Capitol Alert

2018 candidates for governor weigh in on charter schools in California

In this June 18, 2014 file photo, twins Deborah, left, and Petros Kahssay, 8, walk through a hallway at First Place Scholars Charter School, Washington’s first charter school, in Seattle.
In this June 18, 2014 file photo, twins Deborah, left, and Petros Kahssay, 8, walk through a hallway at First Place Scholars Charter School, Washington’s first charter school, in Seattle. AP

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Charter schools in California are an increasingly high-profile player in public education, and the 2018 race for governor could be pivotal in shaping state law regulating the the charter school industry.

Three candidates to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown – Democrats Antonio Villaraigosa, John Chiang and Delaine Eastin – are expected to weigh in on the “role charter schools play in California’s public education system,” during an education forum today, according to event organizers.

The California Charter Schools Association, an advocacy group sponsoring the event, is seeking legislation to allow more charter schools and change rules governing how charters are authorized. The organization wants to “preserve and grow a thriving and accountable nonprofit charter schools sector by solving issues related to conflict of interest, modernizing California’s authorizing system and expanding facilities options for charters,” officials said in a statement.

Charter schools’ involvement in California’s public education system can be a polarizing issue.

Advocates say the publicly funded, privately run K-12 schools offer more parental choice, increase school accountability, and can boost students’ academic performance. Critics argue charter schools undermine the existing public education system, siphon much-needed tax dollars from districts and exacerbate disparities in schools.

It’s still early in the governor’s race, but today’s forum will offer a glimpse at where the candidates stand on charter schools. It begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. The event caps a four-day conference in Sacramento hosted by the organization.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, another Democrat running for governor in 2018, cannot attend due to a prior commitment, organizers said.

HEALTH CARE DEBATE: A series of demonstrations are planned across the state to protest House Republicans’ Obamacare replacement proposal, which could lead to heavy financial losses for California and leave more than 5 million uninsured, according to the state Department of Health Care Services and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

The House is expected debate the American Health Care Act, strongly supported by President Donald Trump, on the 7th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law.

The House proposal would cost the state an estimated $6 billion in 2020, rising to $24.3 billion annually by 2027, according to a new analysis by state health officials. The state’s general fund would absorb most of the financial hit. Those who would be most affected are low-income people on Medi-Cal, according to a new study by UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

A press conference on potential losses for California is set for 11 a.m. at the state Capitol. Meanwhile, those opposed to the Republican proposal are expected to show up and protest in the home districts of California Republicans in the House, including Reps. Jeff Denham, David Valadao, Devin Nunes, Steve Knight, Ed Royce and Dana Rohrabacher. Organized by the Courage Campaign, a liberal activist network, many are expected to carry signs depicting the “grim reaper,” personifying death.

POLITICAL INFLUENCE: Mercury, a public strategy firm with 17 offices across the globe, is naming four new partners in California today. Tracy Arnold, a public affairs and communications strategist, and lobbyists Paul Bauer and Duncan McFetridge will lead the Sacramento team alongside existing partner and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez. Glenn Gritzner will serve as a partner in Los Angeles. All four new partners are current Mercury employees.

BY THE NUMBERS: A record 19,432,609 Californians were registered to vote as of Feb. 10, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The largest share are registered Democrats, which comprise 44.8 percent of voters, compared to 25.9 percent for Republicans. Coming in third are “no party preference” voters, who make up 24.5 percent of the electorate.

The numbers of Democrats and voters without a party preference have both grown since 2015 – 1.6 percent and .9 percent, respectively – while the number of registered Republicans shrunk by 2.1 percent, according to Padilla’s office.

Padilla attributed the increase in registered voters to the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“Voter registration in California continues to climb, following a historic 2016 election year, where a record 14.6 million Californians cast ballots in the November general election,” he said in a statement. “Typically voter registration declines after an election.”

Go here if you want to register. Not sure if you’re registered? Check here.

WORTH REPEATING: “We’re losing on every ground. I think he’s a liar. I think he’s a cheat.” –Alice Huffman, California NAACP president, on President Donald Trump.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Gov. Jerry Brown strongly criticized House Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying at a rally Wednesday, “Mr. Trump, come down from Trump Tower.”

MUST READ: When it comes to roads and dams, Jerry Brown isn’t always a Trump resister

Angela Hart: 916-326-5528, @ahartreports