CREDIT: FERMIN LEAL/EDSOURCE TODAY
Kindergarten students at Aspire Inskeep Academy in South Los Angeles gather in groups during a reading lesson.

Californians on both sides of the charter school debate can expect two years of hearings over Senate Bill 808, a bill that would restrict the charter school approval process, which critics claim could lead to the shuttering of many of the schools.

During a press conference Monday at the Capitol, the bill’s author, Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, outlined a two-year roadmap for the proposed law’s passage that includes an eventual vote on the bill.

“Yes, this bill will be going through the process like any other bill, and eventually it’ll be having a vote,” Mendoza said. That process includes a hearing in the Senate Education Committee this week and meetings in communities throughout the state this year.

Mendoza added that Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, chair of that committee, “has indicated that he would like to study the bill a bit further.”

The announcement provides details for Mendoza’s plan for the legislation that were missing last week when he tabled the bill after heavy opposition from charter advocates.

Pro-charter officials say SB 808 could devastate the charter sector in California. The bill would change current law on how charter districts receive their permission to exist. If passed, the law would allow only the local school district to approve a new charter petition and greatly limit the appeals process for charters that districts turn down. Presently, charter schools can appeal a district’s rejection to the county office of education and the State Board of Education.

Charter supporters are also skeptical of the bill’s chances of making its way through the Legislature.

“Certainly a number of moderate Democrats, in particular, have been elected who charter advocates hope will be charter-friendly, but we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to test that yet,” said Eric Premack, a longtime charter school analyst and the executive director of the Charter Schools Development Center. “This may be a first-test case.”

“But even a less friendly Legislature did not look favorably upon these bills in the past,” Premack said. “I would expect that Mendoza would have an even tougher time now.”

Other details about the bill are in flux; the posted version of the proposed law underwent some changes yesterday. For example, the bill no longer has language indicating a district can turn down a charter based on the financial hardship it may impose on the district. Also out is a provision allowing charters to seek judicial review if their petitions are turned down.

Charters are public schools that are operated independently. Most are approved by school districts.

Both Mendoza and the California Teachers Association, which backs SB 808, argue that too often local school districts’ rulings are overturned by the State Board of Education. A 2016 analysis by the California Teachers Association – the state’s largest teachers union – found that since 2002 the state board has approved 45 of the 61 appeals of charter schools that were rejected by the district or county.

“The local school boards are elected. The county boards are not elected. And state offices are not elected. So there’s a subversion of democracy,” said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. He said the powerful teachers union in Los Angeles will have hearings about SB 808 down the line.

The California Charter Schools Association, which has fought heavily against the bill, has called it a “charter killer” and one “that would obliterate the charter school movement.”

Steven Baratte, a spokesman for the charter schools group, said that the appeals process is important because districts may have an inherent bias against charter school growth. “The county and state boards may be a more reasonable body to evaluate a charter because they do not have the self-interest that a district does to deny a charter that may be perceived as competing with them for students and [associated] dollars,” he wrote in an email.

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  1. Deborah Havens 5 months ago5 months ago

    I'm a homeschool mom of three who decided to use a charter school because the public and private school systems had no options and/or were failing my Dyslexic/ADD son and I wanted my kids to get a true education modeled after their needs and interests. I am a credentialed teacher with a Master's Degree in Education and wholeheartedly oppose this bill. It is a tactic, in my opinion, to force students (and the funding that … Read More

    I’m a homeschool mom of three who decided to use a charter school because the public and private school systems had no options and/or were failing my Dyslexic/ADD son and I wanted my kids to get a true education modeled after their needs and interests. I am a credentialed teacher with a Master’s Degree in Education and wholeheartedly oppose this bill. It is a tactic, in my opinion, to force students (and the funding that comes with them) to be educated in the public school. The issue here is school choice. People should be afforded the opportunity to maximize the potential and success of their children.

  2. Tiffany Herron-Lumpkin 7 months ago7 months ago

    In Northern California, in Contra Costa County, our local school board Members and county school board members are elected positions. Taking away appeal and different levels to petition does not afford the opportunity for fair process or for appeals due process.

  3. Jane 8 months ago8 months ago

    Protecting public school diversity is important for all families and this bill backed by Mendoza and the teachers unions certainly would kill some of the best, innovative schools that are pioneering progress. Use this link to add yours to the voices opposing it: http://p2a.co/kpToxWX By the way, U.S. News and World Report has released its 2017 rankings of America’s public high schools, and for the first time ever, the majority of the schools in the … Read More

    Protecting public school diversity is important for all families and this bill backed by Mendoza and the teachers unions certainly would kill some of the best, innovative schools that are pioneering progress. Use this link to add yours to the voices opposing it: http://p2a.co/kpToxWX
    By the way, U.S. News and World Report has released its 2017 rankings of America’s public high schools, and for the first time ever, the majority of the schools in the top 10 are charters. 12 of the top 20 LA public high schools are charters and Alliance College-Ready Public Schools accounted for half of them. http://laschoolreport.com/u-s-news-ranks-americas-top-public-high-schools-and-for-the-first-time-charters-dominate-top-10/

  4. Ann 8 months ago8 months ago

    This is the line that says it all: “Mendoza and the California Teachers Association”….

  5. Liane Zimny 8 months ago8 months ago

    Alex Caputo-Pearl said that county boards of education are not elected. His statement is incorrect except for Los Angeles County. California has 58 county offices of education. In 57 counties, their governing board members are elected. That is, 334 county office of education trustees are elected; only the 7 in LA County are appointed. Also 53 county office of education superintendents are elected; only 5 are appointed. In Los Angeles, the county board of … Read More

    Alex Caputo-Pearl said that county boards of education are not elected. His statement is incorrect except for Los Angeles County. California has 58 county offices of education. In 57 counties, their governing board members are elected. That is, 334 county office of education trustees are elected; only the 7 in LA County are appointed.
    Also 53 county office of education superintendents are elected; only 5 are appointed. In Los Angeles, the county board of supervisors, an elected body, appoints the county superintendent of schools and the county board of education trustees. In 4 counties — Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara — the elected county boards of education appoint their county superintendent.
    (Source: California County Boards of Education website — http://theccbe.org)

  6. Roger Grotewold 8 months ago8 months ago

    This comment in the story says it all: Steven Baratte, a spokesman for the charter schools group, said that the appeals process is important because districts may have an inherent bias against charter school growth. The California Charter Schools Association would like nothing better to happen then being able to bypass local school districts in their pursuit of massive charter school growth. This group knows that they have an inherent … Read More

    This comment in the story says it all: Steven Baratte, a spokesman for the charter schools group, said that the appeals process is important because districts may have an inherent bias against charter school growth. The California Charter Schools Association would like nothing better to happen then being able to bypass local school districts in their pursuit of massive charter school growth. This group knows that they have an inherent bias towards certain groups of students that would be nullified by local school districts. Also the overall profit motive is a strong incentive in their unspoken pursuit of charter school growth. For these important reasons, local school district control of charter schools is essential. The local level is the most logical and best place to judge the viability and need for a charter school in a school district.

  7. Dr. Jonathan Dean 8 months ago8 months ago

    SB 808 is a proposed bill that defies everything the U.S. stands for - due process. This country, especially the educational system, cannot and should not turn into a dictatorship directed towards one entity – public charter schools. We are built on a nation of laws with oversight to protect against abuse. SB 808, from the gate, sets up extraordinary abuse to occur. It would be hard to fathom support for this type of … Read More

    SB 808 is a proposed bill that defies everything the U.S. stands for – due process. This country, especially the educational system, cannot and should not turn into a dictatorship directed towards one entity – public charter schools. We are built on a nation of laws with oversight to protect against abuse. SB 808, from the gate, sets up extraordinary abuse to occur. It would be hard to fathom support for this type of legislation that willfully discriminates against the neediest of students.