Diana Lambert / EdSource
Students from charter schools throughout the state protest pending legislation in Sacramento limiting the growth of charter schools.

Thousands of charter school supporters gathered on the steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento Wednesday for a high-powered rally meant to send a clear message to legislators: Don’t pass laws that harm their schools.

Dubbed the “Stand for All Students Rally,” it was hosted by the California Charter Schools Association and was a highlight of the organization’s annual four-day conference that ends in Sacramento on Thursday. Speakers included Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of education during the Obama administration.

At the rally were charter school administrators, teachers, parents and students, many of whom came by bus from schools across the state. They held signs that said “#kidsnotpolitics” and “Defend Great Schools” and were led in chants by adults on a stage flanked by giant screens projecting their images across the park.

“When charter schools are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back,” chanted the crowd.

“People, we are in a crucial moment in public education,” Myrna Castrejón, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association told the crowd. “2019 is a watershed year. We have two choices. Do we stand divided, separated and fighting with each other or do we unite?”

Referring to the California Teachers Association, she said, “Let me be clear, we can’t be united if the CTA keeps taking bills out to kill us.”

“We have to be loud,” she said. “We have to activate. We have to talk to our allies, make new friends and build coalitions of support.”

The rally came exactly one week after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation requiring greater transparency in charter school operations. The charter schools association ended up supporting the bill and joined Newsom in a signing ceremony that seemed to promise greater collaboration between the opposing sides of the charter school conflict.

The introduction last week of four new pieces of charter school legislation has aroused passions among charter school advocates. It has raised fears among advocates that California’s charter school sector will face the greatest restrictions on its growth since the state’s first charter law was enacted a quarter century ago.

If approved, the bills would eliminate the right to appeal to the county or the state if a district denies a charter application; place an unspecified cap on charter schools; allow charter applications to be rejected based on their financial impact on a district; and prevent charter schools approved in one district from setting up in another.

“These broken charter laws need to be fixed and the ongoing misuse of taxpayer dollars has to stop,” said Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association in an interview Thursday. “We worked at the direction of our members, who work day in and day out with students, for years on trying to secure transparency, accountability and equal access for all students and this current package of bills, brought forth by a wide-ranging coalition of community groups, lawmakers and school employees, parents and labor partners, is much needed to ensure all students get the quality education they need and deserve at these corporate charter schools.”

Together, the bills would result in charter schools being banned in California, feared Margaret Fortune, the new board president of the California Charter Schools Association. Fortune heads an organization that runs seven charter schools. Six are in the Sacramento area and one is in San Bernardino.

California has 660,000 students in 1,323 charter schools, comprising just over 10 percent of the state’s public school population. Castrejon said conference-goers have been strategizing for two days about what to do and how to tell the charter school story.

Charter leaders didn’t hesitate to blame the California Teachers Association for inflaming anti-charter sentiment and for the four bills they are opposing.

“CTA and its local affiliates have been speaking with a very loud voice about real challenges in public education, but using us as a scapegoat, about a lot of problems that you know well have nothing to do with charter schools,” Castrejõn said in an interview after her speech.

“Fiscal insolvency in school districts is a real problem, but it is not due to charter schools,” said Carlos Marquez, senior vice president of government affairs for the California Charter Schools Association.

When asked to respond to these comments, the California Teachers Association’s Briggs said, “CTA supports all public schools, including public charter schools. We have members who work and teach in charter schools. What teachers have a problem with, and are opposed to, is the millions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse that has hurt our students over the last couple of decades.”

Marquez said he is hopeful that a newly convened task force put together by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond at the request of Newsom will make recommendations for charter school reform based on research, not politics.

The conference coincided with a new logo, motto and general rebranding of the Charter Schools Association. Castrejón said the rebranding and motto — Stand For All Students — is meant to help the association get the message out that they stand for the success of all students, in charter and regular public schools, along with more funding for all schools.

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  1. Tonya 9 months ago9 months ago

    My son has been in a charter school for the past two years. He has grown significantly in his studies. He finally likes his school and is no longer bullied as he was in public school. His teachers care about him. His grades have soared from public school to being on the VP honor roll every single quarter. There is no way he is going back to public school. I am on board to fight for these children.

  2. Cassie Eads 9 months ago9 months ago

    Our Charter school has given my son the support and environment to learn and grow and to realize he is okay. In his previous school he had feelings of being labelled, targeted, and never really had the opportunity to learn to step into his own. Our Charter school provides social emotional learning in addition to the traditional education system. We aim to help our youth realize they are great the way are, they all … Read More

    Our Charter school has given my son the support and environment to learn and grow and to realize he is okay. In his previous school he had feelings of being labelled, targeted, and never really had the opportunity to learn to step into his own.
    Our Charter school provides social emotional learning in addition to the traditional education system. We aim to help our youth realize they are great the way are, they all have unlimited potential for success and just because they are different doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them.
    Not all kids fit in the traditional education “box” and we should have alternative teaching environments available that will provide the learning atmosphere for them to develop, learn and grow into successful happy adults. They should be allowed to in a school that helps them understand different doesn’t mean wrong.
    At the end of the day, if you rip off all the labels, titles, stop seeing color and cultural differences you find we are all human beings! Individuals that learn, think, and have a multitude of different strengths and weakness. Let our Charter schools be! If anything improve the traditional schools so they can provide better social emotional life skills the kids need to develop emotionally well and happy! There is no one type of school for all kids just like there is no pair of jeans that fit every woman properly.
    Please do not force Charter schools out; they are saving lives of many children and giving the families of these struggling children a place to provide the very best education in order to give them their best chance to grow up not only educated but emotionally grounded and socially prepared to be successful in our world.
    If we educate our youth with social emotional life skills, we can change the future of society.
    We need more Charter schools! For the future and lives of so many, don’t shut any Charter schools down!

  3. CarolineSF 9 months ago9 months ago

    Maybe it's a side issue here, but not really. Questions about that crowd of "supporters." If a crowd of charter school students was bused to Sacramento on a non-holiday Wednesday, presumably they were excused from school. Were their schools closed? Were they required to be there? Were the teachers and administrators required to be there? Were the parents given credit for their illegally required work hours at the school for being there? Occasionally it's … Read More

    Maybe it’s a side issue here, but not really. Questions about that crowd of “supporters.”

    If a crowd of charter school students was bused to Sacramento on a non-holiday Wednesday, presumably they were excused from school. Were their schools closed? Were they required to be there?

    Were the teachers and administrators required to be there? Were the parents given credit for their illegally required work hours at the school for being there?

    Occasionally it’s also been reported that homeless people or other needy people are recruited and paid to participate in these “demonstrations.”

    That’s part of the story. (Maybe the lede.)

    Replies

    • Karl Yoder 9 months ago9 months ago

      The charter school supporters attending the demonstration had walked the four blocks from the California Charter Schools Association conference being held in Sacramento at the convention center – the rally was being held then because they were all already there for the conference.

      Hiring homeless to pretend to be charter school demonstrators? Really?

  4. Jim Mordecai 9 months ago9 months ago

    "...the California Teachers Association’s (spoke person) Briggs said, “CTA supports all public schools, including public charter schools." Both public schools and privately managed charters are government schools as both are funded by taxpayers' money. California has two government supported school systems competing for student enrollment and taxpayers' education dollars: public schools and privately managed charter schools. Over the years CTA union policy has supported the idea of charter schools. … Read More

    “…the California Teachers Association’s (spoke person) Briggs said, “CTA supports all public schools, including public charter schools.”

    Both public schools and privately managed charters are government schools as both are funded by taxpayers’ money. California has two government supported school systems competing for student enrollment and taxpayers’ education dollars: public schools and privately managed charter schools.

    Over the years CTA union policy has supported the idea of charter schools. But, now with charter sector grown to 10% of California’s government school sector, CTA has been impacted negatively with charters draining money from school districts resulting in loss of CTA members job as district lost of enrollment causes cut back in programs. In addition, CTA members that leave public schools for privately managed charters are lost to CTA as few charters are unionized and CTA affiliated. Because most of the privately managed charter schools are not unionized, the closing of public schools with the growth of privately managed government charter schools has caused CTA membership to lose jobs and left some of CTA membership demanding their union does something about charter schools.

    What is happening is CTA is backing legislative initiatives to regulate the privately managed government charter school sector that started as deregulated competitor to the public school government sector that is highly regulated by the State Education Code.

    CTA policy is that it supports privately managed charter schools with CTA membership workers working in privately managed government charter schools. But, at the same time, CTA supports better regulation of the privately managed government charter school sector and a cap on the sector’s growth to stem the loss of CTA membership.

  5. Frank Low 9 months ago9 months ago

    How is it that CCSA can justify using California tax money to bus students to this rally/protest, purchase T-shirts, feed them breakfast and lunch. This is illegal to use educational dollars for political purposes, but since when has CCSA ever followed ethics or laws? They are too busy throwing millions into failed elections and trying to buy up local school district board members to every play a clean hand. No wonder … Read More

    How is it that CCSA can justify using California tax money to bus students to this rally/protest, purchase T-shirts, feed them breakfast and lunch.
    This is illegal to use educational dollars for political purposes, but since when has CCSA ever followed ethics or laws? They are too busy throwing millions into failed elections and trying to buy up local school district board members to every play a clean hand. No wonder a large part of the CCSA conference was dedicated to legal maneuvers with “My Charter Law.” It’s a shame that once again kids and families (mostly Hispanic) are used in the middle of their marketing scam to promote an illusion of “choice” or a private school with no tuition. Their test scores speak volumes. CCSA never speaks up against the bad law-breaking schools like Celerity, Magnolia Science Academy, or Ivy Academia. They just bring in the law firm to create more billable hours and more educational money going to non educational nonsense.

  6. isaac abdul haqq 9 months ago9 months ago

    Charters haven't changed outcomes. Scores are virtually the same except when blacks, IEP, and ESL students are excluded, which happens often at charters. Charters have created fiefdoms at the expense of district budgets. They've shared no 'best practices' to raise scores - ostensibly their raison d'etre. And they now have the political baggage of being favored by Trump. CCSA may do better by keeping a low profile than by protesting. … Read More

    Charters haven’t changed outcomes. Scores are virtually the same except when blacks, IEP, and ESL students are excluded, which happens often at charters. Charters have created fiefdoms at the expense of district budgets. They’ve shared no ‘best practices’ to raise scores – ostensibly their raison d’etre. And they now have the political baggage of being favored by Trump. CCSA may do better by keeping a low profile than by protesting. The recent teacher strikes would suggest the political winds are not in its favor.

    Replies

    • Tonya 9 months ago9 months ago

      Really? Keep Trump out of this. I am so tired of everyone including politics into my child’s education.

  7. Kristin Bitler 9 months ago9 months ago

    If they’re receiving funds, they must be transparent it. Period.

    Replies

    • Jose 9 months ago9 months ago

      Charter schools audit every year. How about school districts?

      So yes to transparency for all public schools. Ask Sweetwater district schools what they think of that!