Opponents of charter school bills set to rally at Richmond Civic Center on Friday

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Opponents of a package of legislation targeting California charter schools plan to hold a rally at Richmond Civic Center Plaza on Friday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

More than 100 representatives of charter schools, including students, teachers and parents, intend to “send a strong message” to Assemblymember Tony Thurmond to oppose Assembly Bill 787, Senate Bill 322, Senate Bill 329 and Assembly Bill 709, according to the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).

The bills are all backed by major teachers unions.

AB 787 would require all charter schools to operate as a nonprofit and would provide workers increased ability to unionize.

SB322 would prohibit entrance requirements into charter schools and would require that they have the same expulsion and suspension rules used by traditional public schools.

AB709 would require charters to hold meetings that are open to the public.

SB329 changes accounting laws regarding charters.

The package of bills, according to supporters and union leaders, would force charter schools to operate with the same amount of accountability and transparency as traditional public schools.

Charter school representatives disagree, saying the legislation is a solution in search of a problem and would impose “unreasonable and excessive” requirements. The package conflicts “with the intent of the California Charter Schools Act of 1992 to provide autonomous, accountable and independent public schools,” CCSA said.

“CCSA supports charter schools operating in a publicly transparent manner and ensuring equal access to all students,” the group said in a statement. “CCSA also supports the right of teachers to be represented by a union.”

The rift between operators of traditional public schools and charter schools is decades-long.

While charter schools receive public funding, they operate under different rules than traditional public schools and can employ nonunion staff.  They were formed in order to create alternative public schools that have more freedom to choose educational programs, including those emphasizing particular fields of study like arts or technology, or those targeting specific populations of students such as those who are at-risk or in special education.

Supporters of charter schools have long pointed to strong academic results, in many cases better than those at traditional district schools. Those critical of charters are less optimistic, saying the results are “uneven,” according to the Sacramento Bee‘s report on March 25.

The number of charter schools has grown to more than 1,100 in California, the Bee added.

Read the full Sacramento Bee report for more information on this topic here.

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