measured the impact of charter schools on the academic gains of students, parsed in many different ways. CREDO found that black charter students in poverty had the equivalent of 36 more days of learning in reading and 43 more days of learning in math than similar students in traditional public schools. The report concluded that ELL charter students had 36 more days of learning in reading and 50 days of learning more in math. An update of that report issued in March 2015 found similar outcomes nationally for charter schools in urban areas, notably in San Francisco and in Los Angeles.

Required Parental Volunteers
This fall, Public Advocates reported allegations that some charters were unlawfully imposing volunteer and fundraising obligations on parents. CCSA worked closely with them and the Department of Education to clarify for all charter schools, and all public schools that such requirements are against the law. As a result, the department issued an advisory in January clarifying that all public schools are barred from using parent work hours and donations to determine admissions to the school. The law is clear; it is now up to the authorizer to enforce the law.