As public school teachers, my colleagues and I spend most of our time educating students and sometimes their families. But here, we’d like to educate our legislators, some of whom have not done their homework.
The topic? AB1316 — a bill in the California Assembly that would close numerous schools and displace literally thousands upon thousands of students and families throughout our state.
Here are a few particulars of the bill that legislators must revise to prevent school closures, student displacement and teacher jobs loss:
- The bill proposes a new funding formula for nonclassroom-based charter schools, also known as NCBs, which compose much of the charter school student enrollment in California. This formula would reduce charter school LCFF/funding by up to 30% depending on how much “classroom-based instruction” takes place. This is devastating because most students and families choose our schools for critical reasons that prevent them from attending in person. However, the bill maintains full funding to students participating in independent study and distance learning in “nonclassroom-based” programs run by school districts and county offices of education; so this proposed funding formula quite blatantly discriminates against charter schools’ independent study/distance learning students.
- The bill also proposes to no longer allow charter schools to enroll out-of-county students who live adjacent to the charter school’s authorizing county unless the charter school already has a previously approved learning facility in that adjacent county. Many nonclassroom-based charters, particularly “online” or “virtual” charter schools do not have those facilities, so those schools would close because much of their student enrollment is from adjacent counties.
- It increases burdens on qualifying vendor/educational partnerships, reducing learning options that provide students with access to professionals and experts in various disciplines and career fields, such as business people, health professionals, environmentalists, farmers, artists and so on.
“Nonclassroom-based charter schools” is a wide umbrella term that includes not only virtual schools where students are able to attend their classes online, but it also includes schools that utilize a variety of instructional models and pedagogies, such as hybrid or blended programs in which students attend a learning center from one to four days per week in addition to meeting one-on-one with their credentialed teacher. It includes a home-schooling model that provides families with a credentialed teacher who serves as a yearlong guide and mentor.
Schools that allow students to engage in a Waldorf learning model, Montessori learning model, progressive learning models, 0utdoor educational model, and project-based learning models also come under this umbrella. In short, nonclassroom-based charter schools demonstrate that one size does not fit all.
Who enrolls in our nonclassroom-based charter schools? While this bill’s language does not really consider who would be severely impacted, you know and love them — they are your sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, cousins, neighbors and friends. They are approximately 200,000 students in our state. They are working students, high-performing students, teen parents, at-risk students, early-graduate students, migrant students, victims of hate crimes, gang-escape students, students with high anxiety and depression, LGBTQ students, college dual-enrollment students and students with various disabilities and various gifts.
While their academic and life needs are varied, they share one thing in common: They need something other than the traditional school model. They need something different and have gone out of their way to choose something different. These students rely on our nonclassroom-based charter schools to get to college, to get through high school, to get through the day.
But if AB1316 passes in its current form, many of these students and families will be displaced.
Their schools — our schools — would close because this bill treats them as “less than” a student in a traditional school model. Our schools would close because this bill penalizes families for choosing the nearest school that meets their needs but happens to be in a different ZIP code. Our schools would close because the legislators who are elected to represent people over special interests have not looked closely at whom this bill would actually affect most of all: our students.
Assembly members and senators, please do your homework with this one. Understand that this is not a test. It is real.
Michael Brajkovich is a high school teacher at Family Partnership Charter School in Santa Maria. He is a member of the newly emerging California Alliance of Charter Teachers in Unionized Schools (CACTUS) that includes dozens of other teachers.