I posted earlier that there are no teachers on the task force appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond to study charter law in California, but that’s not quite right. The task force is meeting regularly and it would likely be impossible for a working teacher to leave her or his classroom on a weekly basis to attend task force meetings.

However, there are at least two members of the task force who were active teachers: Erika Jones of the California Teachers Association and Cindy Marten, superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District.

I don’t understand why the task force has so  many representatives of the charter industry on a committee to study charter law, when only 10 percent of students in California schools are enrolled in charters. The charter industry is infamous for protecting its turf and fighting any regulation or accountability. This is like asking representatives of Big Tobacco to participate in a discussion of whether to regulate cigarette sales.

Charter law in the state is notoriously lax. A district with a tiny enrollment can open a charter in a district 500 miles away and collect a commission on the students who enroll. If a charter asks a district for permission to open or for a renewal, and the district rejects the application, the charter can appeal to the county board. If the county board says that its application or its record is deficient, the charter can appeal to the state board. Under Governor Jerry Brown, the state board rubberstamped applications despite rejections from the affected district and county. Under current law, the state need not consider the fiscal impact of charters on nearby public schools, a factor which has severely damaged Oakland, Inglewood, and other districts. Under current law, charters are parasites on the districts that are forced to host them, draining away students and resources and leaving “stranded costs” (fixed costs).

California has had a large number of scandals in the charter sector. The most recent occurred when the CEO of the Celerity Charter chain pled guilty to using the schools’ credit card to charge luxury items, including designer clothing, fancy hotels, haute cuisine and limousine service, as well as to fund her Ohio charter school.

These are issues the task force will consider. Will the large bloc of charter supporters on the task force acknowledge the fiscal problems caused by charters for the public schools that enroll most students? Or will they fight stubbornly to maintain the charters’ freedom from accountability? Why did the California Charter School Association get two members of the task force but the California Teachers Association get only one? If charter schools undermine public schools, it is a net loss for the children of the state. If failing charters are allowed to be renewed again and again, it is a disgrace.

Here is the complete task force:

The task force members are:

  • Cristina de Jesus, president and chief executive officer, Green Dot Public Schools California (charter chain);
  • Dolores Duran, California School Employees Association;
  • Margaret Fortune, California Charter Schools Association board chair; Fortune School of Education, president & CEO;
  • Lester Garcia, political director, SEIU Local 99 (Local 99 took $100,000 from Eli Broad to oppose Jackie Goldberg);
  • Alia Griffing, political director, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 57;
  • Beth Hunkapiller, educator and administrator, Aspire Public Schools (charter chain);
  • Erika Jones, board of directors, California Teachers Association;
  • Ed Manansala, superintendent, El Dorado County; board president, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association; 
  • Cindy Marten,  superintendent, San Diego Unified School District;
  • Gina Plate, vice president of special education, California Charter Schools Association (charter lobby);
  • Edgar Zazueta, senior director, policy & governmental relations, Association of California School Administrators (ACSA endorsed Marshall Tuck against Tony Thurmond). 

Recommended readings:

Gordon Lafer on the fiscal impact of charters on California public schools.

Carol Burris on the travesty of the state’s charter law.