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Learning Curves

Charter School Advocates Fume Over Final Reform Report

California’s charter lobby remains fiercely opposed to far-reaching reforms found in a state Assembly bill.

Bill Raden

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California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond

If some public schools advocates have been less than enthusiastic about Governor Gavin Newsom’s attempts to dilute charter school reform legislation, the governor shouldn’t expect any gratitude from California’s charter lobby. Despite receiving major concessions on Assembly Bill 1505, which had been written to restore robust local control to school boards over new charter school creation, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) remains fiercely opposed to the bill. And on the pages of EdSource last week, CCSA members were still spitting mad at the man they hold ultimately responsible — state schools supe Tony Thurmond. That’s because as chair of the governor’s California Charter School Policy Task Force, Thurmond included in its final report far-reaching reforms that CCSA opposed and that found their way into AB 1505.


“Learning Curves” is a weekly roundup of news items, profiles and dish about the intersection of education and inequality. Send tips, feedback and announcements of upcoming events to braden@capitalandmain.com, @BillRaden. Abby Kingsley contributed to this column.


 

“Both camps are unhappy with what’s going on,” observed Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation and University of Kentucky College of Education dean Julian Vasquez Heilig. “This isn’t an issue that lends itself to political compromise, because in the long term, more and more charters leads to the extinction of public schools and both sides know it.”

AB 1505’s sponsor, the California Teachers Association, has maintained that the legislation significantly shifts the center of gravity over all decisions regarding new charter school creation away from Sacramento and back to the locally elected leaders best equipped for the job. The bill “limits the appeals at the state board level only if there was abuse of local discretion,” CTA spokesperson Claudia Briggs told Learning Curves last month. “AB 1505 allows school districts to consider fiscal impact on other schools in the district. It also allows authorizers to deny a charter school that would substantially undermine existing district school services.”  (Disclosure: CTA is a financial supporter of this website.)

The fact that charter law reform has dominated this summer’s Sacramento legislative session can be chalked up to Reclaim Our Schools Los Angeles (ROSLA), the undersung coalition that laid the foundation for the wide-ranging political victories scored by United Teachers Los Angeles in January’s L.A. teachers strike. The charter task force itself came out of a concession won by UTLA’s strategy of bargaining for the “common good” that went far beyond the scope of a typical labor agreement. Which makes Building the Power to Reclaim Our Schools, ROSLA’s just-released, blow-by-blow case study of its community-based organizing effort, this week’s must-read for activists across the progressive spectrum as they gird for coming battles over reforms necessary to turn back the ultimate threat to public education — California’s manufactured, post-Proposition 13 austerity.

The case study’s most important takeaway? That there’s strength in numbers. “Labor groups are very powerful,” said Cesar Castrejon, a lead parent organizer with coalition member Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “And they have a lot of resources. So when they use those resources to create spaces where they can amplify and lift up community voices, it creates this sense of unity that gives the community the ability to flex its power. That’s why we were so successful.”

The one in five female students that research says will be victimized by sexual misconduct during their college years now have someone other than Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to worry them. Namely, John Doe, an anonymous, former Michigan State student accused of sexual assault, who is bringing a prospective class-action lawsuit that claims the university violated his right to due process. “For a long time, people would ask why there wasn’t a class action,” lead attorney Andrew Mitltenberg told the Detroit Free Press. “There wasn’t a law on the books we could hold a class action on. Now there is.” The MSU case is based on a 2018 U.S. 6th Circuit ruling establishing that the accused had a right to question their accuser. If John Doe prevails, hundreds of disciplinary rulings could be retroactively invalidated and similar suits against public universities could be brought in other jurisdictions.

While that’s good news for the alleged student predators who could soon be back on campuses, universities continue to show zero tolerance toward #MeToo-accused faculty. Johns Hopkins fired one professor last week and another resigned after university officials concluded they had violated conduct and harassment policies, and a CU Boulder professor, Michael Beitz, resigned in May after the university learned he was at the center of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former student at Beitz’s previous school.


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