East Bay Times Opinion: Time to end the myth about state's charter schools
August 30, 2018East Bay Times on August 30,2018. The piece was also picked up in The Mercury News.
Opinion: Time to end the myth about state's charter schools
By: Jed Wallace, President and CEO, California Charter Schools Association (CCSA)
A hallmark distinguishing California's charter school movement from other states is that 99 percent of our schools always have operated as nonprofit organizations.
But "almost all" isn't good enough for our remarkable charter school community. For years, we worked to change our state's law to reflect our deeply held belief that for-profit education has no place in our public education system.
That's why we're delighted to report that, after working with Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, we advanced AB 406 to the governor's desk. This bill will change California's law to make sure all charter schools are operated and controlled by nonprofit organizations.
In addition to changing the law, we hope AB 406 will change the discussion.
For years, charter school adversaries have spent millions of dollars on websites, radio ads and other communications trying to convince the public that large numbers of charter schools are for-profit.
Perpetuating this myth for purely political purposes, they did all they could to stop common sense legislation such as AB 406 from passing to ensure they were better positioned to keep deceiving the public about charter schools.
Worst of all, these cynical efforts included lies about the people connected to California's charter schools, to assert that charter school people were more interested in seeking profits than doing right by kids and families.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Whether it's San Carlos Charter School (California's first charter school); Latitude, opening this fall in Oakland; Watts Learning Center, Camino Nuevo or KIPP Empower, generating incredible outcomes for students in high-needs communities; All Tribes Charter School on the Rincon Indian Reservation; or hundreds of other charter schools serving more than a half million students in virtually every community in this state - there's only one thing that motivates our movement.
This, ultimately, is why California's charter schools have been so successful over the past 25 years. Would more than 630,000 parents so eagerly enroll their students in charter schools if they thought those schools weren't putting the needs of the kids first? Of course not.
The truth is, thousands upon thousands of families across this state recognize that, while many of our traditional public schools are great, many others aren't or don't meet their family's needs. Too often, public education prioritizes the needs of adults, bureaucratic requirements or other interests ahead of what's best for students.
That's why there remains a great need for California to continue expanding its incredibly strong and diverse portfolio of nonprofit charter schools as a part of our public education system. While there are many things that stand in the way of charter schools growing at the pace that parents want them to, I know ultimately that we will get there. And how will we do that?
By working on the broader challenges in front of all public-school families and continuing to form new coalitions consisting of unexpected partners such as the ones that came together to help advance AB 406 -- including California Federation of Teachers, Association of California School Administrators, California School Boards Association and many others. To all our partners on AB 406, we extend our deepest thanks. Working in this spirit, we envision another 25 years for charter schools that's as successful as our first - an incredibly vibrant community of nonprofit organizations focused on keeping the needs of kids first so that all students in California get the great public education they deserve.
Jed Wallace is the president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association.
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