Capitol Alert

Candidates for California governor debate charter school movement

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, shown in 2011, told charter school advocates, “I believe that public schools, and charters – choices for parents, for kids – is the road to opportunity in America.”
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, shown in 2011, told charter school advocates, “I believe that public schools, and charters – choices for parents, for kids – is the road to opportunity in America.” The Sacramento Bee file

Charter school advocates on Thursday got a glimpse of where most of the announced candidates in the 2018 race to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown stand on privately-governed institutions that have grown across the state in recent years.

Three Democrats in the contest – Antonio Villaraigosa, John Chiang and Delaine Eastin – all said at an education forum in Sacramento that they support the concept of charter schools, but expressed widely varying views on key issues, including school funding, accountability and student accessibility. Of the three, Villaraigosa spoke most strongly in support of charters.

“I believe that public schools, and charters – choices for parents, for kids – is the road to opportunity in America,” Villaraigosa told a crowd of charter school advocates, who cheered the former Los Angeles mayor and Assembly speaker several times during the forum. “The fact of the matter is there are a number of high-quality charters, and they’re all getting pushed back – not just in LA but across this state.”

Eastin, a former assemblywoman who served two terms as the state’s superintendent for public instruction and a former teacher herself, said she supports charter schools, but sees increasing spending on public education overall as more important in advancing student achievement.

“I’m going to fight for school, from preschool to graduate school,” she said. “All of our 58 counties are near the bottom in this country in per-pupil spending. That is wrong … and by God when I’m governor that’s going to be number one on the plate of every single person making policy in California. The children come first.”

Chiang, the state’s treasurer who previously served as the state’s controller and on the Board of Equalization, emphasized the need for fiscal responsibility and said broadly that he supports charter schools but not if they are for-profit.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, another Democrat in the race who is considered a top contender, did not attend the forum due to a previous commitment, said Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the state Charter Schools Association. He said he considers all four candidates “friendly” to his cause.

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