Apr 16, 2015

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.


  1. Wasn’t it just this morning that the WCT reported that the Alameda Board of Education declined to renew the charters of three charter schools?


    According to the article, “The school’s charter was renewed in 2010 amid controversy about financial mismanagement and low academic performance.”

    While there are plenty of very good charters—even here in Richmond—there are others that are no better or worse than the public schools their students would otherwise attend.

    Too many charter schools cherry pick their students and send underperforming students back to the public schools. In this way, their test scores look high even if they’re artificially inflated. If you have three Einstein’s in the class then of course the test scores will look good. But you throw one person like me into the mix then the scores will surely drop. So, people like me have to be sent packing.

    Most charter schools refuse to allow unionized teachers, and often don’t offer athletic programs, drama programs or music programs.

    It would be wrong to tar all charter OR public schools with the same brush.

    What we need to do is take a close look at our underperforming public schools and our top charter schools and learn why they’re either doing so well or so poorly. We need to dump whatever is wrong with the ‘bad’ schools and replicate whatever’s right about the ‘good’ schools so ALL of our students are given the same opportunities at a great education.

    Don Gosney | Apr 16th, 2015
  2. I hope Tony does not cave to the Teacher’s unions, who have utterly failed to respond to the crisis in our public schools other than to demand higher pay and benefits and accept little or no accountability for poor performance. Especially in West Contra Costa where the record of the public schools is abysmal despite very generous support from the taxpayers, we need a new model and I see no better one on the horizon than charter schools. People like the Chamberlains, who are trying to create a betters the and devoting substantial resources and time to the work, should not be hamstrung by union backed bureaucracy that seeks to drag charter schools down to the mediocre performance levels we have to endure from our traditional, union dominated public schools.

    John Knox | Apr 16th, 2015
  3. Lets be clear.

    First: Yes the public school system is producing dead weight.Kids are failing, and teachers are making excuses- there is no reason why black and brown students should not make substantial gains!

    Second: There is not enough funding to go around education. CA ranks among the lowest (48th I believe) in school funding, while the cost of living here is what it is….CRAZY! Cant afford to pay teachers !

    Third: Lets be clear about what is right and wrong in the charter world. I do not know the Chamberlains, but I know they are not in this for the pure of heart! They are making money through development. And ultimately, this is what does NOT resonate well in the public, especially urban areas. The corporate charter angle can gain traction when rich white people get hand on involved.

    There are many positives to charter schools, the corporate raiders aint it. My hope was that the public schools would get better by the time my kids were school aged. Well my son, who is now 7 attends a local charter and that is what I trust most.

    Its a shame.

    Ric Torres | Apr 17th, 2015
  4. AB-787 requires the authorizer to appoint the Charter’s governing board of directors. So, you could have districts making appointments to charter schools that the district might not want to exist.


    (1) The initial chartering authority shall appoint a majority of the members of the board of directors of the nonprofit public benefit corporation from persons publicly nominated in the charter petition, charter renewal, or material revision application. The number of persons nominated shall be twice the total number of members that comprise the board of directors. The majority calculation required by this subdivision shall not include the representative appointed pursuant to subdivision (b).

    (2) The initial chartering authority, during the term of the charter, shall ensure that a majority of the members of the board of directors of the nonprofit public benefit corporation are members appointed pursuant to paragraph (1). In the event that a member appointed pursuant to paragraph (1) no longer serves on the board of directors, for reasons including, but not limited to, death, disability, removal, or resignation, the initial chartering authority shall appoint a new member from persons nominated by the nonprofit public benefit corporation at the time the vacancy occurs, consistent with paragraph (1) and by submitting a material revision application.

    Linda Ruiz | Apr 17th, 2015
  5. Rick Torres, I must disagree with you and call you out for speaking out of turn. Saying that “you do not know the Chamberlin’s but you know they are not in this for the pure of heart” and then going on to say that they are “making money through development”, is not just incorrect, it is the worst kind of obfuscation.
    That would be like me saying, “I don’t know Ric Torres, but he is not pure of heart and obviously a paid shill for the the charter opposition”.
    The truth is that I do not know you, so I cannot say what your motives are.
    I choose not to believe you have ill intentions. I choose to believe that you just are ill informed.
    The only truth in your statement is that “You do not know the Chamberlins”.
    I have met the Chamberlins, but do not know them well. I have, however taken the time to know their business and attempt to learn about their motives as I am one of the parents who fought for the Summit K2 charter.
    I also know from the multi-year experience of participating in the charter school process that I have to keep educating people who spread missinformation either through a lack of knowledge or in an actual attempt to discredit the opposition.

    Here are some facts about the Chamberlin Family Foundation that you might not know.

    Every building that is being improved or built from scratch is owned by a not-for-profit called Education Matters. The Chamberlins can never reclaim the buildings or collect revenue from the extremely low cost rents charged.
    Education Matters just oversaw and funded a complete retrofit and upgrading of the historic Chung Mei Orphanage on the Summit K2 campus in conjunction with the El Cerrito historic society. Many of the former boys raised at the school were part of the re opening ceremony. They were invited to see that the spirit of the Chung Mei school was being carried forward. It was really quite a life affirming event.
    The Chamberlins intent and actions are indeed philanthropic and, as far as I can tell above reproach. Your comments, are not just misplaced, but they lack even cursory fact finding. I know that people can say anything on the internet, however, when it comes to the future of our children’s education, it is important to be accurate.
    Not doing so is a disservice to those in our community who are making a difference.

    For people in this district, I will say that I believe that there is a light at the end of our long tunnel.
    The torch is being carried by parents who finally let their dissappointment in the lethargy of the status quo, lead to action.
    This flame is also shining a light on the fiscal mismanagement legacy of the WCCUSD where Bruce Harter, Charles Ramsey and other board members are mired in investigations that are being defended with money that belongs to our school children.
    Thanks to people like the Chamberlins and the dedicated work of many parents and community minded citizens, I believe we are finally going to turn the tide for the students of the WCCUSD. The Charter school movement has a part to play in fixing failed school policy.

    As a side note, I hear that after years of fighting against the charter movement, Oakland public schools are embracing the shared information that comes when everyone realizes that we all want what is best for our kids. The charter movement can be a win-win for those who really care about education and are not just out to protect the status quo.

    I cannot speak for all charter schools, however, I can for Summit K2. Our school (I am the proud parent of a Dragon) is an exact demographic match of the WCCUSD.
    And like all Charter schools, the students were admitted by a lottery that is mandated by charter law.
    Also, unlike a regular district school, Charter Schools sink or swim based on performance.
    A district public school can just keep chugging along forever, or (in the case of many WCCUSD schools), for over 20 years without bettering student outcomes in any measurable amount.

    Our charter is not perfect. The first year has not been without challenges, however, I am confident that the people involved at every level at Summit K2 have the best interest of every child in our school in mind with every decision they make.

    I am also confident that our charter will help district schools perform by succeeding. That is the point.

    I challenge those against charter schools to raise the bar on public discourse by using factual information. Especially when it comes to people who are investing in our community.

    Lastly, I am your neighbor, I have attended school board meetings with you. I want a good school for my child, but I also care about the education of the children of our community. That is why I currently support the charter movement.

    Let’s work together to benefit all!

    Michael Wisely | Apr 17th, 2015
  6. These rich charter folks are here to take the town.
    I’m with Rick…..In the rich, lets eat the rich

    Malik Reason | Apr 20th, 2015

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.