While the vast majority of California public schools remained off-limits to students this school year, a bright light has flickered in the darkness: charter schools.
Mostly outside the iron grasp of unions that have kept traditional public schools shuttered, charter schools acted quickly to educate students throughout the pandemic. Their nimbleness and ability to focus on student needs rather than union demands allowed them to shift to a functioning virtual model almost overnight, permit teachers to remain in regular contact with students, extend the school days and years as necessary, and provide additional support to students who needed it.
While California’s public schools failed students, charter schools rose to the occasion, and their enrollment skyrocketed.
But, California politicians can’t let a good thing go unpunished, particularly when it might threaten the unions who elected them. After getting kicked in the teeth by the unions that bankrolled him for daring to put forward a bill that would get kids back in classrooms, Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell has introduced AB 1316. He is seemingly more attentive to the hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from government unions than from the hundreds of thousands of constituents that want kids in schools. If passed, this bill would essentially gut California charter schools and make even more children vulnerable to the teacher union abuses we’ve witnessed these past 13 months.
O’Donnell’s bill seeks to severely limit the ability of families and schools to provide instruction that meets the unique learning news of students by drastically cutting charter school funding; removing their ability to provide the tailored education their students need; restricting which students are eligible to attend charter schools; restraining charters from setting curriculum and providing classes and enrichment they deem necessary; adding unnecessary credentialing requirements to vendors; and introducing layers of bureaucratic red tape that will make it harder for California students to receive a quality education.
Especially ironic is the timing of this proposal: introduced in a year when students stuck in traditional public schools have experienced devastating callousness from a system and leaders purportedly tasked with educating and nurturing them. The authors and co-authors of this bill have collectively received over a million dollars from government unions, including the California Teachers Association. Together, they want to level their educational competition, even if it means all kids lose.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. If you can’t join ‘em, crush ‘em.
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Chantal Lovell is the communications director for California Policy Center.