Tuesday, August 7, 2007

CA State Legislature Trying to Undermine Charter School Law

The LA Daily News has an editorial today called "Charters under attack" about how the Democratically-controlled state legislature is using a sneaky budget trailer bill to undermine the charter school law.

"In the budget now pending in the Legislature, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would double the money now available to pay for facilities for charter schools serving the state's poorest kids. But committees in both the Senate and the Assembly have placed a condition on that money. It would be available only if the State Board of Education in effect lost its ability to grant charters to high-quality organizations.

If that condition stays in the law, Schwarzenegger will have an ugly choice. He can finally provide substantial rent assistance to as many as 150 charter schools that urgently need it. Or he can veto the provision and preserve the state board's approval power, which would lead to the growth of some of the state's best charters."

Under the proposal, the state Board of Education would still be able to issue a charter but only for 3 years. After this initial term, the charter would revert to the local school district, allowing them to shut down the school. A 1992 RAND report found that among the 108 school districts who had authorized at least 1 charter school, 10% of petitions were denied. However, this is likely to be a significant understatement of denials because it excludes the indeterminate number of districts who have denied all charter applications received.

I've never understood why local school districts are given any say over charter applications since they have a financial incentive to restrict them. Every student who leaves a traditional public school to enroll in a charter school results in a loss of thousands of dollars in state funding. Obviously there needs to be oversight of charters, but it should be done at the county and/or state level.

Shame on the California state legislators who are trying to stealthily kill charter schools in the state! It's no surprise why they are doing so, as many of them are in the pockets of the teacher's union. From 2000 to 2004, the California Teacher's Association spent more than $70 million for politics and lobbying according to campaign finance records. Plus an additional $45 million in 2005 alone. Special interest groups like the CTA are fierce defenders of the status quo in education and consider any efforts to expand parental choice in education such as charter schools, vouchers, and homeschooling to be a threat :-(

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